Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Addendum to Model -- Part 1

Thank you, Alison, for this quotation from Australian playwright Daniel Keene, who, in his graduation address to the Swinburne University of Technology's Small Companies and Community Theatre Course, said about the theatres in France that receive public funds:

An important point to note is that these subsidies are granted only if the theatre fulfils a legal requirement that the theatre provide a public service. This public service can take many forms and is often called Social Action (it's what we in Australia would call Community Theatre). The same goes for National Theatres.
There are many kinds of Social Action, ranging from actors and directors running workshops or performing plays in prisons and in hospitals, working with handicapped people, running classes and performing in schools and workplaces and running workshops for specific groups such as new immigrants, the unemployed, single parents, retired people, etc. All of this is offered to the people involved at no cost to them.


What all of this means, of course, is that theatre is obliged to participate in and contribute to the wider social, cultural and political life of the community in which it exists. This is not seen by the theatres as any kind of burden, but as an essential part of the theatre's work; in fact, it is considered one of the fundamental reasons why the theatre exists at all. In France, theatre is considered and has always been considered to be a central part of the social, cultural and political life of its community. What is most important is that the community understand that the theatre belongs to them: it exists for their benefit, to help express their concerns, to celebrate their lives and their culture and, ultimately, to defend and maintain
their right to free and open public expression.

This is an example of what I mean by community involvement. The other aspect, and perhaps the more important aspect, is being aware of what a community "needs." Which means embeddedness...

9 comments:

Alison Croggon said...

I feel very chary of your "embedded" metaphor, Scott. No doubt it's the journalist in me. "Embedded" reporting is about controlling freedom of expression from the top down (with an implied threat: if you're not embedded, you get shot, quite often by "your" side). It was a reaction to the independent reporting that many brass saw as "ruining" the Vietnam War. In Gulf War I, which I remember well, the information control was so complete it was frightening: I remember journalist friends talking about it to me. This was too obvious and didn't work so well. Embedding was a compromise which permitted the journalists to pretend that they weren't being controlled, but was all about controlling information flow. I really don't believe that "embedding" is a good metaphor for community responsibility and for the kind of free speech Daniel is referring to here: it is in fact inherently opposed to such ideals.

Scott Walters said...

Alison -- I'm not wild about it, either. What I am trying to express is the idea that the theatre and theatre artist is part of the community, not outside of it; that it looks from the inside, not from the outside. As a poet -- any ideas for a word or image?

Kim said...

"French" playwright Daniel Keene???

Alison Croggon said...

Uh - I should have picked that up myself. Daniel Keene neither is French nor lives in France. He is from Melbourne, Australia. (It's just that his work gets mostly done in France.

Scott, what's wrong with reinvigorating or broadening the idea of community theatre? I'm sure the negative connotations there are much the same as they hold here. But there's still a virtue in the idea.

Scott Walters said...

Oops! Thanks. I'll make the change.

Community theatre has such a specific connotation here: usually it is traditional theatre done by amateurs. That is not at all what I am talking about, and I don't want blog-skimmers to get the wrong impression.

There is "community-based" theatre, but that, too, has very strong connotations: this is usually theatre done about a specific community.

I'm looking for a new term, so as not to blur the concept.

George said...

But certainly part of your project is to change perceptions of just what community theater means, to correct that assumption. Monsieur Keene seems to have no difficulty in freely using the term. If you can't change perceptions of the terminology, how can you hope to change perceptions of the theater-in-community itself?

Scott Walters said...

George -- because these ideas, and the changes implementation would require, are difficult enough without having to battle connotations. I don't want to make my job any harder than it is.

Also, in the past I have complained about bending established terms in order to encompass entirely different ideas (e.g., the appropriation of the word "tragedy" to mean something entirely different from its original definition). So I'll stick with "Embedded Theatre," which is bad enough.

Alison Croggon said...

Hmm. The connotations of community theatre (or theatre in the community) - which sounds like what we call amateur theatre - are worse than the militaristic connotations of "embedded"?! Scott, get out of the tank!

Scott Walters said...

Blam! Blam! BLAM!!!