The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

October 26, 2009

My friend David Sedaris and the USC Lab Theatre’s production of The Book of Liz

Filed under: David Sedaris,USC Lab Theatre,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 00:02
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I’ve been thinking a lot about my friend David Sedaris lately.  I don’t really know David Sedaris, although I certainly feel like I do.  I’ve seen him in person twice — once at one of his readings at The Strand bookstore in New York City, clearly one of, if not the greatest bookstore in the world — no make that country — with the greatest bookstore in the world being Shakespeare and Company, of course, in Paris’ 5th arrondissement by the Seine — (I have spent way too many hours fantasizing about my life in a parallel universe where I live as a tumbleweed in the store, eavesdropping on Gertrude Stein’s estimations of how much Hemmingway doesn’t know about literature, and stealing glimpses of Man Ray’s latest photographic adventures as he flashes them about the room in a transparent quest for external validation)  Another time I saw David Sedaris  giving a reading at the Peace Center in Greenville, which was, pretty much all there was to that.  There’s not much more to say other than that the thought of living in Greenville is terrifying to me — my fear being that one day the fundies would push me a little too far and I would crack, with Rachel Maddow covering the story later that evening of how one South Carolina woman terrorized the campus of Bob Jones University by blasting the music of the Black Eyed Peas from her boombox a la’ Lloyd Dobler, offending the congregation, I mean student body, on a multiplicity of levels, the least of which being interracial bump appreciation.

But I also feel as if David and I are friends for other reasons.  For one thing he is a southerner, though a bit of a carpetbagger in that he was actually born in New York but was moved by his family to Raleigh where he promptly and viciously began note-taking in his journal on all things Southern Gothic — recording anecdotes to which he claims rights but, lacking his southern birth, I’m just not sure that I agree he deserves.  Still he clearly grasps what it is about southern stupidity that makes those of us who recognize it, love it — despite our better judgment.  That said, I may be his biggest fan.

So I was pretty psyched when I discovered that the USC Lab Theatre would be presenting one of the plays that David Sedaris has written with his sister Amy, pseudonymously (yeah, we’re gonna call that a word) under the name The Talent Family.  The Book of Liz is not the best of the Sedaris’ offerings, but it brought a lot to the table for the four young actors playing the multiple roles to contend with.  To start with, each of the four actors plays from two to five decidedly different parts requiring a range that encompasses religious zealots and East European ex-pats and beyond.  There’s also that classic Sedaris blend of intention that requires an actor to deliver lines both in earnest and tongue-in-cheek at the same time — not that easy, I’m thinking.

But you know, we were pretty happy with the show.  I thought that seventy-five percent of the actors did a fine to very fine job, with the other twenty-five percent just floundering slightly at times.  Jennifer Goff directed the show, doing a better than decent job of filling the shoes of the show’s original director, the infamous and oft-mentioned Hugh, as in Hamrick, David Sedaris’ luvah extraordinaire.  Anne Reid, who played Liz, has that I-know-a-secret look about her that made me never want to take my eyes from her face, and Brittany Price-Anderson (who I learned from the playbill happens to be from my hometown of Greer — shout out!) is a fierce and fearless actor who I hope I get to see again before she shakes the dust from this little town from her feet as George Bailey would have her do.  Rocco Thompson (seriously? Rocco?) is an infant — I mean, a tiny little freshman baby boy who already has a nice little stack of credits under his belt and enough attitude/smarts to at least claim to love both Shakespeare and Ingmar Bergman.  Kudos, son.

Personally, I love the fact that this little black box theatre exists down on Wheat Street across from the Blatt, and that they charge only $5 a pop to get into the show.  Kids, this is a cheap and impressive date.  I’m also pretty happy about their line-up for the rest of the year, which can be found at  I’m less happy, however, that there were vacant seats at the show Friday night.  Funny, but just about anybody in town could have told you who the Gamecocks were playing on Saturday evening.  Hey USC Powers That Be — there’s talent, and then there’s talent.  I don’t care that the football team brings in enough moolah to fund a nano-orgy.  Do the right thing by your artists — give ’em some props; come see their shows.  Kevin Bush is a helluva cheerleader — but he shouldn’t be the only one who suits up.

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