Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Crash Course On Marx and Engels

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are regarded as the founders of the Marxist, revolutionary, socio-economical ideology called "Marxism." Their intellectual work was geared towards a global understanding of the socio-economic problems which seemed to originate within the human nature and organized societies. Such problems were prevalent in most governing systems of their time. The revolutionary aspect of Marx and Engels' ideology is centered on the notion that people needed to actively change the socio-economic system to a better form, instead of trying to preserve the existing status quo.

The Lives of Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels

Both Marx and Engels were born in Prussia, modern-day Germany, in 1818 and 1820 respectively.

Karl Marx was the son of a Jewish lawyer who wanted his son to also become a lawyer and directed him to law studies. However, as a youth, Karl was more oriented towards philosophical issues which he pursued in parallel.

Marx developed a critical eye for whatever was going on in society at that time, and used to write various articles and comments based on his views. In 1843, he went to Paris with the intention of publishing a journal regarding his ideas on social reform. The following year he met Engels and they both started participating in different groups  that shared the same reformative views. They also started spreading their ideas on "Revolutionary Proletarian Socialism" or in other words, on “Communism.” 

Through his interaction with Engels, Marx's love for revolutionary action was even more strengthened and as his beliefs combined with Engel's ideas, Marx became capable of penetrating the more practical social and economical levels of the governing systems. But the more he delved into the governing system of his time, the more he became critical of the system. The Paris government accused him of being a dangerous revolutionary and banished him in 1845. He went to Belgium, and together with Engels, he participated in a communism-support group which was called "Communist League" and wrote his famous work "Communism Manifesto.”

In 1848, he was banished from Belgium and went to London where he started writing "Das Kapital" the most widely-read critical analysis of capitalism. Marx stayed and worked in London until the end of his life in 1883.

Friedrich Engels was the son of a textile manufacturer and cotton plant owner. Although Engels did not finish high school due to family hardships, he was keen to read the philosophy of Hegel - which affected him greatly. Later on, he attended various university lectures and interacted with other Hegelians. Interaction with Moses Hess led him to see communism as an evolution of the Hegelian thought.

Friedrich Engels was deeply shocked when he traveled to England to work with his father who was an industrialist. Witnessing the unacceptable condition of laborers reinforced his communist ideals, contrary to his family's best interests. However, his family did not denounce him but rather sought to navigate him back to their line of less-radical thinking. 

Engels and Marx essentially started their cooperation in 1844, when the two men exchanged ideas and found that their co-operation was harmonious and their philosophies complementary. From that point onwards, they collaborated to issue a very significant amount of work until the death of Karl Marx in 1883, and even after that, Engels published two more of Marx's books. Engels died in 1895.

It is noteworthy that both men showed early signs of radical thinking. Marx could become a successful lawyer like his father; yet, his life was won by the greater issues that plagued society to the detriment of his own financial well-being, and to such an extent that Engels often had to support him financially.

Similarly, Engels could have lived as a successful industrialist, just like his father. However, he chose to pursue the same path as Marx, and due to his beliefs he practically lived as an exiled man in the margins of society. In a sense, both men lived their ideology as far as that was possible within the confines of a different social and financial system.

On a more personal level Marx was married to the daughter of a Prussian baron. They had seven children, but only three of them survived to adulthood due to poor living conditions. Engels was in a relationship but based on ideological grounds he never married nor did he have any offspring.

Their Work: Marxism

Marx and Engels' intellectual work consists of a plethora of books and articles. They were both excellent observers of the course of society and economy, which led them to analyze the existing social structures of their time

They systematically ripped apart the reasoning behind the organization, financial laws and social structure of the existing social system, highlighting the problems and proposing alternative revolutionary solutions that would solve them.

This socio-economical complex of analyzed facts and trends, plus ideas and suggestions for a more functional system is now called "Marxism." At its core, Marxism maintains that there is a very unfair exploitative situation of the average workers -the proletariat- by the rich elite of the world, the bourgeois. This system of exploitation is becoming even worse by the people's unprotesting participation in it, because this way the system continues to produce more and more wealth for the elite that controls it. The poor are thus enslaved even more, because of the uneven distribution of wealth and the ever-increasing distance between those who own the capital and the workers who can only sell their labor.

