Is the theater really dead?

The knives are drawn!

They were drawn before the intermezzo, and still are unsheathed.

DL defines documentary theater and introduces it–it embraced the contemporary confusion of information and expanded the audience na-na-na [sic]. This is a new tear he’s on. The director is directive here, he’s the bridge between the one cue the audience and actors seem to understand universally, along with tickets: intermission—and the “performance.”

SO,  quickly, documentary theater is about the bad things that happen. The bad things! We must imagine that Venice has not been Saved–here is some documentary theater for us to chew on. (Gum is gone). It’s BlackWatch, the depressing one.

*** SW has left! She will not get to see SW. AML still here, loyal.

As C speaks the first Violetta as Blackwatch monologue, “they put our men on busses”—we hear an echo of what happened in the Lebanon, at the Saabra Shatila refugee camp, as described in the Bashir documentary. We hear many echoes.

  The girls, the schoolgirls, are twisting their hair. The virginal white bags arrayed upon the table in front of them, uniformly. They are even whispering amongst each other. A Last Supper of all girls.

 DL for some reason looks strangely hypnotized by the Blackwatch scene.

 BCGHM, sitting next to David, is smiling–proudly almost as a father watching his daughter win an award, proudly beaming, as Violetta speaks of being raped.

DL asks, at close of scene–Effect?

But once again, YM must tell us that he has not been engaged.

The long haired man “cares” about the woman’s story, not her numbers. And that is what we want. A story. To be changed by a story. It definitely sounds as if he has been sitting there simmering all night. Why didn’t he speak up earlier?

Someone seems to have said “That’s all about you as the viewer”

* Did she really say that’s all about you as the viewer? No, she said that about the interviewer–but she could very well have said this to the man who just spoke with such emotion. NYIntlW speaks, too, sounding smart, about the effective use of testimony in documentary theater: Gideon finally chimes in, about Investigation. And the effect of that raw testimony. Real actors, and real testimony.

 This lead us to wonder, as this discourse doubles back and moves ahead on itself–why do we teach? Why do we educate? Why do we bother? It takes infinite patience, and we can see this on DL’s face, the desire not just to seem but also to be interested in these discoveries as if for the first time, but the restlessness of wanting to chime in with one’s own agenda. The mind is impatient and willful–how does he control his? And not dominate? As that tension between desiring to be interested and desiring to further stimulate the mind moves back and forth, he encourages someone else to talk. Aha, there it is again–we teach because there are moments, glimmers, when we are surprised, when the conversation does unwittingly, but not without its wits, teach us.

Kara, the first name of the night, (no wait, there was a Josh back there before the break, which I forgot to note) speaks eloquently, at length, referring to the 2 or 4 hours we have been here; she notes our passivity in making and watching.

 The Pert one says you can’t have theater without audience… The brilliant comment followed by the pert cliche.

Then we hear strongly from DL–Weil’s whole problem is how can you be the one NOT suffering? How can you know there is suffering going on and not suffer? Today is the 3rd of April, the anniversary of the Cheju incident, a civilian massacre in Korea in the 1940’s

…Please define for us in Weil’s terms: suffering?

 Colleen spars with Michael! I have been re-naming him JW, but it is MW. He who is willing to start an argument–for its own sake? MW says how do you know I am not sitting here doing something? MW: How do you know what I am thinking? This goes back to the scene so uncannily wherein Violetta asks how can the interviewer know what “she” has experienced, what is the point of  “his” gesture towards belief in her suffering. How can we know what anyone else is thinking? The interviewer from the scene, like Colleen, would like to try to know; Violetta says impossible. MW is well aware that we cannot know what is in other people’s heads, but we can at least respect that Something is there. That empathy is possible. That we can try to understand how to begin to understand by means of representation (language, theater, etc).

 MW goes back to questioning the notion not just of a political theater, but of a political act–what would a political act be? A grenade at Atlantic Yards?

CW offers Brooklyn at Eye Level. As her grenade thrown at Atlantic Yards. Her politics intersecting with theater.

She offers witness testimony that the people who came to the performance at the Brooklyn Lyceum represented many classes, interests, points of view (though Ratner did not attend). She also concedes that while this series of events was collaborative and well attended, no doubt many of the atypical theatergoers in attendance were there to see “themselves” as represented on stage.

  *Digression: What is so odd about that? One of the reasons I continued to attend this second iteration of Venice Saved is to hear whether my point of view and the information I had contributed, my research and my interactions with David and Gordon, whether any of these were still “on stage.” Some little part of my mind still part of what is being performed: I came to see myself, in whatever transformed state.  We go to any form of entertainment to see parts of “ourselves” in varyingly metonymic ways: the part that is our words, the part that coincidentally reflects something about our human experience. This is the very basis of theater. If this is political, too, then by definition theater must be political in that it relates to the polis, the city.

So why isn’t that enough? What is political theater? Is it something like womenly women? Manly men? Violent violence? What theater  isn’t political theater? MW seems to think, according to DL, that “the numinous could” we feel upon leaving the theater is not enough. What if the “numinous could” is all that we have, though?


 But no, this is wonderful Colleen, conceded Michael—and by this he means Venice Saved. According to this audience member, Venice Saved: A Seminar, this evening, is the most profound experience of political theater he has experienced.

Hand grenades? Fake Theater Hand Grenades—they have been discovered in our swag bags. Perhaps what we expect from political theater is something quantifiable, something tangible with which we can continue to interact with the polis which exists outside of the theater. But  we have so much time for this. Why not a time-bomb instead of a grenade? Theater, a single performance event, exists in the polis and also within the constraints of time. The polis and its history also exist within the constraints of time. The hyper-intense time spent inside the polis-within-the-polis of the theater of course must effect the polis at large. However, the effect is over time, and not necessarily immediately quantifiable.

The “numinous could” which so bothers MW is key here. Sven Birkerts would weigh in that we want it, and we want it now: we want to see it now, write about it now, forget about it now. But theater’s political effects may only be felt over a long time—and that is just; a polis is slow to educate, a history, a political life, the place we live in as we live in it and attempt to change and enrich it all must occur over time, a long time. We cannot have immediate results: when our theater is rich, active, varies, and weaves inside and outside of the life of the polis which contains it, then it is political. In some way, we can only perceive the strength and potency of this numen afterwards. To engage in political theater may de facto feel as if the experience now is not good enough, not enough, never enough.

 Later, when the point is brought home to us, we perhaps that part of who we are as a political people was inextricably bound up with the theaters of varying intensity in which we participated. There is a link here to Augustine writing, many years after the fact, “I wept for Dido, but not for myself.” But there is just not enough time to explore it here.


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