Welcome to Pogue's Pages!

I'm POGUE...known by many as Chuck Pogue, a few as Charles Pogue, and billed professionally as Charles Edward Pogue...just because it really looks BIG splashed across a theatre programme or a movie screen. From that last remark and the profile on the left, you can see I'm a theatre man...And the term "theatre" encompasses stage, film, TV. I've been shooting my mouth off on other people's blogs and message boards for forever. So having finally gotten the hang of it, I've decided to build my own soapbox from which I can pontificate, blather, and muse...mostly on theatre, film, writing, music, books...but ultimately anything that interests me, irritates me, or just catches my fancy. I invite you to join me. I'll try to be faithful and update regularly, so that when you visit there will always be something fresh percolating and maybe even provocative that we can discuss, dissect, or debate.

Charles Edward Pogue

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Last week on my Facebook page (Yes, I finally succumbed and have found it to be the addictive, totally entertaining, time-wasting amusement I long suspected it was), I bespoke of my puzzlement and not a little irritation of being at the theatre and watching the audience applaud the scene breaks and blackouts. A dear friend of mine, who also attended a performance of the same show where I witnessed this curious phenomenon, accused me of being “the applause police” and said she now knew what folks meant when they said they had been “Pogued”…an allusion, I assume, to my oft-acerbic, jaundiced-eyed critiques of those things that exacerbate my curmudgeonly impatience.

Sorry, I have no remorse. I have already been pretty much chased out of movie theatres these days, because people insist on bringing their living room manners with them and have an utter inability to detach themselves for a couple of hours from all the latest technical gee-gaws and whirl-a-gigs.

If they are not nattering with audible intrusiveness to their neighbour in the next seat, they are nattering to someone on their cell phone…or texting or checking emails. Those “lovely people out there in the dark” that Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in SUNSET BOULEVARD extolled are, frankly, not so lovely anymore and “out there in the dark” ain’t so dark what with the little invasive patches of light from beeping, bleeping, clicky-clacky, tippy-tapping cell phones.

It’s just easier to watch a movie on DVD on the 52 inch flat screen at home in my underwear. I don’t need the big screen experience, the three dollar drinks, and the five dollar popcorn…But mostly I don’t need the distracting communal experience where people are blithely indifferent to the consideration of others and are incapable of focusing on a single experience without attention-deficit multi-tasking.

Given all this, I don’t know why I expect the experience of attending live theatre to retain any vestige of gracious living, good manners, and more civilized behaviour, but I naively do. Nor do I seem alone in this futile expectation. Over the last few months and weeks, I have encountered several newspaper columns, internet articles, and blogs that have been discussing, debating, and bemoaning the alarming increase of “Were you raised in barn?” manners that intrude on and diminish the theatre-going experience.

I confess a considerable amount of these discussions…though hardly all…stem from British sources, where the theatre is a more viable and entrenched part of one’s cultural life, and where these unhealthy audience habits are seen to be immigrating from America. They probably are.

We are, after all, the culture of not only self-absorption to point of total unawareness of others, but also the culture of hyberbole and over-sell, often praising things far beyond their merits where the mediocre is considered good, the good great, the great…usually ignored, because it is not understood by an audience weaned on the pablum of TV. I’m not sure we understand the difference between good and bad anymore. It seems that if one just shows up for the gig anymore that is enough of a commitment to lavish over-abundant praise upon them.

These articles recently came to a terrific culmination in the London Times with critic Benedict Nightingale’s THE 15 GOLDEN RULES OF THEATRE ETIQUETTE( as of this writing, still online). I found them to be pretty good rules…and given the comments to the article, many other disgruntled, frustrated theatre-goers thought so too. Applauding during scene breaks and blackouts was not on Mr. Nightingale’s list of Do’s and Don’t’s (though one of the responders to the article invoked it). I think its omission was only because this habit has not quite made its way across the Atlantic yet and insidiously infiltrated its way into the British audience. It only rears its head with the occasional uninitiated American tourist.

