A note on audiences

Marty Rea in The Beauty Queen of Lenane

There’s a throwaway line in Hilton Als’s review of a revival of the Martin McDonagh play “The Beauty Queen of Lenane” (1997), now closed, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music:

Monologues are difficult to deliver in today’s theatre; most audiences prefer action to reflection.

Als is referring to McDonagh’s play “The Pillowman” (2003). But his words could easily apply to “The Beauty Queen of Lenane,” because there’s also an important monologue in “Lenane.” It’s given by the main male character, Pato, who at the end of Act 1 professes a repressed, previously unspoken love for Maureen aka the Beauty Queen of Lenane. The monologue is in the form of Pato reading a letter he wrote and sent to Maureen who is still in Ireland; Pato is in London, where he’s gone to seek work.

I saw a performance of the BAM revivial. I can tell you the audience there didn’t know how to react to Pato’s monologue. From what I sensed, it wasn’t so much that they preferred action, which I think they probably did, but what they really wanted was to be entertained. They had little patience for what Pato was saying, slowly and alone on stage, even though what he was reciting was not only important to the play itself but the language was profoundly beautiful and beautifully delivered by actor Marty Rea.

Monologues are a challenge for writers and actors, but also for audiences. I agree with Als: today’s patrons aren’t up to it. The BAM audience at the performance I attended certainly was not. Overall they laughed in the wrong places, for the wrong reasons. They seemed to want fireworks, special effects, situation comedy.

“Lenane” was first performed twenty years ago. Als bemoans the fact that the talented McDonagh has moved on from playwrighting, to work instead on screenplays and to direct in Hollywood. Yet it’s easy to understand McDonagh’s decision: audiences everywhere have changed, irrevocably.

. . . . . .


Hard old caliche

She buried him the next morning.
Digging in that hard old caliche.

What you got ain’t nothin’ new.
This country is hard on people.
You can’t stop what’s coming.
It ain’t all waitin’ on you.

That’s vanity.

— from “No Country for Old Men” (2007)
. . . . . . .

Freshness ever sacred


Here’s some marketing copy I read today on the back of a Nature’s Bakery stone ground whole wheat fig bar (raspberry):

“At Nature’s Bakery, our goal is simple: To give you the fuel you need to help power life’s great journeys. Oh yeah, and to make it–and your journeys–jam-packed with flavor. With Mother Nature’s blessing, we’ve created perfect harmony among some of her very best handiwork, holding freshness ever sacred.”


Blogger, podcaster, carburetor

At the beginning of his very first podcast new podcaster John Lurie talks about the word podcast — a portmanteau of pod (as in Apple’s iPod) and broadcast.

“So here I am,” Lurie says, “I’m not on the radio. I’m not on the TV. I’m on a podcast. Which I think is a terrible word. Podcast. PAHD-cast. And even if I quit right now and walk out of this room, I will have been a PAHD-caster. My record will say…I have been a PAHD-caster. There’s got to be a better word. ”

Of course he’s right. I might say the same of blogger-ing (blogging, I know). “So here I am. I’m not in a magazine. I’m not in an online publication. Even if I quit right now and walk out of this garret, I will have been a BLAH-ger. My record will say…I have been a blogger.”

Technological advances have added a lot of words to English (and all languages), and most of these have a mechanical, automotive quality. At least that’s how I hear them.

Blogger, podcaster, carburetor.

Tweep, crowdsource, radiator

Hashtag, alternator.


I’m leasing a 2015 Hyundai Phablet.

There have got to be better words.