Projects — UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities

6 May

Projects — UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities.

So, this is what I’ll be up to for the next month or so as one of the writers of the Virtual Performance Factory.  I’m fascinated to be learning about these new modes of writing/ designing.

I’ve been thinking lately about the need to find other paths through my life as a playwright.  The regional model is timid and broken; it’s about product and (as Morgan Jeness puts it) serving the oligarchy.  And frankly, my plays are not going to function well as “product” in those contexts.  In one of the most thoughtful reviews of Trojan Barbie, the writer said “The playwright is not interested in our comfort, though there are many entertaining moments in her writing. Instead, she asks that we consider the suffering of people we do not know in lands we may never visit. ”

And that is true, but it doesn’t mean I want to insult or alienate an audience.  I want them to come with me in looking at something painful, but in a form that’s beautiful and compelling so that we can bear to do it.  I think a feeling of truth in art, and moments of beauty (formal or thematic) are rare joys and the pathways to these experiences for audiences are systematically blocked through lack of arts education, a frantically materialist culture, and the deeply patronizing view that audiences aren’t up to–nor up for– complex, intense, problem-posing art.

However, as Spencer Golub has said repeatedly, it’s all in the frame.  Perhaps it’s just that they(we) are not up for being sat in rows and made to look at the same thing together any more.  The blackboard, the stage, the monument… there’s something about those forms that seems to recede into the 20th century already.

The question, then: what IS the relationship (or array of possible relationships) between work made for performance and its audience?  Maybe it’s fractal rather than perspectival now.  The relationship of a physically unified audience to a singular spectacle on a proscenium stage dates to Renaissance discoveries in painting, and is organized around the God-king’s eye.  Now we are all tiny gods with our insect-eye computers and iPhones, and perspective is multiple and dispersed, although still very much formed in and by a field of power relations.   This new connectivity is both too intimate and too fractal for the stage.  Yet there’s something about bodily presence that I still believe we crave–it’s telling that isolation is the least bearable of stresses in captivity.

So that’s what I want to figure out. How to write supple, intimate, fractal performance texts that have form and shape but function as strands in a web of dialogue with an audience.   Preferably by June.  Any clues, post ’em here!  And I’ll write more about the VPF as it unfolds.

One Response to “Projects — UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities”

  1. George Ainsworth June 2, 2009 at 2:28 pm #

    Why write plays to be seen by a few people? Write them for a world theater coming soon to the internet. Why mount a stage play which will vanish after a few performances, when it could be archived on digital tape? It costs the same, acutally, if written prescisely.

    No one seems to understand that live theater as a participation mystique with other theater goers is a mess; its energetic signature is polluted and it mediates the experience into something dismal. Most people at the theater are afraid and anxious and resistent to the crowd and so the epxerience. And most people in the crowd are doped up, drunk, or so filled with toxic food they radiate illness. It is a ritual put on in a madhouse and no one likes it anymore. They want to be alone.

    But acknowledge and understand to write for the single theater goer at his computer, downloading videos (the future) the play (edrama) must be written so it can translate globally, it is cheap to produce, it deals with “survival issues”, it offers doable information; it deals with issues which could never be discussed in public; it is not profance, violent or pornographic. It is entertaining and the narrative is not fragmented. It offers comfort, information, wisdom. It is hard to be young and do all these things. But it can be done. They are called edramas; they accept the obvious and they combine theater, film, TV and Internet.

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