[Lydia] Diamond trafficks in sanctimonious psycho-biography disguised as pedagogy, and certainly the complicated life of the heroic Harriet Jacobs deserves better than the flat proclamations she has provided here. But as the playwright is sexy and connected (friends with Peter DuBois of BU, where she teaches, and actually married to a Harvard prof), I guess we're stuck with her for the time being.
You know, I think I'll go just a little further into why I feel Ms. Diamond is such a weak playwright. It's obvious she has emotional issues that she could access as dramatic material; there's a strong vein of sexual horror running through both Harriet Jacobs and Voyeurs de Venus, for example, along with hints of intriguing obsessions with trust and power. But Ms. Diamond doesn't actually work through this material - instead she conceals it in political preaching. Yet whom is there left to convince that slavery was horrifying? Nobody I know, and certainly nobody who's going to buy a ticket to the Underground Railway Theater! And why, exactly, could the playwright not deal with her emotional material while at the same time working through the full story of Harriet Jacobs? There's really no reason, except that Diamond's not that interested in Jacobs, frankly. Indeed, her version of Harriet's story is bizarrely truncated, because when Jacobs no longer serves as a proxy for her own issues, Diamond simply drops her: The End. This is why her writing feels so dishonest - and why, btw, she makes me realize how lucky Tennessee Williams actually was (to take one example) to have been prevented from an explicit homosexual politics in his drama. He was therefore forced to grapple with the actual emotions he was feeling (albeit in a disguised heterosexual mode). Intriguingly, this deception led to honest drama rather than agitprop.
Take a breather here, if you need to. I know I did. There's more:
I'm beginning to worry these days that racism has become a kind of psychological crutch for some people. While watching the plays of Lydia R. Diamond, for instance, I've twice felt that I was listening to a profoundly neurotic personality, but one that had found a kind of camouflage for its neurosis in complaints about racism. Meanwhile the blogs 99 seats and Parabasis have morphed into an orbiting system of obsessional dialogue about race.And in challenging playwright Julia Jordan's statements about gender bias in the theater, he writes:
I'm wondering if you're concerned about the widespread perception that your advocacy of women playwrights is also an indirect form of self-promotion. If more female playwrights reached Broadway, but you weren't one of them, would there be a new socio-economic explanation for that gap?I happened to stumble across two more jaw-droppers while trolling (there's no other word for it, alas) for the above. Though they're not examples of ad hominem fallacies, they do seem relevant to any examination of Mr. Garvey's worldview:
It's no secret, after all, that minority audiences unconsciously view characters as social emblems - and thus a negatively-drawn female character written by a woman could stir up greater feelings of unconscious betrayal in women than in men.Finally, to a commenter standing up for Diamond's work:
Well, to be honest, Isabella, you're quite right about me - I am, indeed, promoting a cultural hierarchy. The best plays (so far) have been by white guys, I'm afraid, and it's too bad that unfortunate historical fact troubles you for reasons unknown, but hey - that's just not my problem.