October 4, 2016
I sat down recently with imaginary tiny Walter Bilderback (Wilma’s Literary Manager/ Resident Dramaturg) over tea and biscuits in a spare room, where I keep him. Tiny Walter was wearing corduroy pants and his trademark glasses, and drinking mint tea.
PLAYWRIGHT So my writing is going well, actually.
TINY WALTER Oh, excellent!
PLAYWRIGHT But I keep having these thoughts, as I shape this play, along the lines of “what can I get away with….”
TINY WALTER Fun! What have you decided?
PLAYWRIGHT Well, I’ve made a list of potentially offensive things that I’d like to include in the play.
Do you want to share them with me?
PLAYWRIGHT I don’t want that to be mistaken for asking for permission.
Let’s talk in the abstract, then.
I find myself once again returning to Bakhtin, to the grotesque, to the rude and crude –
PLAYWRIGHT But I do want you to do the play. So I just wonder sometimes, what is “too much” for the Wilma? I ask this in the context of wanting to totally revolutionize the theater.
Is that the only context?
PLAYWRIGHT My dad used to tell my mom that she was “too much” and that she “overdid everything.”
Then they divorced.
Eat more biscuits.
I sense what you really want to do here is talk about the very idea of “good taste.”
TINY WALTER Is good taste built by consensus…. should works of art even be in good taste… how much do class and childhood shape someone’s aesthetics… not to mention the odd connections between personality and political views…. that sort of stuff.
Yes. And, naturally, I find myself once again thinking about that sensory metaphor: that we experience a work of art through taste – as if through the tongue –
But if it’s really good we are “touched” –
And if it’s extreme in some way we are “shaken” –
TINY WALTER Those are of course words we use for real emotions that we have in our everyday life too, whereas taste as a metaphor seems to be reserved for aesthetic experiences.
No one says, that rape was not quite to my taste.
That cloud formation. Not to my taste.
A joke – can be tasteless.
A walk in the park – probably not tasteless.
PLAYWRIGHT My point exactly. But then, offensive is often equated with tastelessness. Which is funny to me because offensive things are not things I would describe as devoid of flavor. If anything, they leave an unpleasant taste.
So really if I go to the theater and I’m bored, it makes more sense for me to leave and say “ugh that was tasteless.”
Don’t eat more biscuits.
PLAYWRIGHT You can’t tell me what to do.
(She eats all the biscuits.)
TINY WALTER I think I understand the basic tenets of your psychology.
PLAYWRIGHT Let’s not dissect that. America, since the Great Depression, has struggled with its food. We made bland food choices that still haunt us.
TINY WALTER As a dramaturg, I assume you are referring to this NPR piece:
Yup. It is also true that we are in a food renaissance.
AND it is also true that we are still confused about basic nutrition.
Do you think America’s tastes in plays are connected to its tastes in food?
That also brings up: How is art appreciation related to our understanding of nutrition?
PLAYWRIGHT Yes. And what is the meal that we are preparing.
Do we, as playwrights, want to cook to individual’s tastes?
Are we making individual meals?
Or do we try to get a sense of how the whole pot tastes – the whole pot being the culture – and then try to serve a side dish that is in conversation with that.
So that if the main dish is bland, you might intentionally make something that is over-salted, not because you love over-salting but because you are in conversation with the main dish.
… … …
Sometimes I think about, would I rather someday win an Obie, or an Obscenity Charge? And I kind of think, Obscenity Charge has more potential.
I think you would really enjoy an Obie, too.
PLAYWRIGHT Do you want to talk about digestibility?
You know Kate, blog posts are supposed to be short, and digestible.
I’m not by temperament a blogger.
Let’s continue our conversation another time.
PLAYWRIGHT Can we retitle this blog “SPOILER ALERT!”
As in – “SPOILER ALERT! Dispatches From The Desk of Kate Tarker”
TINY WALTER Do whatever makes you happy.
Do you think Home Depot should be retitled Home Despot.