Sunday, January 09, 2005

Truly Bad Dialogue

Sometimes, if you belong to a Yahoogroups discussion and announcement list long enough, you find a nugget impossible to pass up.

I learned about some truly awful playwriting on one of those groups. Unfortunately, the announcement came from the playwright himself. Either he's steeped himself in Brecht's theatre of alienation or his model for dialogue composition is cross-dressing schlock-film director Ed Wood.

It shouldn't be any surprise that the play (excerpted below -- I've snipped a lot to be kind to my readers) is published by a vanity press. It comes from a volume entitled Making Progress: America's Queer History in 12 Plays by Michael D. Jackson, who is otherwise unknown to me.

Here are just a few lines to entice you -- or not:

RYAN: Do you know that the Oriental custom is for men to kiss and embrace each other when they are good friends?

ROB: Isn’t that the way with most cultures?

RYAN: It’s not intimate in other cultures.

ROB: I suppose not.

RYAN: They are uninhibited and free from worry about it. And no one thinks twice if they see two men kissing out in public.

ROB: Maybe I should move there.

RYAN: You don’t know the language.

ROB: As fascinating as you are, I’ve got to go. It’s getting late, and I have a test.

RYAN: You aren’t going to stay over tonight?

ROB: No. I’d never get anything done. (He suddenly decides to kiss RYAN) Have I shocked you again?

RYAN: Uh...

ROB: Oriental custom. (He exits)


RYAN: (To audience) No one but Rob Luke has ever been able to shock me. But I must confess, I like the Oriental custom of men embracing and kissing each other if they are indeed good friends. Last night, when we went to bed, Rob put his arms around me and lay his head down on my right shoulder in the most loving way. Then I put my arms around his neck, and thus clasped in each other’s arms, we talked for a long time ‘til we were ready to go to sleep. And then we separated as I cannot sleep well with anyone near me, not even a woman. Now in all this, I am certain there is no sexual sentiment on the part of either of us. But although the thought of the least demonstration of homosexual passion is revolting to me, I do love him. I love to hug him, and now I think I don’t mind kissing him either. I have never felt such a tenderness of the human spirit as I felt when Rob kissed me. Christ kissed and embraced those whom he loved, I believe. Why shall I fear to do the same?

Is it just me, or does that sound like the basis for an old Monty Python sketch called "Monstrously Bad Theatre"?

If this is an excerpt from a cycle of plays that purports to tell the history of the gay rights movement, it's likely to set that movement back several generations.

August Wilson has nothing to fear from competitors in the epic play-cycle department.

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Tim said...

You'd have been kinder if you snipped a lot more.

Michael D. Jackson said...

Hello Rick,
Well it had to happen, as soon as your work is out there in a mass way, someone is bound to hate you. I should point out that my play "A Taste of Heaven", which you have quoted and given a particularly bad review is the most cellebrated play in my collection, MAKING PROGRESS, having won the "Excellence in Playwriting" honor from the New York International Fringe Festival and receiving terrific reviews from the press in three productions in New York and a wonderful run at San Francisco's New Conservatory Theatre Center. Several other theatres and colleges have now licensed it and I don't think it's because it's bad. Also, it might be interesting for you to know that the scene you quoted is dramatized from a diary circa 1885 with all the details in tact. So, the history is pretty accurate too.