I’m not quite sure when this habit of applauding every scene break began. I actually became conscious of it (though I’m sure I had experienced it before) when I was at a university play. The audience was mostly students. I think I dismissed it…perhaps, unfairly… to inexperience, figuring most of them probably didn't attend all that much live theatre and that some were just over-enthusiatically supporting their pals on stage and others, unsure of proper procedure, followed suit.

But this was not the case the other night. Now, granted, it also wasn’t your typical theatre venue. It was one of those outdoor summer affairs. Blankets, picnic baskets, wine. And its laid-back environment also probably attracts a lot of folk who are not your typical theatre-goer. There’s plenty of chatting, cell phone use, and just inattentiveness that has become somewhat de rigeur for outdoor summer fare…though I’ve yet see it at the Old Globe in San Diego or the Globe in London.

But here every time a troupe of actors trotted off at the end of a scene or the lights dimmed, applause filled the night. It was often sporadic and tentative applause which makes me believe it was more often spurred on by various claques or the mere uncertainty of the proper etiquette.

But, you may ask, why is it improper to show your appreciation of the actors in this fashion? After all, who’s to say whether it’s right or wrong? Unless someone in authority is going to tell you to be quiet or pitch you out of the theatre for creating a disturbance, isn't any response fair game?

So why does it bug me? It’s like applauding after every movement of a symphony instead of at the end of it. And Lord knows, this insidious practice abounds too…I’ve seen it happen at the Hollywood Bowl (And I can remember an Italian producer who drunkenly sang along with Pavarotti there too..but that's another story).

We’re so anxious to show our appreciation or our misguided notion that “we really are hip and get it” that we applaud before the complete performance is over. This is not necessarily an encouraging sign to a serious artist, as it bespeaks more ignorance than true appreciation of the artist’s skills. I remember a story where one esteemed soloist walked off after the audience applauded the first movement.

Why? I suppose because there is a mood, a spell that an artist is trying to create -- a level of concentration and immersion that one hopes envelopes both artist and audience in the same enchantment. Indiscriminate, over-enthusiastic, out-of-proportion, and often as-yet-unearned and undeserved applause can break that spell, dissolve the enchantment, disrupt the concentration.

Yes, we’ve all experienced that moment when a performer has had a particularly splashy, flashy stage turn that overwhelms an audience with such uncontainable exuberance, they must show their irrepressible approbation with a round of honest exit applause. Nothing wrong in that.

But the scene break/blackout applause always seems to me like a bunch of trained seals; as though someone has turned on the studio audience “Applause” sign, generating an unthinking Pavlovian response. It is born not so much out of genuine enthusiasm for what is transpiring onstage but is rather merely the mechanics of an automaton.

It’s all a bit naff (to use Mr. Nightingale's term), disrupts narrative flow and adds minutes to the evening that neither the actor nor the audience needs. And anything that takes me out of the story, distracts or disengages me from the performance, I find inappropriate. Applauding at the wrong time is like laughing at the wrong time…like laughing at the set-up instead of the punchline or at a tragic moment. It’s just as intrusive as someone narrating the plot to their inattentive companion or rustling candy wrappers or texting or taking pictures on their cell.

Now part of the burden falls on the playwright and the director to keep the action of the play flowing, devoid of lulls where an audience feels obligated to fill a scene change or time lapse with applause.

But, please, applaud at the act breaks and the curtain. Applauding every frigging scene break or blackout is simply applauding unfinished work. The performance isn’t over. “So far so good” is not a reason to applaud! Applauding at the Act Break, when everything actually stops, is the perfect place for a progress report of approval to let the actors on stage know you think they’re doing well enough that you’ll be back after the interval.

And despite what is said about actors’ overblown egos, the truly good ones are usually objective enough to be able to assess how they’re doing on any given night and they know when applause is warranted; when the audience is sincerely returning fair measure for the work being done and when it is disproportionate. You’re not fooling the ones who know their trade.

