Course Reader: Reading #2

What is Theater?

Excerpts from:

Antonin Artaud, Philip Auslander, Jerzy Grotowski,

Peter Brook, and Augusto Boal

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #1

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #1

The

Twentieth-Century

Performance

Reader

2nd edition

Edited by

Michael Huxley

and

Noel Witts

I~ ~~~!~;2~~~p LONDON AND NEW YORK

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #2

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #2

First published 1996 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN

Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Ave, 7’lew York, NY 10016

Reprinted 1997, 1999,2000,2001

This second edition first published 2002

Reprinted 2003 (twice), 2005

RoutJedae is an imprint if the Taylor &..Frands Group

© 1996, 2002 Michael Huxley and Noel Witts

Typeset in Bell Gothic and Perpetua by Graphicraft Umited, Hong Kong

Printed and bound in Great Britain bv St Edmundsbury Press Ltd, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

To our stude!

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A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Ubrary

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ISBN 0-415-25286-5 (Hbk) ISBN 0-415-25287-3 (Pbk)

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #3

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #3

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Iniversity Press. p\ Englewood Cliffsj

n University Press.

!!II manuscript Appia lIStitute in Lausannej ICe was entitled “the 1IiJa!, lightj paintingll

his death/ I a reconstruction of

~ hapter 4

Antonin Artaud

THEATRE AND CRUELTY

W E HAVE LOST THE IDEA of theatre. And in as much as theatre restricts itself to probing the intimacy of a few puppets, thereby transforming the audience into Peeping Toms, one understands why the elite have turned away from it or why the masses go to the cinema, music-hall and circus to find violent to gratification whose intention does not disappoint them.

Our sensibility has reached the point where we surely need theatre that wakes us up heart and nerves.

The damage “”Tought by psychological theatre, derived from Racine, has rendered us unaccustomed to the direct, violent action theatre must have. Cinema in its turn, murders us with reflected, filtered and projected images that no longer connect with our sens­ ibility, and for ten years has maintained us and all our faculties in an intellectual stupor.

In the anguished, catastrophic times we live in, we feel an urgent need for theatre that is not overshadowed by events, but arouses deep echoes within us and predOminates over our unsettled period.

Our longstanding habit of seelcing diversions has made us forget the slightest idea of serious theatre which upsets all our pre­ conceptions, inspiring us with fiery, magnetic imagery and finally reacting on us after the manner of unforgettable soul therapy.

Everything that acts is cruelty. Theatre must rebuild itself on a concept of this drastic action pushed to the limit.

Infused with the idea that the masses think with their senses first and foremost and that it is ridiculous to appeal primarily to

33

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #4

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #4

THEATRE AND CRUELTY

our understanding as we do in everyday psychological theatre, the Theatre of Cruelty proposes to resort to mass theatre, thereby rediscovering a little of the poetry in the ferment of great, agitated crowds hurled against one another, sensations only too rare nowadays, when masses of holiday crowds throng the streets.

If theatre wants to find itself needed once more, it must present everything in love, crime, war and madness.

Everyday love, personal ambition and daily worries are worthless except in relation to the kind of awful lyricism that exists in those Myths to which the great mass of men have consented.

This is why we will try to centre our show around famous personalities, horrible crimes and superhuman self-sacrifices, demonstrating that it can draw out the powers struggling within them, vvithout resorting to the dead imagery of ancient Myths.

In a word, we believe there are living powers in what is called poetry, and that the picture of a crime presented in the right stage conditions is something infinitely more dangerous to the mind than if the same crime were committed in life.

We want to make theatre a believable reality inflicting this kind of tangible laceration, contained in all true feeling, on the heart and senses. In the same way as our dreams react on us and reality reacts on our dreams, so we believe ourselves able to associate mental pictures with dreams, effective in so far as they are projected with the reqUired violence. And the audience will believe in the illusion of theatre on condition they really take it for a dream, nor for a servile imitation of reality. On condition it releases the magic freedom of daydreams, only recognisable when imprinted with terror and cruelty.

Hence this full scale invocation of cruelty and terror, its scope testing our entire vitality, confronting us with all our potential.

And in order to affect every facet of the spectator’s sensibility, we advocate a revolving show, which instead of making stage and auditorium into two closed worlds without any possible communication between them, will extend its visual and oral outbursts over the whole mass of spectators.

Furthermore, leaving the field of analysible emotional feelings aside, we intend using the actor’s lyricism to reveal external powers, and by this means to bring the whole of nature into the kind of theatre we would like to evoke.

However extensive a programme of this kind may be, it does not over-reach theatre itself, which all in all seems to us to be associated with ancient magic powers.

Practically speaking, we want to bring back the idea of total theatre, where theatre will recapture from cinema, music-hall, the circus and life itself, those things that always belonged to it. This division between analytical theatre and a world of movement seems stupid to us. One cannot separate body and mind, nor the senses from the intellect, particularly in a field where the unendingly repeated jading of our organs calls for sudden shocks to revive our understanding.

Thus on tl the whole anato and signs used ii drastic curtailm{ necessitates tant objects speak ou thundering ima! arranging a suff stillness.

We expecl active means are limits of our nen whose nature an

Moreover, Hieronymus Bos, things in outside’

Theatre mt ‘\vhere life stands

Besides we methods discover familiar to all.

And we insi concerns, more t

We must fu wise, can be four (which must rem blood is needed r

Source

Artaud, A. (1938, trans. V. Cor lished in 193 Antonin Arta from which tE

Antonin Artaud (

French actor and w on notions of theat

34

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #5

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #5

• • •

lire, the Theatre of ft’ring a little of the g;nnst one another, r crowds throng the

it present everything

: worthless except in las to which the great

amous personalities, ~ that it can draw out the dead imagery of

is called poetry, and tditions is something e were committed in

, this kind of tangible 1SeS. In the same way mIlS, so we believe ctive in so far as they e \\-ill believe in the MIl, nor for a servile edam of daydreams,

its scope testing our

lSibility, we advocate rium into two closed “ill extend its visual

al feelings aside, we and by this means to ld like to evoke. t does not over-reach I with ancient magic

f total theatre, where and life itself, those

lalytiCal theatre and a e body and mind, nor ~ unendingly repeated understanding.

ANTONIN ARTAUD

Thus on the one hand we have the magnitude and scale of a, show aimed at the whole anatomy, and on the other an intensive mustering of objects, gestures and signs used in a new spirit. The reduced role given to understanding leads to drastic curtailment of the script, while the active role given to dark poetic feeling necessitates tangible signs. Words mean little to the mind; expanded areas and objects speak out. New imagery speaks, even if composed in words. But spatial, thundering images replete with sound also speak, if we become versed in arranging a sufficient interjection of spatial areas furnished with silence and stillness.

We expect to stage a show based on these principles, where these direct active means are wholly used. Therefore such a show, unafraid of exploring the limits of our nervous sensibility, uses rhythm, sound, words, resounding ‘with song, whose nature and startling combinations are part of an unrevealed technique.

Moreover, to speak clearly, the imagery in some paintings by Grunewald or Hieronymus Bosch gives us a good enough idea of what a show can be, where things in outside nature appear as temptations just as they would in a Saint’s mind.

Theatre must rediscover its true meaning in this spectacle of a temptation, where life stands to lose everything and the mind to gain everything.

Besides we have put forward a programme which permits pure production, methods discovered on the spot to be organised around historic or cosmic themes familiar to all.

And we insist that the first Theatre of Cruelty show will hinge on these mass concerns, more urgent and disturbing than any personal ones.

We must find out whether sufficient production means, financial or other­ wise, can be found in Paris, before the cataclysm occurs, to allow such theatre (which must remain because it is the future) to come to life. Or whether real blood is needed right now to reveal this cruelty.

Source

Artaud, A. (1938, 1964, 1970) ‘Theatre and Cruelty’, The Theatre and its Double, trans. V. Corti, London: Calder & Boyars: 64-67. Written in 1933, first pub­ lished in 1938 in Le Theatre et son double by Editions Gallimard and then in Antonin Artaud: (Euvres Completes, Tome IV by Editions Gallimard (1964), from which text this 1970 English translation was made.1

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948)

French actor and writer who, through his life experience, has had a profound influence on notions of theatre in our time. While not himself producing a tangible system he

35

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #6

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #6

THEATRE AND CRUELTY

nevertheless, through the publication of the English translations of his collection of essays, The Theatre and Its Double (1958 and 1970), acted as a catalyst for generations of theatre makers by opening up new modes of perception. Artaud promoted a way of thinking which rejected logic and reason as ‘the chains that bind us’, and wanted the theatre, through its immediacy, to embrace the non-verbal elements of consciousness, and to arouse powerful therapeutic emotions in the audience. He wanted the theatre, through its power, to create a complete physical, mental and moral upheaval in the population, which would lead to enlarged and revolutionary perceptions, from which one can understand his attraction for the generation of the 1960s in Europe and the USA.

In this essay Artaud attacks psychological theatre, advocating instead a form of total theatre that will engage the spectator in creating his own power to change, not only himself, but also society as whole. He thus, like many of the artists in this book, was constantly in conflict with established theatre forms, advocating instead the search for man’s instinctive impulsive life. Much influenced by Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, Artaud’s life became an emblem of man’s search for consciousness, pro­ posing in the process that the theatre abandon naturalistic space and language to create a new order.

Compare this article with writings of the following authors in this reader

Beck later, messianic claims for the purpose of theatre Brook – who acknowledges him as an early influence Grotowski for a similar, contemporary, messianic role for theatre H ijikata for later Japanese celebrations of the irrational Jarry and Richter who wished theatre would stir audiences from their apathy Marinetti – who wished to sweep away logic and embrace physicality and sensuality Soyinka – a West African perspective on ritual Stanislavski a contemporary, contrasting view of theatre Wigman a contemporary, modern dance viewpoint

Further reading

Artaud, A. (1971) Artaud on Theatre, ed. C. Schumacher, London: Methuen. Esslin, M. (1976) Artaud, London: Fontana/Collins. Innes, C. (1993) Avant Garde Theatre 1892-1992, London: Routledge.

Note

1 1938 edition published in Collection Metamorphoses no. IV. See also M.C. Richard’s first English translation (1958), New York: Grove.

36

Chapter 5

Sal

po:

W HEN YVO in the earl were doing at Ju primarily chronol after modern dar: applied to nearly or popular enter1 refined its styles a dance genre. It legible structures feeling tones and! by expressive ele lighting and cOStl academic from th, ermst. Gravity, di were means to d{ graphers kept one ritual dances of no: conscious of their post-modern chon

~ historical crisis in ( they were both One was the uniql dance; the other w strict canons of bE regal verticality 01

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #7

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #7

1

The Theater ” ”

and Its Double

“~ By Antonin Artaud ~

Translated from the French-” by Mary Caroline Richards

‘.

~ GROVE PRESS

NEW YORK

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #8

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #8

CONTENT!

I l

Copyright © 1958 by Grove Press, Inc. I All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any t form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in I writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote tbrief passages in a review. Any members of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use, or publishers who would like to obtain permission to include the work in an anthology, should send their inquiries to Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.

Published simultaneously in Canada Printed in the United States ofAmerica

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 58-9910 ISBN 0-8021-5030-6

Grove Press 841 Broadway New York, NY 10003

01 02 45 44 43 42 41 40 39 38

A Note on the Translation

PREFACE: The Theater and Cu!tl

I. The Theater and the Plague

II. Metaphysics and the Mise en

III. The Alchemical Theater

IV. On the Balinese Theater

V. Oriental and Occidental Theal

VI. No More Masterpieces

VII. The Theater and Cruelty

VIII. The Theater of Cruelty (First

IX. Letters on Cruelty

X. Letters on Language

XI. The Theater of Cruelty (Secor.

XII. An Affective Athleticism

XIII. Two Notes

MAURICE SAILLET: In Memoriam A

5

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #9

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #9

ON THE TRANSLATION

tJ::mgW)ll equivalent,

.

com­ in most cases been

“mise en scene” has of it unplies all

the text.of the LeTheiitre in Collection Meta­

6

~

~

~~.

PREFACE: The Theater and Culture

• ~.

Never before, when it is life~ itself that is in question, has there been so much talk of civilization and culture. And there is a curious parallel between this· generalized collapse of life at the root of our present demoralization and our concern for a culture which- has never been coincident with life, which in fact has been devised to tyrannize ()ver life .

Before speaking further aooutcultirre, I must remark that the world is hungry and not concerned with culture,and that the attempt to orient toward culture thoughts turned only toward hunger is a purely artificial expedient.

What is most important~it seems tOlIle, is not so much to \. defend a culturewhose-existehce hasriever kept a man from ) going hungry, as to extract, from what is called culture, ideas / whose compelling force is identical with that of hunger.,,/ ~~~ tSL!!~st of~1!~~!2.lJelievejll \Vhl:lt.)l,!,!~.esu&.

liY~_,~nd .th~~ome!~~~~~~£!~!-!~Jiye,-_to b~]~\T!Uh.aJ:__~~~!­ ever isprodticed from the ~’ysteri~~~~aurselve~need ii.Otforever -haun~. us .as ~~ve!YA!Ke~~.bl.~_(;g_P.’£~E1. ..

