16 March 2010

How Do You Measure A Year?

So, a year. Wow! It’s been that long since 16 March 2009, the date I posted my first column on ROT, launching this blog. A new administration had barely begun in Washington. In the year that followed, the flu scared everyone, Michael Jackson died (and so did Walter Cronkite, Jack Kemp, Farrah Fawcett, Horton Foote, Karl Malden, David Carradine, Charlie Wilson, and Pernell Roberts--among many others), Iran exploded over a disputed election, and North Korea tested nukes. Scientists discovered water on the moon. Ted Kennedy’s senate seat went to a Republican. Having gotten the city council to extend term limits, Michael Bloomberg was elected to a third term as New York mayor. West Side Story (1957) and Hair (1968) came back to Broadway. So did Desire Under the Elms (1924), Blithe Spirit (1941), Finian’s Rainbow (1947), Waiting for Godot (1956), A Little Night Music (1973), and Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1988). A Neil Simon revival flopped (Brighton Beach Memoirs) and a Schiller soared (Mary Stuart).

A year. I can’t speak about the quality of the content of ROT; that’s for others to say, I guess. I think I’ve done a pretty decent job in terms of breadth, though--even if I hewed pretty closely to the main topic of theater. I don’t do current events (though I did do a column on the dismissal of reviewers from the Tony voter rolls: “Tony Committee to Theater Journalists: ‘Yer Out!’” 17 August 2009)--I’m not really a reporter--and I stay away from politics and religion (and, I suppose, sex, too--though that’s not so much by design). Still, there was a post on Judaism (“Crypto-Jews: Legacy of Secrecy,” 15 September 2009)--more sociological and historical than theological, however. I ventured into true crime once (“The Con Game (A True-Crime Story),” 22 October 2009). And there’s a column on scholarship and gifted students (“Davidson Fellowships,” 18 October 2009). There were several on theater for children (“Missoula Children’s Theatre,” 25 August 2009; “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Children's Theater in America,” 25 November 2009). I dipped into art and artists a number of times (“Pudlo Pudlat, Inuit Artist,” 28 September 2009; “Art in D.C. (Dec. ’09-Jan. ’10),” 18 January 2010; “Dada,” 20 February 2010; among others). Of course, there were several performance reports--not as many as I’d have liked, but I didn’t get to as much theater as I would have liked this past year. I reminisced a bit: columns on two dogs I loved (“Sobaka: A Memoir,” 31 July 2009; “Thespis,” 10 February 2010), some recollections about Berlin in the Cold War (“Berlin Station, Parts 1 & 2,” 19 & 22 July 2009; “The Berlin Wall,” 29 November 2009), a snowstorm that fouled an inaugural 49 years ago (“JFK Inaugural Snowstorm,” 22 April 2009), a TV movie I remembered from 38 years ago in Germany (“Der Illegale,” 5 July 2009). There was some other history, too: a peculiar British actor from the early 19th century (“Romeo Coates, Parts 1-3,” 30-31 May & 2 June 2009), a passel of French writers in the late 19th century (“The Group of Hissed Authors,” 7 May 2009), and the only man who served as both a general in the U.S. Army and an admiral in the U.S. Navy (“Sailor on Horseback,” 1 September 2009). I even found space to post pieces by other writers, including my friend Kirk Woodward as well as some others like Francis Pharcellus Church and David Macfarlane (“How America Eats: Food and Eating Habits in the Plays of Suzan-Lori Parks,” 5 October 2009; “’Is There a Santa Claus?’” 25 December 2009; “’For Real Actors, Eyebrow Grooming Is Not The Highest Art,’” 10 March 2010). That looks like a pretty good assortment to me--a kind of Whitman’s Sampler of topics. (ROT is like a box of chocolates . . . .)

Of course, I’ve been publishing what interests me; I don’t know if anyone else is interested. I hope those who’ve found ROT have discovered articles that have peaked their curiosities. For all I know, though, I’ve been felling the proverbial tree in the unpeopled forest. I don’t know if anyone’s been reading ROT--at all, much less regularly. Few people have left comments (though, I’ve learned that the site sometimes balks at letting readers make comments; maybe more people have tried than is evident). Even my friends seem to check in only when I tell them there’s something that’d interest them on the blog.

