Theatre from the cracks in the psyche of culture
Scream: October 2006
There comes a point where you don't do IT for the audience, the gratification of being a marketing success, the rung up the career ladder, the approval of colleagues and significant others! But you keep on doing it. IT, shouting out loud on the Internet! Going through the whole agony of doubts and fears in presenting work up front with little likelihood of financial success! Doing IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And you might have to drive trucks or cabs or teach kids in schools or take students for whatever! But something keeps your momentum moving forward. Am I right? But you keep on doing IT!
If you've been around for a while, there is also the acute awareness of the cycles of acceptance and rejection. Whether you are one of those who have made it big or one of those who survived but only just, then you will know about these strange cycles that engulf the community psyche and the will power of the influential others in our society. And it is these influential others who are most necessary for the survival of cultural diversity and challenge in our communities and societies!
But have you had a look at the hundreds of plays on offer on the Internet; the free scripts; the samples of scripts; the scripts for sale? If you go past the classics and the ancient you are left with a pretty flaccid lot. And if you check out what's on offer for kids, then you realize how condescending our playwrights are as they chase a few dollars or a bit of acceptance or a bit of Christian moralizing!
It seems that the "something to say" brand of theatre writing has been marginalized and left for largely physical theatre proponents and image making groups who don't see the text as the main driving force. Great as many of such people and groups are, it is a pity there isn't the same textual drive to accompany such works.
Informative and engaging as it might be, simply writing about people's ails and woes is hardly the basis for theatre. How Suzie solves her problem of a troublesome flatmate or how John is so disruptive because of his mental disorder may indeed appeal to the proclivities of contemporary audiences. However to simply stop at the personal relationship without venturing into the social / historical and cultural dimensions which give rise to the situations, is to deny the spiritual, mythic and dynamic aspects of theatre as a form of distillation of energies. It is a stepping into the puddle while denying the existence of the ocean or potential rain clouds. It is the ego-centric theatre that begs for audience empathy with this or that character's experience while protecting the audience from any sense of complicancy in the problem.
No wonder directors and companies are going back to the classics! No wonder it is more appealing to present texts by writers who risked death and incurred the wrath of tyrants and fellow citizens and colleagues! And it is a sorry situation that sees the lack of any real encouragement for such defiance from theatre writers: that same defiance we see in some novelists and some screen writers.
Please howl in protest at this statement. Please attack me with your venomous words. Prove me wrong and I'll cheer your banishing howl. In the meantime we begin working on some new venture while tidying up the last. The Naked Goddess season is over for now. Where it will lead is anyone's guess. Strange that the mere mention of "Islamic" in the press releases had the effect of frightening both the media and audiences. Though there were no cartoons or mockery suggested anywhere, it wasn't hard to detect the fear surrounding the work. Paradoxical then that critics and audiences were interested in finding out more about the character of Rose, the Iranian woman who's mother was hanged as a leftist in the early 1980s!
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