Submitted by Anne Bogart on November 11, 2013 - 4:23pm
Questions are the key tool of every theater artist. Each worthwhile project is animated by curiosity, by questions, by a nagging itch that requires attention. Part of what makes a play endure through time is the significance of the question that lies at its core.
Emily Dickenson wrote, “Wonder is not precisely knowing, and not precisely knowing not.” To live in between knowing and “knowing not” is a fecund place and a creative one as well.
I have found that many great questions can be answered with a single word: Exactly. These questions are themselves an embodiment of the action of trying to answer them. For example: Question: How can I balance my personal life and my professional life? Answer: Exactly. Or, question: How can I work collaboratively and yet still maintain my personal vision? Answer: Exactly. The paradox contains precisely the problem that needs attention. The answer is an ongoing action.
Submitted by Anne Bogart on October 15, 2013 - 9:34am
For the past several years my blogs on the SITI Company website have been fruitful and useful as I worked towards the completion of a new book of essays entitled What’s the Story. Thanks to the blogosphere I was able to think intensively about issues that related to art, theater and storytelling and then share the consequent writing with you. In September I finished the book, a significant expansion upon the blog writing, and submitted it for publication with Routledge Press. I am excited about What’s the Story coming into existence in the world. Thank you for your help in the process!
And now, in the quest for a new direction for the blogs on the SITI website, I turn to you for help. How can we launch a dialogue together? What are your burning questions, thematic ideas or prompts about subjects that you would like me to consider and attempt to address?
Each month I will make selections from your prompts and I will do my best to address and expand upon the subject. Your question or prompt will be included in the blog and with my response. In this way I hope that we can stimulate even further dialogue. Please send your prompts to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted by Anne Bogart on August 19, 2013 - 9:01am
I am writing today in West Fulton, New York in the heart of the Catskill Mountains. I am close to finishing a new book of essays entitled What’s the Story. The book is made up of eleven chapters, each with a one-word title:
Submitted by Anne Bogart on July 17, 2013 - 1:17pm
Our capacity to tolerate error depends upon our capacity to tolerate emotion. (Irna Gadd)
In 1974 I moved to New York City with the dream of making a life in the theater but first I had to find gainful employment to support my passions. Here are some of my many day jobs: Collecting overdue payments from the clients of a bottled water company, teaching theater to adolescents at the United Nations International School after-school program, analyzing expenses for a Wall Street brokerage firm and leading theater workshops in a halfway house for schizophrenics. Each job provided a window into a particular social, political or economic world. Each window taught me valuable lessons about how to be a better theater director. I mostly learned through my own errors. After many mistakes of presumption and conjecture, I eventually learned to abandon my own carefully premeditated plans, slow down and listen, really listen to what was happening, and then adjust. I learned the necessity of giving up control in order to ride the wave that was already in motion.
Submitted by Anne Bogart on June 27, 2013 - 11:40am
Successful theater requires a combination of technique, content and passion. Like a three legged milking stool, if one of the legs is missing, the entire enterprise collapses. No one cares about the content of an endeavor without the ingredient of the artist’s requisite passion for the material as well as the craft or technique to express it articulately. Similarly, without having something to say and a point of view, neither passion nor technique is sufficient.
What is passion and how can it be cultivated? Brazilian theater director Augusto Boal, inspired by the ideas of Lope de Vega, insisted that, “Theatre is the passionate combat of two human beings on a platform.” He proposed that passion is a feeling for someone or something, or an idea that we prize more highly than our own life. Clearly Mr. Boal was a passionate Latin American with high ideals.
I am late with this blog and I feel the pressure of time on my back. I work on the blog in the five minutes before leaving for rehearsal or on a plane in an uncomfortable seat. Afterwards of course I reproach myself for not using the extended time on the airplane to write. Why did I “spend” this precious time watching inflight television?
The ancient Greeks conceived of time in two radically different ways and produced two different words to distinguish one from the other: chronos and kairos. In English, we have to make do with only one word: time. This “making do” has led us to confuse these two fundamentally diverse means of experiencing time.
Chronos is measured time. Kairos is unbound and unmeasured time. Chronos is quantitative while kairos is qualitative. Chronos is chronological time. It is the difference between time and timing. Any moment can be experienced as either chronos or kairos.
Submitted by Anne Bogart on April 8, 2013 - 10:13am
The Buddhists propose that pain is caused by personal attachment to desire. Accordingly, I consciously and vigilantly police my own burning desires in order to live closer to and in harmony with the realities of the unfolding present moment. I try to stay free from what I perceive as a prison of “wanting.”
In public I have often suggested that the word “want” is killing the American Theater. I propose that in rehearsal we employ the word “want” excessively. A director says to an actor, “now I want you to walk downstage,” or an actor asks a director, “is this what you want?” In so speaking I believe that we unconsciously set up parent-children relationships between the director and actors. And I see this manner of speaking as an endemic and a serious spiritual and political problem in our field.
Submitted by Anne Bogart on March 11, 2013 - 11:00pm
The subject of the theater is, at its core, community. The nurturing substance of theater is not only the story that the play relates and the manner in which the story is expressed, but it is also the actual event of a particular community gathering together to experience the “rite” of enactment. A “rite” is the performance of a ritual and the theater contains vast amounts of ritual.
In 1987 my dear friend, the actor Henry Stram, was performing the role of Cusins in a production of George Bernard Shaw’s play Major Barbara at Baltimore Center Stage. Towards the end of the rather long and windy third act during a sleepy Sunday matinee, Henry made a crucial mistake. His character had an important plot line about his parentage and his appropriateness to take over the Undershaft Munitions Works. In describing why he should be entitled to run the foundry, Henry misspoke a line from the play and rather than saying “My mother is my father’s deceased wife’s sister; and in this island I am consequently a foundling!” he said instead: “My Father is my brother’s deceased wife’s sister; and in this island I am consequently a foundling.” To his immense surprise, the entire audience, who Henry had until that moment supposed was a sleepy, blue haired mass, gasped loudly, as one, at his slip. And Henry at that moment realized that audiences DO, in fact, listen; that what we say on the stage really does register.
Submitted by Anne Bogart on January 28, 2013 - 10:07am
At the Theater Communications Group Conference in Baltimore in 2009, “Generation Y” representative Nadira Hira bounded onto the stage and announced that she would not be using any PowerPoint in her talk. Hooray. What a relief! After several days of presentations and lectures with endless visual information displayed behind the speakers, I was relieved to be spoken to without technical support and accouterments. Hira went on to explain that her generation is moving away from PowerPoint lectures because they understand the physical intensity of speaking directly to an audience.
Submitted by Anne Bogart on December 17, 2012 - 12:30pm
Human beings are expectation machines. We are constructed physiologically and neurologically to anticipate what will happen next. This human trait, which almost certainly originated in ancient survival tactics, makes time-based performance a fascinating field and suggests that every theater person embark upon a lifelong study of how human beings perceive events. Alfred Hitchcock, in an interview with Francois Truffaut, explained that if a character appears screen-left, the audience tends to trust and like the person. If the character arrives from screen-right, we worry that he or she might be dangerous. These expectations are physiological and probably originate in the fact that in the west we read from left to right. In his film Rebecca, the forbidding Mrs. Danvers always appears unexpectedly from screen-right and then is motionless. We worry about her. We expect something bad from her.