The Curtain #39: Decade in Theater, Baldessari, and Assorted Esoterica

"I will not make any more boring art"
The Curtain mailing list
Gus Cuddy
S01-39 (Issue 39)

Hi all,

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Happy new year! And hello to any new subscribers. Hope your January is off to a great start.

This week there’s no new writing by me, as I’m just coming back from vacation. Instead, I’ve been reading and collecting a lot of links on theatre and culture, the most significant of which are below. Enjoy and I’ll see you next week.

# Helen Shaw on the Decade in Theater

For anyone that cares about the state and future of theatre (especially in New York), this piece by Helen Shaw is a must-read.

Shaw’s immense knowledge of the history of New York’s downtown scene shines through. I’m excited for her post at Vulture to include more of this sort of birds-eye-view essay.

One New York era faded (of experimental collectives) and another began (the Influencer Playwright); we lost and then regained our belief in documentary theater; we dealt with major habitat degradation and resource-diversion; and we’ve suffered a crisis of confidence in theater’s purpose, which, based on our near-hysterical insistence on the “importance of stories,” you can tell is still at low ebb

The movement from experimental collectives to influencer playwrights is the most significant trend I have observed as well. But I love the barb about theatre constantly reminding us of the importance of stories.


Purposelessness is itself a kind of sacred purpose. A theater is a place for chaos, thievery, destruction, misrule, recklessness, imagination, adventure, courage, provocation, and possibility. Throw your MFAs into a bonfire! Forget the rules! The wilderness has always been the place for wild beasts—but also hermits on their pillars. Don’t despair if you don’t find an obvious mission there. Go back into the wild. It’s where saints go to study.

# The Best Plays of the Decade

Here’s Jeremy O. Harris from Twitter:

Is god is
An octoroon
I’ll never love again
Tent revival
we are proud to present a presentation
Is this a room?
This American wife
This great country
Mary Jane
O, earth

This is a fantastic list, with more great suggestions in the replies on Twitter.

My pick is also for An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

# The only good line from the golden globes

This tweet by @Variety has been deleted. You can try this internet archive snapshot, though!

# Soraya McDonald

I loved Soraya McDonald’s recent essay Wandering in Search of Wakanda, where she considers different visions of utopias as seen in the play Ain’t No Mo, Beyoncé’s Homecoming, and David Byrne’s American Utopia. I’ve really enjoyed McDonald’s 2019 writing covering theatre and culture; she is an inspiration. So it’s fitting that it was also just announced that she won the Nathan Award for 2019, an exciting award for theatre criticism.

# “I will not make any more boring art”

RIP John Baldessari.

# Assorted

# End note

That’s all for this week—thanks so much for reading!

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