Saturday, June 10, 2006


I'm reading Peter Brook's "The Empty Space" and you should be too. If we all read this book, half the theater we now do or go to see would be stopped in its tracks. Kapuut. It's worthless shit, pardon my French, "deadly theater." It wastes everyone's time not because it's bad but because it's dull; dull because it's either very polite or very earnest (which is the same thing: political didacticism is a version of propriety; it seeks to be responsible by being 'irreverent' or 'challenging' in the most impeccable avaunt garde manner, which we are to admire. Blah.) If we all read this book, the other half of theater--which didn't get thrown out, with a yawn--would be all the more exciting as we all--performers and audience alike--put more of our energy into what was left. Brooks says, at one point, that audiences deserve the theater they get, not only by accepting a lot of the shit that the theater asks them to go to-which they do, politely--but also by not participating actively in the theater experience; by listening well; by caring. Actors and audience feed off of each other. Or bore each other (yah--a bad audience can ruin a good performance!) If we were viciously to kill off half of the theater that we now produce, perhaps that would focus the minds of audiences and actors alike on the half still left. Perhaps we'd stop boring ourselves (before you write in outraged, please take a moment to remember reading "A Modest Proposal." Okay?)

The worst thing that we could do in asking audiences to come to Macbeth would be ultimately to bore them. Sure, they can survive STRETCHES of boredom during the show--and I don't mind asking them to swallow a few moments here and there, since few amateur or semi-professional performances can uniformly sustain interest from beginning to end--but not an entire evening of it. The gestalt of the experience has gotta be vivid. Alive. Whatever it takes.

I've been getting a lot of pissed off comments lately because I've been "too hard" on myself and other actors. Those comments are well taken. They're correct, in that I've been "too hard" about the wrong things. We're all trying like hell to do our best work at whatever technical or imaginative level of which we are capable, and my continual bitching about our short-comings only depresses everyone, myself included. I end up putting a lid on imaginative possibility by asking us all to do it 'the right way,' whatever that is. BUT, I've not been hard enough about the right things--or thing--which is:


When we forget why we do theater we lose our purpose not only in the large sense but in the immediate sense--in the moment to moment reality--of doing our work. Not having a goal, we accept more boredom than we should. We dither. Hesitate. Trip on our lines. Push and over act, trying to make up for not knowing why we're on stage to begin with. Don't do our homework. Get touchy at criticism (seeing criticism as an attack rather than as one of the tools we use in our craft.) Indulge our sense of entitlement--i.e., our entitlement to 'express ourselves,' without standards. And other sins.

So--why do we do this? My own answer--at least today--is:

"To awaken the Laughing God in each of us in all it's blind love and cruelty."

I mean that almost literally. I certainly mean it a non-abstract way. The Laughing God may be invisible--it may be metaphor, sure--but I am definitely using it to describe a tangible event, something happening that one can feel in oneself and see in others, and can talked about and acted upon.

That's my super objective. What's yours?

1 comment:

David Loftus said...

I really don't know why I do this. I've been at it only a short time, I'm far too inexperienced to say, I suspect; so I just focus on doing it as well as I can, right now -- a service orientation, you might say.

I vaguely remember having read The Empty Space long, long ago, when I was mostly a reader and audience member, not an actor. Probably in late high school or college. It's probably a good time to hit it again.

By the way, David: last night's rehearsal was the first time I started to feel that scene where we come over the hill and get our first look at "Birnam Wood" was not just "ACTING."