Monday, April 17, 2006

All Done

Dear Readers -- I think this blog has run its course. Surfing the blogosphere, I find my ideas are not inspiring others, but instead irritating them, and lately the feeling is mutual. Time to call it a day.

I have only been writing for six months, but in that time, it seems to me that something has changed. I don't know for certain, but it seems to me that the changed can be dated to the My Name Is Rachel Corrie controversy. Don't get me wrong -- I think the controversy was necessary. But I also think that the tone changed at that point. Suddenly, things got contentious, and everybody (including me) felt the need to "take a stand." Once that happened, and once the blogosphere drew the attention of the national media, it felt to me as if the nature of the blogging community changed in a way that made me uncomfortable. I found myself drawn into debates and getting all red-faced about "issues," when what I really wanted to do was talk about something else. My point is not that the blogosphere shouldn't have gone in the direction that it did, but rather that it has moved in a direction that is not good for me.

My interests are very abstract, I suppose -- theatrical metaphysics, I suppose, or possibly theology. I am concerned about the disposition of the theatrical soul.

Over the course of the months, I developed certain themes. They grew out of a very grim underlying assumption: that unless something significant changes, the theatre will go the way of horse-drawn carriages and Amtrak. I believe that, without a creative re-visioning, the combination of economics and competing entertainment options will make the theatre increasingly irrelevant and unimportant.

From this central idea came several other themes:
  1. That the education of theatre practitioners needs to be focused, not on creating practitioners who can fit into and succeed in the current theatre, but on creating theatrical iconoclasts who can, like Descartes did with philosophy, start at a theatrical Ground Zero and build. I feel as if training students to fit into today's theatre is as immoral as training students to do punchcard data entry.
  2. That theatre is a local, not a national experience, and so there should be a difference between theatre in different parts of the country. Artists should be a part of the community in which they live, and create theatre that speaks to the people in their theatres, not some imagined "national audience."
  3. That what the audience needs right now is intelligence and wisdom and depth. I called for artists to consider whether provocation has become an end in itself, and whether we have stopped talking to our audience and instead started talking at them.
  4. That the thing that makes theatre unique is the presence of the actor and the spectator in the same space at the same time, and that the opportunities presented by this fact should be exploited.

Over the course of six months, I am surprised to say that most of what I wrote was a variation on these themes. And now I find myself with little new to say in a new conversational environment that emphasizes debate over discussion. As a result, I have found myself developing a blogging personality that was strident, judgmental, and hypercritical. In short, I had become someone I didn't like. Most of you didn't like this new personality, either, and it had gotten to a point where nearly everything I posted was greeted with derision and attack.

And so rather than continue this slide into John Simon-hood, I think it is best to fall silent for a while. I may be back some day, and if I am, it will be with a new blog. I will leave this one on-line, at least for a while, for anyone who happens to stumble on it and wants to wade through the archives.

Thank you to everyone who made it a lively ride. I have enjoyed your company. Good luck with your projects.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank god

Leo Wong said...

I'm sorry you're leaving. Please don't delete the blog, as I and others will want to visit your archives.

Anonymous said...

scott, don't give up. what you write often riles people, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. i often disagree with what you write, but i read it, and think carefully about what you say, and why i disagree.. and i think it's good that i have to reconsider my initial gut reaction..

Alison Croggon said...

Sad to hear it, Scott. I'm with anonymous above - it's been good to be poked on occasion by your comments, and to have been forced to think why I've disagreed. Or even agreed. The best of luck, and let us know when you start that new blog down the road...

P'tit Boo said...

I am with Alison.
I hope you find joy in your teaching and find ways to inspire your students and others.
I''ll miss you for sure. I am all about weird theory and I think a bunch of us are exactly about what you describe !
But burn out is burn out and you must do what you do.
I hope our paths cross again on or offline.

Don R. Hall said...

I'll miss the...er...provocation, brother.

I'll hook up with you next time I'm in Asheville.

Zay Amsbury said...

You'll be back.

Until then, here's hoping you and Cal and Evamarii and I share some martinis and theatrespeak sometime...

Freeman said...

Scott...c'mon. Can you really say No to all these people who adore you?

*bats eyelashes*

C'mon. The eyelashes things ALWAYS works.

Scott Walters said...

Matt, the eyelashes have me wavering...

At the end of MASTER HAROLD...and the boys, after Sam has shown Hally his ass and Hally has spit in his face, Sam stops Hally from leaving and says the following: "Hally...I've no right to tell you what being a man means if I don't behave like one myself, and I'm not doing so well at that this afternoon." I feel like Sam right now. One has to walk one's talk, and I haven't been doing that lately. Instead, I've been showing people my ass.

My focus needs to change. I am a teacher. I love teaching, I love my students, I love trying to create a new generation of artists who will change the way things are done. If I am going to write, it is going to be about those issues. I shouldn't be talking about what it is to be an artist trying to make it in today's theatre -- my focus is on the future, and I get in trouble when I go beyond that.

I want to inspire people, not guilt them, not attack them. Lately, I haven't been doing that.

Joshua said...

It sounds like you know what you wish to do and for that I wish you the best in your journey.

The Playgoer said...

Scott:

Let me add, more personally, to my comments on Superfluities that I truly wish you well and hope for your return.

My critique there of your blogging style I meant purely to elucidate problems in blogging. (And obviously I disagreed with some of your approaches.) I don't know you personally, and so take no personal offense and hold no personal animus.

As a blogosphere-free-speech absolutist, I also don't even feel you need to apologize! But you're a gentleman for doing so.

best wishes,
Garrett

MattJ said...

wow. Scott, I'm gonna miss you man. It was great having your theoretical mind, presence, and intelligence as part of the discussion. You will be missed a lot. But best wishes for you in the future and I hope our paths cross again sometime.

Dave-a-roo said...

This lurker will miss your blog. Godspeed.

John Branch said...

I will miss Scott's voice (I'd miss anyone who brought thinkers like Arnold and Trilling into the discussion), but I accept his choice to refocus. How can anyone argue with that?

For the Earth said...

your blog is wonderful and thought provoking. A shame to see it go....
especially thoughts on regional theatre.....
Thanks,
Kim