I devoutly hope this habit does not become as pervasive as the empty standing ovation which has long been stripped of any its special meaning. A standing O should be a cathartic response for a truly transcendent theatre experience and a rare event, not a commonplace reward for the actors just because they showed up for the gig. Once again, the pros know…although I do recall a friend who was mortified to be in a show where the largely amateur cast was furious that they were not receiving a nightly standing ovation which they misguidedly thought their automatic due. Naturally, they blamed the “ignorant” audience for this oversight.

Such attitudes, I suppose, are generated once again by a TV/sporting event culture where to ratchet up the stakes, game show contestants are encouraged to pee themselves with excitement, in-house audiences are egged on to holler, hoot, and stamp their feet every time a potential American Idol changes key or goes up another octave, and where the more extravagant, rowdy, and vocal our behaviour in the stadium the better to root on the home team.

But the theatre isn’t TV, baseball, or your kid’s soccer game. And, if your kid’s in the play, trust me, he doesn’t want you cheerleading every time he enters or filming his performance on your cell phone…or if he does, he is a hopeless, hapless dilettante who has no respect for the discipline of the theatre.

Sadly, the obligatory standing ovation, regardless of the performance’s merits, seems to be another American aberration. In England, one sees it only on rare and arguably deserving occasions. In Rick McKay’s excellent documentary, BROADWAY: THE GOLDEN AGE, Stephen Sondheim posits an interesting theory on the overdose of standing ovations these days.

He suggests that it has its origins in the cost of the tickets, plus dinner, plus parking, plus babysitter. To justify and reconcile such an extravagant theatre night on the town, theatre-goers must perceive whatever they saw as an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experience (and, for some out-of-town tourists, it may well be). In other words to assuage the pocketbook and conscience, the evening…whether it was or not…was well worth it, by God, and it’s getting a response well worth it – a standing ovation!

It’s as valid a theory as any and one can see how it might trickle down from the big cities to the smaller theatre venues. That doesn’t make it right. I mean if I’m not standing for Ian McKellen or Judi Dench (and I have and haven’t for both...despite the fact I've enjoyed them in everything I've seen),the odds of me seeing something so breathlessly brilliant out here in the sticks that would prompt me to instaneously leap to my feet are few and far between – not that it hasn’t happened.

But the more likely scenario is what happened to me and the wife awhile back in a local community theatre. The play itself, frankly, was not great. Though several admirable actors whose work we’ve enjoyed were in the production, neither it nor they could overcome the material and it was hardly anyone’s finest hour. The whole evening was a bit of a slog.

Nonetheless, true to form, at the end of the evening, first the die-hard adherents of the theatre leapt to their feet, followed by the lemmings or those unsure of what proper, polite appreciation was…finally, leaving only Julieanne and I planted in our seats, determined not to surrender to the tyranny of this undeserved standing ovation. We steadfastly did not want to give a mediocre production more than its due. But the bloody audience would not sit down, the cast kept milking the applause, and we kept being stabbed by the icy, outraged stares around us. I finally muttered to Julieanne, “We’d better stand or we won't leave here alive.”

And so we did...bullied by another form of “applause police.” It was just easier than being interrogated as to why we didn’t like the show or why we didn’t stand. If one came up to you after and gushed, “Didn’t you just love it?”, you could just nod with tepid politeness without feeling compelled to ramble off a long impassioned, intellectual dissertation about one’s devotion and dedication to the theatre they neither wanted to hear nor, in all likelihood, had the patience to grasp. After all, it’s my passion... not theirs. The professional versus the layman.

But even if most audiences are of the laymen variety, it should not excuse them from civility and courteous behaviour for both the performers working onstage and their fellow audience members. But while it’s easy to build an agreeable consensus that crinkling candy wrappers, chattering, cell phones, and snoring are all no-nos, a debate on the propriety of applause…generally thought a good thing… is a dicey go. After all, if a little applause is a good thing, isn’t a whole lot more even better? Yes, I can only say, but…only when it’s appropriate!

