I'm constantly on the lookout for good videos about the theater -- playwrights talking about playwriting, interviews, documentaries and, where they exist, good, complete productions. Here are some my favorites.
A PBS production of Donald Margulies' Collected Stories. My friend Gary Tellalian turned me on to Margulies. Love the way he spans time in this play and how he moves around in time in Sight Unseen and Friends For Dinner.
American Masters on August Wilson. Insanely ambitions project of writing one play taking place in each decade of the twentieth century capturing the scope of the African American experience. His language is as much poetry as any playwright.
With this 1966 made for TV version of Death of a Salesman, you get the Willie (Lee J. Cobb) and Linda (Mildred Dunnock) from the original 1949 production. I first read it in sophomore English class. My dad would talk to himself sometimes, and once, when he did, I told him he reminded me of Willie. I didn't understand what that meant, but he did. Every time I re-read it, it's more painful. So much to admire here - what continuously amazes me is his manipulation of time and space. Also, Miller tells you in the title how the play ends. How does he get away with that?
August Wilson again - Bill Moyers interview.
Arthur Miller interview on Charlie Rose.
The Eugene O'Neill play about the doomed, damaged, drunken Tyrone family staring Jack Lemon, Peter Gallagher, Bethel Leslie and Kevin Spacey.
1987 version Ibsen's Ghosts staring a Judi Dench, Michael Gambon (yes, that's Dumbledore) and a very young Kennth Branagh. The tragic truth that there is no protection from the past. "I am half inclined to think we are all ghosts, Mr. Manders. It is not only what we have inherited from our fathers and mothers that exists again in us, but all sorts of old, dead ideas and and all kinds of old, dead beliefs and things of that kind. They are not actually alive in us; but there they are dormant, all the same, and we can never be rid of them. Whenever I take up a newspaper and read it, I fancy I see ghosts creeping between the lines. There must be ghosts all over the world. They must be as countless as the grains of sands, it seems to me. And we are all so miserably afraid of the light, all of us." Watch how Branagh takes on a different physical presence as he moves between poor Oswald's highs and lows.
Ibsen again. This time it's a 1963 version of Hedda Gabler staring Ingrid Bergman. Ibsen weaves a complex story as Hedda tries to manipulate the three men in her life. Judge Brack is smarmiest at it's best.
I've re-read Proof more than any other play during this project. There's something humble about the style and the dialogue. But at those moments when it wants to hit you, it hits perfectly. And it covers two of my favorite subjects: math and madness. This version is from the Costa Mesa Playhouse. Darcy Porter-Phillips's Catherine is sweet, angry, smart and scared.
Who would have thought that two bums talking on a nearly empty road for two hours could be so fun to watch?
Christopher Plummer gives James Tyrone's speech or regret from Long Day's Journey Into Night. A man digging deep to tell the story of his life, one in which he traded promise for an easy buck.
Poor quality but great production of Tracy Letts' August Osage Country. If you only know the film version - I'm sorry. I saw it performed at the Capital Stage. It's 3-hour running time feels like 90 minutes. Endless great lines. "Good thing we can't see the future... We'd never get out of bed." "You eat that fish you fucker." “My last refuge, my books: simple pleasures, like finding wild onions by the side of a road, or requited love.” “I don't know what it says about me that I have a greater affinity with the damaged. Probably nothing good.” And maybe my favorite: "And my toenails, good God: anymore they could dig through cement."
This short of David Hare talking about playwriting made me rethink the beginning, the ending, and everything in-between. Damn him.