theater

Apparent Truth

"I love the apparent truth of theater. I love that people are willing to fill in the blanks.

The audience is willing to say, 'Oh, I know that's not a real sun. You took pieces of sticks. You added silk to the bottom. You suspended these pieces. You let it fall flat on the floor. And as it rises with the strings, I see that it's a sun.'

But the beauty of it is that it's just silk and sticks. And in a way, that is what makes it spiritual. That's what moves you. It's not the actual literal sunrise that's coming. It's the art of it."

~ Julie Taymor, from "Spider-Man, The Lion King and Life on the Creative Edge," TED Talks, March 2011

If You Take the Time

"In the course of the play, what I learn — and it's why I view it as a Zen play — is that if you take the time, which often old age and disease forces you to do, you slow down and take the time, you begin to see things differently. Things that might on the surface look mediocre, but that in fact, when you pierce them and delve down into them, are beautiful."

~ Jane Fonda, discussing 33 Variations with Susan Stamberg, Morning Edition, Mar. 1, 2011

Like a Brick in Your Pocket

Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire got the idea for Rabbit Hole after hearing stories about couples who had lost their children. He was the father of a young child himself and he remembered something Marsha Norman suggested when he was studying at Julliard. “She said, if you want to write a good play, write about the thing that frightens you the most.”

In this scene from the movie based on the play, Becca (Nicole Kidman) and her mother Nat (Dianne Wiest) have started packing up toys and clothes that belonged to Becca’s son, Danny, who was killed in a car accident about eight months earlier.

I really like this scene because it explores an insight into grief that applies broadly to a variety of losses that we all eventually face.

BECCA

Mom? Does it go away?

NAT

What.

BECCA

This feeling. Does it ever go away?

NAT

No. I don’t think it does. Not for me it hasn’t. And that’s going on eleven years.

It changes though.

BECCA

How?

NAT

I don’t know. The weight of it, I guess. At some point it becomes bearable. It turns into something you can crawl out from under. And carry around—like a brick in your pocket. And you forget it every once in a while, but then you reach in for whatever reason and there it is: “Oh right. That.” Which can be awful . But not all the time. Sometimes it’s kinda . . . Not that you like it exactly, but it’s what you have instead of your son, so you don’t wanna let go of it either. So you carry it around. And it doesn’t go away, which is . . .

BECCA

What.

NAT

Fine . . . actually.

Living Life Without False Illusions

whosafraidPhoto: Amy Morton, Carrie Coon, Madison Dirks and Tracy Letts
Credit: Michael Brosilow

“There was a saloon—it's changed its name now—on Tenth Street, between Greenwich Avenue and Waverly Place, that was called something at one time, now called something else, and they had a big mirror on the downstairs bar in this  saloon where people used to scrawl graffiti. At one point back in about 1953 . . . 1954, I think it was—long before  any of us started doing much of anything—I was in there having a beer one night, and I saw ‘Who's Afraid of Virginia  Woolf?’ scrawled in soap, I suppose, on this mirror. When I started to write the play it cropped up in my mind  again. And of course, who's afraid of Virginia Woolf means who's afraid of the big bad wolf . . . who's afraid of living life without false illusions. And it did strike me as being a rather typical university, intellectual joke.”

~ Edward Albee, from "Edward Albee, The Art of Theater No. 4," by William Flanagan, The Paris Review, Fall 1966

Missing the Boat

Edward Albee, 1991 "All my plays are about people missing the boat, closing down too young, coming to the end of their lives with regret at things not done, as opposed to things done. I find that most people spend too much time living as if they're never going to die. They skid through their lives. Sleep through them sometimes. Anyway, there are only two things to write about —life and death."

~ Edward Albee, from “Edward Albee and the Road Not Taken,” by David Richards, New York Times, June 16, 1991

Most of Our Time

“I had this very particular feeling about the three levels of ordinary life. Most of your life is taken up by mundane things like getting to an appointment on time, or whether you look too fat. Meanwhile, all over the world, people are being tortured and murdered. And at the same time there’s this six-billion-year-old mystery of the world that we’re a part of. And yet we spend most of our time dealing with losing our car keys. [The Starry Messenger] is about being more concerned with your car keys than about, say, what caused the formation of galaxies.”

~ Kenneth Lonergan, from “Playwright and Director in a Single Hair Shirt,” by Patrick Healy, New York Times, November 4, 2009

What We See

Excerpts of dialogue spoken by the Werner Heisenberg character in Michael Frayn’s Tony award winning play, Copenhagen:

How difficult it is to see even what’s in front of one’s eyes. All we possess is the present, and the present endlessly dissolves into the past…And yet how much more difficult still it is to catch the slightest glimpse of what’s behind one’s eyes.