How many of Benedict Nightingale’s 15 golden rules of theatre etiquette do you agree with? Are there any audience habits not mentioned that annoy you either as a performer or an audience member?



BEAU GESTE…the 1939 classic film of P.C. Wren’s classic adventure romance of the French Foreign Legion and brotherly devotion on TCM.


Still wending my way through the volume of Cornell Woolrich short stories, NIGHTWEBS. Some nifty little tales.


A cache of some 13 CDs containing film scores and obscure musicals released on my pal Bruce Kimmel’s KRITZERLAND label. Among them, THE TWISTED NERVE by Bernard Herrmann, with a great whistling theme that Quentin Tarantino lifted and used in KILL BILL; RASHOMON by Laurence Rosenthal; GOD’S LITTLE ACRE by Elmer Bernstein; ILLYA DARLING, a musical based on NEVER ON A SUNDAY; SHOW GIRL with Carol Channing; and HOUSE OF FLOWERS by Truman Capote and Harold Arlen.
Any media gems you care to share?

Sunday, July 5, 2009



I watched the latest James Bond entry, Quantum of Solace, last week (a stupid title). As much as I like Daniel Craig, this may be the worst Bond film ever. First of all, the plot is almost indecipherable (and I’m very good at following convoluted plots)…very much dependent on knowing too many details from the last one.

If you’re going to be a sequel and can’t succinctly recap in less than five or ten minutes the info the viewer (and one who might not have seen the previous film) needs to know and integrate it easily into the flow of the narrative, then don’t do a sequel.

Even a sequel should work as a stand-alone film and not carry over a bunch of crap from the last one that has no dramatic impact because, if we saw it, we all saw it a year and a half ago, and can’t remember the details. I still haven’t been able to get through the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie because it is so rife with plot points, characters, and details from the first two I don’t remember. I’m going to have to watch them in a marathon screening sometime.

Which I suppose is what studios want you to do--go out and buy those DVDS. All this started with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, it seems…probably the best of the Star Wars movies...except for its cliffhanger ending which deeply disappointed me at the time. But at least George Lucas did not overwhelm us with so much info that we couldn’t hold the elemental strands of the plot until the next film. It was pretty basic…princess in jeopardy, Hans Solo in a form of suspended animation, and hints that Luke Skywalker has interesting parentage.

I know when I wrote PSYCHO III, the biggest challenge for me was to have a stand-alone movie…one that, even if a viewer had not seen the previous two, he could still understand what was going on in this one and enjoy it on its own merits. This required some deft use of flashbacks culled from the first two movies and some hopefully quirky dialogue and scenes that had dramatic impact and did not stand out like deadly exposition.

But back to Quantum of Solace. Not only do they not satisfactorily clear up the dangling threads from the last film for the viewer, characters appear and disappear so fast without any kind of establishment or development (Were they in the last film? Who are they? Where did they come from? Why should we like them, hate them, fear them?), I don’t really know who they are or what I should be feeling about them. Even Judi Dench is boring.

But worst of all, the action scenes are so choppy and kinetic that you cannot get any sense of perspective or know where you are or just who shot at whom or who threw what punch or who jumped down from where. An example: the film opens with Bond in a black car pursued by villains in a black car. The cars are not clearly delineated. The cutting is so abrupt and jarring, in this herky-jerky, mile-a-minute attention-deficit disorder style that I couldn’t tell who was who half the time. My eye was not allowed to linger on anything for more than a few seconds, if that. So much of the action is in fast cuts and quick close-ups or such obvious CGI that you get no sense of geography or spectacle at all anymore.

