Chains

The scene of captured mercenaries waiting at dawn before being taken into the prison to be tortured and executed …

Levine: let’s talk about Blasted.  This was a tasteful, classical torture scene  – wait, does anyone want a beer? – which raises the possibility of someone intervening, as M2 has mentioned – e.g., Stanley Cavell essay on Othello – but Blasted raises another possibility altogether as far as representation.

[Jon Krupp gives us a précis of Blasted …]

L: this is theatre that takes the audience’s presence seriously – almost like performance art, it sets out to confront and disturb its audience, to really present the horrors of war.

HS: you go to it mediated, knowing it’s supposed to be shocking, so you go pre-warmed and inured to it.

W3: I also went it knowing what was coming, but I enjoyed it – if that’s the right word – because I was curious about seeing such nihilism and hopelessness on stage.  It was very Beckettian and I loved it.  I actually just saw Impressionism on B’way with Jeremy Irons and that made me angry, furious …

L: isn’t it funny how nothing activates you as much as schlocky straight theatre?

W3: that’s why there’s no political theatre – it’s the thing itself and you react to it.

HS: but isn’t that a tautology? every play, even a one-man-show, isn’t it about the system?  Art is art, it’s not about teaching – aren’t we caught up in a pleasurable spinning of the wheels?  I mean, how many times have you guys had this conversation?  And where did it get you?

L: But isn’t all theatre being made and marketed being done so without reference to whether or not it’s a waste of time?  I don’t think the impulse to make it should really be questioned, but I do think the terms should be clarified.

HS: it’s not “if it’s worth it?” but that you guys have had these conversations before, and I want to know what you’ve come up with.

CW: I’ve heard a lot of hostile definitions and then some hopefulness – it always seem to come down to the play being the thing.  Everything comes down to examples … one thing that’s interesting to me is eating of candy during scenes, which seems really disrespectful – we’re deeply engaging with each other across the table, but at the same time this other stuff is happening, often thoughtlessly, it seems.

L: I’m not sure what we’re doing leads us anywhere closer to democracy or to participation …

W9: well, you’re sort of the dictator – you can call out a scene and change everything.  Do you know the ending, or is it open?

W2: are the gift bags a test?  is it a power thing?

Kristen: it’s like being a little kid and thinking anything could happen –

[at which point Jeff Beihl spontaneously GOES CRAZY!!!]

Levine: (To JB.) You totally did that better the other night …

JB: yeah, I know …

W6: now I’m starting to feel trapped, thinking that I can’t leave …

M1: do you think most plays would be better with the house lights on and with discussions between scenes?

CW: like a talk back tucked into the show …

L: this is the institutional thing – Brecht is totally forgotten, but he had this idea of smoking and watching that would keep you thinking

CW: Texting and watching …

LN: I have a problem with the scene/talking – it feels like it takes the respect away from the performers.  I don’t feel like I should be able to tell them what I feel about their work so directly all the time.

M1: Doesn’t that imply a hierarchy of the performers over us?

LN: Yes.

M3: I find myself feeling regretful whenever the lights go up after the scene – I want to keep going with the magic in front of me.  We want to stop talking and to be taken to a certain place.

m10: I completely agree.  by breaking it up and having conversations between scenes, you’re breaking up the author’s intent.  if you have it afterwards, then you’re all talking about the same thing. by breaking it up, you’re breaking up the feeling …

L: a lot of theatre gets a pass for being political, but that leaves you with the question of what you want.  what are you doing when you surrender your authority to an actor, or a playwright?

GE/M1: Brecht’s notion makes me think of sports – people talking, commenting, etc.

W1: for all of Brecht’s writing, the audience still had control – they were still feeling for Mother Courage, despite his intentions.

L: are the masses always right?  But Colleen’s point is like, proscenium theatre is like a rifle, and the audience is like a bullet to the performers …

AML: you’re also being very American, in Italy, at La Scala, people boo and shout  all the time …

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