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Not Reviewing David Mamet’s Book ‘Theater’ Just Saying.

0. Storytelling lives on despite our genocide of almost every storyteller before us. Can we survive the next round? Should we?

I appreciate David Mamet’s inquiries in his new book THEATER [978-0-571-25524-5]; but not his awfully snarky tone. Some of what I read in this book is spot on but most isn’t. Here are some raw notes I’ve made as I was reading his arguments. I won’t bother explaining much of each reply’s antecedent. I’m not in any classes this semester and this is NOT an academic paper. Consider it more of a non-traditional and multifaceted response paper. I’ve kept page numbers in case you’d like to thumb through the book yourself and see what specifics might’ve irked me so.


12. An eagle needs 300 miles. S/he’s survived confinement inside our modern lack of space for hundreds of years now. Notice I said survived and not thrived. This whole chapter [2. Hunter and the Game] tries to say that a play’s entire domain is its audience and that this audience has disappeared. Mamet makes fast work of claiming that the middle class is gone. He must not notice that people at the top of poverty as well as the bottom of wealth constantly insist they are middle class. Well, if enough of them insist it — I hate to break it to you but — it becomes true. So it hasn’t totally disappeared. Shrunk perhaps; or changed drastically leaving so many playwrights behind maybe, but it’s not gone.

42. Winona Ryder, Al Pacino and Eugene O’Neill would NOT agree. See “Hairy Ape” or “Looking For Richard. Mamet is claiming that an actor cannot prepare anything for a role. S/he can only read lines how the instructions require. Wow.

57. How do you explain Moliere, then? Hair? Jesus Christ Superstar? Always be political just never let anyone know you HAVE been so. “Should the theater be political,” Mamet asks and tells, “Absolutely not.” Jean-Baptiste Poquelin’s career [this is/was Moliere’s real name] spanned almost as long as Shakespeare’s. That certainly implies he had commercial success with some of his work. I have yet to read something from him that isn’t redressing grievances against Kings or Popes.

72. Mamet contradicts himself often. I won’t pick on specifics. I’ll have to read his other books to see if he’s a real critic or just a complete hater like Christopher Hitchens or P.J. O’Rourke. It’s so easy to write what you hate. Let’s hear what you love. Or has this author removed all of the love from his book like so much negative space?

83. See what I mean about negative space? Author is definitely not an artist. “Most actors pause before each line,” he says and then asks, “Why? Pick up the pace. Nobody pays to see you think.” Sure they do. They don’t like over produced language, but they won’t tolerate undeveloped characters for very long either. Throw me 20 fastballs in a row and I’ll eventually start hitting homeruns and then just quit. An occasional changeup or curveball will keep me in the game.

101. I’ve never before seen someone claim it’s all about money and it’s not about money at the same time. I have now.

106. There is such thing as instant feedback such as rotten fruits and vegetables, boos, moneyback demands and the like. But plays and movies are partly written WITHOUT the audience in mind. Were it not, writers would only produce for a lowest common denominator and therefore lose people like me forever. The current fare would MORE closely resemble the fictitious movie “Ass” inside of the movie “Idiocracy.” What??? You’ve never seen it? Maybe you need to see it, or MAYBE YOU DON’T. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. It CAN get this terrible, people.

116. One of the few things I agree fully with Mamet on! Writing cannot be taught. It can be inspired, and honed but not taught. I believe with all my heart that I was a writer before I was born. I noticed this in 5th grade. It came from having a very cool English teacher. She was over a hundred years old I thought, and she had the wisdom of a million ancient ones. What she imparted on me was not how to write. It was how best you can express yourself. She showed me some tools and technique and stayed excited the whole time. I caught that. I did not catch “how to write” from this Mrs. Laurie; but I did watch myself become a writer under her tutelage to be sure.

154 Were it only about time, Samuel Beckett and Norman Lear would never have had any success; Stanislovsky or O’Neill for that matter. Or is Mamet just a name dropper? I’ll read one of his earlier books and try to find out. In fact what is it about “western” civilization and its obsession with time? Is it a fixation or fetish perhaps? Indigenous storytelling all over the world has little or no regard for (or even a focus upon) time. In a Jeff Barnaby or Sherman Alexie film you will drive yourself certifiably insane if you insist on knowing what happened before during or after some other event. Did it happen? It happened. Tell me again about that thing that happened. I don’t really care if it happened before or after you or I were born even.

Speaking of which, when did David Mamet publish this book? 2010, but the paperback hasn’t even hit the EEUU yet. So for all intents and purposes, no-one-who-is-anyone has read it yet.