Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Follow-Up to Previous Post

No sooner had I posted my diatribe than I checked George Hunka's blog "Superfluities" and, to my amazement, found a two-year-old essay about why George had begun writing for theatre again. It is a wonderful post, and I draw particular attention to the following sentence:

"Like in good sex, a good live performance provides release and pleasure and the partners develop a sensual partnered grace; like in bad sex, a bad live performance results in discomfort, boredom and a good deal of squirming."

Now that's a good metaphor. How many playwrights, actors, directors, and designers regard the audience as a partner, someone to collaborate with, someone that we are trying to satisfy in some way? All too many "serious" playwrights and theatre artists have an artistic rape mentality: we're going to get our rocks off humiliating and debasing you, and it's OK because you deserve it for being a dumb, shallow, materialistic asshole wearing a short spiritual skirt. Oh, and you ought to pay for this opportunity, and also the NEA ought to give me a grant so I can do it on a full-time basis.

I highly recommend George's essay as a reminder of the magic, the beauty, and the inspiration of theatre. And then I invite you to examine your latest work of art to see whether your attitude toward the audience has anything to do with what George describes.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

(this is Isaac from Parabasis)

Scott,

This is the second time you've undermined a really great point with straw manning of people who disagree with you.

I find a lot to recommend about your ideas of leaving New York City (something I contemplate often) but your accusation that I stay because I want to be a Famous Important Artist are insulting.

Similarly, I can think of no American theater artist who views the audience this way. There are some who have disregard for their audience, some who may even have contempt. But the only artists I can think of who fall into your rapist mentality are film makers and novelists. In fact, the only one who really comes to mind is Lars VonTrier.

Anyway... I'm just saying that I agree with what you're saying about our relationship to the audience. I would also add that ultimately we have to recognize that the relaitonship with the audience has as much complication and nuance as any adult realtionship is capable of, only it is played out over at most 5 hours. But please, very few artists make difficult art for its own sake, they make it because (like DeLillo, or Joyce) that is how they know how to express themselves, and doubting their motives doesn't help anyone.

George Hunka said...

On the other hand, all too many playwrights and theater artists, serious or not, want to give lap dances to the audience, and I think that constitutes the greater danger. Can we give NEA grants to those artists instead?

The last time I was in an adult entertainment club (and this was a long time ago), a lap dance cost about the same as as a theater ticket, come to think of it. Since then, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the ladies' prices have gone up, while the price of a ticket to "Loot" has stayed the same. Lap dances, last I noticed, were neither government-subsidized or funded by foundation grants. More's the pity, maybe.

Joshua said...

I agree with George on that - Broadway tickets for musicals are close to a hundred bucks - for a hundred bucks, a guy should at least get dinner and a handjob in addition to the show -

Issac, I don't think most theatre artists have contempt for the audience, be they actor, writer or director - but I have met many a theatre producer / programmer that have - and on many levels - Broadway to Off-Off-Broadway -

Me, I just want to see new and exciting work, really -

Joshua said...

I said Isaac in my last post and I meant to say Scott - the comment was directed at what Scott wrote -

I'm jumping ahead (I plan on writing about this at length in my follow up articles) but the good folks who do good work in theatre know, absolutely, that the most important part in any theatre show is the role the audience plays. The role the audience plays is more important than the actors, the director and yes, the playwright also.

Talented theatre folk who do their job well know this. Hacks and wannabes do not.

Both types exist at all levels of theatre.

Without an audience, we don't have theatre, really, that's my opinion.

Freeman said...

"All too many "serious" playwrights and theatre artists have an artistic rape mentality: we're going to get our rocks off humiliating and debasing you, and it's OK because you deserve it for being a dumb, shallow, materialistic asshole wearing a short spiritual skirt. Oh, and you ought to pay for this opportunity, and also the NEA ought to give me a grant so I can do it on a full-time basis."

Who are these particular "serious" playwrights you're referring to? Stephen Adly Guirguis? David Mamet? Tony Kushner?

I personally have written plays that I'm certain make the audience uncomfortable. It's not because I have some desire to have uncomfortable sex with them. Thinking and sex aren't the same thing. It's a nice metaphor, it it has it's limits.