Here's my question for you, though... One place that we agree is in the community stuff, or at least in the basic principles of community growth and development, and (For me anyway) a move away from the vision of the individual as somehow AGAINST as opposed to a part of a group. Where we differ though is I think the idea of challenge... My perception (and take it with a big grain of inaccuracy salt) is that you're very wary of work that challenges its audiences, even work whose challenge is fairly (in my view anyway) mild, like Paula Vogel's /How I Learned To Drive/, which you mentioned obliquely in that speech to your Freshmen and lumped in with the work of Karen Finley (whose work I don't actually find challenging on an ideological or dramaturgical level but rather simply annoying and boring, but that's beside the point)... anyway, assuming this wariness, a community at the same time has to be self-reflexive, and very critical of itself if it will continue to grow and develop. Otherwise, communities simply exist for the purpose of keeping their members comfortable + complacent + ossified and... well, not to be too slippery slope, but this is how we got to where we are today, and I don't think it's working out too well. Where is the room for challenge in your vision of what theatre should be?
To which I gave the following reply:
Isaac -- An excellent question -- and yes, my reference to Paula Vogel is coming back to haunt me (be careful of rhetorical flourishes, I must remember). Re Vogel: I like her humanist stance, and her taking an issue that could be very melodramatic and making it complex and thoughtful,
and I shouldn't have tarred her with the Finley brush. I agree with you about Finley -- a great example of how preaching to the converted can lead to abrasiveness for its own sake. I saw her in person last winter at NYU, and I've never felt so...I don't know what word to use...threatened, perhaps...in the presence of a performer. She seemed certifiably insane to me, and capable of snapping at any moment. Anyway, your question: I think challenge is absolutely necessary for a community to grow. Theatre shouldn't exist simply to deepen social bonds by reinforcing already-agreed-upon ideas. Although such deepening DOES serve an important purpose, and is part of what a theatre should do. Part, but by no means all. But theatre should also challenge, and the point about challenge I would make is a very fine one. It is about the artist's soul, I guess, his attitude. I think scolding and hectoring is ineffective, and scorn is alienating. I think that the challenge the artist makes should also affect himself -- in other words, he should be
implicated in whatever the change is that is being asked of the audience. That the finger that points has three fingers that points back at the artist. Going along with this, there should be a faith on the artist's behalf that the audience is capable of change. And as I noted in my post on risk, if your main purpose is to make the audience uncomfortable, you've set the bar too low. That is just so easy to do. I think discomfort comes as the result of a stretch toward something else, something higher than one has reached before. Like when a yoga instructor asks you to stretch in a way that is uncomfortable -- the goal is to increase flexibility, not the discomfort
itself. I guess it is a generosity of spirit I'm talking about, and a faith in one's fellow man. Does that in any way address your question?