A divagation ~ theatre notes

Friday, June 17, 2011

A divagation

I've often thought that the major weakness in Australian theatre is its writing. We have an astonishing design culture, an embarrassment of talented actors, and directors, young and established, aplenty. But while our theatre artists can work as if they live in the 21st century, writers are trammelled in expectations and conventions that seem to belong in the Menzies imaginary. This struck me forcibly while watching André Bastian's fascinating production of Elfriede Jelinek's 2002 plays, Princess Dramas, at Red Stitch last week. Scandalously, this is the first production of Jelenik's work in Australia. The introduction to the review got longer and longer, and still I wasn't discussing Jelinek. So I'm getting this out of my hair, and the review should follow directly.

In Australian theatre, we have an obsession with the "classics". Do we produce too few? Do we do too many, at the expense of "new work"? Is it legitimate to rework them? What is a "classic", anyway? In the most recent spin on this question, Peter Craven briefly examined the canonical plays routinely done in London, and compared them to what appears on our own main stages. Unsurprisingly, this shows that we do "lesser" classics (and that term is a whole argument in itself) much less frequently than in London. I am reminded of Michael Billington's shock a couple of decades ago, outside a Cheek by Jowl production of The Duchess of Malfi in Melbourne, that most people he had spoken to had never read the play before, let alone seen it.

Given the population of Greater London is about two thirds of the entire population of Australia, it's unsurprising that there should be a smaller ecology. This needn't mean a narrow focus, although in practice it often does. I've thought for years that this obsession with classics prompts a deeper question, which is touched on by STC associate director Tom Wright in Craven's article: the narrow range of theatre that makes its way to our main stages and into our cultural memory. Wright labels it "canonical collapse", "a failure of cultural memory or curiosity". Ominously, Wright comments: "the pool shrinks every generation and we just get more and more versions of the same". The only argument I'd have with Wright's proposition is a question: where was the canon to begin with?

In saying this, I don't want to erase the work that is achieved here, often in the teeth of considerable odds. Look through the reviews logged on this blog over the past seven years, and you'll see many productions that give the lie to any easy generalisation. The danger of any polemic is that it can simply sweep aside what has been achieved in terms of expanding possibility: I don't wish to do that. It's not true of all our main stages, either: the Sydney Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre and Belvoir St, to pick a few, have shown over the past few years what main stage companies can do to widen our theatrical language. But I'm sure even they will admit their limitations. What I'm chasing here is a pervasive anti-intellectualism in our culture, which, like the Christian Right in Victoria, exercises a disproportionate influence over our collective theatrical imagination.

What we have in our main stage culture - and often off the main stages too, although independent theatres heroically attempt to broaden the meme pool - is a limited theatrical vocabulary. It's far too easy for a single idea of theatre to dominate the culture; and, as the responses to the Malthouse/STC's Baal demonstrated amply, we have some very sentimentalised ideas of what theatre can be, which automatically discount anything that steps outside them. We can admit a few exceptions (after a struggle) such as the work of Benedict Andrews, but then these become their own hegemonies, representing a singular "alternative".

It's as if the culture can only ever be a binary, two things in conflict. Since when was that true about anything? It's perfectly possible for a single human being to enjoy all sorts of things, from video games to the poetry of JH Prynne. A culture can, ideally, simultaneously sustain all sorts of activities. If it does so, each enriches the others: possibilities open for cross fertilisations that can lead to something genuinely new. But there's no getting away from the fact that we're looking through a narrow window.

Compare, for instance, the MTC's current season with the 2010-11 season at the Théâtre de la Ville. The Théâtre de la Ville is Paris's most mainstream subsidised theatre, the French equivalent of the MTC. There's Shakespeare (As You Like It, A Winter's Tale), Ionesco (two plays - Rhinoceros and A Frenzy for Two) and Chekhov (The Wedding). Plus a menu of "classics" we never get to see, including but not limited to Giacomo Leopardi, Maurice Maeterlink, Pierre Corneille and Christopher Marlowe. Plus a bunch of contemporary theatre, including Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse (although perhaps the most produced contemporary European playwright, again seldom done here), Katie Mitchell, Theatre de Complicite's take on the modern Japanese master Jun'Ichiro Tanizaki, and, interestingly, 1927's The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, which actually premiered in Melbourne at the Malthouse. There's even a reading of Afghan women's poetry, in French and Persian. And that's only some of it.

