Showing posts from June 19, 2011

Why Bringing the Arts Back Home Is So Important

"Theatre, like all other forms of cultural expression, used to be ordinary people singing, dancing, telling stories. This is the way a living community recorded and celebrated its victories, defeats, joys, fears. As the Cartesian or mechanistic model took root, and later as colonialism spread across the planet,. coinciding with the mechanization of capitalism, this primal activity of storytelling also evolved in a mechanistic way. Like many other  things we can think of, cultural activity became commodified. It transformed from something people did naturally, "in community", into a manufactured consumer product. Today a vast majority of people buy theatre, buy dance, buy paintings, buy books, buy movies; the list goes on and on. We now pay strangers to tell us stories about strangers. But when do we use the symbolic language of theatre, dance, etc., to tell our own stories about our collective selves?

What is the result of a living community's inability to use prima…

More on Participation

So apparently WolfBrown is doing a study on participatory arts -- Ian at Createquity has the details, but WolfBrown defines what they mean: "In this case, “active” means that the participant is involved to some extent in creative expression (i.e., creating or performing)." Ian thought it might be a good thing to crowdsource. So let's see what people consider "active participation":
Unsilent Night, where "composer Phil Kline's free outdoor participatory sound sculpture of many individual parts, recorded on cassettes, CD's and mp3's, and played through a roving swarm of boomboxes carried through city streets every December.  People bring their own boomboxes and drift peacefully through a cloud of sound which is different from every listener's perspective.All Raise This BarnAll Raise This Barn (East) is a "group-designed and assembled public structure created in response to a public vote by the Rensselaer campus and local community. Usin…


In a section entitled "Participation" in And Then, You Act: Making Art in an Unpredictable World, Anne Bogart writes:
In our present climate, it is more useful to look for participants rather than spectators. We live in a culture that encourages passive spectatorship, and there is certainly enough spectatorship to go around. The nightmare of our society right now is submissive consumption: people watching their lives go by, watching the government drift by with the assumption that a citizen's only job is to be a good audience. The theater can offer and alternative to passive spectatorship. It excels in qualities that make for real democracy.So far, so good. I'm cheering Anne on! Then she describes what she means:
I met a young woman who worked as an intern for Pepsico Summerfare, a performing-arts festival in Purchase, New York (about forty minutes north of Manhattan), which brought world-class performeances to local audiences during the 1980s. She described "The …

Swimming for Shore

Over at A Poor Player, my friend Tom Loughlin describes his sense of being "theatrically depressed" (not personally depressed), and of struggling to stay afloat in the sea of Entertainment, Inc. As someone only a few years younger than Tom, I certainly recognize the issues with which he is wrestling. What's the old joke about middle age being the time when you've climbed to the top of the ladder only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall? Har har. It is particularly difficult to face these questions as a professor, because in order to do our jobs well we must, well, profess -- we must believe in what we do enough to set an example for our students. And given the state of the American theatre, this is difficult for anyone who is thoughtful.

But what I find poignant about Tom's musings is that he doesn't really seem to be saying "I made the wrong choice," but rather that theatre made the wrong choice. And that is a statement of anger and frustr…