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Steppenwolf Must Die: The Clyde Fitch Report

January 30, 2013

The Brown Tweed Society is pleased to host John Clancy, contributor to The Clyde Fitch Report, the nexus of art and politics.

This one’s from the vault, but I’ve got a bad feeling it might still be true.

The Wild One

Steppenwolf has always been cool.  They are the Rat Pack, the Dirty Dozen, the Wild Ones of the American theater, roaring into town, picking up some awards, roaring back out.  The name itself, at first rangy and sharp-toothed and then a tip of the hat towards German literature perfectly captures the Dharma Bums/Hell’s Angels confluence of American cool.  Then you have the Chicago mythos. You imagine working-class Poles and Micks toiling in the deafening slaughterhouse all day and then trudging home to rehearse wild-ass shit all night in the basement of a church, slugging back black coffee and rye to stay awake.  Add to this the wild success, the movie stars, the Broadway runs and awards, and clearly Steppenwolf is the ideal.  So it’s hard to argue that they’ve all but killed American theater.

Not them, of course.  It’s their spawn, infected by the Steppenwolf Syndrome.  The Stepford Steppenwolfs. The Steppenpuppies.  If you’ve worked for any extensive period in the American theater you know them.  The actor who looks for any excuse in the script to take off his shirt, knock furniture around or clean his nails with a Bowie knife.  The director who casts these actors and encourages everyone to shout, smoke and stalk around.  The writer who is openly or secretly re-writing every early Shepard play and constantly robbing profanity of its beauty and power by using it as mere punctuation.

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