Jan 20, 2009

Kibitzing Kane

George Hunka points to this fascinating Brooklyn Rail reminiscence by Elana Greenfield about the late Sarah Kane's only trip to NY back in 1995. Hunka focuses on the way Kane's boundary-breaking work apparently unsettled everyone so much that they didn't know how to behave around her (a premise that makes me want to roll my eyes a bit), but he totally buries the lede: Kane's obsession with Jewish humor, and with Jackie Mason in particular.

From Elana's piece:
[Kane] had promised herself that if she ever ran into Jackie Mason she would walk right up to him and present him with her Jewish jokes and do The Shrug for him and see if he approved. And like in a movie—it happened...Not having been there I have no idea how this all took place. But I do remember that she looked just about as happy as I’ve ever seen anyone look when she returned, and a few days later she submitted this “report” to me telling me to feel free to pass it on to funders as I saw fit.

That report, which I'm dying to read, is apparently only available in the print edition of the Rail. I'm on the record as a Kane skeptic—I wouldn't bring myself to see the recent production of Blasted, for instance—but this makes me think twice. It's a bit like learning that, I don't know, Harold Pinter enjoyed listening to Howard Stern.


Anonymous said...

I felt exactly the same way about Kane until I saw a local production of 4.41 Psychosis and had my perspective on depression (and perhaps theatre) changed forever. She took it to the wall, but it was all from a real place, I believe.

Great story about Jackie Mason, it is a bit of a window into the real Kane, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

"As time went on I could only think that there was something about the material that Sarah was dealing with—with the way that she dealt with it—that seemed to make many people (not all—but enough to make it rough going) lose their boundaries, their balance, and project onto her like mad. In short, much of the time when she was around peoples’ defenses were on parade—whether expressed as a sort of hostile indifference, a bizarre “buddying up,” or a supposed, slightly creepy intimacy—and a tawdry and depressing parade it was."

I really like this part of the article. It's important of Greenfield makes it clear that any dislike of Kane as a person or her work means there's something wrong with you and you're simply troubled and disturbed by her dark vision! That kind of condescension to critics is really what's helping move this art form forward! Lord knows we can't have disagreement about writers or dislike of them personally!