1. Excellent point, Parabasis, that I fell into the trap (which I myself hate) of some nostalgia fantasy of “when things were better.” Who knows if things were better? Probably there was just as much crap in the 60s downtown or in the heydey of vaudeville–and we just know about what was worth remembering.
But I vehemently disagree about “Thing” being so difficult to achieve. Right now, I’m teaching in East Oakland–my kids have moments and minutes and small stretches of Thing all the time. I love the rehearsal process the most when I direct, because it’s a long stretches of Thing-making. Thing is easy.
Creating a collaborative live art piece in which Thing is sustained, anchored to a greater live event that tells a more complex story, is intellectually and politically honest and interesting, and can be repeated–that’s what’s so hard. That’s why, for every rare play that sparkles with life, it’s the even rarer one which is truly Great.
The question is, why do so few plays sparkle with life? Why the un-dead?
Demanding radiant engagement is not anti-art–radiant engagement is the process of making art. Sometimes that engagement leads to art which is confused, overreaches, doesn’t succeed, is uneven, loses relevance. I don’t care about that. What pisses me off is the lack of rigorous engagement you see in regional theater hacks and experimental poseurs, art’s equivalent of Celebrity Dead Eye.
2. “A replica is a replica and there is no point in believing in utopias that will never be delivered.”
Bryan has a lovely post which brings up a problem which also stretches across aisles across America–the obsession with “authenticity.” It dogs all kinds of art and culture–it hits theater the hardest in terms of performance and acting–from the attempts to create hyper-naturalist living rooms or waterworks soap opera emotional pornography or the misguided “Theater of Awkwardness” where pretentious hipsters conflate discomfort and non-actory lack of craft with “the real.”
I’m not a believer that form is the answer. I like Parabasis’ friend Malachy Walsh‘s statement that “aesthetic choices are the wardrobe for ideas.” We have so much to play with at this point–what a gift–can you imagine when breaking the fourth wall was important?