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A note on run time & use of silence in Annie Baker's The Flick

Every generation has a small handful of emblematic voices; Annie Baker is one such voice The Flick is a beautifully observed encounter among three young employees of a decaying movie house who connect over their shared passion for movies. Annie’s rich characters and nuanced dialogue have brought acclaim from critics and audiences alike. The play won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Pulitzer committee stating that the play is a "thoughtful drama with well-crafted characters that focuses on three employees of a Massachusetts art-house movie theatre, rendering lives rarely seen on the stage." Annie Baker’s unique writing includes periods of non-dialogue as the characters interact as they would in real-time, with periods of silence that often speak louder than words. Pauses and moments of reflection are spelled out very clearly by Annie Baker; scripted stage directions include: “A happy Pause in which they realize they’ve broken the tension, and then an awkward pause following that happy pause…” and “A very long, uncomfortable pause”—it is interesting to note these, because Baker is clearly creating acting moments within pauses. Silence becomes very active. The result is a sense of authenticity and impressively realistic dialogue. Moments of comedy, tension and drama happen in real-time, as we might encounter them off the stage, ourselves. Before experiencing this play, we wanted to share a bit of Annie’s vision. We look forward to sharing Annie Baker’s visionary voice with you. ***** An excerpt from a June 2015 interview between NPR's Robert Siegel and playwright Annie Baker: SIEGEL: I want to talk with you about time a little bit. I want you to talk about time. I have not seen but I have read "The Flick" and "Circle Mirror Transformation," an earlier play of yours, which is now, I gather, one of the most widely produced plays in theaters around the country. And you often write very specific stage directions - this character should do this. It should take about 45 seconds or show the first six minutes of "The Wild Bunch" I guess at the audience. BAKER: Yeah. SIEGEL: How do you decide, while you're writing, no one should speak for 20 seconds at this point or for a minute-and-a-half at this point? BAKER: You know, it's very instinct driven and I didn't even really think of myself as a person who wrote a lot of pauses and silences into my play. For me, it was just actually sort of transcribing and recording the scene unfolding in my mind onto the paper. But time is something and duration was something I was particularly interested in addressing in "The Flick," both through the length of the play, which is over three hours and just the way I feel like that going back to just sort of the relationship between theater and film. I think theater is so special because time is passing at the same rate for the actors on stage as it is for the audience, which is completely different than film and TV and other mediums. And I also think time works differently with celluloid than it does with the digital image and that contrast between mediums and the way you experience time through them was something I really wanted to deal with in "The Flick." ***** The Flick has spurred active conversations following previous productions. What follows are excerpts pulled from various critic reviews and reader responses, acknowledging Annie’s use of silence. What you’ll notice throughout all is that Annie Baker’s writing style is different, unique, and notable. We are thrilled to share Annie’s The Flick with you and continue in our season-long exchange of ideas that makes us think harder, laugh longer, feel more. “Baker’s technique — developed in earlier plays, like Circle Mirror Transformation and The Aliens — requires lots of time, not much of it devoted to speech. If the script were simply spoken without its many pauses and interludes of silence, the play might be an hour shorter. (As performed, it’s a full three hours.) For some people this will prove an impossible or even presumptuous burden. But for me, the silence, like a halo, makes everything it surrounds more beautiful.”
New York Magazine “This lovingly observed play will sink deep into your consciousness, and probably stay there for a while. Without question “The Flick” requires your patience, but it rewards that patience too, bountifully.”
The New York Times We’re lucky to be living in the era of Annie Baker, a playwright who listens to people so carefully, who re-creates human speech with such amusement and care, that her characters feel startlingly familiar—so familiar, in fact, that you might wonder at first why they’re the subjects of a play. … But after three hours of watching them onstage—Baker’s plays are famously long—we only want more.
The New Yorker “Having seen The Flick, I feel no kinship with those who ejected/bailed/fled like thieves in the night at intermission during the original production. They missed out big-time, depriving themselves of a slow-brew, absorbent experience so seldom offered in the hyperspace of attention-deficit culture… It’s a play that requires an orientation period of adjustment as one black-out scene of popcorn sweeping succeeds another—the lack of visual and aural stimuli re-tuning one’s receptors—but once my attention passed a certain threshold, any grip of boredom receded and I found myself in the sort of rapt fascination”
– Vanity Fair “But at three hours, the play is anything but mini. Same goes for Baker’s scope. The talented Brooklyn writer is chasing big themes — love and loyalty; kindness and cruelty; fantasy and reality — as viewed through the eyes of three misfits scraping by in dead-end jobs in a rundown movie theater. Is “The Flick” long? You bet. It’s also you-are-there authentic — like a documentary.”
– New York Daily News