So I was thinking today about tesseracts, like you do. Specifically I was thinking about the chapter in A Wrinkle in Time where tesseracts are explained to Meg, and the little drawing that accompanies the explanation (you can see it here, partway down the page). That little drawing used to stop me every time I read the book. I understood it but I couldn’t get it. That stupid little ant. How the hell did he do the thing he was doing? On the edge of a DRESS?
The video linked above is also something I found when thinking and searching for things about tesseracts. It is a video of a physicist named David trying to explain them to me, and to you. I found this just now, for the first time, and my heart leaped up when I saw it, because of all the people, this guy David! He was a professor of mine. He taught a class called The Scientist on Stage (Which, for Patton Oswalt fans, was basically equiv to Physics for Poets!), and it was one of my all-time favorite classes ever ever. Dude just let us read plays about scientists and then tried to teach us quantum mechanics. He was so NICE about it, so NICE in the face of our faces, probably most of us just staring at him like he was holding up the edge of a dress and letting an ant crawl across.
This is a compilation of some top-notch Scharpling & Wurster skits that have not yet appeared on any of the duo’s Stereolaffs cd releases. I strongly recommend buying those albums, and subscribing to the Best Show podcast.
1. Brock Puechk - A friendly discussion of current events heads off into creepy psycho-drama territory before shifting into a rambling conversation that touches on Shakespeare, an unbelievable dvd box set, and the secret lives of newscasters. 2. Montgomery Davies - Tom speaks to a local judge involved in a very strange scandal. 3. The Millionaire - Tom takes a call from a man who recently became a millionaire, but refuses to spend any of his money lest his bank balance drop below one million dollars. 4. The Predator - Tom gets a call from a delusional and highly ambitious pedophile. 5. The Story Weaver - Tom talks to a co-worker who turns out to be a pathological liar without any ability to craft believable lies. 6. BJ Brysson and the Bridge - A local radio personality tells Tom all about his various fan rallies. 7. Tom’s Therapist - Tom discovers that his former therapist has no qualms about revealing very sensitive confidential information over the airwaves. 8. Sean In Rampbridge - A survivor of a plane crash calls in to talk about the high and low points of his life in 2008.
The Best Show has a learning curve; let’s just own it. It can be intimidating to get started. These calls are a great start. The Brock Puechk (“YOU DIE!”) call is one of my all-time favorites, and The Story Weaver and Sean in Rampbridge are both super-awesome and super-recent. I would say only, don’t listen to Sean in Rampbridge on headphones. Don’t be scared: it’s just a comedy thrillride.
Three times recently I have seen plays with music. These are different than musicals. These are plays, with music.
One of them was Ruined, by Lynn Nottage. It’s playing at City Center right now and has extended through mid-April. I would like you to go see it so we can discuss. I didn’t know anything about it, going in, anything other than it was set in the Congo. So the best part about that was that I didn’t know it had originally started as a Mother Courage adaptation and then changed into something completely different. Walking out, I said to my friend, “I mean CLEARLY it is a MOTHER COURAGE ARCHETYPE but still there are things YOU DON’T EXPECT” like I was god’s gift to criticism. Ben Brantley was there the same night and uncharacteristically of he and I, I agree with most of what he has to say in his review. I wondered most about this part, though:
But precisely because of its artistic caution, “Ruined” is likely to reach audiences averse to more adventurous, confrontational theater. And people who might ordinarily look away from horror stories of distant wars may well find themselves bound in empathy to the unthinkably abused women that Ms. Nottage and the excellent actresses here have shaped with such care and warmth.
We call this the “spoonful of sugar” defense.
Brantley compares it to Blasted, which I saw a few months ago and which tore my heart flat out and made me scared to look at the damage. “Artistic caution” is a mean phrase, I think, but not entirely incorrect. Who went to see Blasted. Who subscribes to MTC. Who needs to see these stories? Some of us, some of us, all of us. Who was it, someone I read recently, quoting Richard Foreman and saying you have to pick the smartest person in your audience, the person who is going to get the thing you’re trying to do, and you have to write to that person. No matter what.
But Lynn Nottage wasn’t writing down to anyone. Lynn Nottage wrote the play she wanted to write, I think, I hope. In a Playbill interview with her she says, “I have been slowly trying to get to the point where I could write this kind of play.” That’s not artistic caution. You know? And yet no one would accuse Ruined of structural newness. It contains scenes that upset me to watch but they hit me in true emotional places that I reference all the time. I do not mean to diminish, I just mean to record. It’s a beautiful play with a complicated story and the last scene is I think more upsettingly complex than one might think upon first viewing. But still. What am I asking of my writers? And hadn’t I better ask it of myself.
Yesterday I walked around for about three hours and on the way back home stopped at St. John the Divine where a guy was leaning over the visitor’s desk, reprimanding the attendant for not paying attention to him and then beginning what was surely a boring story about how he knew Keith Haring. Then later I was back in the chapel that has the triptych that Keith Haring did and that guy was there again, this time haranging a photographer who was trying to take, like, a nice wide view, and the guy was up in his face going, “ARE YOU FROM OUT OF TOWN KEITH HARING DIED OF AIDS YOU SHOULD TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THAT IT’S BEAUTIFUL.”
At St. John the ceilings are so high there’s no possible way you’re still in Manhattan, you know?