*     *     *

Werner Heisenberg, 1965 BBC interview And that’s when I did uncertainty. Walking round Faelled Park on my own one horrible raw February night. It’s very late, and as soon as I’ve turned off into the park I’m completely alone in the darkness. I start to think about what you’d see, if you could train a telescope on me from the mountains of Norway.

You’d see me by the street lamps on the Blegdamsvej, then nothing as I vanished into the darkness, then another glimpse of me as I passed the lamp-post in front of the bandstand. And that’s what we see in the cloud chamber. Not a continuous track but a series of glimpses — a series of collisions between the passing electron and various molecules of water vapour…

Or think of you, on your great papal progress to Leiden in 1925. What did Margrethe see of that, at home here in Copenhagen? A picture postcard from Hamburg, perhaps. Then one from Leiden. One from Göttingen. One from Berlin. Because what we see in the cloud chamber are not even the collisions themselves, but the water-droplets that condense around them, as big as cities around a traveler — no, vastly bigger still, relatively — complete countries — Germany…Holland…Germany again. There is no track, there are no precise addresses; only a vague list of countries visited. I don’t know why we hadn’t thought of it before, except that we were too busy arguing to think at all.

Doubt: A Parable

by John Patrick Shanley

ONE

A priest, Father Flynn, in his early thirties,
in green and gold vest
ments, gives a sermon.
He is working class, from the Northeast.

FLYNN. What do you do when you’re not sure? That’s the topic of my sermon today. You look for God’s direction and can’t find it. Last year when President Kennedy was assassinated, who among us did not experience the most profound disorientation. Despair. “What now? Which way? What do I say to my kids? What do I tell myself?” It was a time of people sitting together, bound together by a common feeling of hopelessness. But think of that! Your bond with your fellow beings was your despair. It was a public experience, shared by everyone in our society. It was awful, but we were in it together! How much worse is it then for the lone man, the lone woman, stricken by a private calamity? “No one knows I’m sick. No one knows I’ve lost my last real friend. No one knows I’ve done something wrong.” Imagine the isolation. You see the world as through a window. On the one side of the glass: happy, untroubled people. On the other side: you. Something has happened, you have to carry it, and it’s incommunicable. For those so afflicted, only God knows their pain. Their secret. The secret of their alienating sorrow. And when such a person, as they must, howls to the sky, to God: “Help me!” What if no answer comes? Silence. I want to tell you a story. A cargo ship sank, and all her crew was drowned. Only this one sailor survived. He made a raft of some spars and, being of a nautical discipline, turned his eyes to the Heavens and read the stars. He set a course for his home and, exhausted, fell asleep. Clouds rolled in and blanketed the sky. For the next twenty nights, as he floated on the vast ocean, he could no longer see the stars. He thought he was on course, but there was no way to be certain. As the days rolled on, and he wasted away with fevers, thirst and starvation, he began to have doubts. Had he set his course right? Was he still going on toward his home? Or was he horribly lost and doomed to a terrible death? No way to know. The message of the constellations—had he imagined it because of his desperate circumstance? Or had he seen Truth once and now had to hold on to it without apparent end. There are those of you in church today who know exactly the crisis of faith I describe. I want to say to you. Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. When you are lost, you are not alone. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen. (He exits.)

To Know Ourselves

"Of course it’s simplistic to say that good sad plays are moral or emotional tonics, like fiber cereal for the soul. But on some level it is fundamentally true. Escapist entertainment can offer fleeting rewards, but in the long run only art really nourishes. Sure, it’s sweet to daydream our way into the worlds inhabited by George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, but it’s more important for us all to know ourselves. Great theater, like much high art, tells us who we are, not who we would like to be.

You could make the argument — well, I could, anyway — that some of the havoc caused by the subprime mortgage crisis can be traced to a collective amnesia on the part of the powers that be about the essence of human nature."

~ Charles Isherwood, "A Healthy Dose of Misery for Company," New York Times (10.26.08)

Fuerzabruta

"We want to break intellectual submission of the language. To use all the resources that prepare themselves to operate efficiently over the sensibility of the spectator. Bringing them to other territories where other, more powerful laws exist. A space where the pressure of the senses affect the mind. Where the speed of the stimuli that the spectator receives, supersedes the intellectual reaction. The the emotion arrives before, always before."

"That hits the body, beneath the clothes. Behind the eyes. Within. A space where the spectator gives itself to, knowing that he forms part of an artistic event, that is inside a parallel reality, etherea, beautiful, delirious and absolutely more truthful than the day to day. Where the spectator knows he is being driven to smash against his own sensibility. A sensibility collective and universal."

Running Man

Under Water