Marx and Engels tried to make people understand that this capitalist system is not profitable for everyone, but only for those few at the top of the pyramid who enjoy immense riches. These riches are a result of exploitation and owning immense capital allows the elite's perpetual dominance and the superior-inferior interactions in society. 

Marxism suggests that the system needs total restructuring. In order for this restructuring to become feasible, the inherent injustices of capitalism have to be eliminated. All forms of capital, and especially the critical infrastructure and production means such as land, factories or machinery must be distributed to the people by law. Moreover, prohibiting the ownership of capital ensures that no controlling mechanisms of exploitation can exist in the future by those who aim to accumulate excess wealth. 

When people share riches, all social divisions and all forms of differentiation will crumble, and humanity, instead of being divided in capitalists and workers, will be in a state of union through a de facto classless society.

Marx understood that this reform was rather unrealistic to take place during his lifetime, and he only expected that this change would be done when there was a sufficient degree of social fermentation with people's active participation in this revolutionary idea.

It is interesting to note that Marx also believed that religion served a useful role in suppressing workers. Finding comfort in religion to escape the misery of daily life, or having to pray to a superior being for hope was apparently preventing people from assuming full responsibility for their own life and changing it through revolution.

Information provided by http://www.deepspirits.com/great-people/marx-engels/

Monday, April 7, 2014

Who Is Jeffrey Hatcher?

Jeffrey Hatcher. 

Broadway: Never Gonna Dance (book).  

Off-Broadway: Three Viewings and A Picasso at Manhattan Theatre Club; Scotland Road and The Turn of the Screw at Primary Stages; Tuesdays with Morrie (with Mitch Albom) at The Minetta Lane; Murder by Poe, The Turn of the Screw, and The Spy at The Acting Company; Neddy at American Place; and Fellow Travelers at Manhattan Punchline. Other Plays/Theaters: Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Mrs. Mannerly, Murderers, Mercy of a Storm, Smash, Armadale, Korczak's Children, To Fool the Eye, The Falls, A Piece of the Rope, All the Way with LBJ, The Government Inspector, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and others at The Guthrie, Old Globe, Yale Rep, The Geffen, Seattle Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse, South Coast Rep, Arizona Theater Company, San Jose Rep, The Empty Space, Indiana Rep, Children's Theater Company, History Theater, Madison Rep, Intiman, Illusion, Denver Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Milwaukee Rep, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Actors Theater of Louisville, Philadelphia Theater Company, Asolo, City Theater, Studio Arena and dozens more in the U.S. and abroad. 

Film/ TV: Stage Beauty, Casanova, The Duchess, and episodes of Columbo. 

Grants/Awards: NEA, TCG, Lila Wallace Fund, Rosenthal New Play Prize, Frankel Award, Charles MacArthur Fellowship Award, McKnight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and Barrymore Award Best New Play. 

He is a member and/or alumnus of The Playwrights Center, the Dramatists Guild, the Writers Guild, and New Dramatists.

Bio courtesy of playscripts.com 

Who Is George Bernard Shaw?

George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856. He moved to London as a young man (1876), where he established himself as a leading music and theatre critic in the 1880s and 1890s. In 1895 he was brought aboard the Saturday Review as its theater critic. At was at this point that Shaw began writing plays of his own. At the same time Shaw became a prominent member of the Fabian Society, a leftist political think tank dedicated to non-violent revolution that helped to found the modern day Labour Party of England.
Shaw's first plays were published in volumes titled "Plays Unpleasant" (containing Widowers' Houses, The Philanderer and Mrs. Warren's Profession) and "Plays Pleasant" (which had Arms and the Man, Candida, The Man of Destiny and You Never Can Tell). The plays were filled with what would become Shaw's signature wit, accompanied by healthy doses of social criticism, which stemmed from his Fabian Society leanings.
Toward the end of the 19th century, beginning with Caesar and Cleopatra (written in 1898), Shaw's writing came into its own, the product of a mature writer hitting on all cylinders. In 1903, Shaw wrote Man and Superman, whose third act, "Don Juan in Hell," achieved a status larger than the play itself and is often staged as a separate play entirely.
While Shaw would write plays for the next 50 years, the plays written in the 20 years after Man and Superman would become foundational plays in his canon. Works such as Major Barbara (1905), The Doctor's Dilemma (1906), Androcles and the Lion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923) all firmly established Shaw both as a front-line (and popular) dramatist of his day and as a writer deeply interested in the issues of his time and of history.
The year 1912 brought what might be Shaw's most famous play, Pygmalion, which was transferred to the big screen in 1938. Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 "for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty." Shaw later won an Academy Award for the screenplay of the film version of his Pygmalion, which made him the only person to receive both awards. Pygmalion went on to further fame when it was adapted into a musical and became a hit, first on the Broadway stage (1956) and later on the screen (1964).