I mean that ifitis important for us to eat first of all, it is even more important for us not to wastem the sole concern for eatingpilr simplepo::M:I;. of .~ing J:l1,mp;~

If confusion is the sign of the times, I see at the root of this confusion a rupture between things and words, between things and the ideas and signs· that are their representation .

. Not, of . course, for lack of philosophical systems; their hUmber and contradictions characterize our old French and

7

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #10

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #10

8 The Theater and Its Double

European culture: but where can it be shown that life, our life, has ever been affected by these systems? I will not say that philosophical systems must be applied directly and immediately: but of the following alternatives, one must be true:

Either these systems are within us and permeate our being to the point of supporting life itself (and if this is the case, what use are books?), or they do not permeate us and there­ fore do not have the capacity to support life (and in this case what does their disappearance matter?).

W~.!~:~~~L~~i~J:l.£~.!l”. the !~d~f c~~ure:-in~act!?nl of cul­ t!:lE~~~wi~.within us li~ -i’ ne~organ. a sort of” second breath; and on civilization as an applied culture controlling even-~ur subtlest actions, a presence of mind; the distinction between culture and civilization is an artificial one, providing two words to signify an identical function.

A civilized man judges and is judged according to his be­ havior, but even the term “civilized” leads to confusion: a cultivated “civilized” man is regarded as a person instructed in systems, a person who thinks in forms, signs, representa­ tions-a monster whose faculty of deriving thoughts from acts, instead of identifying acts with thoughts, is developed to an absurdity. /”‘””If our life lacks brimstone, i.e., a constant magic, it is be­

.’ “cause we choose to observe our acts and lose ourselves in “. \ considerations of their imagined form instead of being im~ \pelled by their force.

And this faculty is an exclusively human one. I would even say that it is this infection-of the human which contaminates ideas that should have remained divine; for far from believing that man invented the supernatural and the divine, I think it is man’s age-old intervention which has ultimately corrupted the divine within him.

All our ideas about life must be revised in a period when nothing any longer adheres to life; it is this painful cleavage

Preface

which is responsible for the reveng which is no longer within us and whit in finding in things suddenly appeal consider the unprecedented number 0 gratuitousness is explained only by 01 complete possession of life.

H the theater has been created as I sions, the agonized poetry expressed i of the facts of life demonstrates tha intact and asks only to be better dire

:aut no matter how loudly we dame we ‘7tre reafiy afraid ofpiirsuing an I TtSInfiu~~~]~giC··-·-···”·····~·”·-·~··–

Hence our confirmed lack of cultu tain grandiose anomalies; for exampll any contact with modern civilization, ship carrying only healthy passengers I outbreak of diseases unknown on that nations like our own: shingles, influen sinusitis, polyneuritis, etc.

Similarly, if we think Negroes sme: of the fact that anywhere but in Eurc “smell bad.” And I ‘would even say tb as white as the gathering of pus in a

As iron can be heated until it turns that everything excessive is white; f2£. ~ the mark of extreme decom~

This said, we can begin to form an j which is first of all a protest..

A protest against the senseless COl the idea of culture by reducing it to ~ Pantheon, producing an idolatry no diJ worship of those religions which releg theons.

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #11

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #11

The Theater and Its Double

l where can it be shown that life, our ix.:II:d by these systems? I will not say stems must be applied directly and he foDowing alternatives, one must be

I ale within us and permeate our being itself (and if this is the case,

permeate us and there­ life (and in this case

Ifi’icW one, providing

according to his be­ leads to confusion: a

pnJed as a person instructed in forms, signs, representa­ of deriving thoughts from

IJia.g acts with thoughts, is developed

IIIStone, i.e., a constant magic, it is be­ Ibserve our acts and lose ourselves in r imagined form instead of being im­

m exclusively human one. I would even :tion-of the human which contaminates remained divine; for far from believing supernatural and the divine, I think it

Ifention which has ultimately corrupted

life must be revised in a period when .heres to life; it is this painful cleavage

Preface

which is responsible for the revenge of things; the poetry which is no longer within us and which we no longer succeed in finding in things suddenly appears on their wrong side: consider the unprecedented number of crimes whose perverse gratuitousness is explained only by our powerlessness to take complete possession of life.

If the theater has been created as an outlet for our repres­ sions, the agonized poetry expressed in its bizarre corruptions of the facts of life demonstrates that life’s intensity is still intact and asks only to be better directed.

aut no matter how loudly we. clamor for magic in ot!r Jiyesl we ~C’reafiy~afiild ~of ‘pursuing an existence entiI~ly under

“‘–:-nfl”~~”~’~””-~~’~”d”.~ …~ .. ,,, …..-~-~………………~.-~……— ..-…-~~– Its 1 uence an SIOn. ~- ~~……”….,”‘,…….,.—–~-“””- ..-..,,-~~><.;-“‘”

Hence our confirmed lack of culture is astonished by cer­ tain grandiose anomalies; for example, on an island without any conta-ct with modem civilization, the mere passage of a ship carrying only healthy passengers may provoke the sudden outbreak of diseases unknown on that island but a specialty of nations likeour own: shingles, influenza, grippe, rheumatism, sinusitis, polyneuritis, etc.

, Similarly, if we think Negroes smell bad, we are ignorant

of the fact that anywhere but in Europe it is we whites who “smell bad.” And I ‘would even say that we give off an odor as white as the gathering of pus in an infected wound.

As iron can be heated until it turns white, so it can be said that everything excessive is white; fQ!”. ~~atjC& W!.ilitJ!!~.~ ~m.$..the mark of extreme decomEositi~n.

This said, we can begin to form an idea of culture, an idea which is first’oran a protest.. ­

A protest against the senseless constraint imposed upon the idea of culture by reducing it to a sort of inconceivable Pantheon, producing an idolatry no different· from the image­..~ worship of those religions which relegate their gods to Pan­

, theons.

I ” ,I

9

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #12

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #12

• The Theater and ItsD6ubie …– Preface Apro~t agaiDStthe~ao.f ctiltureas distinctirom lif~

as if there were culture o.n Olle side and life on the other, as if true. culture· ·were.nota· refined means .ofunderstanding

,’-.—–.,-~’:’-‘.•.”- ., ‘~~_=;,..~C)’-.. ‘–,,~-_~’>_..,..”‘-“‘_;;,.;.”-,,~-<>t”‘_’…_:_~…._”_’~”””-~,.r~~~””‘. anc!~.x~r~!~!!glife. … .. . .)”.. .

The library at Alexandria can be ·burI1tq0’wn:Thete are forces above and beyond papyrus;. we 1l1ayctempo~ariiy.be deprived of our ability to discover these forces,bllftheir energy· will not be . suppressed .. It is goOd that our excessiVe . facilities are no longer available, that fonns fall intoobIivioIl: a culture without space· ortirile, restrained only . by the capac­ ity of our own nerves; WiUreappear with alltnecmoreenergy. It is right that fromtinre to timecatac1ysms’OccUl” whk:lu.irun~ “”~ -_.-:”””—-:-.–.-”~~~~–,~-“-.-… -‘-:’-.” – – ~-“…”,~….~

. Pel usto returnt~ature,i.e”J1o”red1~~rlife:Theold to1einrsrii-~a1s, stones, objects capable of· 4ischarging thunderbolts, coslumesimpregnated with· bestial essences­ everything, inibort, thatIIlight det.ertnirie, disClose,arid direct the secret forces of the universe-is for uS a dead thing, from which we derive nothingbl.lt .. statlE.an.d aeStlietic.profit, the profit of an audience, not or anactof.

Yettotemism is an actor, for it moves, and hasbeencre­ atciri;;’b~hili6factbrs;all truecultw:~ relies upon the bar­ baric and primitive means oftotemism Whose savage, Le., entirely spontaneous, life I wish to worship. ……. .

What has lo.st us cUltmcisourOccidentalidea()f art clUld the profits we seek to derive from it. Art and culturecanpot be considered together, contrary to the.treatment universally accorded them!

True culture operates by exaltation and force, while the European· ideal of art attempts to cast the mind into an atti­(: tude distinct from force but addicted to.exaltatic:>n.It is a lazy,

‘-unserviceable notion which .. engenders an· imminent death. If the Serpent QuetzalcoatI’s multiple twists and turns are har­ monious, it is because they express the equilibrium and fluc­ tuations of a sleeping force; the intensity of the forms.is there

only to seduce and direct a force prOduce an insupportable range of ~

The gods that sleep in museums: incense burner that resembles an IJ one of the manifold Gods oUhe Wa granite; the Mother Goddess of Wa1 of Flowers; the immutable expressio many layers of water, of the Goddes.! enraptured, blissful expression, featur where atoms of sunlight circ1e,.–;-theC( Goddess of Flowers; this world of which a stone comes alive when it h the world of organically civilized me awaken from their slum~r, this hUII participating in the dance of the goe or looking back, on pain of becoming, pillars of salt.

In Mexico, since we are talking al art: things are made for use. And t exaltation.

To our disinterested and inert i( culture opposes a violently egoistic an idea. For the Mexicans seek contact latent in every form, unreleased by co for themselves, but springing to life with these forms. And the old Totem communication.

How hard it is, when everything though we may look about us with ‘ to wake and yet look about us as in no longer know their function and “\i ward.

This is how our strange idea of d nated, though it is action nonetheless, for skirting the temptationQ[ repose

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #13

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #13

The Theater and Its Double

Ie idea of culture as distinct from life-,­ c on one side and life on the other, as !lOt. a refined means .. of understanding

~”_””d’.”””,,_<-“,~,,,_~,,_~,_~c, __ ~’_~_ “”‘””f~_-=_”,”___ ~~h”–” ~_”” .. “”,_”,”-~~’~

amdria can be burnt down. There·· are ODd papyrus:. we may temporarily be ly to discover these forces, but their

~t fornis fall into oblivion: reStrained only by the capac­

with all the more energy.

;apaulI; of. d;ischarging bestial··essences­

disclose,and direct us a dead thing, from

and aesthetic profit, the

actor. . ……. … . . it moves, and has )een ere-

culture relies upon the bar­

pjlriesa;:d. It is good that our excessive

means of totemism whose savage, i.e., life I wish to worship, IIture is our Occidental idea of art and derive from it. Art and culture cannot r, contrary to the treatment universally

res by exaltation and force, while the attempts to cast the mind into an atti­ e but addicted to exaltation. It is a lazy, ~hich engenders an imminent. death . .If ,atl’s multiple twists and turns are. har­ , they express the equilibrium and fluc­ force; the intensity of the forms is there

Preface 11

only to seduce and direct a force which, in music, would produce an insupportable range of sound.

The gods that sleep in Dluseums:the god of fire with his incense burner that resembles an Inquisition tripod; Tlaloc, one of the manifold Gods of the Waters, on his wall of green. granite~ the Mother·Goddess of Waters, the ·Mother Goddess of Flowers; the immutable expression, echoing from beneath many layers of water, of the Goddess robedingree~ jade; the enraptured,blissfulexpresslon, features crackling with incense, where. atoms of sunlight circ1e-. -.. thecountenance of the Mother Goddess of Flowers; this world of obligatory servitude in whichas.tone comes alive when it has been properly carved, the world oforganically civilized men whose vital organs too awaken.from their slum~r, this . human world enters into us, participating. in the dance. of the gods· without· turning round or looking back, on pain of becoming, like ourselves, crumbled pillars of salt.

In MeXico, since weare talking about Mexico, there is no art: things are made for use. And theworld is in perpetual exaltation;

To our· disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture.opposesaviolently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the MeXican.s seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, uilreleased.by.contemplation of the forms for themselves, but . springing to life by magic identification with these forms. And the old Totems are there to hasten the communication.

“” – ..

·wlifd.<

~ JIowhard it is, when everything encourages us to sleep, though we may look about us with conscious, clinging eyes, to wake arid yetloo.kaooutus asin a dream, with eyes that nolol},ger.know their function and whose gaze is turned in-

This ishow.our strange.ideaofdisinterestedaction origi­ nated, though it is action nonetheless, and all the more violent for skirting the temptation of repose.

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #14

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #14

The Theater and Its Double 12

Every real effigy has a shadow which is its double; and art must falter and fail from the moment the sculptor believes he has liberated the kind of shadow whose very existence will destroy his repose.

Like all magic cultures expressed by appropriate hiero­ glyphs, the true theater has its shadows too, and, of all lan­ guages and all’ arts, the theater is the only one left whose shadows have shattered their limitations. From the beginning, one might say its shadows did not tolerate limitations.

Our petri!ied idea of the theater is connected with our petrified idea of a culture without shadows, where, no matter which way it turns, our mind (esprit) encounters only empti­ ness, though space is fulL

/”-But the true theater, because it moves and makes use of / living instruments, continues to stir up shadows where life

(,f has never ceased to grope its way. The actor does not make , the same gestures twice, but he makes gestures, he moves; , and although he brutalizes forms, nevertheless behind them \ and through their destruction he rejoins that which. outlives ,,forms and produces theIr continuation .

