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92Y Blog
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Do We All Have A Little Neil LaBute In Us?

image“I think they’re not only indicative of all men, but of all people. Everyone has a little bit of Howard and Chad in them.”

Egad! That was Neil LaBute’s response to a question from Salon in 1997 about his breakthrough film, In The Company Of Men, that featured two characters, Howard and Chad, who are brutally masochistic and emotionally degraded. That film still makes us squirm, as does Neil’s quote above.

More recently, Neil penned a scathing piece in the Guardian (UK), opining about playwriting and the state of American theater. On the role of playwrights, he asserts they should not be afraid to ask big questions.

That’s the job of the playwright, I firmly believe. We are outsiders. Voyeurs. Party poopers. I’ve often said that a good relationship equals a sh*tty drama. I’m a fairly quiet guy in real life, but I spend my working hours looking to pick a fight, to ruin somebody’s day at the park, or some nice couple’s marriage. I make trouble for a living. Ever since Jimmy Porter first started screaming in Look Back in Anger, or those boys towered over that pram with bricks in their hands in Edward Bond’s Saved, the battle cry has been called: “Don’t make nice, make a mess.”

On many levels, I think we playwrights are failing - and again, I include myself in this. I tend to write about small groups of men and women (friends, lovers, co-workers, family), locked in some kind of gender struggle. These are the politics that interest me, and I scour over them like Herman Melville’s Bartleby sitting at his little wooden desk. In the course of a decade of writing, however, I have also tried to look at religion, race, art, national tragedy and a host of other social ills.

On Feb 18, come to 92YTribeca for a rare glimpse into the life, work and creative process of prolific playwright, director and screenwriter in an intimate conversation. The acclaimed artist will read selections from his dramatic writing and discuss the upcoming Broadway production of his play Reasons to be Pretty.



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