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.

Think Again: Funding and Budgets in the Arts

Every once in a while, I think I'll post a link or two to posts written earlier in the life of Theatre Ideas that seem worth revisiting ...