Dec 7, 2004

Obscure to Blunt

Catching up with Sunday's NY Times, I noted two contrasting portraits of women in the arts: Sarah Lyall's intriguing attempt to explain Caryl Churchill by talking to colleagues and parsing old interviews with the English playwright, who stopped talking to the press "some years ago" and whose work was most recently staged locally at the Odyssey Theatre. Most heartening was this summary from James C. Nicola, artistic director at the New York Theatre Workshop:
"If you look at the arc of her creative life, she's someone in her 60's who is as out on the edge and willing to reinvent herself as she was in her 20's," Mr. Nicola said. "Most artists - whether painters or novelists or composers - find some sense of what their voices and concerns are in their 20's and 30's, and in their 60's and 70's they're still doing variations on it. But it's not true of her. She's as fresh and new and unpredictable and inspiring now as she was at the beginning of her working life."

Then there was casting director Felicia Fasano's open letter to Hilary Swank, advising her to get out of "the he-she ghetto of Hollywood"--a netherworld in which I guess Fasano includes Swank's role in the soon-to-be-released Million Dollar Baby, in which Swank plays a female boxer. Somehow this seems to be worlds away from Swank's Osar-winning turn in Boys Don't Cry, but whatever. Fasano's counsel is, um, illuminating: No more period dramas à la The Affair of the Necklace, no more "frumpy parts (like that detective bit in Insomnia) until you're old and saggy," maybe some TV ("you could be the next Ally McBeal," or possibly even Wonder Woman!), maybe adding "two stone" for a part like Renée Zellweger. Oh, but keep the weight down for your main marketing effort. As Fasano puts it on behalf of her industry:
The whole town is eager to see your Calvin Klein underwear advertisements. The buzz says they're hot and that should land some great scripts on your doorstep. This means Hollywood noticed you have breasts again; it wants to see you looking sexy, so stay away from parts where you have to wear a corset or speak with an accent. You are a gorgeous American babe, be proud!

No, this isn't from The Onion. You do have to admire the shamelessness. Clearly there's another luxurious ghetto waiting for Swank once she escapes the "he-she" one.

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