…. The theater, which is in no thing, but makes use of every­ thing-gestures, sounds, words, screams, light, darkness­ rediscovers itself at precisely the point where the mind requires a language to express its manifestations.

And the fixation of the theater in one language-written words, music, lights, noises-betokens its imminent ruin, the choice of anyone language betraying a taste for the special effects of that language; and the dessication of the language accompanies its limitation.

/~’ For the theater as for culture, it remains a question of / naming and directing sl1a,c1g~s: and the theater, not confined

—t–1e-a:–fixed lang’uageand form, not only destroys false shadows \ but prepares the way for a new generation of shadows, around \”, which assembles the true spectacle of life.

Preface

To break through language in orj create or recreate the theater; the ~ believe that this act must remain sac] essential thing is to believe that not ju and that there must be a preparation.

This leads to the rejection of the u and man’s powers, and infinitely exten is called reality.

\Y~ must~Ueve,~Uiliu a sense oflife.,iI1 which manfearlesslJ ~rwhat’-does’~ot~ yetexist,~’ and brlli everythlng’iIiai’has’ notbeen’oorncan if we are not satisfied to remain mer

Furthermore, when we speak the -.; unrlerstOodwearenor-ieteTrrng to li1 its surfa~~~’of’facf,’Diit toinaTfragHe,f forms n~~-;;r–reach. And -irihere l~–;t~…. cursed thing in our time, it is our artis: instead of being like victims burnt • through the flames.

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #15

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #15

The Theater and Its Double

s a shadow which is its double; and art rom the moment the sculptor believes nd of shadow whose very existence will

ltures expressed by appropriate hiero­ 2′ has its shadows too, and, of all lan­ 11M: theater is the only one left whose Ili6Mr limitations. From the beginning,

not tolerate limitations. is connected with our

does not make gestures, he moves;

ie¥ertheless behind them

but makes use of every­ screams, light, darkness­

a.:ty the point where the mind requires its manifestations. [ the theater in one language-written IOises-betokens its imminent ruin, the guage betraying a taste for the special :e; and the dessication of the language ion. for culture, it remains a question of shadows: and the theater, not confined d form, not only destroys false shadows [)r a new generation of shadows, around rue spectacle of life.

Preface 13

To break through language in order to touch life is to create or recreate the theater; the essential thing is not to believe that this act must remain sacred, i.e., set apart-the essential thing is to believe that not just anyone can create it, and that there must be a preparation.

This leads to the rejection of the usual limitations of man and man’s powers, and infinitely extends the frontiers of what is called reality.

~¥!t.1~s~liey.ejn a sense oL~bx..JlL~,Jh~W’, a sense of life in which man fearlessly makes himself master “”‘-,;.;_ -.0.’,,, _”,. __ ~~_,._;-;;””-”n”:”_. =_”,–,_,-:-“””,~.,.””,- .,.’ – ‘_.”0″. \;– .,_,____ , ••~..,” “‘_ ed_””‘~”-_~ “‘”,. _____ ,._-~-,~~–~~.,, __ “‘~ …_~,,_c_…,.,””-~___ -_~ ~'”‘~_.,- .,,- _.,,’___…,.:;;.

<:!Lw!:~L.9:~~~~!lo~,lTete~ist, and ,brings it iqtob.~,iUg. And eveiYthing that has not beeid)orn can still be brought to life if we are not satisfied to remain mere recording organisms.

Furthermore, when we speak the word “life,”” it mus~ undeistood~we:’are~~orn!£eriingtoTi~wek~{;;~ it -f~om ~!s,~~!fi£~~_~Dac~, ‘but to ~thar!i~g}~:Ji’~~t~~t[~i:~~n:t~!_wllkh !2fmS never r~~c.§,. AncCHthere is still one hellish, truly ac- \ cursed thing in our time, it is our artistic dallying with forms, ‘\ instead of being like victims burnt at the stake, signaling ) through the flames. /

,~

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #16

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #16

~~——~~–~~-

LIVENESS

Performance in a mediatized culture

Philip Auslander

I~ London and New York

‘.

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #17

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #17

First published 1999 by Routledge

11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE

Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge

29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001

© 1999 Philip Auslander The right of Philip Auslander to be identified as the Author of this Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and

Patents Act 1988

Typeset in Goudy by Routledge Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays PLC

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter

invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in

writing from the publishers.

British Ubrary Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Ubrary ofCongress Cataloging in Publication Data Liveness: performance in a mediatized culture/Philip Auslander.

Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Performing arts Social aspects.

2. Rock music Performance. 3. Trials. I. Title.

PN1590. S6A88 1999 791 ‘.0973’0904-dc21

98-43440 CIP

ISBN 0-415-19689-2 (hbk) ISBN 0-415-19690–6 (pbk)

FOR DEANNA SIRLIN, MY S INSPIRATION

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #18

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #18

~

\,.~

INTRODUCTION: “An Orchid in the Land of Technology”!

2

3

The prospectus for a conference entitled “Why Theatre: Choices for the New Century”z posed a question that goes straight to the heart of the matter that concerns me here: “Theatre and the media: rivals or partners?” My own answer to this question is unequivocal: at the level of cultural economy,3 theatre (and live performance generally) and the mass media are rivals, not partners. Neither are they equal rivals: it is absolutely clear that our current cultural formation is saturated with, and dominated by, mass media representations in general, and televi­ sion in particular.

In an essay on theatre and cinema, Herbert Blau (1982: 121) quotes Marx’s Grundrisse:

In all forms of society, there is one specific kind of production which predominates over the rest, whose relations thus assign rank and influence to the others. It is a general illumination which bathes all the other colours and modifies their particu­ larity. It is a particular ether which determines the specific gravity of every being which has materialized within it.

Although Marx is describing industrial production under bourgeois capitalism, for Blau, “he might as well be describing the cinema.” I would argue, pace Marx and Blau, that Marx might as well be describing

The title of this chapter is taken from Walter Benjamin’s celebrated essay “The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction” (1986 [1936]: 40). The conference, which took place in the fall of 1995 in Toronto, was sponsored by the University of Toronto and Humboldt University in Berlin. I use the phrase “cultural economy” to describe a realm of inquiry that includes both the real economic relations among cultural forms, and· the relative degrees of .cultural prestige and power enjoyed by different forms.

x_I

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #19

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #19

INTRODUCTION

television: Marx’s allusions to a general illumination and an ether (a word frequently used in early discussions of broadcasting to describe the medium through which electronic waves pass) are even more appropriate to that medium than to the cinema.

As for the cultural dominance of television and its productions, Cecilia TIchi (l991: 3-8) has suggested that television can no longer. be seen just as an element in our cultural environment, one discourse among many, but must be seen as an environment in itself. Television has transcended its identity as a particular medium and is suffused through the culture as “the televisual.”

What the televisual names … is the end of the medium, in a context, and the arrival of television as the context. What is clear is that television has to be recognised as an organic part of the social fabric; which means that its transmissionS are no longer managed by the flick of a switch.

(Fry 1993: 13)

In other words, if television once could be seen as ranking among a number of vehicles for conveying expression or information from which we could choose, we no longer have that choice: the televisual has become an intrinsic and determining element of our cultural formation. As Tony Fry indicates, it is indeed no longer a question of thinking about television in various cultural contexts but of seeing it as the cultural context. Clearly, this issue and the related question of the nature of television culture could be (and have been) the subjects of books in themselves. The project of describing the position of other cultural discourses within our mediatized environment is as pressing as the project of describing that environment itself. Because live perfor­ mance is the category of cultural production most directly affected by the dominance of media, it is particularly urgent to address the situa­ tion of live performance in our mediatized culture.

Investigating live performance’s cultural valence for the present volume, I quickly became impatient with what I consider to be tradi­ tional, unteflective assumptions that fail to get much further in their attempts to explicate the value of “liveness” than invoking cliches and mystifications like “the magic of live theatre,” the “energy” that supposedly exists between performers and spectators in a live event, and the “community” that live performance is often said to create among performers and spectators. In time, I came to see that concepts such as these do have value for performers and partisans of live perfor­ mance. Indeed, it may even be necessary for performers, especially, to

2

INTRODUCTION

in them. But where these concepts are lJ Ri=!ltl()nslhlP between live performance and its pr~ IIJ[nD(~nt, they yield a reductive binary opposition _:d~ltized. Steve Wurtzler summarizes this traditio

As socially and historically produced, the a: live and the recorded are defined in a mutuaU, tionship, in that the notion of the live is p absence of recording and the defining fact of the absence of the live.

(Will

In this tradition, “the live comes to stand for a j outside representation” (WuTtzler 1992: 88). Ir common assumption is that the live event is “real” events are secondary and somehow artificial repro In Chapter 2, I will argue that this kind of thinlcinl the culture at large but even in contemporary PI The arguments of that chapter are intended bod challenge the traditional way of thinking abo cultural position by employing its terms (that is opposition for granted), then opening those t1 critique. Chapters 3 and 4 depart from a different ness must be examined not as a global, undiffeJ:al but within specific cultural and social contexts.

Perhaps because of my impatience with the 00 I have sometimes been mistaken for someone wi: who is even antagonistic toward – live perfOm far from being the case: my interest in the cui

… Wurtzler (1992: 89-90) challenges this binary opposit:io socially constructed categories live and recorded cannot 31 tional practices.” He offers a chart in which various kind!; according to spatial and temporal vectors. Two categories c neither purely live nor purely recorded emerge: those in audience are spatially separate but temporally co-presenl radio) and those in which performance and audience an elements of the performance are pre-recorded (e.g., Iip-s replays on stadium video displays).

5 I have found that scholars working in mass media studies ested in television or popular music, have dealt more direc question of Iiveness than most scholars in theatre or perfon

3

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #20

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #20

INTRODUCTION

aIIusi«ms to a general illumination and an ether (a _ in .eady discussions of broadcasting to describe ..,. which electronic waves pass) are even more’

Ihan to the cinema. a..;na.ve of television and its productions,

has suggested that television can no longer our Cultural environment, one discourse

seen as an environment in itself. Television as a particular medium and is suffused

tdevisual. ”

(Fry 1993: 13)

could be seen as ranking among a expression or information from

bIger have that choice: the televisual detennining element of our cultural

it is indeed no longer a question of l…-.s cultural contexts but of seeing it as

issue and the related question of the ttl” ··tmuJd be (and have been) the subjects of Fpqect of describing the position of other

,wililiY-c.K mediarized environment is as pressing as _ that environment itself. Because live perf or­

…..ofndnual production most directly affected by

….. it is particularly urgent to address the situa­ …-:e illour mediatized . culture. _p::a6…tanee’S cultural valence for the present …… impatient with what I consider to be tradi­ e ~ that fail to get much further in their -= die value of “liveness” than invoking cliches and =.”JIE magic of live theatre,” the “energy” that ………. perfonners and spectators in a live event, fiiirthat live performance is often said to create ….. spectators. In time, I came to see that concepts ~ v3lue for performers and partisans of live perf or­ BlY even be necessary for performers, especially, to

2

INTRODUCTION

in them. But where these concepts are used to describe the ftdationship’between live performance and its present mediatized envi­ rionment, they yield a reductive binary opposition of the live and the ilnediatized. Steve Wurtzler summarizes this traditional view well:

As socially and historically produced, the categories of the live and the recorded are defined in a mutually exclusive rela­ tionship, in that the notion of the live is premised on the absence of recording and the defining fact of the recorded is the absence of the live.

(Wurtzler 1992: 89)4

In this tradition, “the live comes to stand for a category completely outside representation” (Wurtzler 1992: 88). In other words, the common assumption is that the live event is “real” and that mediatized events are secondary and somehow artificial reproductions of the real. In Chapter 2, I will argue that this kind of thinking persists not only in the culture at large but even in contemporary performance studies.5

The arguments of that chapter are intended both to exploit and to challenge the traditional way of thinking about liveness and its cultural position by employing its terms (that is, taking the binary apposition for granted), then opening those terms themselves to critique. Chapters 3 and 4 depart from a different premise – that live­ ness must be examined not as a global, undifferentiated phenomenon hIt within specific cultural and social contexts.

Perhaps because .of my impatience with the conventional Wisdom, I have sometimes been mistaken for someone who does not value ­

is even antagonistic toward – live performance. This is very fur from being the case: my interest in the cultural status of live

Wurtzler (1992: 89-90) challenges this binary opposition by asserting that “the socially constructed categories live and recorded cannot account for all representa­ tional practices.” He offers a chan in which various kinds of events are positioned acCording to spatial and temporal vectors. Two categories of representations that are neither purely live nor purely recorded emerge: those in which performance and audience are spatially separate but temporally co-present (e.g., live television or radio) and those in which performance and audience are spatially co-present but elements of the performance are pre-recorded (e.g., lip-synched concerts, instant replays on stadium video displays) .

5 I have found that scholars working in mass media studies, particularly those inter­ ested in television or popular mUsic, have dealt more directly and fruitfully with the question of liveness than most scholars in theatre or performance studies.

