struck by an article in Hystrio (February 2016) by Fabrizio Sebastian Caleffi* which brought to mind an article I wrote some
years ago about what eventually became Sunday paper correspondence fodder
regarding Dead Playwrights Revisited, a rare moment of introspection for a very limited few about the state of
playwrighting and Maltese theatre, when theatre in Malta required the perennial
infusion of new blood.
of course, no longer raises the blood pressure of our new generation of
scribes. As Caleffi puts it :
“Cinquantaquattro anni dopo, the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
ancora o ė cotta e, se é cotta,
And to quote another volley by Caleffi:
“Quanti fantasmi circondano
I’autore drammatico italiano? (...) il fantasma di Pirandello, che schiaccia i
suoi continuatori... il fantasma della critica letteraria, col suo disprezzo
pel teatro, il fantasma della critica teatrale, con la sua religione della
struttura, dell'interesse, del ritmo... il fantasma del provincialismo per i
cosmopoliti, il fantasma del bozzettismo per i regionali e i popolareschi...
It would be interesting to elicit
a translation (in English or Maltese) which however puts it in the context of
Maltese theatre or theatre in Malta. And
more to the point, in the context of playwrighting in Malta today.
HYSTRIO (February 2016) ' Tennesseee William Shakespeare' by Fabrizio Sebastian Caleffi
"The question is so absurd that we need not only answer it but find out why it's being asked as well. Most simply put: plays, the good ones, at any rate, the only ones that matter, are literature, and while they are accessible to most people through performance, they are complete experiences without it...
AND God help us all!
...Still, I am convinced that the following is true: no performance can make a great play any better than it is, and most performances are inadequate either in that the minds at work are just not up to the task, no matter how sincerely they try, or the stagers are aggressively interested in "interpretation" or "concept" with the result that our experience of the play, as an audience, is limited, is only partial.
Further--and not oddly--performance can make a minor (or terrible) play seem a lot better than it is. Performance can also, of course, make a bad play seem even worse than it is. God help us all!"
Albee's insights into play reading brought to my mind my early days of
playwriting. Looking back now I realize that while indeed I did have the great
disadvantage(?) of living in a
non-digital age, it was still a time when radio and television reigned supreme and I was exposed to, and avidly
followed, a deluge of great plays, from continental masters like Ionesco,
Pinter, Becket, Sarte, Betti, Pirandello, Strindberg, Ibsen, Genet, Chekov, Anouilh, Durrenmatt, Havel, et al - all played with supreme mastery by British and Italian artists - to the American masterpieces of Thornton
Wilder, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee, to name but a few.
TV was a cultural gold mine, both on the single (yes ONE) channel in BW, as
well as radio. The BBC World Service came a
close second with a constant supply of great radio drama (Osborne, Pinter, the late Arnold Wesker, Stoppard). What else could a
budding playwright ask for? Well, there
was also the cinema, where the likes of Fellini, Pasolini,
Bergman, Truffaut and Russell
reigned supreme. Truly a time that no
matter what advances the digital age has still in store, it will be hard put to
equal in quality, constancy and depth. So there it is, you missed out, brother. No matter how many channels you flip, your TV will leave you hungry.
yet, even if all these sources no longer exist today, no playwright worth his salt could dream
of not hitting the written works of these past masters (as well as contemporary
ones). Trying to sit down and write a play without having even at least read
the past and present masters (much less watched their works), is like trying to compose music when you have only listened to Rap.
plays does indeed have great merits and not just for
a casual devotee. Because - as Albee puts it so well:
"Is seeing these plays in performance a
different experience than seeing them through reading them? Of course. Is it a
more complete, more fulfilling experience? No,
I don't think so."
I don’t think so, either.
then, I can only convince you if you do sit down to read plays.And if you find them dull, if your experience is
not fulfilling, then indeed, go back to listening to Rap. Or go do what floats
your boat best – in any case:
yourself, fool, you can live out yo dreams, too