Submitted by Anne Bogart on April 8, 2013 - 11:13am
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 12, 2013 - 12:00am
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 - 11:07am
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 - 1:30pm
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.
Submitted by Anne Bogart on October 23, 2012 - 12:00am
Election season is upon us.I watch HBO’s Bill Maher bang his head on the “Real Time” table in despair at the lack of communication that is possible between parties.We wade into a season of debates, hearing persistent expressions of surprise that the “other side” does not recognize the logic of a particular argument.But perhaps the surprise is unwarranted because, in fact, it is nearly impossible to convince anyone of anything via facts, charts, numbers or even abundant proof.People are not persuaded to change their opinions with facts.The brain does not respond vigorously to facts alone. But when facts are contextualized with stories, it is possible to effect peoples’ minds via the emotion and empathy engendered in the telling.
Submitted by Anne Bogart on September 15, 2012 - 10:00pm
Not long after the cataclysmic events of 9/11, I launched a series of one-on-one conversations between myself and various artists and theater people I admired. Open to the general public, the talks took place in the SITI Company studio in midtown, Manhattan. I did not know that these conversations would fulfill a palpable need for substantive discussion in a room with no separation between the audience and the speakers. We all sat in the same light, breathed the same air and followed thoughts as they developed through the art of conversation.
Submitted by Anne Bogart on June 7, 2012 - 12:00am
We read and we write.We read the world and at times we write upon it.In order to write effectively we must learn to read well. It is impossible to write without reading first.
Great writers are effectively great readers.To read teaches one to write.In a broad sense, we are all readers and we are all writers. A baby swiftly learns to read the surrounding world and begins to write back. The human mind is tuned to detect patterns.In “writing back,” the mind attempts to craft ordered narratives out of random input. The brain circuitry pores over incoming information, filters for patterns, and arranges those patterns into narratives, into stories. This inborn appetite for meaningful patterns translates into a hunger for stories.
Submitted by Anne Bogart on April 3, 2012 - 12:00am
Artists and inventors rarely create something out of nothing, but rather they use the components that exist already their environment to forge new territory. Innovation results from re-combining things. Playwright Chuck Mee excavates the world to scavenge for bits of pieces of what delights and energizes him.He organizes these bits and pieces into the content of his plays.For our new production, Café Variations, we have excavated the scripts of Chuck Mee to make our new play.We also scavenge through You Tube clips of Apache Dances from the early part of the 20th century, Edward Hopper paintings, old romantic movies, the catalogue of George and Ira Gershwin and we sample liberally from these rich sources. The result of this rummaging will premiere on April 13th at ArtsEmerson in Boston.I hope you will come to see it.
Submitted by Anne Bogart on March 16, 2012 - 12:00am
The playwright and performer Taylor Mac is constantly developing multiple new projects. He is at work now on a twenty-four hour concert about the history of popular music. He spoke to my students at Columbia University recently and told us that he is looking for two hundred and fifty songs from twenty-four decades, music from the 1770s up to the present decade. I asked Taylor how he choses the songs. He said that he looks for songs that create community.
Oh, a song that creates community! I asked Taylor what kind of songs creates community. He said that some music tends to make the listener internal and contemplative and other music connects people. He is choosing music that connects people.
Submitted by Anne Bogart on February 1, 2012 - 1:00am
In early January, during the APAP (Arts Presenters) Conference in New York City, I enjoyed a few quality moments with my friend Mike Ross, Director of the Krannert Center in Champaign-Urbana.We sat together on stools at the corner of a bar in a shady midtown pub.Over the years, Mike has been a great supporter of SITI Company, hosting us many times at his beautiful performing arts complex in the flatlands of Illinois.He is a tall, handsome, intelligent glass of water, always insightful and philosophical about the world we live in.I mentioned to him that touring and commissions were finally looking up for SITI Company after several years of struggle and lack in a difficult economic climate.I asked Mike if he thought that this positive change is due to general expectations for a better economy. “No,” he said, “the economy is not improving much, but people are simply adjusting, becoming more optimistic, going on with their lives and making plans again.”