Thursday, December 6, 2012

Three of Four: "Plays of the 60s: volume 3" edited by Katherine Brisbane

Three of Four: Plays of the 60s: volume 3 edited by Katherine Brisbane, 1998, o868195626.

I was weeding my library's nonfiction and pulled a book about Australia.  The title was something like Modern Australia but was published in 1980.  I tossed that sucker but looked through it first.  Opening a book in the stacks is an often dangerous business, I cease being a weeder and turn into a reader.

After a semester of college in Perth, Western Australia I have a lingering interest in what happens in Australia.  Even the thirty year old stuff in there was worth a look, especially since there were lots of photos.  One photo showed a stage scene from a production of the play Burke's Company. "Huh," I thought to myself. "What is that about?" So I searched World Cat, found this collection at UW-Madison, put in a request, and a couple days later all three freaking volumes showed up.

Four Australian written and produced plays that had an impact.  A Refined Look at Existence by Rodney Milgate, Chicago, Chicago by John Romeril, Burke's Company by Bill Reed, and The Front Room Boys by Alex Buzo. Their impact was not just that they were good but that the domestic theater industry in Australia was minor.

A Refined Look.  Bleah.  Pretentious with the characters directly addressing the audience, talking about themselves in third person and speaking dialogue in unison.  I quit after a few pages.

Chicago, Chicago.  Not too bad.  "Man" is in Chicago during the '68 convention.  Man boomerangs around from being a political worker, to an alcoholic in rehab, to dream sequence.  Two theater goers - 1960 suburban bourgeoisie stand-ins - give periodic critics of the play and its meanings.  The critiques were helpful to me.  I wonder if the writer was ragging on that type of person.

Burke's Company.  Fairly decent but difficult for me to imagine on the stage.  I figure good acting would bring out the drama much more.  Bill Bryson wrote about Burke and other overland explorers in In A Sunburned Country.  Burke and company died of malnutrition walking from South coast to North coast and back again.  Burke established a supply camp in central Australia as he headed North.  The man in charge of the camp, Brahe, stayed way past Burke's expected return and left with a mortally sick teammate only hours - hours - before Burke and two others returned.  Brahe returned later with a rescue party and missed Burke and company yet again.  Burke and the rest die.

Small cast and spare stage with Brahe incredibly guilty and Burke dreaming of glory and refusing the aid of the aborigines.  Another character is remorseless about not coming forward with more supplies.

The Front Room Boys.  Best play and the one most easily translatable to modern times.  The others are very much period pieces with social concerns of Vietnam, social unrest, social change, political change, etc.  Front Room is also concerned with those things but is an office comedy.  The "front room boys" - and two women - are office clerks doing busy work reports for the "back room boys".  The front room boys vary in age from 20 to 60.  Some are okay, one is kinda dumb, one is ambitious, one is a backstabber dickhead, so on, so forth.  Told over a calendar year with a scene for each month (although 3-4 scenes are very brief).

Failed love affairs.  Having to put up with boring but steady work.  Whether to risk rocking the boat to get better pay and opportunity.  Whether the job is worth the daily humiliation.

1.  I only expected one book.  I am not sure if I will get to the other two.
2.  I have to start reading literary committee novels.  The good thing about the literary committee is that I end up reading books I would never have tried out on my own.  The bad thing about the literary committee is that I end up reading books I would never have tried out on my own.
3. I seem to be the first person to ever check these books out.  I should try calling the UW library and asking.  I know someone who works there, maybe I can email her and ask if she could check the circ stats.

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