3

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #21

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #21

INTRODUCTION

performance derives directly from my sense of living in a culture in which something I continue to value seems to have less and less pres­ ence and importance. Despite my own commitmentto the theatre and other forms of live performance, I have tried here to take a fairly hard­ headed, unsentimental approach. The resulting assessment of the situation of live performance in a culture dominated by mass media has not made me optimistic about its cUtren! and future cultural prestige, as understood in traditional terms~ It has. also enabled me to see, however, that those terms may no longer be the most useful ones.

Performance artist Eric Bogosian, for example, describes live theatre as:

medicine for a toxic environment of electronic media mind­ pollution….Theater clears my head because it takes the subtextual brainwashing ·ofthe media madness and SHOUTS thatsubtext out 10ud….Theater is ritual. It is something we make together every time it happens. Theater is holy. Instead of being bombarded by a cathode ray tube we are speaking to ourselves. Human language, not electronic noise.

(Bogosian 1994: xii)

Bogosian’s perception of the value of live performance dearly derives from its existence only in the moment (“every time it happens”), and its putative ability to create community (if not communion) among its participants, including performers and spectators. These are both issues I address in the chapters to follow. Most important for the present discussion, he sets live performance in a relationship of antagonistic opposition to mediatization and imputes to live performance the social, perhaps even political, function of opposing the oppressive regime of “electronic noise” imposed upon us by the mass media. This opposi­ tion, and live performance’s ostensible curative powers, presumably derive from significant ontological distinctions between live and medi­ atized cultural forms. This perception of an oppositional relationship between the live and the mediatized animates my own discussion, for I wish both to exploit and to deconstruct that opposition in my discus­ sion of the ontology ot live performance in Chapter 2.

Several important premises are implied by my use of the word “mediatized,” which I have borrowed from Jean Baudrillard. Its emphasis on a conventional concept of mass media marks a limit of my inquiry. Although I discuss the impact of digital information technolo­ gies on the issues at hand, especially in Chapter 3, my primary concern here is with the relationship between live performance and what may

4

INTRODUCTION

be called “old media” (e.g., television, film, have already begun the project of theorizing I

lI¥1irollm,ent of advanced information technologies I do here (see Case 1996, Causey [forthcomrng 1997).

I often employ the term “mediatized,” admittedly indicate that a particular cultural object is a pn

or of media technology. “Mediatized performanl is circulated on television, as audio or video I

forms based in technologies of reproduction . ….”UU.jlVll is more expansive: “What is mediatized il

the daily press, out of the tube, or on the radio: it by the sign form, articulated into models, ani

code” (l9~1: 175-6). For Baudrillaqi. mediati2a1i _ …… ,u term describing products of the media. Ra

as instrumental in a larger, socio-political proc .tiscourses under the dominance of a single code. I­ lteudrillard’s admonishment that the word “mem ddlne modes of cultural production, I hope I have n of the term Baudrillard’s characterization of the m mltural dominant of contemporary, westem/ized SO( my description here can be generalized to this exrent, is admittedly on the United States.) I intend to d performance’s cultural-economic competition with the position of live performance in a culture for whid a vehicle of the general code in a way that live perfuI is no longer). Although this hook is not genaaI Baudrillardian politics, 1 do follow Baudrillard’s line ill rock music in Chapter 3, both to extend his analysis i realm and to critique that analysis.

In the sense that I am treating live and mediatim parallel forms that participate in the same cultural eo of “mediatization” follows Fredric Jameson’s definitiOl “the process whereby the traditional fine arts …come of themselves as various media within a mediatic 51 1991: 162). Susan Sontag (1966: 25), in her essavon contrasts the two forms by saying that: “theatre is neve: the sense that “one can make a movie ‘of’a play but movie.” Part of my argument in Chapter 2 is intended wrong: there have long been plays “of” movies and tek and live performance can even function as a kind ( Whereas the traditional view represented by Sontag

5

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #22

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #22

OITR.ODUCTlON

.air fiom my sense of living in a culture in ___ to wlue seems to have less and less pres~ ~my own commitment to the theatre and •••re. I have tried here to take a fairly hard­ l.,……-lt The resulting assessment of the llilililtl:leiD a culture dominated by mass media has t\i~ its current and future cultural prestige, ….. lamS. It has also enabled me to see, ……DO longer be the most useful ones. .,….;~liiI. for example, describes live theatre

ie4C111’1riromnent of electronic media mind~ !£1.deaIs my head because it takes the ~u the media madness and SHOUTS …..;.Theater is ritual. It is something we ,,1ime it happens. Theater is holy. Instead ,.,a cathode ray tube we are speaking to .; II “we. not electronic noise.

(Bogosian 1994: xii)

i1he wlue of live performance clearly derives • the moment (“every time it happens”), and lIf!lIII£alIJIJ1lunity (if not communion) among its ,_’WIIkfi and spectators. These are both issues _ to fOllow. Most important for the present pa6….ance in a relationship of antagonistic

bon and imputes to live performance the social, _tiou of opposing the oppressive regime of …. upon us by the mass media. This opposi~ ~s ostensible curative powers, presumably ,…..J.,gicaJ distinctions between live and medi­ ..~ of an oppositional relationship Ie- ·”‘;181 animates my own discussion, for I

dec:onstruct that opposition in my discus­ .~.”l8nce in Chapter 2.

implied by my use of the word from Jean Baudrillard. Its

media marks a limit of my information technolo~

INTRODUCTION

now be called “old media” (e.g., television, film, sound recording). Others have already begun the project of theorizing performance in the environment of advanced information technologies more specifically than I do here (see Case 1996, Causey [forthcoming], McKenzie 1997, Saltz 1997).

I often employ the term “mediatized,” admittedly somewhat loosely, to indicate that a particular cultural object is a product of the mass media or of media technology. “Mediatized performance” is performance that is circulated on television, as audio or video recordings, and in . other forms based in technologies of reproduction. Baudrillard’s own definition is more expansive: “What is mediatized is not what comes off the daily press, out of the tube, or on the radio: it is what is reinter­ preted by the sign form, articulated into models, and administered by the code” (19~n: 175–6). For Baudrillard, mediatization is not simply a neutral term describing products of the media. Rather, he sees the media as instrumental in a larger, socio-political process of bringing all discourses under the dominance of a single code. Although I ignore Baudrillard’s admonishment that the word “mediatized” does not define modes of cultural production, I hope I have retained in my use of the term Baudrillard’s characterization of the mass media as the cultural dominant of contemporary, western/ized societies. (I believe my description here can be generalized to this extent, though my focus is admittedly on the United States.) I intend to describe both live performance’s cultural-economic competition with other forms and the position of live performance in a culture for which mediatization is a vehicle of the general code in a way that live performance is not (or is no longer). Although this book is not generally in service to Baudrillardian politics, I do follow Baudrillard’s line in my discussion of rock music in Chapter 3, both to extend his analysis into that cultural realm and to critique that analysis .

In the sense that I am treating live and mediatized performance as parallel forms that participate in the same cultural economy, my usage of “mediatization” follows Fredric Jameson’s definition of the term as: “the process whereby the traditional fine arts…come to consciousness of themselves as· various media within a mediatic system” (Jameson 1991: 162). Susan Sontag (1966: 25), in her essay on theatre and film, contrasts the two forms by saying that: “theatre is never a ‘medium'” in the sense that “one can make a movie ‘of’ a play but not a play ‘of’ a movie.” Part of my argument in Chapter 2 is intended to prove Sontag wrong: there have long been plays “of” movies and television programs, and live performance can even function as a kind of mass medium. Whereas the traditional view represented by Sontag’s comment sees

5

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #23

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #23

INTRODUCTION

theatre and the live performance arts generally as belonging to a cultural system separate from that of the mass media, live forms have become mediatized in Jameson’s sense: they have been forced by economic reality to acknowledge their status as media within a medi­ atic system that includes the mass media and information technologies. Implicitly acknowledging this situation, a number. of theatres have displayed signs similar to the banner that flew outside the Alliance Theater in Atlanta declaring that its offerings are “Not Available on Video,” demonstrating that the only way of imputing specificity to the experience of live performance in the current cultural climate is by reference LO the dominant experience of mediatization.

There is no question that live performance and mediatized forms compete for audiences in the cultural marketplace, and that mediatized forms have gained the advantage in that competition. Broadway producer Margo Lion’s observation. about the position of theatre within this competitive cultural economy can be applied to live performance generally: “we have realized that we are all competing for the same entertainment dollars in a climate where theater isn’t always first on the list” (quoted in Rick Lyman, “On stage and off,” New York Times, December 19 1997: B2). Blau elaborates:

[The theater’s] status has been continually threatened by what Adorno named the culture industry and…the escalating dominance of the media. “Do you go to the theater often?” That many have never gone, and that those who have, even in countries with established theater traditions, are going else­ where or, with cable and VCRs, staying home, is also a theatrical fact, a datum of practice.

(Blau 1992: 76)

As Blau recognizes, theatre and other forms of live performance compete directly with mediatized forms that are much more advanta­ geously positioned in the marketplace. Blau’s calling the pressure of live performance’s competition with the mediatized “a datum of prac­ tice” suggests that performance practice inevitably reflects this pressure in the material conditions under which performance takes place, in the composition of the audience and the formation of its expectations, and in the forms and contents of performance itself.

An important consequence of thinking about live and mediatized performance as belonging to the same mediatic system is the inscrip­ tion of live performance within the historical logic of media identified by Marshall McLuhan (1964: 158): “A new medium is never an addi­

6

INTRODUCTION

to an old one, nor does it leave the old one . ceases to oppress the older media until it finds ne .lions for them.” Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin ,””‘,””,Pr1 this analysis with their concept of “remed sentation of one medium in another.” AccordiIl! -new technologies of representation proceed by rei ating earlier ones” (ibid.: 352).6 My discussion in relationship between theatre and early television a displacement of live performance by television describe how this historical logic plays out in that bluntly, the general response of live performance to economic superiority of mediatized forms has been t like them as possible. From ball games that incorpo screens, to rock concerts that recreate the images , live stage versions of television shows and movies, 1£ mance art’s incorporation of video, evidence of mediatization into the live event is available across tl of performance genres.

This situation has created an understandable anx value live performance, and this anxiety may be ai need to say that live performance has a worth that Ix resists market value. In this view, the value of live p in its very resistance to the market and the mal culture they represent, and the regime of cultural supports them. This is the position Peggy Phelan has influential Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (PI many reasons (which will be elaborated in the tOIk find this view untenable. The progressive diminI distinctions between the live and the mediatized. in’ are becoming more and more like mediatized ones, question of whether there really are clear-cut ontok between live forms and mediatized ones. Although ments may seem to rest on the assumption that thm find that not to be the case. If live performance canIl4 economically independent of, immune from contar ontologically different from mediatized forms, in wru ness function as a site of cultural and ideologic Bogosian, Phelan, and others claim?

6 Noel Carrol ‘ith spI ways in wh: ted int techno!ogie,

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #24

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #24

INTRODUCTION

e pabmance arts generally as belonging to a ~’Imm that of the mass media, live forms have iB· .Jameoson’s sense: they have been forced by ~ their status as media within a medi­ “memass media and information technologies. ….. this situation, a number of theatres have II-to me banner that flew outside the Alliance .wing that its offerings are “Not Available on ~me only way of imputing specificity to the ,,*”…ace in the current cultural climate is by ..-experience of mediatization. .'” ,that live performance and mediatized forms ~..adnual marketplace, and that mediatized :ft8llvamage in that competition. Broadway …. ‘w.tion about the position of theatre within 1a:~laD1lOlllY can be applied to live performance ii. tcwl that we are all competing for the same_._dimare where theater isn’t always first on 1il:i:I,.man. “On stage and off,” New York Times, …BIau elaborates:

-.-has been continually threatened by what 1,;:_a.Ittare industry and… the escalating a….-. “n> you go to the theater often?’ 1r)’JIIII’IU ~ and that those who have, even haal….m theater traditions, are going else­ “lillie and VCRs, staying home, is also a ……ofpractice.

