Some Actors Are Created More Equal Than Others

November 26, 2007

Concomitant yet unconnected bi-coastal strikes by unions in culture producing industries have struck. (Do strikes strike?). Hollywood will assuredly be fine. The behind-the-scenes set constructors and set-dressing “little people” will feel the squeeze on account of the writers, but we’ve come to expect nothing else from the totem that is La-la land. Broadway, the name of a street (!) as well as one of the world’s foremost centers of musical and dramatic theatre has gone “dark” due to a stagehand strike, and precisely at its most crucial time of year for making money (something it generally does little of as an industry). Both sides will lose too much money for the strike to continue much longer according to experts (read:my Dad) and The Times (that’s the New York Times) has reported (breaking news!) that our expert analysis is accurate. This post has been forced to change course in the middle of its creation.  Well, it’ll be the same post just with less potent urgency.
The prospect of the arts without the theatre is frightening. Musical theatre (spelled the pretentious way of course) is a neglected art form deserving of greater respect.  Some have difficulty suspending their disbelief and see individuals bursting into song and choreographed dance routines as campy and absurd.  True, musicals can be trite.  Even masters of the form such as Rogers and Hammerstein wrote musicals such as “State Fair” which define corny.  But to judge the genre in this way would be akin to summing up the worth of belles lettres by only reading Mary Higgins Clark.

Any male in his 20’s who has felt undue pressure to get engaged, be married, and find his worth by “settling down” needs to see a production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company”.  It is impossible to not be impressed by the score of “Sweeney Todd”.  I personally have been able to recall much political history at cocktail parties because of “Assassins”.

Classically trained stage actors whose careers begin on the stage often lend their talents to Hollywood to Hollywood’s great benefit.  Sometimes this requires great actors taking roles that are beneath them in order to pay the bills or pay for other projects.  “Mr. Deeds” is a formulaic and silly movie (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and John Turturro is arguably the greatest actor of his generation.  The X-Men trilogy is terrific in my opinion, but to see Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stuart in action is to see Halle Berry and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos outclassed, plain and simple.

Acting can and should be about more than celebrity and entertainment.  Television and movies contribute more than their share of schlock as Ibiteyoureyes has recently demonstrated.  They also contribute plenty that is of value.  The stage has its drawbacks, of course, but the ability of a performer to hold a live audience in his or her hands is God-given and only to an elite few at that.  See how the mighty plastic Hollywood sign/edifice may fall without those trained and reared on the stage, their dignity exploited.  Yet another pyramid scheme claims those at the bottom.

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