There are complex reasons for this difference, funding being only the most basic. Even given Sarkozy's swingeing cuts to the arts budget, French theatre, like much European work, is massively better subsidised than ours. In practice, this means not only a wider range of work; crucially, it means cheaper tickets and thus bigger audiences. And because these audiences are exposed to a huge range of theatre, both contemporary and classic, they tend to be informed, unabashed, curious and critical. After all, the only way to learn about theatre is to see a lot of it. And it also, crucially, means that contemporary work has a far vaster range of possibilities from which to begin.

Figure it out for yourself: the most expensive tickets for the most lavish productions at the Theatre de la Ville work out to around $40. We can pay three times as much for comparable productions, even if we have the chance to see them. What makes theatre elite here is not the ideas that inform it, but how expensive it is. And the less that is offered, the more parochial and intimidated the audience; the more parochial and intimidated the audience, the more parochial and intimidated the programming. So it is that what is considered mainstream fare elsewhere becomes risky and dangerous here. This is the problem of "canonical collapse" in its true vicious circle.

I'd argue that the most grievous impact of canonical collapse is on new writing. It's a simple equation: the richer the cultural soil, the more diverse, more confident, more informedly experimental is the work that comes from it. Writers can make do by amassing libraries of work they might never see performed, but then what? The culture itself discourages the work that might emerge from that stimulation. Without a cultural context which recognises the forces, influences and ideas that informs what they write, without audiences driven by curiosity rather than a fear of seeming stupid and a desire for confirmation, they might as well be writing in an alien language.

One virtue of Australian theatre is that it tends to be less Anglocentric than the rest of the English-speaking world: this is the advantage of being a satellite colony rather than a theatre centre like London or New York. Festival directors from Anthony Steel to Kristy Edmunds have introduced audiences to contemporary international work; directors such as Barrie Kosky, Michael Kantor, Benedict Andrews, Daniel Sclusser, André Bastian and others have forged a Australian-European aesthetic which has done much to expand our stage language. But almost all our theatrical innovation, by default, has been in design, performance and direction.

Of course there are contemporary writers who are working outside the conventions: Cynthia Troup, Margaret Cameron or Jane Montgomery-Griffiths are excellent examples of just that kind of theatre writer. This kind of work, which springs intelligently from the the complex meld of ideas called (often dismissively) post-modernism is permitted to exist on the edge of things. (As an aside, it's provoking that my first reach in thinking of this kind of work comes up with all women, whereas the directors are all men). In a culture which has never put a main stage spotlight even on Sarah Kane or Jon Fosse, who are among the major playwrights of our time, it is difficult to see any of them existing outside the margins. It's simply impossible to see them inhabiting the kind of central cultural position of a writer like, say, Elfriede Jelenik. And my concern is that this blindness impoverishes all our writing, from the most marginal to the most mainstream. It's as if are starving to death in the midst of infinite plenty, totally unaware that we are hungry.

Aside from poetry (and even there, not all the time), almost all of our literary art, inside and outside theatre, assumes that writing is an expression of a prior subjectivity, which most usually devolves to the author (this is allied to an anxiety about "authenticity", which has most often seemed to me to be a covert hatred of imagination, and which has given rise to at least two famous hoaxes - Helen Demidenko and Norma Khouri). Within this assumption is a bunch of implied conventions about character and narration.

These assumptions function invisibly, like the air; because they are ubiquitous, they are considered "natural"; but in fact, they are no more natural than guitars or monorails. What's ever been "natural" about a bunch of people in costumes pretending to be other people in front of a third bunch of people who have paid for the privilege of watching them? Audiences are merely trained to expect character, plot, and their ensuing emotional gratification, and to think this is "good theatre". But a downside of these expectations is that is that they are also trained to almost completely ignore the language that creates these things: like the conventions, the language is invisible. When language becomes visible, when it insists itself by becoming less than transparent or even poetic, there's trouble.

This is not to say that plays that work with character, plot et al are without pleasure (see above note about negative capability); but the lack of this linguistic awareness does considerably limit the possibilities of writing in the theatre. Worse, this linguistic unconsciousness actually makes it difficult to see the virtues of those "classics" that operate either outside or more freely within those conventions: Ibsen suffers from this as much as Kane. I'd say this content/style division is pretty much universal in the English-speaking mainstream theatre; in fact, as Susan Sontag pointed out decades ago, it's pretty nigh impossible to avoid it in any discussion of art, as it's so deeply embedded in our aesthetic assumptions. But it reaches a particular crisis in writing for theatre. While design and direction are permitted to be as conscious and metatheatrical as you like, writing tends to be imprisoned in one version or other of these central conventions, and is expected to deliver accordingly.

