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The Dramaturg: America’s Most Relevant Play: Round 1, Fight!

The Dramaturg: America’s Most Relevant Play: Round 1, Fight!

Yeah, we’re not screwing around here. America’s most relevant play, specifically of the last twenty years. You see, twenty years ago, Angels in America closed on Broadway. Now that play was important on a level that nothing we’ll be talking about here can even approach. The plays here are relevant in the context of American [...]

The Dramaturg: The Spine-Tingling Allure of the Backlot Tour

The Dramaturg: The Spine-Tingling Allure of the Backlot Tour

H.G. Wells’ classic tale of alien invasion and imperial paranoia, The War of the Worlds, was first published in serialized form in 1897. It was then made historic in 1938 when Orson Welles did it as a fake news broadcast (a top contender in VH1’s “100 Greatest Moments in Storytelling History”). Sixty-seven years later, Steven Spielberg [...]

Dramaturgy Case Study: The XXII Olympic Closing Ceremonies

Dramaturgy Case Study: The XXII Olympic Closing Ceremonies

“Pageantry” is a fun word to say. Something about the big, opening “Paah” sliding down pleasantly into the bouncy “-gin” and then the slightly elongated “-tree” makes it sound extra plummy and rich. I like to imagine Roger Rees saying it. It’s a word meant to be said with zest, which may at first seem [...]

The Dramaturg: Party Theater

The Dramaturg: Party Theater

There’s a certain kind of live entertainment that has stayed reliably popular pretty much since the dawn of man. People like to party. They like to go to parties. From time to time, they like to throw parties. We’ve erected whole towns to enable better partying. Days of the year have been exclusively reserved for [...]

Dramaturgy Case Study: Penn & Teller

Dramaturgy Case Study: Penn & Teller

Penn & Teller’s How To Play With Your Food was published on November 18, 1992 and given to my father as a Christmas present a month later. I think I took full and sole possession on December 26. The book had instructions on how to pull off all sorts of food-based pranks, came complete with [...]

The Dramaturg: Knott’s Scary Farm and the Theatrics of Fear

The Dramaturg: Knott’s Scary Farm and the Theatrics of Fear

Xcelerator makes for an arresting sight on the Knott’s Berry Skyline. From a distance, it looks kinda like a building, or at least the outline of one. This is what is known in roller coaster design as a top hat, essentially a tall hill with a ninety-degree ascent and then a ninety-degree descent. Xcelerator’s is [...]

The Dramaturg: The Purge, Kanye West and the Awkward Adolescence of Immersive Theater

The Dramaturg: The Purge, Kanye West and the Awkward Adolescence of Immersive Theater

About twenty minutes into The Purge: Fear The Night, an “actor” wearing commando make-up and carrying what looked like a spray-painted Super Soaker ordered me in no uncertain terms to climb into a tiny and rank shower stall and clean it with a toothbrush. At that point, at least according to what I could gather, [...]

The Dramaturg: Hollywood’s Greatest Fake Play: The Finals!

The Dramaturg: Hollywood’s Greatest Fake Play: The Finals!

It’s the Finals! Extra exclamation points!!! (2) “Red, White and Blaine” from Waiting for Guffman vs. (5) “Heaven and Hell” from Rushmore  When I started this tournament of mine, I didn’t have the clearest idea of how I was going to judge things. I sorta figured I’d approach each of those first round match-ups on their [...]

The Dramaturg: Hollywood’s Greatest Fake Play: The Semis, pt. 2

The Dramaturg: Hollywood’s Greatest Fake Play: The Semis, pt. 2

The Simpsons episode featuring “Stop The Planet of the Apes. I Want To Get Off” (hereafter referred to as STPOTAIWTGO) is titled “A Fish Called Selma” and comes from 1996, the tail end of a fairly sallow period for Broadway musicals. For instance, the battle for the ’95 Tony for Best Musical was a race [...]

The Dramaturg: Hollywood’s Greatest Fake Plays: The Semis!

The Dramaturg: Hollywood’s Greatest Fake Plays: The Semis!

