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The Shape of Things

by Neil LaBute

So, I'm working on a scene from this play (between Adam & Jenny on the bench) for my scene study class and since I needed to re-read the play anyway, it conveniently became my play for today!

What struck me as I read it this time was the desire in artists to take risks. Evelyn says at the dinner party:
well, like i said, i think it's great. it's really amazing. it is, to find anybody willing to take a risk today. to look a little silly or different or anything. bravo!
Perhaps because the arts have historically been on the fringe of society, people with artistic tendencies are more inclined to be risk-takers.. perhaps because we are risking so much by just stepping on a stage or writing a novel or creating a self-portrait, we want to encourage those around us to find a way to do the same. I echo her sentiment and often encourage myself to try new things if I feel myself slipping into a routine.. mix it up a little, keep it fresh.

A lot of what this play becomes is - what is art? Can it be defined? Can it be limited? Evelyn makes the argument that most artists would agree with, that it is all subjective and therefore there can be more than one experience and more than one right answer. Adam, however, says to her at the end:
anybody can be provocative, or shocking. stand up in class, or at the mall, wherever, and take a piss, paint yourself blue and run naked through a church screaming out the names of people you've slept with. is that art, or did you just forget to take your ritalin? there's gotta be a line. for art to exist, there has to be a line out there somewhere. a line between really saying something and just ... needing attention. 
This is always the struggle. If you limit art, if you define what is and isn't considered art, you deny someone's artistic expression, no matter how ludicrous. What kind of a precedent does that set? Where then do you draw the line? This reminds me of a monologue I do from Sophistry where she says "Who is qualified to judge? And who is qualified to judge who is qualified to judge? Who picks the judges?" I don't want anyone telling me that my art form isn't acceptable. I wouldn't dare try to limit someone else.

Monday Play-a-day: The Underpants by Carl Sternheim, adapted by Steve Martin

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