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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Friday, July 01, 2016

entry arrow9:19 PM | Cracking the Zeitgeist Wide Open

I was just reading Isaac Butler and Dan Kois' "Angels in America: The Complete Oral History," a comprehensive compendium of voices to explain how Tony Kushner’s play became the defining work of American art of the past 25 years over at Slate. (Link here.)

Which made me wonder what it must be like to be the one who writes an Angels in America, a Hamilton, a Rent, a Spring Awakening. A play that's initially very difficult to comprehend as a stage spectacle ("What? A play about angels, Mormons, Roy Cohn, and AIDS?" "What? A musical about the first Secretary of the Treasury, in hiphop?" "What? A musical about bohemians in New York who can't pay rent, plus AIDS?" ... "What? A play about hormonal teenagers in Germany?" Okay fine, that last one is easy to comprehend) -- but then becomes a cultural tornado, a fantastic revealer of the zeitgeist. But Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tony Kushner and Jonathan Larson (and I'm sure also Duncan Sheik) perhaps never even imagined the future juggernauts their creations became: they were just small passion projects that were difficult to write, and were supremely difficult to finally stage. And then, against all odds, they became big.

One thing I love about the city I live in is its theatre scene, which is now producing a significant number of originals. But what I don't quite like about the same scene is how everything is rushed. An idea for a play gets hatched. The writing happens. But then there's no real rewriting afterwards, no earnest dramaturging, no workshops, no tryouts... And so, often the finished product comes out tepid or sayang. And then I read the behind-the-scenes revelations, like the Slate article, and you come across testimonials of months and years being spent on the shaping of a material, the emotional compromises, the lightning quick changes, etc., and they make you think: This is how it should be done, in a herculean process that demands your very soul. And I think that's why these plays crack the zeitgeist wide open, because they're developed slowly, and have time for the very times itself to seep in and marinate. And when they finally open, they make cultural revolutions -- and people line up just to see the latest miracle that manages to get to the quick of how we live now.

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