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Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.
This month we’ll be taking a tour through the short but incredibly powerful and significant bibliography of artist Pheobe Gloeckner.
If you haven’t read much by Phoebe Gloeckner…well, frankly, I can’t blame you. I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that she’s one of the very, very, very best cartoonists working today—if I were to make a list, she’d rank in the low single digits—and that her unique prose-comics-illustration-memoir hybrid The Diary of a Teenage Girl is maybe my favorite graphic novel of all time. But since that book came out in 2002 (her only other comics collection, A Child’s Life and Other Stories, debuted in 1998), her comics work has been next to nonexistent, with only a couple of cartooned contributions to The Comics Journal‘s short-lived line of Comics Journal Specials and several photocomics here and there to her name.
Great news for fans of great theater based on great comics: The Diary of a Teenage Girl is sticking around for a few more weeks. Word went out late last week that the show’s run, which had been scheduled to end this past weekend (perfectly timed with the MoCCA Festival, as it happened), has now been extended through May 1st.
Based on (IMHO) one of the all-time great graphic novels by writer-artist Phoebe Gloeckner, Diary tells the story of Minnie Goetze, a precocious 15-year-old growing up in ’70s San Francisco who spirals into promiscuity and drug abuse after beginning an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Harrowing stuff to be sure, but like the graphic novel, the play — written by and starring Marielle Heller and directed by Rachel Eckerling and Sarah Cameron Sunde — is often hilarious, frequently beautiful, and ultimately uplifting. You can read my full review here if you missed it.
The show runs nightly every day but Tuesday at the 3LD Arts and Technology Center at 80 Greenwich St. in Manhattan. Tickets are still just $25 if you use the code “ISAWIT” when purchasing. Go purchase!
I want to avoid the term “must-see” — I haven’t done theater since playing the John Cazale role in a black-box production of The Indian Wants the Bronx my junior year of college, but even I know what a cliche that must be. And yet. Boasting a quintet of strong, awkward performances, staged in an immersive environment best described as “Theater in the Rec Room,” and augmented with a breathtaking gallery of art from the source material, The Diary of a Teenage Girl: The Play is riveting theater, and as skillful a comics adaptation as I’ve come across. If you’re in New York and have any interest in the semi-autobiographical Phoebe Gloeckner graphic novel from which the play was adapted, or in an unusual and innovative theatrical experience, or simply in a movingly no-bullshit exploration of the lives of young people and the older people who shape them, I’m almost willing to buy you the tickets myself.
Holy smokes, talk about high-profile support for a worthy project. On Sunday, January 31, Saturday Night Live cast members Fred Armisen, Abby Elliot, Will Forte, Seth Meyers, Jason Sudeikis, and The Lonely Island’s Jorma Taccone will headline an all-star comedy fundraiser on behalf of the upcoming Off-Broadway adaptation of writer/artist Phoebe Gloeckner’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl. SNL writers Colin Jost, Hannibal Buress, and John Mulaney, comedians Bridey Elliott and Emily Heller, and musical guest (sorry, couldn’t help it) The Renaldo The Ensemble will also perform.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl uses a unique comics/prose/illustration hybrid format to tell the story of Minnie Goetze, a precocious teenager growing up in ’70s San Francisco who has an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Sex and drugs abound, but it’s told in such an honest, hopeful, no-B.S. fashion that it’s as far away from after-school special territory as you can get. If you haven’t read it, you should — serious Best of the Decade material.
Want to help the curtain for the show go up on March 15 as scheduled? Buy tickets to the “Beyond Funderdome Comedy Blowout” fundraiser. Regular tix are $85; VIP tickets, which include pre-show drinks with the performers, will run you $150. The fundraiser takes place at the same venue where Diary will run, the 3LD Art & Technology Center at 80 Greenwich Street in Manhattan.