Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Plays on the Potty

Why do men read on the toilet? I think part of the reason has to do with the fundamental difference between men and women. In the bathroom, women sit all the time; men only sit half the time. We're very accustomed to peeing and fleeing. Unlike women, men don't consider the bathroom to be a venue for socializing. For the most part, we do our business and get out. Unless it's time for number two. Then we're impelled to slow down, sit down, and get down to more serious business. Sitting and shitting, unlike standing and pissing, leaves our hands empty and our eyes with nothing to focus on. Thus, a book or a magazine, a newspaper or a catalog, gives us to something with which to pass the time while we're waiting to pass our lunch.

Another reason why I, at least, like to read on the potty is that it actually gives me time and space in which to read. I spend much of my non-working time not otherwise devoted to eating and sleeping either by parenting or writing. But I like to read and so last year I decided I would keep a book in the bathroom at all times, and read a chapter or two each time I was in there sitting down. Because I can't read large amounts in any one sitting, I chose slim volumes.

Recently, I realized that over the last few years I've been collecting plays. It wasn't particularly intentional, but anytime I'd go to a yard sale or a used book store, I'd look at books and be able to find a good play for very little money. They're generally short, as far as books go, and given that I've written one one-act play already and probably have more in me, it's instructive and inspiring to read great plays. And they seem to work particularly well when read in chunks (if you'll pardon the expression).

Over the last few months, I've read the following plays on the potty (the first two I'd read before; I considered them proof-of-concept bathroom reading):

Our Town - Thornton Wilder
Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller
After the Fall - Arthur Miller
Angels in America: Part One: Millennium Approaches - Tony Kushner
End Game - Samuel Beckett
Waiting for Godot - Samuel Beckett
Talley's Folley - Lanford Wilson
Da - Hugh Leonard

Currently, I've just started a collection of plays by G√ľnter Grass that includes Flood, Mister Mister, Only Ten Minutes to Buffalo, and The Wicked Cooks. I'd like to get some works by Eugene O'Neill, Sam Shepard, Harold Pinter, and August Wilson as well, but as I'm a relative neophyte in the playwright world, I'm pretty open to anything that looks interesting. I'd like to avoid ancient and Elizabethan texts since I'd rather keep it light and readable given the context.

Now, while it's quite conceivable that no one will ever want to borrow these books from me, or loan me any of theirs, I think I've actually created a nice, sustainable, and wonderfully entertaining tradition for myself. All the bathroom's a stage....

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