Once More with Feeling

You swore you'd never watch a hemophiliac raise the spirit of a dead cat again. And then the Fringe Festival returned.

"What captivates me is what I see happening in the real world," says Klein, impatiently pushing her silvery bangs out of her eyes. "A work must show people struggling for change, not holding on to their little piles of power. Today's critical playwright is too often pressured, coerced, influenced, and seduced into supporting the status quo in form and content. The artist is shackled, the audience is robbed, the theater impoverished."

A retrospective of Klein's directorial accolades includes the Boston premiere of Emma by Howard Zinn, with whom she also co-authored Playbook. Approaching Simone hit the boards in 1969, in turn bringing the Obie to Klein. As a playwright, Klein deals with elements of America that are terrorizing in and of themselves, and masterfully tempers her activist passion with mirth. With her recent endeavor, Ambush, Klein scripted a dark comedy satirizing the potential and current ramifications of the Patriot Act.

Klein's pursuits on the fringes of the political theater span over half a century and include more than 100 productions. But despite her accomplishments, self-satisfaction is a literal impossibility for Klein. "Satisfaction leads to complacency, with which I would be immensely dissatisfied," she says. When asked how she got her start, she says, "With the truth. Art does imitate life. Life can be a bed of roses, but it is not enough to admire a bouquet or to be enamored by the promise of the bloom. Be aware of the thorns, my dear. Be aware of the thorns. We all bleed. After all, peace, like war, has a price." --Katherine Preble

 

4. Be a Cocky Bigmouth
How Marivaux Wagered His Way into the Canon

Imagine the romance of playwriting. Shakespeare wanders London with a quill in hand. Albee writes as a birthday gift to himself. Tennessee Williams lies about his age to get his first major funding. Now...forget it. Pierre Carlet de Chamblain did. By 1712, the dawdling, twentysomething son of a financier found himself flunking out of the renowned Faculty of Law of Paris. He spent his time freeloading (as post-Renaissance young men were wont to do) and attending literary salons hosted by wealthy dilettantes. At one such rendezvous, attendees were exalting the rare genius of comic writers, including the recently departed Molière. Unmoved by the tributes, Pierre declared that this kind of writing wasn't difficult. The salon scoffed and dared him to try it. Three days later he brought back The Prudent and Equitable Father, or, Crispin the Happy Scoundrel. He'd composed the short farce in rhymed verse, just to ensure that he'd win the bet. Though many passages were clearly lifted from a play enjoying a popular run at the time, all agreed that young Pierre had talent. The play survives; the salon's consensus is debatable. Contemporary critic Jean d'Alembert later noted the play is a "chrysalis...from which trained eyes can comb out under a microscope the kernel of his talents and flaws." Pierre never sought out a production, not eager "to lose in public the wager he'd won in private," and the play was published anonymously. None of these seem like ringing endorsements. It would be a decade before Pierre wrote another play, though by then he'd published several novels under the name by which we know him today: Marivaux. Despised by most zealots of good taste for his pomposity, his public aversion to Molière (his favorite times to bad-mouth the adored dramatist were while rehearsing with the very same troupe that had made Molière famous), and his appearance of indiscretion with his leading lady, Marivaux would write 30 plays in 30 years (including The Triumph of Love, performed at the Guthrie in 1991). He remains the most produced native playwright in France--after Molière, of course, surely to Pierre's chagrin. So if you're thinking about producing your own work at next year's Fringe, disabuse yourself of the romance of playwriting. Make a bet. --Matt DiCintio

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