Shaw died in 1950 at the age of 94 while working on yet another play.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Who Is Neil LaBute?

Neil LaBute was born in Detroit, MI, on March 19, 1963. When LaBute was a child, his family moved to Spokane, WA, and during his high school days in the Pacific Northwest he developed an interest in both writing and theater. After graduating from high school, LaBute received a scholarship from Brigham Young University, a college in Provo, UT, which was founded and is still overseen by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. LaBute received a degree in Theater and Film at B.Y.U., and converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while a student. LaBute went on to do graduate work at the University of Kansas and New York University, and participated in a writing workshop at London's Royal Court Theatre, as well as attending the Sundance Institute's Playwright's Lab at N.Y.U. 

LaBute first began writing and staging original plays while studying at Brigham Young, and in 1993 he returned to B.Y.U. to premier his drama, In the Company of Men, a startling and controversial tale of two businessmen who conspire to emotionally destroy a receptionist at their firm. In 1997, LaBute decided to adapt In the Company of Men for the screen, and on a budget of only 25,000 dollars, shot the film in two weeks in and around Fort Wayne, IN, with a friend from his college days, Aaron Eckhart, who played Chad, one of the businessmen. In the Company of Men was accepted at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, and to LaBute's surprise, it won the Filmmaker's Trophy as Best Dramatic Feature; the film was picked up for national distribution, and went on to gross 2.9 million dollars. 

LaBute next wrote and directed Your Friends & Neighbors, an examination of the sexual and emotional failings and frailties of three couples; it was also based on one of LaBute's earlier plays, entitled Lepers. Shot on a relatively lavish five-million-dollar budget, Your Friends & Neighbors received solid reviews and confirmed his status as an exciting new talent in filmmaking. LaBute was also one of several new filmmakers chronicled in the documentary Independent's Day. In 2000, LaBute refocused his attentions to the stage with Bash: Latterday Plays, a collection of three short plays. Bash, starring Calista Flockhart and Paul Rudd, proved to be a hot ticket in its New York off-Broadway run, and a performance of the play was taped for later broadcast on the Showtime premium cable network. Incidentally, because of the subject matter of Bash, LaBute was disfellowshiped from the church and has since left it for good. That same year, LaBute released his third feature film, which was also his first film which he did not write -- Nurse Betty, a dark but sweet comedy about a slightly touched woman chasing her dreams after the murder of her husband, while being followed by the gunmen who did in her spouse. Nurse Betty proved LaBute could work with a lighter touch, and became a respectable box-office success. LaBute's next project, Possession (2002), was another departure for him, in that it focused mainly on romance and elements of period drama. After that, he returned to the themes of his earlier films, writing and directing The Shape of Things (2003), which he had originated as a play in London. In perhaps his most substantial departure to date, LaBute confounded fans and critics by taking a stab at the horror genre by serving as writer and director of the 2006 remake, The Wicker Man. Though many of LaBute's previous efforts could well have been considered horror films in the sense that they portrayed man as the ultimate emotional monster, The Wicker Man marked the first time the director had entered the genre proper. 

In 2013 LaBute made a film version of Some Girl(s) that went to Sundance and into limited release. It featured Adam Brody, Kristen Bell, Zoe Kazan, Mia Maestro, Jennifer Morrison, and Emily Watson. 

LaBute's works are often tinged with misogyny and misanthropy and are populated with terrible characters. They're often hard to watch because people say horribly cruel things to each other, but most of his works fall into the category of dark comedy. His works are always well written with sharp dialogue and a kinda of nasty poetry. Like David Mamet, LaBute's plays are just crammed full of language and repartee and really challenge the audience to pay attention or risk missing something.

Listening to LaBute talk about his work is always interesting. Some interviews that are telling: 




Love him or hate him, Neil LaBute at the very least always provokes a reaction and always inspires people to think and talk about his works.