Why I Stopped Watching “Red Band Society”

I have never found a more perfect example of how misplaced direction and intent can ruin a show.

For those who don’t follow Network Television, Red Band Society premiered this fall with a promising pilot that centered around the inhabitants of a children’s hospital.

I find a small amount of Irony in the fact that these kids with Cancer, Anorexia, Congenital Heart Defects, and Cystic Fibrosis will have a happier ending than their show will. But don’t get me wrong, I’d be very happy with a happy ending. But when you place characters in a position of adversity, especially one as adverse as being a mostly parentless dual-citizen minor without health insurance, then you expect them to be dealing with something more serious than the Love Triangle they found themselves in.

This was the root of the problem. Out of all of the stories that could be told about the state of medicine in the US, or dealing with your own mortality before society legally considers you an adult, they instead chose to have the cheerleader fall for the tooth-pick chewing bad-boy.

It was as if the reality of their situation was superseded by what someone thought kids would find important. You could have taken these same exact plots and moved them to any other location and all you would have had to change  “Cancer” to “I didn’t get the iPhone I wanted for christmas”.

But this is a common theme in most of these “Youth Dramedy” shows, isn’t it? The inability to let children have Adult problems? And when they do, A La ‘Secret Life of the American Teenager’, there is the assumption that someone who is 16 (Who can be tried as an adult in most states), can’t face their own problems.

What is absolutely (and very hyperbolically) killing me about “Red Band Society”, is that every single production element is spot on. The show looks gorgeous, every single one of the actors is great, and the writing, when it is allowed to be, is fun and inventive. This show failed on only one front: It didn’t challenge anyone.

These are children who are fighting for their lives in a healthcare system that is likely bankrupting their parents. An Underweight young woman who is fighting her own Mental Illness surrounded by people fighting very physical illnesses; A Cheerleader with a cocaine addiction; a young man whose cancer has been neglected in favor of folk medicine. You can’t tell me that the show they wrote was the only one they could have written.

We deserve better.

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Oh What a Rogue and Peasent Slave Are You (For Not Understanding “High Art”)

Screw. You. Shakespeare

This isn’t an open letter to good old Bill, mind you, I hold, and have always held, a deep love for all (Most) of the Bard’s works. Even still, screw you, Shakespeare, for ruining shakespeare for me in high school. Its not the words I hate, its not the writer, its not the content, its the way that people read them.

Nothing in the world can possibly be more sexually deadening to me than a perfectly enunciated Romeo and Juliette said in a perfectly iambic metronome. Its something akin to imagining the sweaty effort your parents made that earned your little white tadpole a seat on the 9-month egg express.

The joy of acting isn’t found in the words, its found in how they are said. I am of the firm belief that anyone can be inspired by Henry V’s “St. Crispin’s Day” Monologue, or that anyone can know pain by hearing Titus lament the destruction of his daughter. The power of those words isn’t as much in what they say, its how people say them. That seems obvious, doesn’t it, that the power of the Bard’s words are in how they are said. But we have a habit of taking ourselves out of the equation when it comes to Shakespeare’s works.

The joy in seeing one of Shakespeare’s works isn’t watching a perfectly rendered period reproduction with original accents, its in seeing an actor take words we have heard thousands of times, and saying them so we listen like its the first time. Like that first time that we actually heard the words spoken with emotion, not from a high school teacher, not from a monotone reading, the first time we heard someone actually MEAN those words.


We Are Our Art

I am my art. That is the dilemma actors face: We are our art. As artists we are victims to our own self-doubt. Should our art suffer, so too do we. Many a theater teacher has told me, “you are your instrument, take care of your instrument.” Which is all well and good, but actors suffer by this fact more than they know. The world of theater sadly seems to be divided in between those who have IT and those who don’t. It is also generally accepted that those who don’t have IT have no way of getting IT. Talent is a cruel and evil word.

The line between these two groups varies depending upon whom you ask, but it leaves the question open: As an actor, if you don’t get a part, does that mean you aren’t good enough? Whether we like to admit it or not, that is the question that always comes up. Since we are our art, and since we don’t always get the part, we start to question our worth. And our worth seems to be so tied up with our lives and our art, if one falls, it seems like the world itself starts to fall apart.

This is where I start to get highly Emphatic (capital E intended). There is no line between those who have IT and those who don’t, because everyone has something to bring to the table. For every part in every play ever written, there is an actor to play that part.

At this point it almost pains me to draw the comparison between directing and cooking, but I might have to. Every actor has a different way of doing things, and a distinct presence on stage. A great director should be able to feel this out and be able to put actors together who both exemplify their roles, and act as a unit. It’s like cooking a meal; you can’t just toss whatever is most expensive into the pot to make good food. You have to choose your ingredients.

I guess the general point of this rant was to exemplify two things. First: that not getting an audition in no way means you are not a good actor, it just means you didn’t fit what the director wanted. Second: Talent is found in all forms; it is not a single commodity, but a wide breadth of building blocks combined in innumerable ways to create a unique performer. In this way, let it be said that no actor is ever untalented, or that one type of talent is lesser than any other.