These assumptions are, most baldly, commercial considerations, more concerned with attracting audiences than with the work itself. So we get the toxic questions that circle around Australian writing: who is your audience? to whom are you marketing your product? And this automatically slams down on possibility, becoming a self-censorship that is much more effective than any conscious policy by any company or any individual.

I don't wish to point fingers here. I'm as aware as anyone of how hard many people work, both inside and outside institutions, to expand possibility, only to find themselves stumped by something that is in fact a self-perpetuating macrocosm. Articulating a problem is one thing: what to do about it, even whether anything should be done, is another question altogether. If you look at the culture as a whole, it seems the battle is overwhelmingly lost: the mass media marginalisation of art is a given; art as a commodity, despite flurries here and there, is a given; and artists continue to struggle to make art despite it all. Does it matter if our theatre culture - and by this I mean, equally, audiences as well as the rest of us - is fundamentally anti-intellectual? Is it enough to have small pools of questioning around the edges, to pay our way to heaven? Is what we have as good as it gets here? I actually don't know.

28 comments:

Zane said...

Spot on. And great questions..does it matter? I think it does, I think that we have no main stage work in languages other than English for example. There is no reason we shouldn't. We have very very little outdoor theatre, and yet we have the climate and the environment for it....I think that all the interesting theatre happens in places and in companies that can't afford to advertise just for one small example. The main stage is right there every day next to the cinema adds...so why wouldn't we just think that's all that theatre is?

It will take a great deal of time (generations)to see all the (classical) non-literary traditions of theatre that stretch back centuries get a foothold on our main stages. When they do they'll be unstoppable, 'cause I think imho we are better at them than we are at writing plays....

The best Australian theatre experience I've had in 10 years was a really small traditional circus playing in an outer-suburban car park in a shitty old tent at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, it was packed full of people who would never, ever go into the city centre, let alone go to a “theatre”...it was raw and ugly and sexy and dirty and beautiful and fun and serious without being sombre; simply fantastic, and it made a mockery of everything on the main and fringier stages in the inner city. It was international, and it was Australian and as a "form" it was as "classical" as Bill Wobbledagger. But it certainly didn't get reviewed anywhere, and it wasn’t independent or emerging or even particularly innovative and it didn't need a subscriber base..it stuck up posters on poles by the road and in shopping centres and had little adds in local papers. I am not saying we should all turn into circus, I’m really not...but I am saying we could learn a hell of a lot about reaching out to people with something interesting that doesn't need a plot ;-)

Tom Wright said...

I remember the story of a literary manager at one of our big companies resolutely putting the case for staging Blasted. The general manager responded 'Why don't I just go on stage and burn hundred dollar notes?". Needless to say, the Kane wasn't programmed. But both of them were right, by their own terms. Which just reinforces the point about the 'true vicious circle'.

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Zane - haven't those performance traditions a strong hold on our theatre traditions? Thinking of commedia dell'arte and the contemporary rise of circus, not to mention Indigenous traditions. And why, if we are so bad at text, have we produced such good poets?

Thanks Tom. I'm sure variations of that conversation occur all the time all over the country...

Zane said...

Hi Alison...if commedia & circus have a hold on Australian theatre I haven't noticed it...actors walk on stage and talk to each other as far as I can see....I think Australia is very very good at text...I don't know anything about Australian poetry, but I think Australia writes awful plays...where actors walk on stage and talk to each other...endlessly. All those lovely resources, lights and sound gear, beautiful scenery, comfortable seats, marketing budgets, web sites, rehearsal rooms....and actors walk on stage and talk to each other. There are exceptions that prove the rule of course...but gee, anything that remotely asks questions about "form" is torn down by howls of derision that its not "telling our stories" and is intellectual wank fit only for foreigners ;-)...I'm over it and I simply don't go to theatres`at all any more except to see music, dance and circus, they are such boring places otherwise compared to galleries, cinemas and book shops (those that are still open;-)... Australian contemporary electronic music for example and visual arts are streets ahead..in terms of form...of theatre, and they have vast audiences..theatre is still eyes and teeth and showing your good side..I blame the schools and the parents. :-)

Borbs said...

