Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Just a Question

If I'm not mistaken, MySpace was created to allow bands to publicize their music. Could a similar site be set up for theatre?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Re-Orientation

For me, the New Year signals a time for introspection -- for evaluating what I have done, what I am trying to do, and how I am trying to do it. On New Year's Day, I picked up Epictetus' The Art of Living, and I found this, which seemed to speak directly to me:

Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern, and be clear that what be­longs to others is their business and none of yours. If you do this, you will be impervious to coercion and no one can ever hold you back. You will be truly free and effective, for your efforts will be put to good use and won't be foolishly squandered finding fault with or opposing others.

As I looked back at the many posts since I began this blog f
ifteen months ago, I found many recurring themes, all of which tended to center upon quality and nature of the relationship between the theatre artist and the audience. I have promoted a focus on the local, and the artist's responsibility, shared with every other citizen, with the improvement of their community and society.

But I have also tended to express these themes through opposition -- finding fault with the ideas of others, opposing others -- squandered efforts that Epictetus rightly labels as foolish. I then remembered a story that Joseph Campbell often told when discussing quests:

The knights of King Arthur's court were seated at table and Arthur would not let the meal be served until an adventure had occurred. And, indeed, an ad­venture did occur. The Grail itself appeared, carried by angelic miracle, covered, however, by a cloth. Everyone was in rapture and then it withdrew. Arthur's nephew Gawain stood up and said, "I propose a vow. I propose that we should all go in pursuit of this Grail to behold it unveiled." And it was deter­mined that that was what they would do. And then occur these lines which seem to me so wonderful: "They thought it would be a disgrace to go forth in a group. Each entered the forest that he had chosen where there was no path and where it was darkest."
We each of us are on a quest for the same grail: a dynamic, exciting, creative, innovative, and vibrant theatre that speaks truth to power, and wisdom to all. But each of our paths are different, and we each enter the forest on our own path where it is darkest. We cannot follow others, but must blaze our own trail.

I have spent too much time shouting to others that their path was wrong, and that mine was better. I would have been better off focusing on my own concern, my own quest, and describing as vividly as possible what I found as I traveled.

And so that is what I plan to do now.

My current interest is in community-based theatres. As Robert H. Leonard and Ann Kilkelly say in the subtitle to their excellent book Performing Communities, "grassroots ensemble theaters deeply rooted in...U.S. communities." Theatres like Carpetbag Theater Company, Cornerstone Theater Company, Dell' Arte Company, Jump-Start Performance Co., Los Angeles Poverty Department, El Teatro Campesino, Roadside Theater, the Omaha Magic Theater, the Medea Project, and WagonBurner Theater Troop. I am interested in people like Augusto Boal, Robert Gard, Jan Cohen-Cruz, James Bau Graves and Rhodessa Jones. I am fascinated by books like Performing Communities, and Local Acts, and Grassroots Theater, and Rainbow of Desire, and Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Composing Ourselves and Imagining Medea and Cultural Democracy.

All of this, and much, much more will provide a very rich pathway for me to follow and describe. Frank McCourt, in his inspiring recent autobiography Teacher Man, says that "Teaching is bringing the news." In many ways, so is blogging. I intend to bring the news of what ideas and plays and theatres and people I come across as I broaden my theatrical horizons to include a part of American theatre history that has, at least in my experience, been overlooked. I have been guilty as any in this regard. I have said, when teaching modern American drama, that it began with O'Neill, and everything before was imitative claptrap. How can such a thing be said, I wonder, when one considers the amazing Little Theatre Movement of the early 20th century, without which Provincetown and O'Neill might never had succeeded?

The plays, theatres, and issues of the New York theatre scene are well covered by many of my fellow bloggers. The best service I can offer is to supplement their valuable contributions with a view from a different pathway, so that others who stumble upon our descriptions perceive an array of choice for their theatrical careers.

For those who have followed this blog over the months, I hope you will continue to join me on this exploration. I also hope that there will be others who might not have read me before who will find me as a result of this re-orientation.

Happy New Year!




Memed

I have been tagged by Tom Loughlin at Poor Player with a meme aqpparently started by George Hunka. The structure:

  • Find the nearest book.
  • Turn to page 123.
  • Go to the fifth sentence on the page.
  • Copy out the next three sentences and post to your blog.
  • Name the book and the author, and tag three more folks.

  • The first book I grabbed, The Art of Living by Epictetus, didn't have 123 pages! So I moved one book down in the pile. The results (which I find particularly hilarious, given that I am from Wisconsin) are as follows:

    "My impressions of the State of Wisconsin are, of course, selective, emotional, intuitive, and in any real sense, non-historical. I can see no overall trait that characterizes Wisconsin people, and my impressions are like short pieces of music each with its own temnpo and color. My search in Wisconsin (as always) has been for the flavor and variety of place, and what understanding I have of Wisconsin is based on these things."

    I tag Brian and Jess and Jill.