Albert Innaurato: Great Release, Great Danger

Meryl Streep and Christopher Durang in The Idiots Karamazov, written by Albert Innaurato and Christopher Durang

Things shifted dramatically, I think, in the nineteen-seventies: Actors and playwrights began to be well-educated, in the academic sense. There was a point and a place of pride in having been accepted into and graduated from Yale and Juilliard and Carnegie-Mellon. To be affiliated with these institutions had the èclat once associated with having studied with Strasberg or Adler or Sandy or any number of Russians in bad apartments that smelled of first editions and cabbage.

I resisted the academic artists for some time--the so-called conservatory children. I was resistant to their work because, at Yale, they were led by Robert Brustein, who had shown so much enmity toward me and my work: I did not feel that I owed him any homage. However, our homages, meager though they may be, are to talent, not to the manager of the talent, so I began to visit Yale, which was our promised land, at that time, for the American theatre.

I came away impressed most of all with Albert Innaurato, who is utterly fearless in exposing the reality of life and the human beings we are forced to share it with. There is great release and great danger in his plays: The release coming from seeing yourself and others as we actually are, as we actually behave when we are not seen or when our libidos or our egos or our desires (or all of the above) break down or rise up and demand to be sated. There is also release in what appears to me--and I say this with great envy--the great ease with which he writes and places his characters. I get the impression that the primary struggle with Albert happened as he experienced the life that influences and infuses his plays, and the writing is now free and clear and liberating.

There is danger in exposing the truth, of course: People don't really want the truth--in anything. Particularly their theatre, which is really something to take one's mind off the broken dishwasher or the account that is dwindling or the children who have destroyed the life you once shared with your mate. The theatre is, I think, mostly an escape for people, and they find their own odd release in laughing at or exposing those for whom they already hold calcified prejudices: queers, blacks, Latinos. There is now a new crop of playwrights, dominated, I feel, by Albert, who throw everyone into this mix, forcing the viewer to realize that he, too, is as freakish, as unloved, as miserable, as much a victim to the fates, as those he had giggled at years ago.

I think this is revolutionary and good, and I think I missed my opportunity to be a part of this storytelling process. I tried, in various ways, but I was calcified in my own ways of writing, and I had an audience to satisfy and a name that was now asked to deliver a particular form of theatre.

I would like to think that Albert can be of some help in my liberation.

Perhaps he, too, can be of some help to me.

My Vieux Carré opened a few feet from his Gemini, and it felt as if the new bride was moving into the guest bedroom, not far from the old, tired, fat first wife. I was the fat first wife, of course, although I endow myself with a great deal by thinking that I might have had anything to do with the development of Albert's talent, that I might have spent some in the primary position of writer. I hope so. I can dream.

There is, you should know, release and danger in dreaming too, and a good play will tell its audience that. 


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