I disagree with you Zane: I am a drama educator and the entire curriculum in Victorian schools is geared almost exclusively to the study and practice of non-naturalism. Post secondary – the VCA is geared almost exclusively to non-naturalistic explorations of theatrical text. You will be hard pressed to find a drama student in Victoria who hasn't studied and explored Commedia, mime, physical theatre, etc. in workshops. Did you know that Commedia is not taught in Italian secondary schools? Did you know that most Italian schools don't offer drama as a subject? I grew up in Europe and dare I say MOST European schools do not offer drama and theatre as subjects.

If you think that most Australian theatre is text based, have a look at the Malthouse programs for this year, have a look at the major arts festivals / fringe festivals around the country ... plenty of cabaret, physical theatre, dance-drama, experimental theatre to be found all 'round.

I refer you to my post on Princess Dramas - are we moved toward the visual arts and music because we, sadly, have nothing new to say, or are words going out of fashion? I'm no reactionary, and I love all forms of performance art, but it saddens me when we belittle the humble spoken word as nothing more than a bore. I think the great strength of Princess Dramas was the writing.

Zane said...

I dunno why we are fixated on Commedia? I mean, is that the problem? That when we say 100s of years of none literary theatre the best we can think is Commedia (and bit of circus)?. I'm sorry but I find Commedia boring as all get out as well Borb, and yes you are very lucky to live in Victoria, and yes I've heard of the Malthouse, and yes I've been to festivals, even fringe ones...and yes I've been making contemporary performance in festivals for the last 30 years, and yes I was brought up in Europe to, and yes yes yes. But let's actually face the fact that the only people who consistently have decent size budgets and resources to consistently make theatre of any international standard in production values are the main stages, and the main stages remain the most boring places in Australian theatrical life. And "consistently" is the important word, not some special project for a festival, and not some half funded nice try, but an actual consistently interesting theatre company (not a producing venue). I mean if Chunky Move and Bangarra can do it, why not a theatre compoany, Borb? And that's not good enuff, especially when we have such a diverse culture to draw on. Enuff from me to, broken record and all that...sigh.

Borbs said...

Good points Zane; I agree that the arts are underfunded (Arts Victoria bureaucrats making dodgy under-the-table deals with office supply companies doesn't help, politically speaking :)

My objection was to your statement (tongue in cheek as it may be) that schools and parents are to blame. After reading your post, you seem to think that funding is to blame. I would rather blame it on a market driven and highly saturated entertainment industry. You want a teenager to pay for your art? Do you want young people to see your show - after all, they will be your adult audience? You need to go to them. You need to engage them in your work. You need to prove to them that you are relevant to their lives. I think artists have a responsibility in developing an arts culture, so do educators ... I hope we're both doing our bit for the cause :)

Btw, the percentage of under 25s at MTC shows would be in the range of 1-5%. Funding doesn't mean guaranteed longevity and ongoing public support. It's a complex dilemma to be sure ;( Be lucky mate.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks for the debate, Zane and Borbs...

As an aside... I mentioned commedia merely as one example of an obvious tradition deeply embedded in Australian performance - it was an important influence on the physical performance of the APG, via some workshops run by George Ogilvy at the early MTC, which knowledge itself came from his study in Paris with Jacques Lecoq. (Sometimes in the 80s it seemed every second Australian actor had studied at L’Ecole Jacques Lecoq.) Commedia's not the ne plus ultra of a diverse tradition, but it certainly exists strongly here. I agree, actors tend to be literate in all sorts of traditions, especially from European and Asian theatre. And yes, you can struggle to get those other traditions any kind of foregrounding in the bulk of produced Australian writing. I don't agree that the main stages are uniformly boring - there's enough good to brilliant work to keep me interested. It's not as easy as a blanket condemnation can make it seem.

And even given this, I've seen three new plays on main stages this week, all of which embody different attacks on theatrical writing. All of them were by writers who grew up in the independent theatre. One of them (Declan Greene's MOTH) is as fine a piece of writing as I've seen over the past few years. So it seems difficult to maintain that writing is out of fashion... I just worry about the forces that confine its possibilities, and thus the possibilities of theatre. And the ones I worry most about are not the visible limits, which are locatable, and thus can be combated, but the invisible ones, the unsaid assumptions. Funding is only part of it. Or maybe funding is merely a symptom.

Zane said...

Yes, but blankets are handy in the cold, and the simplest things are always the most complicated. Maybe a few Board of Governance members who were "informed, unabashed, curious and critical" might help? Certainly the equivalent of the Christian lobby holds sway in shaping public opinion on Australian art in general; and exceptions, as they say, often prove the rule. You are about to get a new artistic directorate for MTC. You've got coming up then someone making decisions about content who was mentored by the supermarket trolley of Leo Schofield and is being helped out till he gets there by one of the most conservative actor managers in Australia. All the best for that;-)

Cameron Woodhead said...

