Thursday, December 10, 2009


My script analysis class has given me a greater appreciation for plays and works that I would have considered too weighty or anachronistic to be of interest to me in the past. It has also been a while since I have truly been able to pick up a book and read it from start to finish with ease. While I do read a lot of content on the internet, it is in short 1-2 page bursts, anything else is tl;dr. Some of the plays are not that enjoyable, but I can see why the teacher picked them to discuss. Others are good enough to bring back old times where I would lay in my bed till I finished the book at 4 in the morning (which by the way is annoying if you wear glasses because you have to shift constantly from laying facing up and down because putting the head down on the side doesn't work).

Today, we went over the play "A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams. The play is about a Southern Belle, Blanche, in the mid 1940's from "Old Money" who has recently lost her estate. She visits her sister, Stella, who moved to New Orleans with her husband, Stanley, into a urban and "common" type of lifestyle. The power of this story is the way Williams interweaves multiple themes into one story, while developing characters into human beings you can relate with. There are no real heroes or villains, just two people with conflicting desires and motivations. I want to someday also be able to create characters that have fundamental flaws that inevitably create conflict with their environment yet are also understandable.

The most poignant thing about today's class however, was not the play itself, but when our teacher read to us a preface to the play that Williams wrote. It was an essay titled "The Catastrophe of Success" where Williams delves into the idea that the "success" of an artist can deaden his sense of life itself. Reading this essay before reading the play gives an insight into what Williams is truly interested in, in life itself, in the animal-like pleasure loving sensuality of the Marlin Brando played Stanley, and the aesthetic admiring dreams of Blanche. Here is an excerpt from that essay:

This is an oversimplification. One does not escape that easily from the seduction of an effete way of life. You cannot arbitrarily say to yourself, I will not continue my life as it was before this thing, Success, happened to me. But once you fully apprehend the vacuity of a life without struggle you are equipped with the basic means of salvation. Once you know this is true, that the heart of man, his body and his brain, are forged in a white-hot furnace for the purpose of conflict (the struggle of creation) and that with the conflict removed, the man is a sword cutting daisies, that not privation but luxury is the wolf at the door and that the fangs of this wolf are all the little vanities and conceits and laxities that Success is heir to—-why, then with this knowledge you are at least in a position of knowing where danger lies.

You know, then, that the public Somebody you are when you “have a name” is a fiction created with mirrors and that the only somebody worth being is the solitary and unseen you that existed from your first breath and which is the sum of your actions and so is constantly in a state of becoming under your own violation— and knowing these things, you can even survive the catastrophe of Success!

It is never altogether too late, unless you embrace the Bitch Goddess, as William James called her, with both arms and find in her smothering caresses exactly what the homesick little boy in you always wanted, absolute protection and utter effortlessness. Security is a kind of death, I think, and it can come to you in a storm of royalty checks beside a kidney-shaped pool in Beverly Hills or anywhere at all that is removed from the conditions that made you an artist, if that’s what you are or were intended to be. Ask, anyone who has experienced the kind of success I am talking about— What good is it? Perhaps to get an honest answer you will have to give him a shot of truth serum but the word he will finally groan is unprintable in genteel publications.

Then what is good? The obsessive interest in human affairs, plus a certain amount of compassion and moral conviction, that first made the experience of living something that must be translated into pigment or music or bodily movement or poetry or prose or anything that’s dynamic and expressive—that’s what’s good for you if you’re at all serious in your aims. William Saroyan wrote a great play on this theme, that purity of heart is the one success worth having. “In the time of your life—live!” That time is short and it doesn’t return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, loss, loss, unless you devote your heart to its opposition.

When I heard this spoken, it was like a Braveheart moment when the speech is said and you just want to go out and do battle and kill some Englishmen with a Scottish accent. But seriously, the whole reason I wanted to go into this profession was to experience life itself more fully than I had been before. Williams is an inspiration for me not to sell out and always remember that life is not fulfilled by "success" but rather the constant yearning for truth of the human experience.


Esther said...


if you ever forget, i'll be here to slap Williams back into you

Will said...

tityta. great entry