April 8, 2004

World's a Stage

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William Shakespeare, John Webster, Christopher Marlowe, and Mike and Justin from MTV’s Made. Spot the odd ones out? If you can’t, then here is a clue: three of the aforementioned wrote groundbreaking plays of the renaissance era that would be popular centuries later, even when the world of entertainment would not be dominated by the stage but by the likes of MTV. The remaining two, well, they simply appeared on MTV, hoping to kick start their careers as playwrights.

Usually, I cannot stand Made; a show that pushes the most useless, unmotivated kids in America towards the most unlikely personal goals imaginable. But for once — with Mike and Justin — it seemed as if a pair of highschoolers had finally been found with a genuine interest in pursuing their dream.

Of course, Mike and Justin were certainly not void of some essential Made personality ingredients, such as absolute disrespect for the professional trying to guide them. However, the show at long last depicted how hard it is for someone with a definite talent to make it in their actual chosen field. What was most interesting was the lack of clarity that Mike and Justin had between the craft and the genre of writing plays. Although dead set on writing a comedy, the eager duo had clearly overlooked the importance of understanding their craft as they merely jotted down a succession of jokes in script form. In the early days of their training, their professional tutor, Michael, assigned them to read a number of Shakespeare’s plays — which they subsequently chose not to do, only to laugh and say, “we don’t like Shakespeare … we don’t want to write anything like that,” when reporting back. Naturally, the boys were each ripped a new one as Michael informed them, “you don’t have to like it, but you do have to respect it,” adding, “how dare you say you don’t like Shakespeare when you haven’t earned the right to say such a thing by not reading the plays.” I admit, at this point in the show I was preparing myself for another episode of America’s Biggest Brat. Yet I was pleasantly surprised to see an unexpected change in their attitudes. I don’t know whether or not it was because, this time around, they actually read the assigned plays, but it reminded me of a quote from one of Shakespeare’s first editors, who wrote in 1623, “If then you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger not to understand him.” The show didn’t make it clear whether or not the boys had a new found enjoyment or understanding of old Will, but it became apparent that they were beginning to understand their craft.

As expected, MTV’s documentaries are bite-sized helpings of information of the given subject, and, understandably, the actual play simply could not be shown in its entirety, or even in some significant length. And so, unless you were there to witness the one-time showing, it was hard to tell just what kind of final product Mike and Justin turned out. Still, weaved in amongst the fights and everyday high school drama were some common problems and intricacies of the playwriting process. As the young comedy double-act started to listen to Michael and mold their admittedly funny jokes into necessary parts of the play’s action, the script started to take some structure and fluency. Mike and Justin started to understand that a good joke out of the blue will not tickle an audience unless it has some context. They learned that every line and stage direction had to have its own purpose — that nothing in a script is meaningless. They even lent their hands to directing the piece too. However, the most mature thing that Mike and Justin did, in my eyes, was swallowing their pride and accepting that what was funny to them will not work for everyone else. They seemed to find a middle-ground — compromising lines at certain points and staying true to their own brand of humor while satisfying others.

Michael’s pride in his prot