Fragility, Discomfort, Vulnerability and Curiosity

Anne Bogart's picture

The fragments fly apart and shift, trembling on the threshold of a kind of fullness: the minor wonder of remembering; the greater wonders of forgetfulness. (John Koethe)

Perhaps I became a theater director thanks to the special brilliance of Adrian Hall who was the founding Artistic Director of Trinity Repertory Theater in Providence, Rhode Island from 1964 until 1988. My first experience of professional theater happened in 1967 at Trinity Rep when I was 15 years old as part of a new program entitled Project Discovery, instituted with support from the newly founded National Endowment of the Arts. Thanks to this initiative, every school child in Rhode Island had the opportunity to travel to Providence to see theater. I arrived in a caravan of big yellow school buses from Middletown High School and my first experience of professional theater was Hall’s production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Afterwards, I felt somehow altered and provoked.  The production roused me and gave me direction. I did not really understand what I had seen or heard but the experience galvanized me; physically, mentally and emotionally.  My life would never be the same. 

Dedication

Anne Bogart's picture

We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have. Our doubt is our own passion, and our passion is our task. (Henry James)

In a recent public interview, novelist Margaret Atwood was invited to read a passage from her book “The Handmaid’s Tale.”  Afterwards, a bit in awe, the interviewer asked, “How did it feel to write that?”  Margaret Atwood responded rather sternly, “I have no idea.” When pressed further she said, “When you are skiing down a steep slope, you do not think about what it feels like to ski down a steep slope. If you did that, an accident might occur. It is dangerous to think about what you are feeling. You are skiing.” 

The Actor and the Cathedral

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

During the 1948 summer session at Black Mountain College, John Cage presented a series of performances of music by Erik Satie. In order to contextualize what was then considered radically avant-garde music, he gave a lecture “In defense of Satie.” He began by pointing out that art is caught between, on the one hand, the desire to fulfill the needs of the collective, through tradition and on the other hand, the hunger for originality and individuality.

The Experience of Theater

Anne Bogart's picture

someone sees a play. they ask, what’s it about? i’m, like, you just saw it. it’s “about” the experience you just had. … blank face. … but what’s it about? they ask again. … hmm. maybe it’s time we chat about how the play is the thing & not a stand in for some other thing

(Twitter message posted by playwright Caridad Svich)

In Search of Shared Meaning

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

I recently had a conversation with someone that was the kind of conversation I don’t have often enough. This person was a relative stranger. I don’t want to go into specific detail about the content of the conversation (no, it wasn’t about politics) but it was a fairly deep conversation of some consequence between two people who’s fundamental world views differed.

Welcome to My Party!

Anne Bogart's picture

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.

(Henry Miller)

During the late 1990s SITI Company regularly led two and three-week summer workshops in Los Angeles during which time we had the great pleasure of getting to know many members of the local theater community. Generally, SITI stayed at the Highland Gardens Hotel in Hollywood not far from the Magic Castle Hotel. Highland Gardens is a rather seedy consortium of buildings arranged around a liver shaped swimming pool, boasting that Janis Joplin died there of a heroin overdose in 1970 in room 105.

Ways of Seeing

Anne Bogart's picture

Perhaps we could say that the power of theatre is that it gives us the opportunity of a sustained gaze where we can move slowly from looking to seeing. In such moments of ocular transmutation, we catch a glimpse of something other, something deeper; a second reality that tells us more about ourselves and the world we inhabit. This is the gift of theatre, allowing us to see through things to their core, where things are brought to light that might otherwise remain hidden.

(Brian Kulick) 

The word theater is derived from the ancient Greek theatron (θέατρον). “Thea” means eyes and “tron” is a place.  The theater is, literally, a place of seeing.  The Greeks seem to have had many words for seeing, each rich with different conceptions of the act. 

Ghosts

Anne Bogart's picture

The thing about the past is that it’s not the past.

(old Irish saying)

Perhaps the theater is a form of eulogy and our job is to raid the graveyard regularly. The ways in which we remember dead people, those who did not finish what they had to say, and the way that we give them voice is what matters. I like to think that if the theater were a verb, it would be “to remember.” We re-member the parts. We put the fragments back together again. We excavate history in order to allow the past and those who had not finished communicating speak through us in the present moment. We are flesh and sensation and we look to be filled with the spirits of ghosts. Can we vibrate with their energy and consciousness?

Ouch! The Role of Pain in Transformation

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

Pain is weakness leaving your body.

For many years I’ve thought the source of this adage was the monks of the Shaolin Temple where Kung-Fu was born and became the root of much of what we call martial arts. According to my research , it was actually a recruiting slogan for the US Marine Corps. I’m now not even sure how I got the idea that it was from Shaolin.

Wherever it comes from, it is, at best, only partially true. It’s a sad reality that all of us have probably experienced pain that is not weakness leaving our bodies. If I’m walking down the street and someone stabs me in the eye with an ice-pick, there is a tremendous amount of pain involved. Very little of it can be described as weakness leaving my body. It would be callous at best to describe the pain suffered by someone with a terminal illness in this way.

Conversation or Violence

Anne Bogart's picture

We have a choice. We have two options as human beings. We have a choice between conversation and war. That’s it. Conversation and violence. (Sam Harris)

You push me and then I push you back. If I do not intentionally restrain myself, I will naturally push you harder than you pushed me. If then you push me back, without intentionally restraining yourself, your push will be even harder than mine. Without deliberate modulation, the escalation will continue. To speak scientifically, if the “top down” control system in the pre-frontal cortex of my brain fails to modulate my actions, especially if there is an anger-provoking stimulus like a push, violence ensues.  These reactions are chemical, and they are natural.

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