Re “Pity the Philadelphia actress"—
Thank you, Jim Rutter, for pointing out what Philadelphia actresses have long struggled with. The outlook, I believe, is improving. Wilma’s Age of Arousal, Theatre Exile’s Bug and others are pushing women to the forefront of Philadelphia’s stages. It is by articles and dialogue such as this that we begin to address the problem of under-casting in this city and in the profession as a whole.
I do wish to clarify one point, though. Although my character of Ida in Skin in Flames was a prostitute, she was also a mother and a woman struggling to survive. It is easy to peg such characteristics when looking at the whole picture (such as those nominated for Barrymores) but we can’t forget that, yes, although we portray prostitutes sometimes, these are still women who need their stories told.
November 21, 2007
Kudos to Jim Rutter for starting a dialogue about the scant roles for females— a problem most actresses are powerless to change, and an issue that plagues the movie industry as well.
Perhaps the larger problem is economic: The majority of ticket buyers are women. And if they don’t want to go solo, most of them end up dragging their unwilling husbands into the theater. And if the play she’s trying to get him to see is all about chicks, he’s even less likely to join her in the audience. So theaters choose plays that appeal to men, not women, because theaters know that women may stay away if they can’t get their husbands to come with them.
Plenty of men enthusiastically attend and support theater. But for women married to men who recoil at the thought of a play, perhaps we need to reach out to those women and find out how to help them come to the theater on their own. Until we have a society where men enjoy watching strong females on stage and screen, we need to cultivate our female audience. So this is a job for the marketing directors!
I think theaters should try setting aside one show per season that is explicitly marked to ladies. And let these women know: If your husband won’t come, then bring your son, and get him hooked early, so the next generation of husbands will gladly accompany their wives to the theater, even if the lead is a lady.
November 21, 2007
Editor’s note: The writer is co-artistic director of Theatre Horizon, based in King of Prussia. To read a response, click here.
Editor’s comment: Who paid $100 a ticket to see Nicole Kidman naked on stage for ten seconds in New York— women, or men?
H.P. Lovecraft and Zorn’s Necronomicon
Tom Purdom’s review of the Necronomicon quartet by John Zorn (“A horror story with a happy ending“) twists and turns just like the music. The title of the piece comes from a book of ancient lores and spells said to have been available to characters in H.P. Lovecraft’s books of magic and horror. Purdom points out that Lovecraft is a writer of questionable talent. Perhaps this was because Lovecraft tried to write about magic while living on peanut butter and jelly.
Having pinned Lovecraft to the wall, Purdom describes the quartet as both beautiful and deliberately ugly. Then he apparently retired to his study, with real food, and thought the whole thing through. On what was probably a full stomach, he decided that the quartet was better than the famous Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. That is quite a compliment and seems to have been sincere.
Perhaps there are two lessons in this article. First, the composer should warn the audience that mystery and magic sometimes have an ugly edge. Second, the reviewer should eat well before discussing such a complicated piece of music.
William L. Clovis
November 24, 2007
I am afraid the esteemed Tom Purdom begins with a factual error. Hemingway is not in the Library of America; H.P. Lovecraft got there first. Then Purdom makes it clear that, alas, he has paid more attention to the jokes than the substance.
Yes, Lovecraft is easily parodied. So is Poe. So what? Not only is Lovecraft popular and influential all over the world, but a great body of critical thought (much from Europe) suggests that Lovecraft was a serious writer and serious thinker, not to mention a careful, classical stylist who was capable of many quite beautiful passages, as anyone who reads him sympathetically can tell. His poetry is in the Library of America too (in the 20th Century Poetry volume) but not, regrettably, his parody of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which is a hoot.
Lovecraft is also perhaps the most documented literary person of all time. More than 10,000 letters, some of them book-length, survive, and everyone who ever knew him seems to have written a memoir. He comes off as eccentric and sometimes a crank (particularly on social issues, but a paragon of rationality next to, say, Ezra Pound), but he seems to have left an extremely fond impression on just about everyone who knew him. Not "creepy" at all.
November 24, 2007
Apparently, John Zorn isn’t the only one who’s not too familiar with the writings of Lovecraft, who was considered the true successor to Edgar Allan Poe. He was born and died in Providence, R.I., and some of his stories and novels— yes, novels: he wrote Gothic novels— took place not only in the mythical Arkham, Mass., but in Providence, in familiar places.
Apparently, most people today are familiar with only his secondary literature. Maybe they can be enlightened by these sites.
Necronomicon can be purchased at great savings at www.half.com.
The H.P. Lovecraft archive. The complete text to the original Gothic novel
Lovecraft’s imaginary town.
H. P. Lovecraft— biography, plus surveys of his work and secondary literature. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
November 24, 2007
Tom Purdom replies: As I said in my review, I don’t like horror stories. I don’t even like Poe’s horror stories. People who don’t like horror tend to share my response to H.P. Lovecraft. People who like it, on the other hand, often like Lovecraft and spring to his defense.
I wrote my piece mostly because I was fascinated to discover that nobody in the classical music audience seemed to have heard of Lovecraft. The letters from Darrell Schweitzer and Marilyn Kagan, combined with my review, should give music lovers an accurate picture of his current status pro and con.
Schweitzer correctly notes that I erred when I said Ernest Hemingway is included in the Library of America. I assumed, without checking, that all the major American writers had been included in the series by now. I probably mentioned Hemingway because of my preference for sane, healthy writers who pickle themselves in alcohol and ram hooks into the palates of innocent fish.
Jamestown 1607, reconsidered
Re “Jamestown 1607, reconsidered,” by Andrew Mangravite—
I am curious as to your sources for certain comments about the “Plymouth Rock Pilgrims” who you state “created a great Puritan Commonwealth in the middle of nowhere” and “were the Taliban of the 17th Century, gleefully shipped off to die by their easy-going English neighbors who no longer tolerate the Puritan’s stiff-necked ways.”
The Pilgrims were a group of non-conformists who became known as Separatists. Some were previously Puritans. In those days church and state were one: If you didn’t conform by attending service regularly and paying tithe (10% of your earnings) you were subject to prison and loss of your belongings. The Separatists believed that the Church of England (then, as now, Protestant) needed reforming, corrupt and incompetent church officials being among the problems. They also believed that the Book of Common Prayer and other regimen were not in keeping with the teachings of Christ. Whereas an earlier group, the Puritans, believed they could cause the reform by staying within the Church of England, the Separatists felt it must be done from without. Both were persecuted and prosecuted with a vengeance by Elizabeth I and then her successor James I.
These were the Pilg
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