It isn't the writing, it's the direction. Think of all the coarse, shouty acting you've seen at the MTC over the years. That lack of emotional intelligence, to me, is much scarier than any putative anti-intellectual bias in the culture ... though that's scary too.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks, Zane.

Cameron, I'm not sure what you mean by "coarse, shouty" acting. Or I'm wondering if you're reading as coarse and shouty some of those stylised performance traditions we've been talking about in this thread...

Cameron Woodhead said...

Don't patronise me. I know a hawk from a handsaw as far as traditions of performance go.

Let's just say that if you're making vegemite sandwiches out of quote naturalism unquote, you're unlikely to fare better with any of the reactions to it - all of which contain traces of the thing they're reacting to (how could they not).

Alison Croggon said...

I wasn't being patronising. Just wondering if, say, you misunderstand clowning or other vulgar demotics of performance as coarseness. (Which, of course, they are, in a certain sense.) You've lost me on the vegemite sandwiches.

Cameron Woodhead said...

It isn't the clowning or 'vulgar demotics' per se. It's the unedifying way those techniques are often used in Australian theatre - ie. usually to reduce complexity and reach for a cheap laugh instead. (Because, bugger it, audiences are way too dense to appreciate complexity ...)

Zane said...

Al, have you nseen Golem and is it any good? It looks real interesting from afar?

Alison Croggon said...

I know what you mean, Cameron, although on this it's difficult to talk in generalities. Ie, if I knew which shows you meant, I may well agree with you.

Yes, A GOLEM STORY is definitely interesting. And is one of the six shows I'm hoping I can write about this week. There's been a rash of interesting work, and I'm finding myself woefully behind. But this week I am sternly not going anywhere, and perhaps I can catch up. Although, as ever, I am supposed to be doing something else...

Zane said...

OK then, ta, I'll await your reviews written here as creative procrastination about all the other things you have to do.

Casey Bennetto said...

I'm with Cameron on this one. I've lost track of how many times recently I've seen characters, momentum and any sense of a broader shape trampled underfoot in the stampede towards a cheap laugh. It betrays a fundamental insecurity on the part of the practitioners - "better grab the little reward now, we may not get the big one later" - which is not only self-fulfilling but has the net effect of driving everything toward a kind of bellowing obviousness.

I'm actually quite a fan of naturalism (as unfashionable as that is), but the notion that Australian mainstage theatre is overly devoted to it is fanciful. Naturalism is the one thing Australian theatre lacks the nerve to effect, lunging as it does for the safety of broad character farce at every juncture.

I ain't blamin', mind. The truth is that if you're going to do mainstage productions, and they're going to run for a month or more, you'd better be prepared to inject a healthy dose of sitcom into proceedings. We don't have the population to sustain anything else, in the absence of real artistic discipline and a sustained flurry of arts funding. And that's the way it looks likely to stay.

Or is that berserkly pessimistic?

Alison Croggon said...

My whole life is procrastination, Zane. I rather suspect if it were not for procrastination, I would get nothing done at all...

Hi Casey - I've no objection to naturalism either: it's a powerful form, which is maybe why it's not done that much. (I strongly agree that we don't see much of it). And it's hard to argue with what you say about sitcoms and the mugging for cheap laughs. I think that's a moot judgment in performances such as those in The Joy of Text, though. Which I will also get around to discussing this week...

Born Dancin' said...

...and I'm with Casey:

"I'm actually quite a fan of naturalism (as unfashionable as that is), but the notion that Australian mainstage theatre is overly devoted to it is fanciful."

I don't think naturalism (or realism) are necessarily pertinent here. The meaning of a particular performance style grows in part from the generic frame audiences put around it, and when that coarse, shouty style is employed in a broad farce it's as 'realistic' (or verisimilitudinous) as someone mumbling at the back of the stage in engaging in lengthy silences might be in another genre. It's more jarring when the same kind of acting is applied to, say, The Joy of Text, where the subtlety of the script seems to demand a different kind of engagement.

That's what I interpret Cameron as saying, anyway. Or at least that's what I would say meself. For instance, in TJOT I reckon Peter Houghton's performance draws on a clowning tradition that is less useful here than in a lot of his other work.