And that was what was fun about the fights, chases, and stunts in a Bond movie, there was a sense of spectacle and amazement because, first of all, you knew where you were and had a perspective on everything. And secondly, it didn’t happened at such a frenetic pace that you could still absorb it, take it all in, and enjoy. You could revel in the details. There looked to be some stunning scenery and locales in the movie, but it all went by in such a blur, I really couldn’t say.

In the older Bonds, you also had enough slower-paced scenes where you could actually hear the dialogue, get some exposition, and follow the narrative. I liked my Moneypenny and Q scenes.

I know the younger generation is supposed to be able to assimilate images and info faster, but it’s not a race! It’s a story! Luxuriating in its journey…its nuance, colour, and detail…should be the point. I found this, like so much of today’s film-making, to be assaulting and it just wore me out. Give me time to savour the story…visually, aurally, emotionally, intellectually. It’s a movie; not a carnival thrill ride or a video game. And, frankly, it doesn’t even provide with me any basic visceral thrills. It’s just big, fast, and loud. Maybe I’m a geezer, but I’ll take GOLDFINGER.


Sarah Palin reminds me of a certain type I used to be introduced to at Hollywood parties. While they’re talking to you, they’re looking over your shoulder to see if someone more important has come into the room that they should be schmoozing with.

Tip to Mark Sanford: You can’t really say you’re hoping to fall back in love with your wife while, with your next breath, you’re referring to your paramour as your “soul mate”.

Tip to Mark Sanford’s wife: If he’s calling his paramour his “soul mate”; no point in saying you’re trying to forgive him. Throw him out and press on, it’s over.

Sanford’s press conference spewings have been the most bizarre amalgamation of confession, therapy, and locker-room braggadocio I’ve even seen. It’s just not his pants he needs to keep zipped. I somehow can’t quite buy his contrition or his invoking of God and religion when he can’t restrain his own eagerness to enumerate the times he’s “crossed the line” with his romantic dalliances. I’d respect the guy much more if he just owned up to the fact that he’s a randy bugger and he gave up his governorship and went off with his lover.


All technology must now stop until after I’m dead. Most of my scripts have been typed in a Wordperfect macro in an old DOS system (those that weren’t typed on a typewriter). The last time I upgraded everything, my computer guy out in LA had, through some miraculous means, managed to finesse it so that I could not only retain my old DOS files, but also print them up, whenever I needed to produce one of those scripts.

In the meantime, I had already acquired Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter, programmes for script writing. I have been able to transfer most of my macro-DOS scripts and other documents over into Movie Magic…though, of course, much of the style was not recognized and so often dialogue or character indentations and other such nuances are not formatted properly and all of these transferred scripts require tweaking and editing to comply with Movie Magic’s formatting, something I’ve yet to do.

And rather than deal with that onerous task, I’ve just kept printing scripts up from the old DOS system. No can do anymore. A few months back, something went wrong somewhere…and I can no longer print out my old DOS files. My new computer guys hardly even know what DOS is.

Of course, I have hard copies of all these scripts which I can run off at Kinko’s. But this ain’t LA. I don’t know what it costs per page in LA anymore, but when I left, it was still hovering around 2 and a half cents to three cents a page. Kinko’s here in Kentucky is at least 6 or 7 cents a page. Even worse, though they can three-hole punch paper, they don’t sell brads…the fasteners used for three-hole punched paper. I have to special order the one and a half inch brads from a local business supply dealer, if I want to bind my script in the traditional way.

These are the little irritants I'm forced to endure here in Kentucky-- which, unlike LA, is not used to everyone and his brother having a script to print and bind. But even in LA, I had become reliant on printing out scripts on my own laser printer. With most of these epics now trapped in DOS, which I cannot longer access, this has become problematic.

