Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Culture Clashes

If any faithful readers have sent me an email lately, I must apologize for not responding. Cowardice is my only excuse --my Yahoo inbox is a scary place these days. I’m afraid to open it.

Two disparate groups have taken over, shunting aside friends, family and Viagra salespeople. Both groups love long conversations via email, and some folks get a little reckless with that “reply to all” button.

My playwriting colleagues favor lengthy discussions about theatre critics, recent stage productions and why Performance Network (Ann Arbor’s theatre company) won’t acknowledge our obvious genius. Mother’s group members like to discuss parenting articles, toddler vaccines, sleep issues and potty training.

Which is all fine, usually. The playwrights will launch a swarm of emails about staging Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” using little Honeybaked Hams one week, and the mothers will send a flurry emails about the dangers of Post-It notes the next. No problem.

But last week was difficult because both groups lost their minds at once. One playwright sent everyone an innocent opinion on the play “Proof,” about a girl who sacrificed college to look after her mentally ill father, a famous mathematician. The father dies, leaving the girl anguished and in limbo. Meanwhile, a playgroup mother sent out a list titled “You Were a Little Girl in the Seventies if …”

Chaos ensued. I received dozens of emails a day, just from these two groups:

“You were a little girl in the 70's if...

You owned a bicycle with a banana seat and a plastic basket with flowers on it.

You thought Gopher from Love Boat was cute …”


“In Proof, not only do we wonder whether the ghost is a ghost or the personified thoughts of Catherine, the live person conversing with the ghost …”


“Too fun! I remember playing with Strawberry Shortcake dolls, as well as her friends, Blueberry Muffin and Huckleberry Pie …”

“Obviously, to make a point dramatically takes time. Dad's-ghost exposition, like extended narration, is a way that playwrights shorten the dialogue. Others are blatant
semiotics and simply scanting character development …”


“I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder really bad and wore that Little House on the Prairie-inspired plaid, ruffle shirt with the high neck and I despised Nellie Olson! But I LOVED Bo Duke …”

I don't think this is at all fair to Auburn's play. The scene between Catherine and Robert (where Robert is dead) is a very rich and complex interaction. It is true that in other scenes, Auburn's writing suffers from substituting "interrupted monologue" for true dialogue …”

“Oh yes! I got to see John Schneider at the Kalamazoo County Fair! My other childhood crush was Kirk Cameron from Growing Pains. I had his Teen Beat poster on my wall and practiced french kissing daily …”

Um, maybe a little too much information there. You can see now why I twitched and cringed a little every time I saw that red “New Mail” signal. And I couldn’t just delete the stuff; buried in the dreck was information about one-act play festivals and upcoming playgroup dates.

So if you receive emails babbling about the haunting complexity of Kirk Cameron’s dialogue in a play with little hams, now you know why.


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