(FWIW I saw a lot of unexpected clown work in Yael Stone's Golem Story performance too, employed for pathetic rather than comic effect)

Alison Croggon said...

Hmm. I agree and disagree here John, but I don't really want to discuss TJOT until I've had a chance to talk about it properly... ie, I think there's lots to discuss, and it seems a little unfair (of me, not of you) to take little nips at it before a more articulated response. In this case, I'd say the frame is (or at least, begins with) farce.

In any case, it's certainly an interesting week to be talking about new writing.

Matthew said...

Did you see Yael's performance in the Ralph Myers/Lally Katz production of Frankenstein a couple of years ago, John? A lot of pathos-effect clowning there, too.

neandellus said...

"We don't have the population to sustain anything else, in the absence of real artistic discipline and a sustained flurry of arts funding."

Argh. We have *got* to stop blaming the size of the population.

I don't want to go confusing a rake with a rickshaw (how infectious), but fifth century athens had about 30000 citizens. Yr average Balinese village through the late 1800s had less than a hundred. A town doesn't need to be New York to create morally profound and aesthetically pure theatre.

Surely a huge population guarantees nothing. The only thing that culture, which is what gives rise to "artistic discipline", needs is a one, only one, thinking mind. And it is the strength of its imagination, not government subsidies, that really matters.

Don't we also gotta stop picking between directors and writers? Golem Story? Katz was right there next to Kantor. Moth? Same with Kohn and Greene. Joy of Text? Reid *is* a director.

Do directors/performers play for cheap laughs on a statistically more significant number of occassions than playwrights lard their text with witty asides? I don't get that impression. Do our directors really have less emotional intelligence than our writers? In my experience there's nothing to split them.

Both our native directors and native playwrights are gripped in the same cultural clamp.

Which is why naturalism, as a technique in text and in performance, is always be perteninent to any discussion of art in Australia. Naturalism is the dominant "discipline" that informs the current theatrical culture.

Alison Croggon said...

A bigger population can guarantee more money and allow marginal activities a larger critical mass, which can be critical. But I agree, it's no measure of cultural vitality. Small can be an advantage: it's a truism that festivals work better in small cities, because of the intensity of focus that makes possible. That can be true of other things. But really, it's the measure of our institutions, from the top down: the funding institutions and their dislocated expectations, for instance. How many companies do workshops and showings because that's a way to get further funding or are a condition of funding? And for how many artists are these actually folded into a real process of inquiry? I'd say that often they're just gestures, motions that must be gone through, like filling in application forms. In the worst sense (and there can be a good sense) our theatre culture is heavily bureaucratised, at all levels. Empty form, alienated from the activities it's supposedly propogating.

Like naturalism, for instance. I agree with Casey that it's not a dominant form here in any serious way. It's more a question of empty form. What we know as naturalism (maybe it's telling that realism doesn't even enter the picture here) is simply a default position, where the form/content division has become the dominant ideology. Meaning that form and content have been artificially severed, and thus many plays are be spoken about as if they are just vessels into which "content" can be poured. And that's the black hole, I think. The naturalism/anti-naturalism argument is simply a continuation of the same trap.

Zane said...

"thus many plays are be spoken about as if they are just vessels into which "content" can be poured. And that's the black hole, I think."..yes, exactly, spot on.

Borbs said...

I like beer. Zane likes wine. Alison drinks port. Casey enjoys gin. I think port is too sweet. Zane thinks everything is crap if it's not wine. Casey doesn't think we do gin well here, but he likes good gin from other places. Alsion thinks we drink too much beer and we need to expand our taste in drinks. The quality of the drink is not determined by the 'vessel' but the quality of its 'content'.

Zane said...

A good single malt is actually my favourite tipple.

"To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now..." Sam Beckett.

"At the School of Visual Arts in New York, you can get your degree in Net art, which is really a fantastic way of thinking of theatre in new ways...." Laurie Anderson

Casey Bennetto said...

Neandellus:
"fifth century athens had about 30000 citizens. Yr average Balinese village through the late 1800s had less than a hundred. A town doesn't need to be New York to create morally profound and aesthetically pure theatre."

Absolutely. I'm not talking about cultural vitality as a whole, I'm talking about mainstage theatre, where simple economics will almost inevitably hold sway. Of *course* we have great, challenging, invigorating theatre popping up on smaller stages, but overall population is a genuine constraint when it comes to mainstage productions embracing that kind of aesthetic. It's lovely to think "if you build it, they will come", and indeed they do! All of them! And then, in the third week...