Political theater: working and not getting paid

Where is the bathroom?

Meanwhile, I’m aware, as a serial audience member, and, tonight, as a separated, maniagraphic audience member, that what interests me most in this performance, over time, is its variations–variation in response, variation in crowd, variations in performance, variations in beverages, variation in physiological and atmospheric conditions. Venice Saved in relation to these is static. It is an thing around which these conditions accrue and fluctuate, and these are the Effects which are of significance.

The same thing, over and over, speeches, a list of questions, of pivotal moves, of chalk, of words, of Now Back to You Colleens, of Fun Facts–the exact, refined, machined objects to which the audience feels free to respond, and which the audience can clearly detect as theater–are not interesting almost at all the second time around. Let alone the fifth. The static elements of the performance or of the dramatic work do not hold my attention. Not even the charms of DL can hold one’s infinite attention. How do the actors stand doing the same lines night after night after night? How is it even possible to have a discussion with any kind of real passion unless there is a moment of disruption, wherein the unexpected occurs–jarring the expectations of the actors, etc, so that they respond differently.

I suppose that for the audience, as in any learning process, there is an excitement to uncovering their own purchase upon the experience: oh, these are the limits; oh I am beginning to understand and have my own opinion. Oh, that guy in the sequins isn’t an actor. Oh, he’s his ex-lover! That’s his mother! Wait, this play is a satire, and it’s actually a really really bad play that was arbitrarily chosen because the copyrights ran out! &c… But how interesting is that for the rest of us who are “staging” that wonder? The politics of that sort of theater (or this sort) is a lie somehow: by the end, the audience has had an encounter, an experience of novelty of some kind. They’ve quantifiably learned something. They have explored the contents of the gift bag and compared to to what’s in the other gift bags. They feel as if they are learning at the same time they feel (or perhaps do not feel) entertained. They are given the illusion that they have done work, but they have not. Who is actually working here???? Please, someone, read this and write back!   What a strange topsy-turvy hierarchy. Even the one embedded in the act of writing alone in the dark in a room full of people.

Maybe a real political theater would enact an opposite kind of tyranny–not the tyranny of the audience’s pleasure and entertainment, the tyranny of getting people to show up and stay, but rather the company pleasing only itself. The company amusing themselves at the expense of the audience. Instead of wanting to be approved of by the audience, rather to cultivate the dislike of the audience? Oh, that makes no sense: I sound like someone who has just discovered the term Identity. Or Deconstruction. This discovery may be interesting to me, but it is deadly boring to anyone who has been working on this for years, and I almost feel ashamed revealing my own dorky and naive intellectual processes. I am participating right now, by revealing the banalities of my reasoning process, in making an audience attend the same bad play night after night…this one just happens to be in my mind.

No, I’ve got it! Stage a play where there is only ONE audience member. That audience member does not know that no one else is “audience,” but are all semi-scripted actors. The entire night’s performance is a painful coming-to-awareness of the fact that he alone is the audience, the only actor who is not being played. Paid.


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