Sunday, October 05, 2008

Did somebody just drop a dish?

Thank God for Sarah Weinman. Her Confession of An idiosynratic Mind leads me to really interesting articles I'd never find on my own.

Case in point this piece about literary readings:

Why Are Literary Readings so Excruciatingly Bad?
By Michael Carbert

September 10, 2008

"A poet I know likes to talk about his idea for the perfect reading. The room would be reserved, publicity done, books available, refreshments served. Everyone would come and meet and talk…but no one would read. My friend is completely serious about this. He is convinced these occasions serve primarily as social events and, deep down, everyone would rather forego the reading itself. I suspect he’s right.

"One of the best depictions of how a literary reading becomes something to be endured instead of enjoyed is to be found in Russell Smith’s comic novel Noise. The protagonist attends a poetry reading in an unventilated room with a strong “odour of feet” and a drunken patron who shouts invective at the small gathering. The distractions mount:

"The dishwashing machine at the bar came to life with a mighty buzz, and Dick’s voice was drowned. Simultaneously, someone in the front bar put money in the Dukes of Hazzard pinball machine, and it awoke with a synthesized William Tell overture and a fanfare of bells. …Another drunken shout from the bar, and a chorus of shushes from the crowd. “Whatsamatter,’ came the drunken voice, ‘am I in church, or what? Thought it was a bar.’"

for the rest go here

Ed here: Because I directed commercials for so long I got to know a lot of working actors--i.e., non-stars eager for work--and because Carol did her fair share of acting (which is how I met her) we both count a number of actors as friends.

Many of their favorite horror stories have to do with acting in dinner theaters where you are expected to stay in character while dishes are being dropped, kitchen orders are being shouted and drunks insist on carrying on conversations.

While Soapdish isn't a masterpiece it's a very funny movie with Sally Fields, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey, Jr, Whoppie Goldberg and a radiant Elizabeth Shue in her first movie. The plot revolves around a soap opera that needs some new blood--old blood actually since the man they want (Kline) left the show in a dispute with his on-screen and real life lover Fields.

To me the funniest scene is the opening where Kline, down on his luck, is performing Death of a Salesman in the dinner theater from hell. There's so much noise it sounds like a battle zone. One source of it is particularly annoying--an ancient man who keeps bellering to his wife "What'd he say?"

Finally Kline can't take it any more and comes down from the stage and yells his lines in the old man's face.

The "shock" ending is pretty tame by today's standards but Fields is fantastic and Kline as the preening, self-absorbed new lead is spot on.

In the beginning Downey has to lure him back to the show with various promises. Kline, desperate to get off the dinner theater circuit, suggests that one thing Downey could do for him is "Back my one-man Hamlet" in a theater somewhere.

How many speaking parts does Hamlet have? A one man Hamlet?

It's one of those small sort of trashy but larky movies that keeps you smiling all the way through.

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