By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
And do they?
In our play, yes, they do. But there’s a huge number of men who are still really fucked up from the experience they had over there, the degradation from the lack of support, all the garbage that went down. Those guys basically screwed up the rest of their lives. These guys didn’t want to go, they were sent, and when they came back, they were treated like mercenaries. They were kept outside of the culture, and they were literally spat on. So [this show] is literally like, “Hello, you explain this to me.” That mercenary thing had never happened before in history, though it’s happening in Iraq now with private contractors. But that’s different — we know it’s happening, and although it’s horrible, at least the guys there are not there without support. It was a real wild ride in Vietnam. Not that any battlefield isn’t a wild ride, but in Iraq the guys have uniforms, for Christ’s sake.
Would you say this is a political show?
I didn’t intend it that way. I intended it to just be contrary. I worked on the movie Hair in the ’70s, and that was released a little ahead of its time. The country was not ready to look at the war, or to be of one mind about it. We were still very split. But it seems to me that when I did this piece, the country had healed somewhat, reunified itself, and we could get this issue out from under the rug. That’s why I did it. I was working on a video for the show on a Tuesday morning when 9/11 happened. I saw the towers collapse. They went straight down, as they were meant to do. So I’m going, “Oh my God. Wow. Okay.” Not only was there devastation, I wondered how it would affect my situation. As it turns out, though nobody wants to see this kind of [Vietnam] thing come around again, 9/11 has made this piece an unfortunate arbiter of the times. I’m not a political figure, so I’m not going to get into the Iraq war, because that’s another conversation, but I am a humanitarian. Also, my family is Quaker, and they’re pacifist.
Movin’ Out has been going for two years now, and won some awards. The reviews have been mainly enthusiastic, others not so much. How do you respond to criticism overall?
It’s part of the business. Those who speak negatively about something deserve to be heard.
Are you still learning from the critics?
You want to know the truth? I’ve stopped reading them, whether they’re good, bad or indifferent. I figure that after you’ve been working for 20 years, you mostly heard it all. Plus, the critics you can learn from are no longer writing. They’ve retired, and now you have younger people coming along. Not that they don’t have a point of view or represent a portion of the culture, but in terms of pushing you as an artist, chances are they won’t. A great critic is one who’s seen everything the last 30 years, and they’re putting you in that context — that is an enormous gift to be given. Somebody who started 10 years ago, that’s nothing. What are we talking about here? You didn’t see x, y and z, you don’t know da-da-da. You can’t not factor those things in.
I suppose it only matters if audiences like your work.
Audiences tell you the truth. I started sitting in the audience quite early. I loved dancing in pieces, and Balanchine always watched dancers perform from backstage. After about five years as a choreographer, I always made myself go out front, which can be harrowing. But audiences don’t lie.
Are you still dancing yourself?
We’ll see. I haven’t performed in a long time. Let’s put it this way, I’m in shape to get in shape. That means that I work out an hour and a half, two hours a day. But to be in shape, you’d have to add another three hours to that. That’s five hours, a big part of your day. That’s a problem. But it’s certainly what I prefer to be doing.
MOVIN’ OUT | Music by BILLY JOEL, conceived and choreographed by TWYLA THARP | Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd. | (213) 365-3500 | Through October 17; previews start September 14