Style, Ephemerality, Deterioration and Contingency - a director's approach
For the last two decades, I have explored and questioned the fundamental notions of theatre, pushing the boundaries between art and experience. The idea of liveness—of the living, breathing actor’s presence and their ability to directly commune with an audience—has been at the center of my work as a director and theatre artist.
Of course, anyone involved with live performance deals with this issue, but my focus has been on three specific areas:
-- Style: exploring how a performer can ignite an audience member’s individual cognitive experience that connects with their fundamental connection with reality; offering something deeper than the shallow notion of surface reality that realism—the predominant style in American theatre—proffers. This is a point that I constantly make with actors: Realism is simply a style, one of many that is available to you.
-- Ephemerality: The ephemeral nature of the live event has an obvious attraction to those who work in performance; in the current era when every act can be so easily surveilled, recorded and archived, there is something appealing about art that mirrors our own temporal and temporary existence.
-- Deterioration and contingency: Though these are two separate areas, in my mind they are closely related. I am very interested in the idea of how performance can corrode and weaken over a temporal period offering an opportunity for the unintended experience. (This was best exemplified by the Acme Corporation 24-hour production of Samuel Beckett’s Play.)
Finally, I am interested in challenging the basic notions of what theatre is and can be. Far too often, theatre is equated with literature; our entire structure—which goes back to the Aristotelian hierarchy of tragedy’s elements—is centered on the text. But theatre is not text. Text is simply one experiential element, an element that often has major limitations in conveying thoughts and feelings.
If theatre is to represent or convey an audience member’s conscious experience, it must offer the variety of that experience—which goes far beyond the simple semiotic value of text and language. Language is simply a component of consciousness, one of the many elements of the flow—what William James referred to as “the stream of thought, of consciousness, or of subjective life.”