Semi-Finals, Game #1: Springtime for Hitler vs. Heaven and Hell Film’s method of artistic reasoning has always seemed like kind of a killjoy to me-the idea that the best way to represent an action is to reproduce it in the most realistic way possible. This, in turn, has created an audience overly attuned to believability, one of the [...]

The Dramaturg: Hollywood’s Greatest Fake Plays, Rd. 2: Rise of the Apes

The Dramaturg: Hollywood’s Greatest Fake Plays, Rd. 2: Rise of the Apes

Welcome to the second round, where the fake play wheat really begins to separate from the fake play chaff. A few quick notes before we move into the match-ups: Most astounding omission from the tournament: “Lease” from Team America: World Police. I have no idea how I forgot about this Rent parody and its show-stopping [...]

The Dramaturg, Tournament Edition: Hollywood’s Greatest Fake Plays, Rd. 1

The Dramaturg, Tournament Edition: Hollywood’s Greatest Fake Plays, Rd. 1

I spend way more time watching TV shows and movies than I do watching plays. It’s not even close. If I stopped watching TV shows and movies today and never watched another again, I still don’t think the amount of time I spend at plays would ever catch up. I imagine this is unusual for [...]

The Dramaturg: Rise of the Superstory

The Dramaturg: Rise of the Superstory

In the parlance of grifters, charlatans and other, assorted flimflam men, a long con is one that unfolds over a sustained period of time. It relies on the construction of an intricate, multistage story designed to create trust between the conman and the mark, eventually allowing the perpetrators to walk away with large sums of [...]

Dramaturgy Case Study: The Secret of Monkey Island

Dramaturgy Case Study: The Secret of Monkey Island

Fairly early on in the computer game The Secret of Monkey Island, our hero, the fantastically named Guybrush Threepwood, is apprehended by power-hungry sheriff Fester Shinetop (the names!!) and fitted for the proverbial cement boots, dropped into the ocean while chained to a giant statue that Threepwood had set out to steal from the Governor’s [...]

The Dramaturg: Live!

The Dramaturg: Live!

At the increasingly frantic intersection of psychology and video game design, there’s a term, “cognitive flow,” which describes the kind of mental state that games strive to induce in their players. The psychologist Mihály Csikszentmihályi first coined the term, describing it as, “the satisfying, exhilarating feeling of creative accomplishment and heightened functioning.” Now, “satisfying” and [...]

Dramaturgy Case Study: Family Guy, episode #198

Dramaturgy Case Study: Family Guy, episode #198

I’m totally biting Colin’s idea. I can live with that though because if Family Guy is going to the theater world as the setting for an episode, I’m going with them. It sorta pains me to admit it given its plummeting credibility, but Family Guy is a perennial regular in my TV viewing line-up. The [...]

The Dramaturg: Dramaturgy Case Study: J.M. Synge, John F. Kennedy, Jr., and The 1999 British Open

The Dramaturg: Dramaturgy Case Study: J.M. Synge, John F. Kennedy, Jr., and The 1999 British Open

Golf is the best sport to watch hungover. I’ve researched this myself. The pace is unhurried. No one speaks above a whisper. And the dominant image is of small groups of nicely dressed people strolling through vast expanses of manicured lawns. Every golf telecast is like a very long, pastoral lullaby. On the other hand, [...]

The Dramaturg: Dramaturgy Case Study: The Gnawing Horror of Skittles Commercials

The Dramaturg: Dramaturgy Case Study: The Gnawing Horror of Skittles Commercials

Conservatively, I would say that candy comprises about 10% of my total diet. I can’t decide how alarming this is. I think it’s a lot. I spend an uncomfortable amount of time standing over the candy aisle at 7-11, considering the pros and cons of various candy brands. Yet I almost never consider Skittles. I [...]

The Dramaturg: Loving The Silent Tears

The Dramaturg: Loving The Silent Tears

A couple of weeks ago, I started to get emails from representatives of the new musical, Loving The Silent Tears, inviting me to attend their red-carpet premiere that was held at the Shrine Auditorium this past weekend. In their words, “We would most appreciate a post-event editorial, complete with visuals, first-hand accounts, and all the [...]

