Culture Junkie: On being a ‘completist,’ and seeing August Wilson alive again
I admit it.
I am a completist.
Unfairly assumed to be obsessive, fanatical and a bit odd, sometimes dismissed as being over-preoccupied with the subject of their fixation, a “completist” is commonly defined as a person who compulsively seeks to collect, own or experience all of a particular category of book, record album, movie, play or what-have-you. For example, if you scour the internet to find limited release Beatles’ Christmas recordings, because you want your Fab Four collection to include every single thing the Beatles ever produced, then you are a completist.
And welcome to the club.
In my case, my drive to see every play ever written by William Shakespeare, and to hear every song ever composed by Bruce Springsteen, has never felt like an obsession so much as it just felt … obvious. If you decide you like something, what’s the logic in being choosy? Who binges a season of “Game of Thrones” but randomly skips an episode or two without feeling the need to go back and complete the experience? Who sets out to run a marathon, and then causally skips the last half-mile because the terrain doesn’t seem as interesting as the rest of the race was? Ever since seeing Franco Zefferelli’s “Romeo and Juliet,” in 1969, at a drive-in movie on a double feature with “Battle Beneath the Earth,” I knew that whoever this Shakespeare guy was, I liked his style, and wanted more.
The dude wrote 37 plays? Then I guess I’ll see all 37. I might even see some more than once.
For the record, I’ve seen nine different productions of “Hamlet,” and this weekend will make that an even 10 when I attend opening night of director Sheri Lee Miller’s opulent new production at Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park.
I’m not alone, of course. There are plenty of other completists out there.
Certainly not when it comes to Shakespeare, where “canon completion” is a definite thing. At the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where the company is known for producing even the least popular of the Bards’ canon of works, and least once in a while, the gift shop sells little booklets that completists can use to record the date and time they see a production of a Shakespeare play that is new to them. For the record, I completed the Shakespeare Canon in March of 2017, when I traveled to Ashland to catch a performance of “Timon of Athens.”
As for Springsteen, the guy makes it easy. He routinely releases vast compendiums of his works, from the best to the least, frequently including stuff left off of his previous albums. When Springsteen releases something new, I have to hear it?
I like Bruce Springsteen.
I was even amongst the first to pre-order a copy of his recently released “Springsteen on Broadway” album. It’s basically the entire two-and-a-half hour, one-man-show the Boss performed for a year in New York. Not a concert, exactly, “Springsteen on Broadway” is a solo monologue, with music, in which he tells stories from throughout his life, explaining to his fans how he became the artist he is today. If you’re a Springsteen completist, “Springsteen on Broadway” is a must listen.
This brings me to the works of August Wilson.