Welcome to The Valve

Valve Links

The Front Page
Statement of Purpose

John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
Marc Bousquet
Matt Greenfield
Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
Guest Authors

Laura Carroll
Mark Bauerlein
Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Advanced Search

RSS 1.0 | RSS 2.0 | Atom

RSS 1.0 | RSS 2.0 | Atom


Powered by Expression Engine
Logo by John Holbo

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.



About Last Night
Academic Splat
Amardeep Singh
Bemsha Swing
Bitch. Ph.D.
Blogging the Renaissance
Butterflies & Wheels
Cahiers de Corey
Category D
Charlotte Street
Cheeky Prof
Chekhov’s Mistress
Chrononautic Log
Cogito, ergo Zoom
Collected Miscellany
Completely Futile
Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind
Conversational Reading
Critical Mass
Crooked Timber
Culture Cat
Culture Industry
Early Modern Notes
Easily Distracted
fait accompi
Ferule & Fescue
Ghost in the Wire
Giornale Nuovo
God of the Machine
Golden Rule Jones
Grumpy Old Bookman
Ideas of Imperfection
In Favor of Thinking
In Medias Res
Inside Higher Ed
jane dark’s sugarhigh!
John & Belle Have A Blog
John Crowley
Jonathan Goodwin
Kathryn Cramer
Languor Management
Light Reading
Like Anna Karina’s Sweater
Lime Tree
Limited Inc.
Long Pauses
Long Story, Short Pier
Long Sunday
Making Light
Maud Newton
Michael Berube
Motime Like the Present
Narrow Shore
Neil Gaiman
Old Hag
Open University
Pas au-delà
Planned Obsolescence
Quick Study
Rake’s Progress
Reader of depressing books
Reading Room
Reassigned Time
Reeling and Writhing
Return of the Reluctant
Say Something Wonderful
Shaken & Stirred
Silliman’s Blog
Slaves of Academe
Sorrow at Sills Bend
Sounds & Fury
Stochastic Bookmark
Tenured Radical
the Diaries of Franz Kafka
The Elegant Variation
The Home and the World
The Intersection
The Litblog Co-Op
The Literary Saloon
The Literary Thug
The Little Professor
The Midnight Bell
The Mumpsimus
The Pinocchio Theory
The Reading Experience
The Salt-Box
The Weblog
This Public Address
This Space: The Fire’s Blog
Thoughts, Arguments & Rants
Tingle Alley
University Diaries
Unqualified Offerings
What Now?
William Gibson

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Profanum Vulgus

Posted by Matt Greenfield on 07/06/06 at 10:50 PM

I don’t like Broadway audiences, or so I have told myself for years: there are too many loud, aggressive tourists who keep chatting throughout the performance.  Shouldn’t theater be a quasi-sacred ritual?  I was expecting to be annoyed when I went to see a production of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer that starred Ralph Fiennes, Tony winner Cherry Jones, and Ian McDiarmid, who played the evil Senator Palpatine in the Star Wars prequels.  It didn’t help that the Booth Theater funnels large crowds through a small hallway: just getting to one’s seat is a challenge.

I was surprised by the audience’s rapt attention.  Faith Healer is the kind of play that some critics euphemistically call “demanding”: it is a series of four lengthy monologues that each retell the same sequence of events, albeit with Rashomon-like discrepancies.  Two of the three characters are already dead, and there is never more than one actor on-stage.  It is like the primitive, pre-Aeschylus version of Athenian tragedy.  It would be hard to imagine a more static theatrical form.  But the audience had an angry, wren-like vigilance, to coin a phrase.

I was sitting in the last row, and there was a man standing behind me.  At the intermission I learned that he was a composer who had recently graduated from a school in North Carolina.  He had just gotten his first big break: he had composed the music for a show that was going up on Broadway in the fall.  Meanwhile, the man on my left had an encyclopedic knowledge of Irish theater and a lot of judicious thoughts on recent productions.  I discovered that he was the artistic director of a reputable regional theater.  One of his productions is coming to Broadway next year.  To my right were two cultured German women.  Where were the ignorant, obstreperous Star Wars fans? I had somehow landed not in a mosh pit but in an excellent graduate seminar.  I felt a little sorry for the theater people.  Were they almost as badly off as scholars or poets?  Were they, too, performing largely for fellow practitioners?  Is there something special about the back row?  Or perhaps it is the play itself that is special.  The faith healer himself is a theatrical performer, part priest and part con-man, like most actors.  He sacrifices everything, including his family, for the right to pursue his calling.

I didn’t like the production.  Fiennes didn’t seem to fully inhabit the character; he didn’t have the haunted, deeply introspective charisma that he has in most of his film work.  I felt the same way about his performance in a London production of Ibsen’s Brand.  Perhaps he loses interest after repeating the same words night after night.  And I think Friel’s poetic gift is unspectacular.  But despite these qualms about the production, I like Broadway again.


It must be something about the way they are advertising Faith Healer. When I went to the Threepenny Opera (infamously of great performances gawdawfully directed), I was packed in on all sides by loud teens on a drama-class holiday, old guys crinkling hard candies and ahemming, and would-be theater critics broadcasting their take on every scene. I might be an extra-grumpy person though, because it’s the same at movies, concerts, and the opera, enough that I won’t go unless it’s something I’m dying to see.

How nice to hear that’s not always so!

By A White Bear on 07/07/06 at 09:56 AM | Permanent link to this comment

"Were they almost as badly off as scholars or poets?  Were they, too, performing largely for fellow practitioners?”

Calling Luther Blissett...

By on 07/07/06 at 12:25 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Add a comment:



Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below: