As the drama heats up on Survivor, a media jihad has been launched against my favorite contestant, the gay corporate trainer and consultant Richard. (Well, I suppose two installments of Rob Walker's Moneybox column in Slate don't count as a jihad, but I need a hook to hang this item on, don't I?) The Slate case against Richard: He's "the most conniving, backstabbing, and dishonest person in the cast"--presenting a public face as a team builder and effective leader while privately scheming to "Balkanize his group and make sure his faction gangs up on some hapless demonized teammate."
For these crimes, according to Slate, "Everybody Hates Richard." Au contraire! Among the character types that have emerged on the show (Rudy the crusty old salt; Colleen the dopey sex kitten; Susan the butch Midwestern truck driver), Richard is the only one with star presence. The other roles are strictly supporting cast. To find an appropriate model for Richard, we must look to his Shakespearean archetype, who in Shakespeare's nastiest history play, The Tragedy of Richard the III, schemes and murders his way onto the throne of England. Richard III's opening soliloquy tells us everything we need to know about my favorite Survivor:
"I... have no delight to pass away the time/Unless to see my shadow in the sun." (Richard's ego is the largest on the island.)
"Since I cannot prove a lover"--our Richard is the sole fag on an island of straight men--"I am determined to prove a villain."
And on and on. "Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous.... " "I am subtle, false, and treacherous.... " These kinds of values are not going to create a better world, but Survivor isn't about creating a better world; it's about being the last person on the island. Richard is the only contestant who's bothered to develop a strategy to achieve that aim. While the others variously "strut before a wanton ambling nymph" or "court an amorous looking-glass" or "caper nimbly" around the island beach, Richard joyously schemes his way to victory. He's probably a little too devious to win, though. When only two castaways remain, all the departed contestants vote on the winner, meaning a lot of people with Richard's knife wounds in their backs will be considering his fate--much like the ghosts of Richard III's victims who torment him before he's slain on the battlefield in Act V, Scene V!
On to the news: I ran into the talented local actor Seanjohn Walsh last week--almost unrecognizable with a hat covering his bald head and a new shaggy goatee--and heard that the Compound, Seattle's finest theater collective, is officially extinct. Why officially? Members were not roused to action by an annual notice from the state concerning their 501(c)3 status, did not file the appropriate forms, and so had their tax-free status revoked.
Does this mean the end of the team behind BlueStory, Happy?, and Coated? The members themselves don't really know, according to playwright Kristen Newbom. They haven't gotten together as a group since Happy? closed, and their members are somewhat scattered currently. But Newbom tells me the new, officially nonexistent Compound is the ideal Compound. "The Compound is an idea. Every time we try to formulate it, create a dogma around it, it falls apart."
What a great model for an artistic organization! The Compound lost its rehearsal/ performance space in Ballard two years ago, has no paid staff, and no longer has tax-free status. Thus, it has no need to either die or not die. If it becomes artistically useful for a project, it exists; if not, it doesn't--which is an improvement on all the local institutions that survive long beyond their creative brain-deaths purely through inertia and an instinct for self-preservation.
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