Fortunately, most of the film scripts I don’t really have to run off that often. Where I’ve run into a problem is with my Sherlock Holmes play script, THE EBONY APE. There have been a few requests for it (Rick St. Peter, Actors Guild Artistic Director, is a fan of it and has been touting it to several theatres). The script is a hundred and thirty five pages. That can run into the money if I must rely on Kinko's. I can (and have) transferred the script over into Movie Magic and could just go through the tweaking and re-editing process, but...I don’t like their play format. I prefer Final Draft’s format, similar to the one I use and in which the play is already typed. But I can’t transfer my old DOS script over into Final Draft. So…

…I am laboriously re-typing the entire script into Final Draft’s playwriting programme.

In truth, I really need to bone up on both Movie Magic and Final Draft, because I know there are advantages to both these systems that would make my life easier that I’ve yet to discover. But here’s the other wrinkle: despite how little I’ve used these programmes, they are already fairly old and more advanced versions are already out. I’m always behind the curve on this stuff and will never catch up.

My friend, actor Larry Drake, and I were joking a while back that if we couldn’t ply our trade in the drama game, we would be virtually unemployable, because we have no viable business computer skills (Just updating my acting resume the other day was a chore). At our advanced age and with no marketable skills, the best we could hope for would be to become Walmart greeters.

By the way, any representative from a legitimate theatre who would be interested in either THE EBONY APE or my TARTUFFE adaptation, send along your info and let’s discuss.


Speaking of unwanted technology, just as I get into the blogging thing, everybody’s jumping into Facebook with a passion. I keep resisting, knowing I already waste an inordinate amount of time on the internet. But I may have to relent; even every fogey I know is on it these days. And I do see its merits and advantages, just as I fear its time-squandering possibilities on what seems to me mostly trivia.

A pal said he had five different scrabble games going on facebook. Sorry, if I’m going to play Scrabble, I want a card table, the board, and the tiles. Part of the joy of playing Scrabble or any game is the camaraderie, being able to banter and comment while someone is plotting their next move. Face-to-Face contact…it’s what I crave in most of my social activities…which, ironically, is not what “face”book provides.


No more on the LexArts cutting Actors Guild funding allocation for the coming year. But the comments to various articles have been very interesting, as well as bringing up some hitherto unkown issues. Read about it here.



A TCM DOCUMENTARY ON THE FILMS OF 1939…largely considered the greatest year for film, an assessment with which I’d agree. After watching the exhausting Quantum of Solace, seeing clips of these meticulously made movies was so relaxing and calming. It was also nice to see film scholars and pals, Rudy Behlmer and F. X. Feeney, two of the best in the business.

1776…This is a 4th of July tradition with Julieanne and me. One of my favourite musicals and amazing history. When you think of these remarkable, brilliant, talented, committed men who formed this country and then think of the George Bushes and Sarah Palins who actually are thought by a third of the populace as qualified leaders, you get sick to your stomach at the intellectual decline of this country.

More CHEYENNE…starring Clint Walker. Warner Brothers, which produced the series, was great at recycling material they owned. I’ve seen several movies in their library re-fashioned into Cheyenne stories…an old Errol Flynn western, ROCKY MOUNTAIN; THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE with Rod Taylor as the Tim Holt character, character actor Edward Andrews as Bogie, which made Clint Walker Walter Huston, I guess; and, perhaps the weirdest of all, Bogart/Bacall’s TO HAVE AND TO HAVE NOT, transplanted to Mexico during the French occupation. Character actors Myron Healy, Robert Wilkie, and Andrew Duggan seem to appear in every other episode.


LOTS OF MOVIE SOUNDTRACKS…as I re-type THE EBONY APE script. I need music sans lyrics.

THE NOW SHOW…on BBC Four Radio. Very funny comedy on the week’s current events with Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt.


A FRIEND’S LATEST MYSTERY NOVEL…for which I need to supply a dust jacket blurb.

NIGHTWEBS by Cornell Woolrich…short stories by Woolrich. Woolrich’s prose can gather you up and carry you along, despite his plots’ often-wild improbabilities and frequent lapses in logic. His pay-offs don’t always live up to his brilliant set-ups, but, boy, he can grip you and suck you in.