(Blau 1992: 76)

.. theatre and other forms of live performance Ih..d;arized forms that are much more advanta­ _ the marketplace. Blau’s calling the pressure of IOII!JIleIition with the mediatized “a datum of prac­ edxmance practice inevitably reflects this pressure Iirioos under which performance takes place, in the mdience and the formation of its expectations, and IIaltS ofperformance itself. msequence of thinking about live and mediatized mging to the same mediatic system is the inscrip­ mce within the historical logic ofmedia identified an (1964: 158): “A new medium is never an addi­

6

INTRODUCTION

tion to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peace. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and posi­ tions for them.” Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin (1996: 339) have refined this analysis with their concept of “remediation,” “the repre­ sentation of one medium in another.” According to their analysis, “new technologies of representation proceed by reforming or remedi­ ating earlier ones” (ibid.: 352).6 My discussion in Chapter 2 of the relationship between theatre and early television and the consequent displacement of live performance by television is an attempt to describe how this historical logic plays out in that instance. To put it bluntly, the general response of live performance to the oppression and economic superiority of mediatized forms has been to become as much like them as possible. From ball games that incorporate instant replay screens, . to rock concerts that recreate the images of music video, to live stage versions of television shows and movies, to dance and perfor­ mance art’s incorporation of video, evidence of the incursion of mediatization into the live event is available across the entire spectrum ofperformance genres,

This situation has created an understandable anxiety for those who value live performance, and this anxiety may beat the root of their needto say that live performance has a worth that both transcends and resists market value. In this view, the value of live performance resides in its very resistance to the market and the media, the dominant

;culture they represent, and the regime of cultural production that IllPports them. This is the position Peggy Phelan has elucidated in her kdIuential Unmarked: The Politics of Pe’1ormance(Phelan 1993a). For

reasons (which will be elaborated in the following chapters), I this view untenable. The progressive diminution of previous

istinctions between the live and the mediatized, in which live events becoming more and more like mediatized ones, raises for me the

tuestion of whether there really are clear-cut ontological distinctions IJetween live forms and mediatized ones. Although my initial argu­

may seem to rest on the assumption that there are, ultimately I that not to be the case. If live performance cannot be shown to be

independent of, immune from contamination by, and I/altologically different from mediatized forms, in what sense can live­

function as a site of cultural and ideological resistance, as Bogosian, Phelan, and others claim?

process, with specific reference to the incorporated into art forms based in

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #25

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #25

‘-….’-”

Towards a Poor Theatre

Jerzy Grotowski

Edited by Eugenio Barba Preface by Peter Brook

Routledge ATheatre Arts Book

New York

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #26

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #26

Information ……………………………..

Preface ……………………………­ by Peter Brook

Towards a Poor Theatre …..••• _ by Jerzy Grotowskl

The Theatre’s New Testameat •. an interview with Jerzy Grotowski by EiII Theatre Is an Encounter ……..•. an Interview with Jerzy Grotowski by”

Akropolis: Treatment of the T_ by ludwlk Flaszen

Dr Faustus: Textual Moritage ._. by Eugenio Barba

‘rhe Constant Prince ………….. by Ludwlk Flaszen

He Wasn’t Entirely Himself …..• by Jerzy Grotowskl

Methodical Exploration ……….. by Jerzy Grotowskl

Actor’s Training (1959-1982) … recorded by Eugenio Barba

Actor’s Training (1968) ………. recorded by Franz Marl]nen

The Actor’s Technique ……….. an Interview wlthJerzy Grotowakl by D

Skara Speech ……………….. . by Jerzy Grotowskl

American Encounter ………… .. an Interview with Jerzy Grotowskl by R Theodore Hoffman

Statement of Principles ……… by Jerzy Grotowskl

A Theatre Arts Book, published by Routledge 29 West 35th Street New York, NY 10001 www.routledge-ny.com

First Routledge edition, 2002 By arrangement with Odin Teatret Forlag, Denmark Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group. Copyright © 1968 Jerzy Grotowski and Odin Teatret Forlag

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized (except for brief quotations in reviews) without permission in writing from the publisher.

Cataloging-in-Publication data is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN 0-87830-155-0

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #27

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #27

M*

‘\9~

Towards aPoor Theatre This artlers by Jerzy GrotowIIkl hu besn published In: Odra (Wroolaw. 9/1965); Kunga D,.. metIaka Teatema Program (Stockholm. 111115); Scene (Novt Sad. 15/1965). CUlera Renaud·I_1t (paris. 55/1968). Tulane Drama Revlaw (New Orl8EIIIs. T35, 1967). Translation: T. K. Wlawlorowakl.

I am a bit impatient when asked, “What Is the origin of your ex­ perimental theatre productions?” The assumption seems to be that “experimental” work is tangential (toying with some “new” technique each time) and tributary. The result Is supposed to be a contribution to modem staging – scenography using current sculptural or electronic Ideas, contemporary music. actors In­ dependently projecting clownish or cabaret stereotypes. I know that scene: I used to be part of it. Our Theatre Laboratory produc­ tions are going In another direction. In the first place. we are trying to avoid eclecticism. trying to resist thinking of theatre as a composite of disciplines. We are seeking to define what is distinctively theatre, what separates this activity from other categories of performance and spectacle. Secondly •. our pro­ ductions are detailed investigations of the actor-audience re­ lationship. That is. we consider the personal and scenic technique of the actor as the core of theatre art.

It Is difficult to locate the exact sources of this approach. but I can speak of Its tradition. I was brought up on Stanlslavskl; his

15

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #28

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #28

TOWARDS A POOR THEATRE

persistent study, his systematic renewal of the methods of observation, and his dialectical relationship to his own earlier work make him my personal Ideal. Stanislavski asked the key methodological questions. Our solutions, however, differ widely from his – sometimes we reach opposite conclusions.

I have studied all the major actor-training methods of Europe and beyond. Most important for my purposes are: Dullin’s rhythm exercises, Delsarte’s Investigations of extroversive and intro­ versive reactions, Stanislawski’s work on “physical actions”, Meyerhold’s bio-mechanical training, Vakhtanghov’s synthesis. Also particularly stimulating to me are the training techniques of oriental theatre – specifically the Peking Opera, Indian Kathakall, and Japanese No theatre. I could cite other theatrical systems, but the method which we are developing is not a combination of techniques borrowed from these sources (although we sometimes adapt elements for our use). We do not want to teach the actor a predetermined set of skills or give him a “bag of tricks.” Ours is not a deductive method of collecting skills. Here everything is concentrated on the .. ripening” of the actor which is expressed by a tension towards the extreme, by a complete stripping down, by the laying bear of one’s own intimity – all this without the least trace of egotism or self-enjoyment. The actor makes a total gift of himself. This is a technique of the “trance” and of the integration of all the actor’s psychic and bodily powers which emerge from the most intimate layers of his being and his instinct, springing forth in a sort of “trans­ lumination…

The education of an actor in our theatre is not a matter of teaching him something; we attempt to eliminate his organism’s resistance to this psychic process. The result is freedom from the time-lapse between inner Impulse and outer reaction in such a way that the impulse is already an outer reaction. Impulse and action are concurrent: the body vanishes, burns. and the spectator sees only a series of visible Impulses.

18

Ours then is a via negativa – nul eradication of blocks.

Years of work and of specially co means of physical. plastiC and voca actor towards the right kind of cor: the discovery of the beginning of It carefully cultivate what has been ~ though to some extent dependent UI exposure, and almost disappeara”, voluntary. The requisite state of m realize an active role. a state in wh that” but rather “resigns from not d

Most of the actors at the Theatre ls work toward the possibility of maki their daily work they do not concen1 but on the composition of the role. (J the expression of signs – i.e.• on art between Inner technique and artifi signs). We bel.ieve that a personal p and expressed by a formal artlculatl of the role Is not a release and will t

We find that artificial composition spiritual but actually leads to it. (The inner process and the form strengt baited trap, to which the spiritual ously and against which it strugg .. natural” behaVior obscure the tru system of signs which demonstrate common vision: the dialectics of hi of psychic shock, a moment of tremendous joy. a man does not bel elevated spiritual state uses rhythmi

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #29

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #29

matic renewal of the methods of tical relationship to his own earlier II ideal. Stanislavski asked the key … solutions, however, differ widely dl opposite conclusions.

lCIDr-training methods of Europe and . .., purposes are: Dullin’s rhythm I!Ig!I1ioAs of extroversive and intro­ iiIId”8 work on .. physical actions”, InIining, Vakhtanghov’s synthesis.

: to me are the training techniques :IicaI1y the Peking Opera, Indian theabe. I could cite other theatrical Ihich we are developing is not a nuwed from these sources (although IIIB for our use). We do not want lennined set of skills or give him tit a deductive method of collecting fICeIltrated on the .. ripening” of the a tension towards the extreme, by a !he laying bear of one’s own intimity race of egotism or self-enjoyment. If himself. This is a technique of the jon of all the actor’s psychic and from the most intimate layers of his inging forth in a sort of “trans-

LJr theatre is not a matter of teaching eliminate his organism’s resistance

9sult is freedom from the time-lapse Jter reaction in such a way that the reaction. Impulse and action are

9S, burns, and the spectator sees es.

TOWARDS A POOR THEATRE

Ours then is a via negativa – not a collection of skills but an eradication of blocks.

Years of work and of specially composed exercises (which, by means of physical, plastic and vocal training, attempt to guide the actor towards the right kind of concentration) sometimes permit the discovery of the beginning of this road. Then it is possible to carefully cultivate what has been awakened. The process itself, though to some extent dependent upon concentration, confidence, exposure, and almost disappearance into the acting craft, is not voluntary. The requisite state of mind is a passive readiness to realize an active role, a state in which one does not “want to do that” but rather “resigns from not doing it.”

Most of the actors at the Theatre Laboratory are just beginning to work toward the possibility of making such a process visible. In their daily work they do not concentrate on the spiritual technique but on the composition of the role, on the construction of form, on the expression of signs – Le., on artifice. There is no contradiction between inner technique and artifice (articulation of a role by signs). We bel.ieve that a personal process which is not supported and expressed by a formal articulation and disciplined structuring of the role is not a release and will collapse in shapelessness.

We find that artificial composition not only does not limit the spiritual but actually leads to it. (The tropistic tension between the inner process and the form strengthens both. The form is like a baited trap, to which the spiritual process responds spontane­ ously and against which it struggles.) The forms of common “natural” behavior obscure the truth; we compose a role as a system of signs which demonstrate what is behind the mask of common vision: the dialectics of human behavior. At a moment of psychic shock, a moment of terror, of mortal danger or tremendous joy, a man does not behave “naturally.” A man in an elevated spiritual state uses rhythmically articulated signs, begins

17

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #30

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #30

TOWARDS A POOR THEAmE

to dance. to sing. A sign, not a common gesture. Is the elementary integer of expression for us.

In terms of formal technique. we do not work by proliferation of signs, or by accumulation of signs (as in the formal repetitions of oriental theatre). Rather, we subtract, seeking distillation of signs by eliminating those elements of “natural” behavior which obscure pure impulse. Another technique which illuminates the hidden structure of signs is contradiction (between gesture and voice, voice and word, word and thought, will and action. etc.) ­ here, too, we take the via negativa.

It is difficult to say precisely what elements in our productions result from a consciously formulated program and what derive from the structure of our imagination. I am frequently asked whether certain “medieval” effects indicate an intentional return to “ritual roots.” There is no single answer. At our present point of artistic awareness, the problem of mythic roots,” of theU elementary human situation, has definite meaning. However. this is not a product of a “philosophy of art” but comes from the prac­ tical discovery and use of the rules of theatre. That is, the pro­ ductions do not spring from a priori aesthetiC postulates; rather, as Sartre has said: “Each technique leads to metaphYSiCS.”

For several years, I vacillated between practice-born impulses and the application of a priori principles, Without seeing the contradiction. My friend and colleague Ludwik Flaszen was the first to pOint out this confusion in my work: the material and tech­ niques which came spontaneously in preparing the production, from the very nature of the work, were revealing and promising: but what I had taken to be applications of theoretical assumptions were actually more functions of my personality than of my in­ tellect. I realized that the production led to awareness rather than being the product of awareness. Since 1960, my emphasis has been on methodology. Through practical experimentation I sought to answer the questions with which I had begun: What is the

18

theatre? What is unique about it’l television cannot? Two concrete poor theatre. and performance as

By gradually eliminating whatever that theatre can exist without make and scenography. without a sepa without’lighting and sound effects, actor-spectator relationship of p munion. This Is an ancient theorel rigorously tested in practice it unw about theatre. It challenges the nl of disparate creative disciplines ­ architecture, lighting, acting (unde scene). This .. synthetic theatre” which we readily call the “Rich Th

The Rich Theatre depends on arti other disciplines. constructing hyl without backbone or integrity, ye work. By multiplying aSSimilated e to escape the impasse presented I film and TV excel in the area of Ii instantaneous change of place. et! with a blatantly compensatory cal gratlon of borrowed mechanisms ( ample) means a sophisticated te mobility and dynamism. And if the mobile. constantly changing persp is all nonsense.

No matter how much theatre expal resources, it will remain technolo~ vision. Consequently. I propose resigned from the stage-and-au( ductlon. a new space is designed

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #31

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #31

t a common gesture. is the elementary

B. we do not work by proliferation of Fsigns (as in the formal repetitions of . subtract. seeking distillation of signs EIlts of “natural” behavior which Ihar technique which illuminates the ‘CGl’dr’adiction (between gesture and I ald thought. will and action, etc.) _ I8IIIIva­

I.r what elements In our productions lXmulated program and what derive llnaglnation. I am frequently asked effects indicate an intentional return t single answer. At our present pOint problem of mythic U roots,” of the has definite meaning. However, this

.,hy of art” but comes from the prac­ be rules of theatre. That is, the pro­ a priori aesthetic postulates; rather, chnique leads to metaphysics.”

:ed between practice-born impulses riori principles, without seeing the I colleague Ludwik Flaszen was the m in my work: the material and tech­ eously in preparing the production, rtfork, were revealing and promising; plications of theoretical assumptions s of my personality than of my in­ duction led to awareness rather than less. Since 1960. my emphasis has ,h practical experimentation I sought h which I had begun: What is the

TOWARDS A POOR THEATRE

theatre? What is unique about it? What can it do that film and television cannot? Two concrete conceptions crystallized: the poor theatre, and performance as an act of transgression.