A whole year. I never really thought about it, but if I had, I don’t think I’d have figured I’d last this long. I don’t know how much longer I can keep ROT up, but I still have a few ideas left. For now, I plan just to keep on truckin’ and see where that leads. I have to say, it’s been fun these past 12 months--finding material to write about (even if that meant resurrecting some old pieces--though that has been interesting as well) and trying to write it up so that everyone can get it. That’s been a real challenge with some of the more esoteric topics like Susanne Langer’s philosophy and the theory of rasa-bhava (“Susanne Langer: Art, Beauty, & Theater – Parts 1& 2,” 4 & 8 January 2010; “Rasa-Bhava & The Audience,” 13 January 2010). Trying to keep my thoughts down to a digestible length (I can tend toward logorrhea sometimes--maybe you’ve noticed) has been another challenge. Not having an editor (except my own self, that is) has been both a blessing and a problem. No one’s watching over my shoulder. On the other hand . . . no one’s watching over my shoulder.

Eighty-one posts. That’s how many I’ve come up with since last 16 March. Some have been harder than others. Some have required research, some have been founded on research I already did, and some came from right off the top of my head. Some were clearly opinionated, based on my feelings about the topic, some were intended to be scrupulously objective and reportorial. Some ended up being both. I couldn’t hide my enthusiasm, for instance, concerning the Davidson Fellowship program or the Missoula Children’s Theatre even though I was trying to describe them with detachment. In the end, however, they were all interesting to craft, one way or another. Of course, I hope they were interesting to read, too.

My original intent, encouraged by a friend who’d been reading my e-mail reports on plays and performances I’d seen, was to publish those reports and other pieces about theater. Hence the rather unimaginative title of Rick On Theater. The description in the heading includes the words “perhaps other topics of interest to me” because I knew at the outset that I might wander off point from time to time. I suspect I’ve done that more in reality than I had thought I would, but I’m going to keep the original title even after a year of meandering thoughts. My intention is still to discourse mostly about theater and the arts, so the title will serve as a reminder--to me, at least, if not the readers--of what I’m supposed to be up to. Maybe it’ll be more of a reprimand than a reminder. If I make it to another anniversary, we’ll see if it is. Meanwhile, ROT it is, and ROT it’ll stay. (My friend Kirk, who was the one who urged me to launch the blog last year, pointed out that those initials aren’t original with me. “Do you remember what great movie the initials ROT play a (small) role in?” he wrote me a few days after I started the blog. “I can't think of the movie with ‘ROT’ in it,” I responded--great movie maven that I am. "’North by Northwest,’” responded Kirk. “Roger O. Thornhill is Cary Grant's character, and as I recall, he gives someone a business card with his initials.” Who’d 'a' thunk it! It’s one of my all-time fave movies, too.)

First anniversary. Well, I just wanted to mark the occasion. I don’t know where I’ll go from here with ROT. I have a couple of posts ready to go, in the same vein as what’s gone before. I don’t plan any changes--hell, I didn’t plan this; it just sorta happened. I guess that’s how I’ll keep going--just sorta let it happen. If a better idea--or any idea, really--comes along, I’ll try it out. I’d like to get more “guest bloggers” to chime in, the way Kirk did on Suzan-Lori Parks. I also have a few pieces published by writers and thinkers in the past like the commentary about actors by David Macfarlane and I may post some of them because they’re interesting and provocative. (Wait till you get a load of a couple by Antonin Artaud I’ve got in reserve. They’ll blow your minds!) I expect I’ll continue to share my research with you all--I have some more on Leo Shapiro I haven’t used yet that I think people will find intriguing, and there are other odd subjects yet to be unveiled. I’m not done yet. And when I am, Kirk’s said he can’t wait to see some things from my “archives”--performance reports from the past. I’ve posted one or two of the OBG’s when they seemed à propos (“Ian McKellen’s King Lear,” 28 March 2009, when it aired on PBS and “Woman of the Year (1981),” 26 April 2009, when Marilyn Cooper died). So, we’ll have to see what comes, won’t we. (As Fats Waller was famous for saying, “One never knows, do one?”) Stick around. Should be fun.

1 comment:

  1. Happy Anniversary, Rick - to you and to ROT! Keep on writing, you're quite good at it.
    Cousin Paul