Thursday, December 7, 2006

Making Things Work

Here's a paragraph from the great American critic, and editor of the New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Hardwick, which I see as related to the question I was considering in an earlier post, "On Seeing More Than One Knows":

"Perhaps the worst thing our theater has done is to convince everyone that drama is the art of "making things work" on the stage. This is a legacy from commerce: The thing may not sell—that in the end is the Eleusinian mystery before which we are all silent—but it must work. From the top to the bottom, the most lavish to the dustiest little loft, they are all sharpening and shaping, maiming and taming. The disturbing sense we have of repetition, déjà vu, of having been there before: this is the pay for making it work. Things work because they are like other things that work. End Game [sic] and Happy Days by Samuel Beckett cannot be said to work at all, in the sense of our theater. Only a mind free of the obsessions of conventional forms could produce works of such formal beauty."

1 comment:

Molly Lyons said...

Uta Hagen speaks of the great transformation of the American theatre from a playwright/actor led art to a producer run business.

I call it the devolution of the theatre.

A colleague recently in Eastern Europe asked me why America had no national theatre company and why wasn't there one on Broadway? Because, in my opinion, Broadway is now about making a "hit" vs. creating art. Like Hollywood, Broadway's success is determined by ticket sales and the houses there create one show at a time which, if tickets are not so "hot" they are grabbed by luck & lottery, will quickly close.

My favorite show in Tbilisi, at the GIFT Festival, was Waiting For Godot, a simple, spare, achingly funny and heartbreakingly lonely play. It certainly would not work in the commercial sense but it's naked yearning for something to hope for in this life moved my spirit more than anything I've seen in a long time.