By gradually eliminating whatever proved superfluous, we found that theatre can exist without make-up, without autonomic costume and scenography. Without a separate performance area (stage). withoul·lighting and sound effects, etc. It cannot exist without the actor-spectator relationship of perceptual. direct, “live” com­ munion. This is an ancient theoretical truth. of course. but when rigorously tested in practice it undermines most of our usual Ideas about theatre. It challenges the notion of theatre as a synthesis of disparate creative disciplines – literature, sculpture. painting. architecture, lighting. acting (under the direction of a metteur-en­ scene). This “synthetic theatre” is the contemporary theatre. which we readily call the “Rich Theatre” – rich in flaws.

The Rich Theatre depends on artistic kleptomania, drawing from other disciplines. constructing hybrid-spectacles. conglomerates without backbone or integrity. yet presented as an organic art­ work. By multiplying assimilated elements, the Rich Theatre tries to escape the impasse presented by movies and television. Since film and TV excel in the area of mechanical functions (montage. instantaneous change of place. etc.), the Rich Theatre countered with a blatantly compensatory call for “total theatre.” The inte­ gration of borrowed mechanisms (movie screens onstage, for ex­ ample) means a sophisticated technical plant. permitting great mobility and dynamism. And if the stage and/or auditorium were mobile, constantly changing perspective would be possible. This is all nonsense.

No matter how much theatre expands and exploits its mechanical resources. it will remain technologically Inferior to film and tele­ visJon. Consequently, I propose poverty in theatre. We have resigned from the stage-and-auditorium plant: for each pro­ duction, a new space is designed for the actors and spectators.

19

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #32

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #32

TOWARDS A POOR THEATRE

Thus. infinite variation of performer·audience relationships is possible. The actors can play among the spectators, directly contacting the audience and giving it a passive role in the drama (e.g. our productions of Byron’s Cain and Kalidasa’s Shakuntala). Or the actors may build structures among the spectators and thus include them in the architecture of action. subjecting them to a sens~ of the pressure and congestion and limitation of space (Wyspianski’s Akropolis). Or the actors may play among the spectators and ignore them. looking through them. The spectators may be separated from the actors – for example, by a high fence, over which only their heads protrude (The Constant Prince, from Calderon); from this radically slanted perspective, they look down on the actors as if watching animals in a ring. or like medical students watching an operation (also. this detached, downward viewing gives the action a sense of moral trans· gression). Or the entire hall is used as a concrete place: Faustus’ U last supper” in a monastery refectory, where Faustus entertains the spectators, who are guests at a baroque feast served on huge tables, offering episodes from his life. The elimination of stage­ auditorium dichotomy is not the important thing – that simply creates a bare laboratory situation, an appropriate area for investigation. The essential concern is finding the proper spec­ tator-actor relationship for each type of performance and embody­ ing the decision in physical arrangements.

We forsook lighting effects. and this revealed a Wide range of possibilities for the actor’s use of stationary light-sources by deliberate work with shadows. bright spots, etc. It is particularly significant that once a spectator is placed In an illuminated zone, or in other words becomes visible, he too begins to playa part in the performance. It also became eVident that the actors, like figures in EI Greco’s paintings, can “illuminate” through personal technique, becoming a source of Uspiritual light.” We abandoned make-up, fake noses, pillow-stuffed bellies ­ everything that the actor puts on in the dressing room before performance. We found that it was consummately theatrical for

20

the actor to transform from type to silhouette to silhouette – while the • manner, using only his own body al fixed faCial expression by using t inner impulses achieves the effe transubstantiation, while the mask is only a trick.

Similarly, a costume with no auton connection with a particular charae transformed before the audience, functions, etc. Elimination of plastll

of their own (i.e., represent somethi activities) led to the creation by the and obviOUS objects. By his contro transforms the floor into a sea, a tat of Iron Into an animate partner, etc recorded) not produced by the act itself to become music through thE clashing objects. We know that the It becomes theatre only through th~ say, thanks to Intonations, to the I musicality of the language.

The acceptance of poverty in thea1 essential to It, revealed to us no medium, but also the deep riches y the art-form.

Why are our limltl conditior comes tl effort to perceptl’

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #33

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #33

performer-audience relationships is play among the spectators, directly I giving it a passive role in the drama on’s Cain and Kalidasa’s Shakuntala). ctures among the spectators and thus ::lure of action, subjecting them to a congestion and limitation of space

)r the actors may play among the looking through them. The spectators Idors – for example, by a high fence, protrude (The Constant Prince, from ally slanted perspective, they look Mltching animals in a ring, or like an operation (also, this detached,

’18 action a sense of moral trans­ Is used as a concrete place: Faustus’ , refectory, where Faustus entertains Is at a baroque feast served on huge m his life. The elimination of stage­ t the important thing – that simply situation, an appropriate area for concern is finding the proper spec­ ch type of performance and embody­ lfT8ngements.

and this revealed a Wide range of use of stationary light-sources by s, bright spots, etc. It is particularly Itor is placed in an illuminated zone, sible, he too begins to playa part in came eVident that the actors, like s, can uilluminate” through personal ! of spiritual light.” U ke noses, pillow-stuffed bellies _ ts on in the dressing room before it was consummately theatrical for

TOWARDS A POOR THEATRE

the actor to transform from type to type, character to character, silhouette to silhouette – while the audience watched – in a poor manner, using only his own body and craft. The composition of a fixed facial expression by using the actor’s own muscles and inner impulses achieves the effect of a strikingly theatrical transubstantiation, while the mask prepared by a make-up artist Is only a trick.

Similarly, a costume with no autonomous value, existing only in connection with a particular character and his activities, can be transformed before the audience, contrasted with the actor’s functions, etc. Elimination of plastic elements which have a life of their own (i.e., represent something independent of the actor’s activities) led to the creation by the actor of the most elementary and obvious objects. By his controlled use of gesture the actor transforms the floor into a sea, a table into a confeSSional, a piece of iron into an animate partner, etc. Elimination of music (live or recorded) not produced by the actors enables the performance itself to become music through the orchestration of voices and clashing objects. We know that the text per se is not theatre, that it becomes theatre only through the actors’ use of it – that Is to say, thanks to intonations, to the association of sounds, to the musicality of the language.

The acceptance of poverty in theatre, stripped of all that is not essential to it, revealed to us not only the backbone of the medium, but also the deep riches which lie in the very nature of the art-form.

I .~ Whyarel·· ·oss our frontiers, exceed our Iimit1 . ..il ourselves. This is not a

: is dark In us slowly be­conditiOj . comes L ,> rith one’s own truth, this effort to aatre , with its full-fleshed percepti _. .e a place of provocation.

I 21

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #34

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #34

Larry
Line
Larry
Line

PETER BROOK 1

The Empty Space .

A TOUCHSTONE BOOK Published by Simon & Schuster

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #35

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #35

TOUCHSTONE Rockefeller Center

1230 Avenue of the Americas NewYork,NY 10020

Copyright © 1968 by Peter Brook

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in anyfonn.

First Touchstone Edition 1996

TOUCHSIDNE and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Portions of this book were previously published in The Atlantic MDnthly

Manufactured in the United States of America

31 33 35 37 39 30 38 36 34 32

Library of Congress catalog card number 68-12531

ISBN 0-684-82957–6

FOR MY FATHER

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #36

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #36

IIII!

~

\,~

1

The Deadly Theatre

I CAN take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watch­ ing him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged. Yet when we talk about theatre this is not quite what we mean. Red curtains, spotlights, blank verse, laugh­ ter, darkness, these are all confusedly superimposed in a messy image covered by one all-purpose word. We talk of the cinema killing the theatre, and in that phrase we refer to the theatre as it was when the cinema was born, a theatre of box office, foyer, tip-up seats, footlights, scene changes, intervals, music, as though the theatre was by very definition these and little more.

I will try to split the word four ways and distinguish four different meanings – and so will talk about a Deadly Theatre, a Holy Theatre, a Rough Theatre and an Immediate Theatre. Sometimes these four theatres really exist, standing side by side, in the West End of London, or in New York off Times Square. Sometimes they are hundreds of miles apart, the Holy in Warsaw and the Rough in Prague, and sometimes they are metaphoric: two ofthem mixing together within one evening, within one act. Sometimes within on single moment, the four of them, Holy, Rough, Immediate and Deadly inter­ twine.

The Deadly Theatre can at first sight be taken for granted, because it means bad theatre. As this is the form of theatre we see most often, and as it is most closely linked to the despised, much-attacked commercial theatre it might seem a waste of time to criticize it further. But it is only if we see that deadliness is deceptive and can appear anywhere, that we will become aware ofthe size ofthe problem.

9

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #37

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #37

10 THE EMPTY SPACE

. !he condition of the Deadly Theatre at least is fairly ~bVIOUS. All through the world theatre audiences are dwind­ hng. There are occasional new movements, good new writers an~ so on, b~t as a whole, the theatre not only fails to elevate or mstruct, It hardly even entertains. The theatre has often ~een c~ned a whore, meaning its art is impure, but today this IS true m another sense – whores take the money and then go short on the pleasure. The Broadway crisis the Paris crisis the West End crisis are the same: we do n~t need the ticke~ agents to tell us that the theatre has become a deadly business and the public is smelling it out. In fact, were the public ever really to demand the true entertainment it talks about so o~ten, we would almost all be hard put to know where to be­ gI.n.. A true theatre ofjoy is non..,.existent and it is not just the trIVIal ,comedy and the bad musical that fail to give us .our money s worth – the Deadly Theatre finds its deadly way into grand opera and tragedy, into the plays of Moliere and the plays o~Brecht. Of course nowhere does the Deadly Theatre Install Itself so securely, so comfortably and so slyly as in the.works ofWilliam Shakespeare. The Deadly Theatre takes ~aslly to Shakes~eare. We see his plays done by good actors In what seems ~Ike th~ proper way- they look lively and colourful, there IS muslc~d everyone is all dressed· up, just as they are supposed to be m the best ofclassical theatres. Yet secre~ly we find it excruciatingly boring and in our hearts we eIther blame Shakespeare, or theatre as such, or even ourselves. To make matters worse there is always a deadly spectator, who for special reasons enjoys a lack of intensity and even a lack of entertainment, such as the scholar who emerges fro~ routine performances of the classics smiling because. noth~ng has dIstracted him from trying over and confi~mg. hIS pet theories to himself, whilst reciting his faVOUrIte hnes under his breath. In his heart he sincerely wants a. theatre that is nobler-than-life and he confuses a sor~ of mtellectual satisfaction with the true experience for whIch .he craves. Unfortunately, he lends the weight of his ~uthorlty to dullness and so the Deadly Theatre goes on Its way.

THE DEADLY THEATRE

Anyone who watches the real successes as the~ year, will see a very curious phen?menon. W so-called hit to be livelier, faster, brIghter than 1 this is not always the case. Almost every se~ theatre-loving towns, there is one great succe: these rules; one play that succeeds not desp.ite 1: dullness. Mter all, one associates culture WIth a of duty, historical costumes and long .speeches. sation of being bored: so, conversely, Just the rl boringness is a reassuring guarantee. o~ a. wort Ofcourse the dosage is so subde that It IS ImpoS Ush the e~act formula too. much and the audil out of their seats, too little and it may find the 1 agreeably intense. However, mediocr~ authorl their way unerringly to the perfect mIxture ­ petuate the Deadly Theatre with du~ su~SS( praised. Audiences crave for. somethmg I? th they can term ‘better’ than hfe and for thIS re to confuse culture, or the trappings ofculture, VI they do not know, but sense obscurely could ex cally, in elevating something bad into a succes: cheating themselves.

