Constant Havoc

Yes, I thought about this stuff before I put it here.

Category: theatre

Art

stairs

January 4, 1958

A work of art should not show. It should not teach.

IT SHOULD BE.

It should be like a fact that has many meanings, all as complex and mixed up as life itself, contradictory, unfathomable, mysterious. The meanings should be here. But the audience should feel — as they do in the presence of a work of nature, that they have to find them, dig them out, and interpret them for themselves, each putting on each his own meaning.

from Elia Kazan’s notebook for Face in the Crowd

as quoted in Kazan on Directing

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What is theatre that fits?

embracing

Life has dimensions. We are each of us just the right size, and knowing that size keeps us happy. When we lose sight of our size and begin to push out of or contract to less than what we naturally are, we experience discomfort. I am me, and I love me. I know just how far I extend, and I find everything I need to keep me happy easily within reach.

Art has dimensions, too. I believe art’s value lies in reminding each of us of our true dimensions. Many of us think ourselves very small. We are not. We are large and can grasp great chunks of life to fulfill ourselves and keep us happy. We need art to remind us how big we are.

I am a theatre artist. Others are dancers or musicians or painters or writers or a myriad other types of creators. I am happy they know their passions. Theatre gives me breath. When I am acting or directing or reading a play or studying the writing of other theatre artists, I am full. I know my dimensions, and I am very large.

I can touch you with my art. We can make contact. Magic happens in moments of contact.

Theatre is created in sequences. First, there is the urge. I have a desire to touch, and I begin to search for the vehicle that will allow that touch to reach me. I talk to friends about the theatre they are creating. I see theatre. I imagine the possibilities. I allow the urge to grow, and it forms a force that draws more creativity to me.

I begin to study. I feel what’s in the air. I pay attention to the sounds on the street. I listen. I hear. I contact people, other creators.

We are all creators.

I read. I see the words of playwrights, and I make contact with their intentions. Plays on paper are potentialities and promises. The words release themselves in me, and I feel their powers push me to remember how large I am. In my mind, I reach out to the possibilities.

I see forms. A vision shapes itself in me. Ideas are born. A vehicle to contact the spectators arrives.

I contact creators who help me fill my vision with life-giving air. I touch other creators, and they touch me. We are in contact. We share our gifts of creation.

There is some time that passes, during which we all concentrate on creating the vehicle to contact the spectators, and when the vehicle is ready, we call the spectators to help us give it birth.

The creation is born when it is viewed. It is given life when the spectators participate. In being seen, contact is created, and magic occurs.

I need to create magic. I need to contact. I can breathe when I create contact.

In his book, The Empty Space, Peter Brook writes,

The theatre is the arena where a living confrontation can take place.

Contact happens in living confrontation. I believe contact is sacred, and I strive to create sacred contact. When my creation touches another person, a space is created that fills us both. We are made whole. The spectator finishes me.

If I lose sight of the contact I strive for and make theatre for the sole purpose of showing, I cannot make contact. It is mere ego. It hides my soul from the spectator, and when I am hidden, contact is impossible. Magic is impossible. The sacred bond is impossible.

Art that fits creates sacred contact. Art that knows its dimensions can appear very small physically, but living confrontation is always the perfect size. It is just large enough to create a space where we can breathe.

Theatre that fits creates room for people to touch each other. There is magic in that sacred embrace.

Dimensions

I like creating theatre that fits.

Theatre & Cinema

Horizontal image of an old Theatre Marquee.  Evening shot.

The cinema flashes on to a screen images from the past. As this is what the mind does to itself all through life, the cinema seems intimately real. Of course, it is nothing of the sort – it is a satisfying and enjoyable extension of the unreality of everyday perception. The theatre, on the other hand, always asserts itself in the present. This is what can make it more real than the normal stream of consciousness. This also is what can make it so disturbing.

Peter Brook

The Empty Space

A Definition

greek amphitheatre

We can thus define the theatre as “what takes place between spectator and actor”.

Jerzy Grotowski

Towards a Poor Theatre

A Directing Adventure

theatre

Today’s the day! Over the next two months, I will be co-directing a play with a seasoned director, and the auditions are tonight and tomorrow night. I have done my homework by reading and re-reading the script many times. I’ve studied the characters and their motivations and come up with a list of verbs describing each one. The theatre’s designer has come up with a beautifully simplistic set that will give the actors a space in which to explore their various roles and actions and emotions.

The play is The Spoon River Project, which is made up of poems excerpted from Edgar Lee Masters’ early twentieth century American classic Spoon River Anthology. Citizens of the fictional town Spoon River speak from their graves, remembering, inspiring, preaching, ruing, accusing, and confessing. There have been numerous adaptations of the anthology for the stage over the past hundred years. This one is by Tom Andolora. He chose a representative sampling of the graveyard’s characters, and importantly, he researched and included some period songs that the actors will perform.

Mr. Andolora also uses one of my favorite theatre techniques. Each actor plays multiple roles. They do three or four, in fact. By careful use of small costume pieces and physical changes, the actors will have to differentiate each character, and they will have to make it believable.

The space will be bare, befitting a graveyard, with a few movable benches, and room is even being made on the stage for audience seating. There will be a small ensemble of musicians to accompany the cast in the songs. The only props will represent what the individuals have taken with them to the grave. They will make use of shawls, vests, and other small items of clothing.

The process of directing is not absolutely new to me, but I am a novice. I have directed before, and in that play, the actors were also called on to delve into different characters. I revel in seeing a good craftsman make the necessary adjustments in a second to change from one role to another. When it’s done well, it makes me squirm in my seat.

I have already mentioned reading the play multiple times to really feel it. I searched and found what I believe may be a through line or what’s also called a plot line. The great twentieth century American director Harold Clurman dubbed it the spine. It’s a simple word or phrase or very short sentence describing the central theme of the piece. I like to pick words from the actual script for this note when possible. The through line does not have to be communicated to the actors, but it informs all the director’s choices.

This script is full of wonder. The poems are alive with active verbs that make imagining staging it a joy. The anthology is a pleasure to read for its own sake. Mr. Andolora did not choose my favorite poem, so I will include it here.

Edmund Pollard

I WOULD I had thrust my hands of flesh
Into the disk—flowers bee-infested,
Into the mirror-like core of fire
Of the light of life, the sun of delight.
For what are anthers worth or petals
Or halo-rays? Mockeries, shadows
Of the heart of the flower, the central flame
All is yours, young passer-by;
Enter the banquet room with the thought;
Don’t sidle in as if you were doubtful
Whether you’re welcome—the feast is yours!
Nor take but a little, refusing more
With a bashful “Thank you”, when you’re hungry.
Is your soul alive? Then let it feed!
Leave no balconies where you can climb;
Nor milk-white bosoms where you can rest;
Nor golden heads with pillows to share;
Nor wine cups while the wine is sweet;
Nor ecstasies of body or soul,
You will die, no doubt, but die while living
In depths of azure, rapt and mated,
Kissing the queen-bee, Life!

The speaker, Edmund Pollard, wishes he had dived into all that living had to offer, and he implores the hearers to do so. He speaks of flesh, alluding to bees’ stings, and fire and light. To those of us above the graves, he commands we attend the banquets and feasts that lie before us. Let us feed! Love and intimacy take their places, too. Finally, he returns to bees and their kissing sting of life.

I am living today. I am excited at my new adventure in theatre starting tonight. Life moves me, and I take joy in it.

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