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Showing posts from October 9, 2005

Theatre and Religion

A friend of mine who has been reading this blog sent me this email privately. I received his permission to share it with you:


Scott,
I've been thinking about a number of the issues brought up over the past week in your blog. Here are a few of my own thoughts that are, admittedly, not fully worked out yet. I think I will title it: "All We Know of God," when it is eventually finished. I believe that Geurge Hunka grossly underestimates the relationship between theatre and religion. I do not think we, as artists and audience members, can fully address the important questions until the nature of
this relationship is worked out.

Today, it is hard to believe that in ancient Athens an audience would spend a full day at the theatre, arrive at sun-up, see three full length plays (with one or two satyr plays in between), take a break to eat over the afternoon, and then return to see one last full-length comedy at the end of the day. What Greek audiences had that we currently lack in th…

And While I'm Praising George Hunka

Check out this post. While I can't endorse his viewpoint 100%, it is a wonderful description of his take on the purpose of art. It has inspired me to try to describe my own as well, and I can only hope that it will be as clear, coherent, and inspiring as George's. Well worth the read. Great job, George!

OK, Not a Good Metaphor

One of the truly wonderful things about the blogosphere -- and I mean this sincerely -- is that, when you go too far, there are many people who will let you know about it, and give you a chance to right yourself. That happened yesterday with my rape analogy.

Isaac, from Parabasis, was the first to accuse me of "straw manning of people who disagree with you." He goes on: "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."

Isaac is probably right (not about Lars Von Trier, whose work I don't know) -- the analogy is much too harsh, not to mention tasteless. The artists I am talking about are those who have "contempt" for their audience, as Isaac says -- contempt is not rape. …

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 spiri…

On Being Victims

In the mega-bestseller Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey distinguishes between our "Circle of Concern" (all things that we are concerned about) and the "Circle of Influence" (the subset of the Circle of Concern that we can affect through our actions). Proactive people, Covey says, are those who focus on the things they can affect; non-proactive people focus on blaming things in the Circle of Concern for their situation. Thus, in my post about "New Plays/Old Plays" I asked for us to focus within our Circle of Influence: "How have we (and the generation that preceded us) created this situation? How are we reinforcing it? And is there any way to remedy it?" Notice the word "we." Not "they."

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that we are unable to do that. As artists, we are so used to blaming other factors for our situation that we have lost all of our ability to reflect on our own actions.

Some Food for Thought

The "I Wish I'd Said That" Department

From Frank Conroy's wonderful novel about a musician torn between classical music and jazz, Body and Soul. Claude is a composer who feels he should be "doing better," i.e., getting more recognition by winning prizes. His friend and mentor, Frederick, says:

"I thought you were past this....What you are looking for is authentication, Claude. But you're looking outside, to the system, and that's the wrong place to look. Bad music gets played every day and good music gets ignored. Everybody knows that. Forget about authentication. When it comes to writing music, all you can do is sign on for a way of life, and do the work...Do the work for its own sake, and if that's too hard, well then, don't do it."

New Plays / Old Plays

There is a disturbance in the 'sphere, Luke! A wonderful mini-discussion about the staging of classics and the staging of new plays. It began with playwright Joshua James' October 5th posts "No More Covers." The next day, I chimed in (see below) with an post un-originally entitled "No More Covers." Playwright George Hunka also joined the fray on his Superfluities blog, with a post called "Mad as Hell." This caused Isaac to post "What the Hell Are We Going to Do About It?" on his Parabasis blog, with a request for comments -- several followed. On October 7th, Joshua spoke again with "No More Covers, Part Deux." Which led Rob Grace on October 10th to contribute "Tales from the Other Coast -- Response to Whining" on the Parabasis blog. (If I am missing any other contributions, please let me know and I'll add them.)

I love the blogging world!

In the interest of keeping things going, I would like to contribute the follow…

Continuing the Conversation with alwaysa bridesmaid

alwaysabridesmaid has contributed a comment to my "Evidence of Confusion" post below. I am not going to paste it all here, but I recommend that you read it in its entirety. Instead, I will respond to particular parts of her ideas.

She begins "I am so enjoying/learning from this conversation!," a feeling that I share. One of the reason I have created this blog is to begin conversations. In addition, it allows me to put my ideas into concrete form and find out what is leading to misinterpretation, and what is being found arguable. So comments are doubly helpful for me.

The spirit of this blog can be most fully expressed by quoting from Athol Fugard's wonderful play, MASTER HAROLD...and the boys. After a wonderful speech in which Sam talks about the ballroom dance contest as a metaphor for a "dream about a world in which accidents don't happen," Hally, who is enthralled with Sam's "vision," asks: "But is that the best we can do, Sam.…