Ifwe talk of deadly, let us note that the diffE: life and death, so crystal clear in man, is somE: other fields. A doctor can tell at once between· and the useless bag of bones that life has left; practised in observing how an i~ea, an at~itu~1 pass from the lively to the mOrIbund. It .IS dr but a child can smell it out. Let me gIve a France there are two deadly ways ofplaying cl One is traditional, and this involves using a special manner, a noble look and an elevat livery. The other way is no more than a half­ of the same thing. Imperial gestures and roya disappearing from everyday life, so. each newl the grand manner more and more hollow, J meaningless. This leads the young actor t( impatient search for what he calls truth. He VI

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #38

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #38

I

THE EMPTY SPACE

:lition of the Deadly Theatre at least is fairly I through the world theatre audiences are dwind­ are occasional new movements, good new writers ut as a whole, the theatre not only fails to elevate it hardly even entertains. The theatre has often 1 whore, meaning its art is impure, but today this lther sense – whores take the money and then go pleasure. The Broadway crisis, the Paris crisis,

Id crisis are the same: we do not need the ticket ! us that the theatre has become a deadly business lC is smelling it out. In fact, were the public ever nand the true entertainment it talks about so uld almost all be hard put to know where to be­ leatre ofjoy is non-,.existent and it is not just the Iy and the bad musical that fail to give us our :h – the Deadly Theatre finds its deadly way into iIlld tragedy, into the plays of Moliere and the It. OfCOurse nowhere does the Deadly Theatre 10 securely, so comfortably and so slyly as in iVilliam Shakespeare. The Deadly Theatre takes espeare. We see his plays done by good actors s like the proper way- they look lively and ‘e is music and everyone is all dressed ‘up, just .posed to be in the best ofclassical theatres. Yet ld it excruciatingly boring – and in our hearts ne Shakespeare, or theatre· as such, or even make matters worse there is always a deadly for special reasons enjoys a lack of intensity

:k of entertainment, such as the scholar who routine performances of the classics smiling g has distracted him from trying over and pet theories to himself, whilst reciting his under his breath . .In his heart he Sincerely ~ that is nobler-than-life and he confuses a :ual satisfaction with the true experience for s. Unfortunately, he lends the weight of his Illness and so the Deadly Theatre goes on

THE DEADLY THEATRE 11

Anyone who watches the real successes as they appear each year, will see a very curious phenomenon. We expect the so-called hit to be livelier, faster, brighter than the flop – but this is not always the case. Almost every season in most theatre-loving towns, there is one great success that defies these rules; one play that succeeds not despite but because of dullness. After all, one associates culture with a certain sense of duty, historical costumes and long speeches with the sen­ sation of being bored: so, conversely, just the right degree of boringness is a reassuring guarantee of a worthwhile event. Ofcourse, the dosage is so subtle that it is impossible toestab­ lish the exact formula – too much and the audience is driven out of their seats, too little and it may find the theme too dis­ agreeably intense. However, mediocre authors seem to feel their way unerringly to the perfect mixture – and they per­ petuate the Deadly Theatre with dull successes, universally praised. Audiences crave for something in the theatre that they can term ‘better’ than life and for this reason are open to confuse culture, or the trappings ofculture, with something they do not know, but sense obscurely could exist – so, tragi­ cally, in elevating something bad into a success they are only cheating themselves.

If we talk of deadly, let us note that the difference between life and death, so crystal clear in man, is somewhat veiled in other fields. A doctor can tell at once between the trace of life and the useless bag of bones that life has left; but we are less practised in observing how an idea, an attitude or a form can pass from the lively to the moribund. It is difficult to define but a child can smell it out. Let me give an example. In France there are two deadly ways ofplaying classical tragedy. One is traditional, and this involves using a special voice, a special manner, a noble look and an elevated musical de­ livery. The other way is no more than a half-hearted version of the same thing. Imperial gestures and royal values are fast disappearing from everyday life, so each new generation finds the grand manner more and more hollow, more and more meaningless. This leads the young actor to an angry and impatient search for what he calls truth. He wants to play his

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Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #39

12 THE EMPTY SPACE

. verse more realistically, to get it to sound like honest-to-God r~a~ speec~, but ,he finds that the formality of the writing is so ngld that, It resIs~ th~s treatment. He is forced to an uneasy comproffils~ t~at ~s n~Ither refreshing, like ordinary talk, nor defiantly hIStriOnIC, like .what we c.all. ham. So his acting is weak and because ham IS strong, It IS remembered with a certain nostalgi~, Inevitably, someone calls for tragedy to be played once agam <the way.it is written’. This is fair enough, bu~ unfortunately all the prmted word can tell us is what was wntten on paper, not how it was once brought to life. There are no records, no tapes – only experts, but not one of them, of course, has firsth~d !m0~ledge. The real antiques have all gon~ ~- only some Iffiltation~ have survived, in the shape of tradItional actors, who continue to play in a traditional way, drawing their inspiration not from real sources but from imaginary ones, such as the memory of theso~d an older actor once made – a sound that in turn was a memory of a predecessor’s way.

I once saw a rehearsal at the Comedie Frant;aise – a very y~ung actor stood .in fr?nt?f a very old one and spoke and mImed the role WIth hIm hke a reflection in a glass. This must not be confused with the great tradition say of the Noh ~to:s passing knowledge orally from f;ther’to son. There It IS meaning that is communicated – and meaning never belongs to the past. It can be checked in each man’s own present experience, But to imitate the externals ofacting only perpetuates manner – a manner hard to relate to any­ thing at all.

Again with Shakespeare we hear or read the same advice ­ <Play what “is written’. But what is written? Certain ciphers on paper. Shakespeare’s words are records of the words that he wanted to be spoken, words issuing as sounds from people’s mouths, with pitch, pause, rhythm and gesture as part of their meaning. A word does not start as a word – it is an .end product w?ich be~s ~s an impulse, stimulated by attt.tude and behaVIOur whIch dIctate the need for expression. ThIS process occurs inside the -dramatist; it is repeated inside the actor. Both may only be conscious of the words,but both

THE DEADLY THEATRE

for the author and then for the actor the we: visible· portion of a gigan~ic unse~n forma~on. attempt to nail down theIr meanmg and mteIl directions and explanations, yet we cannot hel: by the fact that the best dramati~ts ~xp:ain t least. They recognize that further mdlcatIons v ably be useless. They recognize that the onl the true path to the speaking of a word is ~ that parallels the original creative one. This by-passed nor simplified. Unfortunately.’ the D speaks, or a kin~, utters,. we. r~sh to ,gIVe thE lover is <romantic, the kmg IS noble – and. b it we are speaking of romantic lov~ and kin: princeliness as though they are things we c hand and expect the actors to observe. But thE stances and they do not exist. Ifwe search fO.l we can do is to make guesswork reconstrUcttl and paintings. If you ask an actor t? ~lay style’ he will valiantly have a go, thinking you mean. What actually can. he draw o~? E tion and a scrapbook of theatrIcal memorIes?; give him a vague ‘romanticness’ that he will disguised imitation of whatever old.er actor admire. Ifhe digs into his own expenences tb marry with the text; if he just plays ~hat 1 text, it will be imitative and co?venttonal. result is a compromise: at most tImes uncom

It is vain to pretend that the words we a: plays like <musical’, <poetic’, ‘larger ~ <heroic’, <romantic’, have any absolute m~anll reflections of a critical attitude of a partlcula attempt to build a performance today to 0 canons is the most certain road to deadly ~ theatre of a respectability that makes i! pas:

Once, when giving a lecture on thIS thl to put it to a practical tes~. By luck, thel in the audience who had neIther read nor Sl gave her Goneril’s first speech and askedh

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #40

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #40

THE EMPTY SPACE

meally, to get it to sound like honest-to-God e finds that the formality of the writing is so ts this treatment. He is forced to an uneasy

THE DEADLY THEATRE 18

for the author and then for the actor the word is a small visible portion ofa gigantic unseen forma.tion. Some writers attempt to nail down their meaning and intentions in stage

is neither refreshing, like ordinary talk, nor ic.. like what we call ham. So his acting is ~ ham is strong, it is remembered with a Inevitably, someone calls for tragedy to be l”the way it is written’. This is fair enough, all the printed word can tell us is what was DOt how it was once brought to life. There tapes – only experts, but not one of them, IIIrmd knowledge. The real antiques have

iDlPiration not from real sources, but

_JecJge orally from father to is communicated

imitations have survived, in the shape who continue to play in a traditional

as the memory of the sound an .8DUD.d that in tum was a memory of

Comedie Fran~aise – a very a very old one and spoke and

a refiection in a glass. This die great tradition, say, of the

son. – and meaning

pst. It can be checked in each man’s IIieIKe. But to imitate the externals ofacting ..aw – a manner hard to relate to any-

IIIespeare we hear or read the same advice ­ iuen·. But what is written? Certain ciphers peare’s words are records of the words that e spoken, words issuing as sounds from with pitch, pause, rhythm and gesture as

Bag. A word does not start as a word – it is IIIida begins as an impulse, stimulated by

-Which dictate the need for expression. the-dramatist; it is repeated inside

lie conscious of the words, but both

directions and explanations, yet we cannot help being struck by the fact that the best dramatists explain themselves the least.: They recognize that further indications will most prob­ ably be useless. They recognize that the only way to find the true path to the speaking of a word is through a process that parallels the original creative one. This can neither be by-passed nor simplified. Unfortunately, the moment a lover speaks, or a king utters, we rush to give them a label: the lover is ‘romantic’, the king is ‘noble’ – and before we know it we are speaking of romantic love and kingly nobility or princeliness as though they are things we can hold in our hand and expect the actors to observe. But these are not sub­ stances and they do not exist. Ifwe search for them, the best we can do is to make guesswork reconstructions from books and paintings. If you ask a:n actor to play in a ‘romantic style’ he will valiantly have a go, thinking he knows what you mean. What actually can he draw on? Hunch, imagina­ tion and a scrapbook oftheatrical memories, all of which will give him a vague ‘romanticness’ that he will mix up with a disguised imitation of whatever older actor he happens to admire. If he digs into his own experiences the result may not marry with the text; if he just plays what he thinks is the text, it will be imitative and conventional. Either way the result is a compromise: at most times unconvincing.

It is vain to pretend that the words we apply to classical plays like ‘musical’, ‘poetic’, ‘larger than life’, ‘noble’, ‘heroic’, ‘romantic’, have any absolute meaning. They are the reflections of a critical attitude of a particular period, and to attempt to build a performance today to conform to these canons is the most certain road to deadly theatre – deadly theatre of a respectability that makes it pass as living truth.

Once, when giving a lecture on this theme, I was able to put it to a practical test .. By luck, there was a woman in the audience who had neither read nor seen King Lear. I gave her Goneril’s first speech and asked her to recite it as

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #41

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #41

—-

14 THE EMPTY SPACE

. best she could for whatever values shefoWld init~She read it very simply – and the speech itself emerged full of eloquence and charm. I then explained that it was supposed to be the speech of a wicked woman and suggested her reading every word for hypocrisy. She tried to do so, and the audience saw what a hard Wlllatural wrestling with the simple music of the words was involved when she sought to act to a definition:

Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty; Beyond that can be valued, rich or rare; No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour; As much as child e’er loved, or father fOWld; A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable; Beyond all manner of $0 much I love you.

Anyone can try this for himself. Taste it on the tongue. The words are those of a lady of style and breeding accus­ tomed to expressing herself in public, someone with ease and social. aplomb. As for clues to her character, only the fa~ade is presented and this, we see, is elegant and attractive. Yet if one thinks of the performances where Goneril speaks these first lines as a macabre villainess, and looks at the speech again, one is at a loss to know whatsuggests this – other than preconceptions of Shakespeare’s moral attitudes. In fact, if Goneril in her first appearance does not playa ‘monster’. but merely what her given words suggest, then all the balance of the play changes – and in the subsequent scenes her villainy and Lear’s martyrdom are neither as crude nor as simplified as they might appear. Of course, by the end of the play we learn that Goneril’s actions make her what we call a monster – but a real monster, both complex and compelling.

In a living theatre, we would each day approach the re­ hearsal putting yesterday’s discoveries to the test, ready to believe that the true play has once again escaped us. But the Deadly Theatre approaches the classics from the viewpoint that somewhere, someone has fOWld out and defined how the play should be done.

This] ~ rre loosely call style.

I

THE DEADLY THEATRE

Every work has its own style: it could no every period has its style. The moment we this style we are lost. I remember vividly.w~ the Pekin Opera had come to London a rIva; Company followed, from Formosa~ ~e P?kl still in touch with its sources and creatmg Its afresh each night: the Formosan company, items, was imitating its memories of them, details, exaggerating the showy passa~es, meaning – nothing was reborn. Even m ~ style the difference between life and death w

The real Pekin Opera was an example oj where the outer forms do not change fro] generation and only a few years ago it seer were so perfectly frozen that it could carry day, even this superb relic has go~e. ~ts fo~ enabled it to survive way beyond Its tIme, hI but the day came when the gap between it a society aroWld it became too great. The RE a different China. Few of the attitudes and traditional Pekin Opera relate to the new str in which this people now lives. Today in Pe and princesses have been replaced by landle and the same incredible acrobatic skills are very different themes. To the Weste~er thi shame and it is easy for us to shed cultIvated it is tragic that this miraculous heritage has and yet I feel that the ruthless Chinese a their proudest possessions goes to the heal ofliving theatre – theatre is always a self-dt it is always written on the wind. A pr< assembles different people every night anI through the language of behaviour. A pen and usually has to be repeated – and repl accurately as possible but from the day i1 invisible is beginning to die. .

In the Moscow Art Theatre, in Tel Avb productions have been kept going for fort

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #42

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #42

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\ .. .. …~.~….•

Chapter 12

Augusto Boal

THE THEATRE AS DISCOURSE

G EORGE IKISHAWA used to say that the bourgeois theater is the finished theater. The bourgeoisie already knows what the world is like, their world, and is able to present images of this complete, finished world. The bourgeoisie presents the spectacle. On the other hand, the proletariat and the oppressed classes do not know yet what their world will be like; consequently their theater will be the rehearsal, not the finished spectacle. This is quite true, though it is equally true that the theater can present images of transition.