Critique of the Week – Runner Runner Up

Critique of the Week – Runner Runner Up

I’ve been picking on Andrea a lot over the last few weeks – though it’s been brought to my attention that she many not be fully aware of this – and as I’ve mentioned before, how I choose a COW (Critique of the Week) is very subjective, something simply jumps out at me, be it [...]

My Best Friend, The Dramaturg

My Best Friend, The Dramaturg

There’s a large chunk of a dramaturg’s job that is vague and amorphous and sorta sounds like bullshit whenever you try to describe it. It’s also the most exciting part of the job, at least for me. And the most challenging. It’s the collision of dramaturg and playwright. This usually comes about when a theater [...]

The Dramaturg: Site-Unspecific

The Dramaturg: Site-Unspecific

Let’s not talk about theater (we’ll get back to it, trust). Let’s talk about computer games instead. Computer games are far and away the most popular form of narrative entertainment out there. They blow everyone else away. This makes them very influential and it means that the particular way they tell their stories is going [...]

The Dramaturg: The Sad, Beautiful Face of The Loser

The Dramaturg: The Sad, Beautiful Face of The Loser

I was at a party recently and a friend of mine paid me a (sorta) compliment about these Bitter Lemons posts that also managed to be (sorta) confusing and (sorta) dispiriting. She said something like, “I really like those things you’re writing. I know it’s you because they’re so angry.” Compliment because she likes them, [...]

The Dramaturg: Fringin’

The Dramaturg: Fringin’

You know that scene in “Caddyshack” where Bushwood Country Club opens up its pool for fifteen minutes to the unruly gang of caddies? That’s kind of what the Hollywood Fringe Festival is like. There’s the distinct feeling that the gates have been thrown open and every theatrical nutbar in the SoCal area has been invited [...]

Death and The Dramaturg

Death and The Dramaturg

I spend more time thinking about death than pretty much anything else, with the possible exception of the current, past and future states of the Oakland A’s, San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors. I don’t think of this as being especially troubling or indicative of some sort of deeper, psychological problem. I assume everyone [...]

The Dramaturg: Dramaturgy Case Study: “Hey Ladies” music video

The Dramaturg: Dramaturgy Case Study: “Hey Ladies” music video

“Hey Ladies” was the first single off of Paul’s Boutique, the Beastie Boys’ 1989 follow-up to their massive debut, License to Ill. At the time, the ambitious Paul’s Boutique was considered somewhat of a conceptual mess, a reach for a group that had previously specialized in frat-boy anthems about one’s right to party and drink [...]

The Dramaturg: Totally Uninformed Tony Picks

The Dramaturg: Totally Uninformed Tony Picks

The Tony Award nominations were announced this week! Double exclamation point!! I struggle mightily to connect the Tony Awards to my daily, professional life. I feel no personal stakes in these awards, no ownership of my industry, no sense of pride in what we as a group have accomplished. I understand that there is a [...]

The Dramaturg: The Curious Case of the Missing Women Writers

The Dramaturg: The Curious Case of the Missing Women Writers

Last Monday, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, one of the largest and most respected regional theater companies in the country, announced its 2012-2013 season. Of the twelve shows that will run on its two main stages, not a single one was written by a woman. Only one will be co-directed by a woman. This discrepancy [...]

The Dramaturg: The Most Theatrical Place on Earth

The Dramaturg: The Most Theatrical Place on Earth

I love Disneyland. The rest of the Disney empire-the movies and merchandise and TV shows and cruise lines, the whole entire lifestyle thing-I could probably do without but I remain semi-obsessed by Disneyland. And frankly, I don’t know why the rest of the theater world isn’t. It’s a theme park. It’s an entire park dedicated [...]

The Dramaturg: Wait, theater sucks?! When did that happen?

The Dramaturg: Wait, theater sucks?! When did that happen?

Here’s a question: How many Bitter Lemons readers out there are not theater professionals or theater artists of some kind? Not actors or writers or directors or producers or designers or technicians? How many readers have no affiliation whatsoever with the performing arts other than being audience members? Here’s another question: of all of you [...]