Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Singapore Literature Prize and Our Town

Today mailed off the books for the Singapore Literature Prize. I hesitated for a bit because of the big Lambda disappointment, but went ahead. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I don't know who else it is up against, besides Hsien Min's new book. It is very interesting to me how the judges would square up the two books with somewhat similar formal concerns but quite different themes. The last two winning books were queer, and so I know that is not a problem in my case, unless someone feels that it's time a straight poet wins. Would the facts that I left the country, and that my book is self-published abroad count against it? All these are extraneous to the poetry, but it would be naive to think they are extraneous to the judging.

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The production of Our Town, directed by David Cromer, and performed at Barrow Street Theatre, was pure magic. I didn't know the play and so thought I was in for a large dose of cherry-hued nostalgia. Instead, I was moved to tears (yes, I teared up) by the tragedies of these small lives as well as entranced by their melancholic lyricism. The wedding scene was ordinary and traumatic. The last act, with a surprise staging that capped and deepened the action, reminded me what the best art does: to help us live more fully.

Michael Shannon, as the Stage Manager, was the Stage Manager, so seamless was the blend of actor and character. Kati Brazda played Mrs. Webb with a fine nuance in voice and gesture. James McMenamin was a winning George Gibbs, the louche adolescent growing into the awkward but sensitive young man.  As played by Dana Jacks at the performance I saw, Emily Webb was piercingly vulnerable. The rest of the cast was solidly in character.

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