I have been able to observe the truth of this view during all my activities in the people’s theater of so many and such different countries of Latin America. Popular audiences are interested in experimenting, in rehearsing, and they abhor the ‘closed’ spectacles. In those cases they try to enter into a dialogue with the actors, to interrupt the action, to ask for explanations without waiting politely for the end of the play. Contrary to the bourgeois code of manners, the people’s code allows and encourages the spectator to ask questions, to dialogue, to participate.

All the methods that I have discussed are forms of a rehearsal-theater, and not a spectacle-theater. One knows how these experiments will begin but not how they will end, because the spectator is freed from his chains, finally acts, and becomes a protagonist. Because they respond to the real needs of a popular audience they are practiced with success and joy.

But nothing in this prohibits a popular audience from practicing also more ‘finished’ forms of theater. In Peru many forms preViously developed in other countries, especially Brazil and Argentina, were also utilized and with great success. Some of these forms were:

i Newspaper theater: It was initially developed by the Nucleus Group of the Arena Theater of Sao Paulo, of which I was the artistic director until forced to

80

leave Brazil. I It c( forming daily news theatrical performaJ

(a) Simple readin. context of th( false or tendel

(b) Crossed readi] nating) form, giving it a nev

(c) Complementar by the newsp. news.

(d) Rhythmical reo read to the rb etc., so that tt news, revealin newspaper.

(e) Parallel action: news is read, event really oce else that compl

(f) Improvisation: its variants and

(g) Historical: data historical mom systems, are ad,

(h) Reinforcement: accompaniment

(i) Concretion of tl its purely abstra. torture, hunger, using graphicirr

(j) Text out of cont in which it was speech about aus Economics whil, truth behind the wants austerity f

2 invisible theater: It , environment other thi spectators. The place a train, a line of peop

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #43

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #43

is the finished e, their world, le bourgeoisie the oppressed v their theater ~, though it is

ny activities in .atin America. end they abhor ogue with the ng politely for people’s code to participate. d-theater, and begin but not nally acts, and of a popular

:ing also more oped in other ld with great

Group of the Illtil forced to

leave Brazil. I It consists of several simple teclmiques for trans­ forming daily news items, or any other non-dramatic material, into theatrical performances.

(a) Simple reading: the news item is read detaching it from the context of the newspaper, from the format which makes it false or tendentious.

(b) Crossed reading: two news items are read in crossed (alter­ nating) form, one throwing light on the other, explaining it, giving it a new dimension.

(c) Complementary reading: data and information generally omitted by the newspapers of the ruling classes are added to the news.

(d) Rhythmical reading: as a musical commentary, the news is read to the rhythm of the samba, tango, Gregorian chant, etc., so that the rhythm functions as a critical ‘filter’ of the news, revealing its true content which is obscured in the newspaper.

(e) Parallel action: the actors mime parallel actions while the news is read, showing the context in which the reported event really occurred; one hears the news and sees something else that complements it visually.

(f) Improvisation: the news is improvised on to exploit all its variants and possibilities.

(g) Historical: data or scenes showing the same event in other historical moments, in other countries, or in other social systems, are added to the news.

(h) Reinforcement: the news is read or sung with the aid or accompaniment of slides, jingles, songs, or publiCity materials.

(i) ConcTetion of the abstract: that which the news often hides in its purely abstract information is made concrete on the stage: torture, hunger, unemployment, etc., are shown concretely, using graphic images, real or symbolic.

(j) Text out of context: the news is presented out of the context in which it was published; for example, an actor gives the speech about austerity pre”iously delivered by the Minister of Economics while he devours an enormous dimler: the real truth behind the minister’s words becomes demystifiecl – he wants austerity for the people but not for himself.

2 Invisible theater: It consists of the presentation of a scene in an environment other than the theater, before people who are not spectators. The place can be a restaurant, a sidewalk, a market, a train, a line of people, etc. The people who witness the scene

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Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #44

THE THEATRE AS DISCOURSE

are those who are there by chance. During the spectacle, these people must not have the slightest idea that it is a ‘spectacle,’ for this would make them ‘spectators. ‘

The invisible theater calls for the detailed preparation of a skit with a complete text or a simple script; but it is necessary to rehearse the scene sufficiently so that the actors are able to incorporate into their acting and their actions the intervention of the spectators. During the rehearsal it is also necessary to include every imaginable intervention from the spectators; these possibilities will form a kind of optional text.

The invisible theater erupts in a location chosen as a place where the public congregates. All the people who are near become involved in the eruption and the effects of it last long after the skit is ended.

A small example shows how the invisible theater works. In the enormous restaurant of a hotel in Chiclayo, where the literacy agents of ALFIN were staying, together with 400 other people, the ‘actors’ sit at separate tables. The waiters start to serve. The ‘protagoniSt’ in a more or less loud voice (to attract the attention of other diners, but not in a too obvious way) informs the waiter that he cannot go on eating the food served in that hotel, because in his opinion it is too bad. The waiter does not like the remark but tells the customer that he can choose something a 1a carte, which he may like better. The actor chooses a dish called ‘Barbecue a la pauper.’ The waiter points out that it will cost him 70 soles, to which the actor answers, always in a reasonably loud voice, that there is no problem. Minutes later the waiter brings him the barbecue, the protagonist eats it rapidly and gets ready to get up and leave the restaurant, when the waiter brings the bill. The actor shows a worried expression and tells the people at the next table that his barbecue was much better than the food they are eating, but the pity is that one has pay for it….

‘I’m going to pay for it; don’t have any doubts. I ate the “barbecue a la pauper” and I’m going to pay for it. But there is a problem: I’m broke.’

‘And how are you going to pay?’ asks the indignant waiter. ‘You knew the price before ordering the barbecue. And now, how are you going to pay for it?’

The diners nearby are, of course, closely following the dialogue – much more attentively than they would if they were witnessing the scene on a stage. The actor continues:

‘Don’t worry, because I am going to pay you. But since I’m broke I will pay you with labor-power.’

‘With what?’ asks the waiter, astonished. ‘What kind of power?’ ‘\Vith labor-power, just as I said. I am broke but I can rent you my labor­

power. So I’ll work doing something for as long as it’s necessary to pay for my “barbecue a la pauper,” which, to tell the truth, was really delicious much better than the food you serve to those poor souls…. ‘

By this time some of the c’Ustomers intervene and make remarks among themselves at their tables, about the price of food, the quality of the service in the hotel, etc. The waiter calls the headwaiter to decide the matter. The

actor explains adds:

‘And besi, truth is that I de me a very simI ‘What’s the sala

The head1 a second actor garbage man ha seven soles per t exclaims:

‘How is tl to pay for this b increase the sala I can do somet gardens, which talented person hotel make? I’li necessary to pa

A third at who is an immi the gardener m,

‘How is tl who spends his work seven Ion this be, Mr. H(

The head, to the waiters alternately laug a public forum. the barbecue a Another actor, that nobody in can eat the ‘bar telling the trutl

Finally, tc proposition:

‘Friends, . does not make ~ to blame for th( table are going soles, whatever barbecue. And waiter, who is

82

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Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #45

lese people must ‘ould make them

of a skit with a hearse the scene r acting and their t is also necessarv

J

these possibilities

where the public ! eruption and the

In the enormous of ALFIN were

)arate tables. The I voice (to attract lforms the waiter use in his opinion customer that he

“he actor chooses tt it will cost him I voice, that there e, the protagonist • when the waiter the people at the

ey are eating, but

he “barbecue a la ‘m broke.’ T. ‘You knew the ing to pay for it?’ dialogue much scene on a stage.

III broke I will pay

power?’ ::Ilt you my labor­ ary to pay for my delicious – much

e remarks among r of the service in the matter. The

AUGUSTO BOAL

actor explains again to the latter the business of renting his labor-power and adds:

‘And besides, there is another problem: I’ll rent my labor-power but the truth is that I don’t know how to do anything, or very little. You will have to give me a very simple job to do. For example, I can take out the hotel’s garbage. What’s the salary of the garbage man who works for you?’

The headwaiter does not want to give any information about salaries, but a second actor at another table is already prepared and explains that he and the garbage man have gotten to be friends and that the latter has told him his salary: seven sales per hour. The two actors make some calculations and the ‘protagonist’ exclaims:

‘How is this possible! If! work as a garbage man I’ll have to work ten hours to pay for this barbecue that it took me ten minutes to eat? It can’t bel Either you increase the salary of the garbage man or reduce the price of the barbecue! … But I can do something more specialized; for example, I can take care of the hotel gardens, which are so beautiful, so well cared for. One can see that a very talented person is in charge of the gardens. How much does the gardener of this hotel make? I’ll work as a gardener! How many hours work in the garden are necessary to pay for the “barbecue a la pauper”?’

A third actor, at another table, explains his friendship with the gardener who is an immigrant from the same village as he; for this reason he knows that the gardener makes ten sales per hour. Again the ‘protagonist’ becomes indignant:

‘How is this possible? So the man who takes care of these beautiful gardens, who spends his days out there exposed to the wind, the rain, and the sun, has to work seven long hours to be able to eat the barbecue in ten minutes? How can this be, Mr. Headwaiter? Explain it to me!’

The headwaiter is already in despair; he dashes back and forth, gives orders to the waiters in a loud voice to divert the attention of the other customers, alternately laughs and becomes serious, while the restaurant is transformed into a public forum. The ‘protagonist’ asks the waiter how much he is paid to serve the barbecue and offers to replace him for the necessary number of hours. Another actor, originally from a small village in the interior, gets up and declares that nobody in his village makes 70 soles per day; therefore nobody in his village can eat the ‘barbecue a la pauper.’ (The sincerity of this actor, who was, besides, telling the truth, moved those who were near his table.)

Finally, to conclude the scene, another actor intervenes with the following proposition:

‘Friends, it looks as if we are against the waiter and the headwaiter and this does not make sense. They are our brothers. They work like us, and they are not to blame for the prices charged here. I suggest we take up a collection. We at this table are going to ask you to contribute whatever you can; one sol, two sales, five soles, whatever you can afford. And with that money we are going to pay for the barbecue. And be generous, because what is left over will go as a tip for the waiter, who is our brother and a working man.’

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Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #46

THE THEATRE AS DISCOURSE

Immediately those who are with him at the table start collecting money to pay the bilL Some customers willingly give one or two soles. Others furiously comment:

‘He says that the food we’re eating is junk, and now he wants us to pay for his barbecue! … And am I going to eat this junk? Hell no! I wouldn’t give him a peanut, so he’ll learn a lesson! Let him wash dishes …. ‘

The collection reached 100 soles and the discussion went on through the night. It is always very important that the actors do not reveal themselves to be actors! On this rests the invisible nature of this form of theater. And it is precisely this invisible quality that will make the spectator act freely and fully, as ifhe were living a real situation and, after all, it is a real situation!

It is necessary to emphasize that the invisible theater is not the same thing as a ‘happening,’ or the so-called ‘guerrilla theater.’ In the latter we are clearly talking about ‘theater,’ and therefore the wall that separates actors from spectators immediately arises, reducing the spectator to impotence: a spectator is always less than a man! In the invisible theater the theatrical rituals are abolished; only the theater exists, without its old, worn-out patterns. The theatrical energy is completely liberated, and the impact produced by this free theater is much more powerful and longer lasting.

Several presentations of invisible theater were made in different locations in Peru. Particularly interesting is what happened at the Carmen Market, in the barrio of Comas, some 14 kilometers away from downtown Lima. Two actresses were protagonists in a scene enacted at a vegetable stand. One of them, who was pretending to be illiterate, insisted that the vendor was cheating her, taking advantage of the fact that she did not know how to read; the other actress checked the figures, finding them to be correct, and advised the ‘illiterate’ one to register in one of ALFIN’s literacy courses. After some discussion about the best age to start one’s studies, about what to study and with whom, the first actress kept on insisting that she was too old for those things. It was then that a little old woman, leaning on her cane, very indignantly shouted:

‘My dears, that’s not true? For learning and making love one is never too old!’

Everyone witnessing the scene broke into laughter at .the old woman’s amorous outburst, and the actresses were unable to continue the scene.

3 Photo-romar— -;, . J .–~~..~-~~ies ~ere is a genui~e epidemic of photo-roma!. . ..~ .< ~magmable level, whIch further­ more always s( ilasses’ ideology. The technique here consists in1lerallines in the plot of a photo- romance witho plot. The participants are asked to act out the s Is compared to the story as it is told in the pho te discussed.

For exam from Corin Tellado, the worst I

author of this b ‘0 I::> _… ~, ~w:U Leu llKe tnIS:

84

A worna! is helping her

The par1 expecting her her is a neighl: home tired aft In Corin Tell< gown, with pe who says no m, ma’am’; ‘Here palace; the htl: had an argumel are all living tl vein.

This part magnificent ex a letter from a a former mistr her because he well~dressed w

‘Yes,hel has always beeIl climb very hig!

That is to

highest degree a factory ownel the way up are

And the , have to remain in love with ht ending rotten b and acted out 1: end of the perf( just acted out, t read Corin Tell

if they first of ” read Corin Te[ attitude, but in house, and con compare them 1 to detect the pI and other form!

I was ove]

back in Lima, I

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #47

Intro to Theater: What is Theater? Page #47

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