question, Would Kitty Wells sport antattoo? No, but it doesn’t much matter.nWillie Nelson’s image is no morensignificant than, say, Porter Wagoner’snwhen Porter, his Nudie suit aglitter,nhis mystique nonexistent, gives hisnhonest hillbilly best on “Fve Enjoyednas Much of This as I Can Stand.”nWillie and Porter are two versions ofnthe same lesson: When the sound isntrue, style is no more than giftwrapping.n(Which makes T.G. Sheppardnone example of the converse:nWhen the sound is contrived, style isnno less than the whole empty package.)nIt all comes down to the FirstnLaw of Country Music: If you have tonwork to find it, it ain’t it. (And fromnwhich follows: If you don’t know itnwhen you hear it, you deserve T.G.nSheppard.)nThis idea is the foundation of thenlifer’s musical value system, and itnsupports the natural pairing of mutuallyndependent responses. The first, antype of suspended disbelief—a musicalnact of faith that permits the acceptancenof just about anything (earringsnon men, songs about wino decorators)n—functions only and always in thenpresence of the second, the listener’snabolute certainty that the music willnnever betray his trust. The thinking isncircular; the circle is prescribed; thenpayoff is foolproof. When, for instance,nGeorge Jones manages to breaknhearts and restore spirits with the wonderfullynabsurd line “with the bloodnfrom my body I could start my ownnstill,” all faith is rewarded, all cases arenclosed.nIt is galling but finally irrelevant thatnGeorge Jones must share a job descriptionnwith Ronnie “She’s an 80’s Kindnof Girl” McDowell. Yes, you can foolnsome of the people all of the time; butnthe operative word in that adage isnsome. Because its integrity is guardednmore closely by those who need it thannby those who make it, country musicnoutlives its pretensions, its commercialism,nand even its own crazy generosityn(being ever ready to welcomeninto the fold discarded pop singers likenJimmy BufFett, Marie Osmond, and—ngood grief—Florence Henderson).nCountry music was never meant tonbe received by the mind, or even thenheart. It is absorbed somewhere in thenvicinity of the bones. Bluegrass andnhonky-tonk, mountain ballads andncountry blues—this music survivesnthrough the loving, stubborn understandingnof those who are fed by itsnsound.n]anet Scott Barlow has written fornMusic & Sound Output, Parentsnmagazine, and Commonweal.nSTAGEnA (Re)MovablenFeastnby David Kaufmann”A morality which has withinnit no room for truth is no moralitynat all”n— Flaubertn”… But the thing is, younknow, let’s face it, there’s anwhole enormous world outnthere that I don’t ever thinknabout, and I certainly don’tntake responsibility for how I’venlived in that world. I mean, if Inwere actually to confront thenfact that I’m sort of sharing thisnstage with the starving personnin Africa somewhere, well thennI wouldn’t feel so great aboutnmyself So naturally I blotnthose people out of mynpercephon. So, of course, I’mnignoring a whole section of thenreal world. … Of course wenall know that the theater is innterrible shape today. I mean,nyou know, at least a few yearsnago people who really carednabout the theater used to say,n’The theater is dead.’ But nowneveryone has redefined thentheater in such a trivial way.nYou know, I mean, I knownpeople who are involved withnthe theater who go to see thingsnnow that—I mean, a few yearsnago these same people wouldnhave just been embarrassed tonhave seen some of these plays.nBut now they say, ‘Oh, thatnwas pretty good.’ It’s justnincredible. And I just find thatnattitude unbearable, because Inactually do believe that thentheater can be very importantn—it can actually help peoplennncome in contact with reality.nNow you may not feel that at all.nYou may find that absurd.”n—Wally in My Dinner WithnAndre by Wallace Shawn andnAndre GregorynIf contemporary drama is as ailing andnderivative as many are finding it, nonone has yet observed the extent tonwhich our theater has been up againstna new form of competition and a newninfluence. Though oblique and amorphous,nthis new kind of theater isnintense and pervasive. It has nothingnto do with a script per se, but thenimportance of the costume andncharacterization — and especiallynattitude—has become even more pronounced,nas if to compensate for thenabsence of other, more conventionalntheatrical elements.nIn this new version of theater, thenvery notion of a stage has been replacednby a sense of environment.nEven the concept of the Fourth Wallnhas become obsolete as the roles thatnused to separate the spectator from thenspectacle have been thoroughly brokenndown. The supreme examples of thisnnew genre of theater occur today innwhat are generally perceived as “decadent”ncontexts—the late-night dancenclubs that tend to come alive afternLeft to right: Ellen Parker and Pamela Reed in anscene from Wallace Shawn’s Aunt Dan and Lemon.nPhoto by Carol Rosegg.nJULY 1986/47n