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President's Message

David Mamet Society: PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE


The Newsletter of the David Mamet Society 
Fall 1998 • Volume 5 • ISSN 1095-9629

 

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

 

 

 

Nineteen ninety-seven was one of the most arduous and exhilarating years in my tenure as president of the David Mamet Society, culminating in the hugely successful "David Mamet at 50," which brought together Mamet scholars and friends from all parts of the United States and around the globe. Neither Chris Hudgins nor I had ever organized an international conference, and we soon found ourselves overwhelmed. Playing out whatever the role demanded, we read abstracts, made travel arrangements, coaxed guest appearances, and drafted menus. Chris crunched and recrunched the numbers; I worked the phones. Together we worried about everything. Yet, without the contribution of our members who traveled a great distance to deliver illuminating, and frequently hilarious, papers, friends in the Society who complied with our requests, whatever the task, the conference would not have been so enjoyable to those who attended. My sincere thanks to all for making this venture a marvelous celebration and a wonderful tribute on the occasion of David Mamet's 50th birthday.

Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Natalia Nogulich,
Lionel Smith, Leslie Kane, Las Vegas, 1997.
"David Mamet at 50." Photo by Michael Dearmin.

However, if 1997 was hectic, 1998 has proven to be especially challenging. As many of you know, Chris and I had intended to edit a collection of papers from the Mamet Conference. I trust you will be as disappointed as we were that despite the number of fine papers presented at the conference, too few were submitted to us to compile a substantive text. Moreover, during the past three years we have endeavored to solicit funding for a hard-bound annual edition of The David Mamet Review from our institutions, and have sought collaboration with another member's host institution. After long deliberations and a harsh look at our options, I must admit that a hard-bound edition of DMR, which we hoped to launch in 1999, is seriously underfunded and may have to be abandoned. Despite the prosperity of the American economy, many of you are aware that academic institutions have cut back on funding new projects, especially those that require long-term commitments, and that independent sources of funding have all but dried up. Indeed, when our initial aim to publish the conference papers failed, Chris and I scaled back our project and drafted an exciting plan to publish papers from "Mamet at 50," the keynote speeches by Robert Brustein and William H. Macy, and an edited transcript of the Actors' Panel, comprised of Macy, Felicity Huffman, Natalia Nogulich, and Lionel Smith, as our inaugural edition of the journal. Alas, as this year comes to a close without a long-term commitment to fund the journal, that objective, too, appears elusive.

Robert Brustein, Las Vegas, 1997.
"David Mamet at 50."
Photo by Michael Dearmin.

Therefore, I have set a number of goals for 1999: to explore with the Board and our members the feasibility of publishing DMR bi-annually or in an expanded version; to affiliate with a major literary association--the Modern Language Association, the Association of Theatre in Higher Education, the American Literature Society, or other; to establish a web site to enhance communication with our far-flung membership. Research has begun on all of these goals, and I expect that decisions will be made on each of these objectives in the coming months. I welcome your ideas and input.

Since I frequently receive requests from colleagues around the world on a variety of scholarly issues, I would appreciate hearing from members on the design of a website for the Society, and would love to hear from anyone with expertise in this area. A web site would serve as a forum of international exchange for which the Society was founded and which was heartily enjoyed at "Mamet at 50." Not only would a web site enhance our visibility, it could serve as a venue to post calls for papers and notices of conferences of interest to our membership, and to foster collaborative scholarship. Once established, it would replace the Society's email address until that time, please use: my personal address: lkane@wisdom.wsc.mass.edu).

Once again, Chris and I welcome the contributions of reviewers who have not previously contributed to The David Mamet Review, and extend our appreciation to all those whose reviews offer timely, incisive commentary on Mamet's productions and publications. We express our deep gratitude to co-editors Deborah Geis and Robert Vorlicky who have worked diligently throughout the year to assure a broad range of insightful theater and book reviews, a task magnified this year by Mamet's prolificacy. And, we are especially grateful to Steven Price whose notes from abroad keep us abreast of Mamet's activities across the pond. We salute the efforts of Janice and David Sauer whose annual bibliography of work by and about Mamet has become an invaluable asset to those of us who conduct scholarship on Mamet's work. Finally, special thanks to Ronald Gwiazda at Rosenstone/Wender for information on upcoming productions.

The Sixth Annual Meeting of the David Mamet Society at the MLA Convention in San Francisco promises to follow in the vein of previous Special Sessions and "David Mamet at 50" in Las Vegas. Although the latter is a hard act to follow, I am pleased to chair this year's Special Session, "Crime Into Art: The Plays and Films of David Mamet," which will take place in the Franciscan Room "D," of the San Francisco Hilton, on Tuesday, December 29, from 12:00-1:15 P.M. Profs. Barry Goldensohn, Kimball King, and I will be presenting: "Gradations of Criminality in the Plays of David Mamet: Destructive Individualism and Felonious Behavior"; "Mamet and Melville's Confidence Men, Trickster and Criminal"; and "Suckered Again: The Perfect Patsy and The Spanish Prisoner," respectively. I am also delighted to report that Vincent Gustaferro, a long-time associate of the playwright who has appeared in Things Change and Homicide, and most recently the world and New York premiere productions of Old Neighborhood, has generously agreed to speak and take questions from the audience. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Gustaferro when he starred in Scott Zigler's production of the play in Cambridge; you are in for a treat. Those of you who have previously enjoyed hearing and speaking with Mike Nussbaum, Debra Eisenstadt, and Josephine LeGrice, will want to mark your calendars for what I expect to be a splendid Special Session.

As is our practice, a business meeting for Board members and interested members of the Society will be held at MLA on the day of the "Special Session," December 29, at 5:15 P.M. for a discussion on affiliation of the Society with an umbrella organization, format and frequency of the newsletter, and future planning. We will hold this year's meeting in my room at the Grand Hyatt. An announcement will also be made at the Special Session. If you are unable to attend but would like to chair a Special Session at the 1999 Convention, please let me know as soon as possible (email: lkane@wisdom.wsc.mass.edu).

We are hopeful that our web site will be up and running this year. In the interim, please let Chris or me know about upcoming conferences or calls for papers that would be of interest to our members, or your intention to read a paper or publish on Mamet in another venue.

I look forward to seeing you in San Francisco.

LESLIE KANE
Westfield State College