Friday, May 7, 2010

South Pacific.

I watched South Pacific last night for the first time in decades. (I don't have the heart to post a youtube clip here -- the film itself is so ravishing.)

M and I watched it together. I don't know if it's the age difference or a more general cultural difference in our backgrounds, but M isn't at all familiar with these golden age musicals that are so deeply embedded in my sensibility. (I was going to write "soul" but decided that was a little over the top. But only a little.) I have to admit I found that fact a little scandalous; it totally pushed my these-kids-coming-up-today-don't-know-anything-about-gay-culture!" button.

Anyway, I think he had fun and found it pretty interesting, even if he didn't thrill to the music as much as I do. (He especially liked Stewpot. How gay is Stewpot?) Besides the fact that this show is the apogee of the artform, it's a fascinating look at American preoccupations of the late 50s: race, class, foreign wars, American disillusionment, fear of Communism, anxiety about the end of a familiar way of life. It pretty jam-packed.

South Pacific was the first big musical production I performed in, at about age 15 I think. It figures heavily in my high school diary, which is why it's been on my mind. It was a production of the Putnam County Playhouse, the summer community theater in the town my family moved to when I was in eighth grade. I was in the chorus, so I was basically a sailor. I danced and sang my heart out and catcalled at the nurses. I was in gay boy heaven.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Does Your Privacy Include My Memories of You?

I've got a dilemma. Or maybe not a dilemma, but a question. No, it's a dilemma.

I've begun working on a new video piece. It's based on my high school diary. Along with the text (I haven't decided yet whether it'll be text on screen or spoken as voice-over, or maybe some of each), I'm using old photos, clips from movies, some new still photos and video footage of landscape and other locations that evoke the time and place of the diary.

Many many people are mentioned by name in the diary and I want to use real names. I also want to use the yearbook photos of those people. I see this work as documentary. I can't see any ethical problems with doing this, but still I have some trepidation about it. Why? Am I missing something? The thing about the photos, especially in some cases the yearbook photos is that they are, in a sense, what the work is about, so I don't know how I fake them or avoid them.

The pictures are, technically, published. They're not private. Any anecdotes I share will be my thoughts, no one else's, and I don't plan to share any intimate details of anyone else's lives. When I write about other people, it's more about how I feel about them. More about me than them. There are a couple incidents which are more sensitive, and I think I will change the names in those cases and not use photographs. Or maybe I will, if there is something in the public record about those people.

I've been mulling this over in my head for weeks now and can't settle on a satisfactory argument as to why I shouldn't use this material. But for some reason I still feel uneasy.