I originally wrote this almost two months ago, and never posted it, thinking that it was too angry. Then I started (and finished) the first draft a novel, ignoring my blog for that long. Anyway, looking back after two months, I don't think this is that terribly angry. Rather, I think it really gets right at what my frustration is at present and really always has been (ok, since I was in college and actually started thinking about these things):
Now that I'm out of the fuzzy protective blanket that is academia for at least a year or two, and now that I've dug myself into a $40K debt hole and am working at mindless (literally) temp job to pay down that debt and am not really connected to anything relevant to what I studied, I have to ask: why?
Why did I choose this art form when I can probably count one hand the number of interesting plays and performances I've seen in the last year? Why did I choose a form that appears to be constinantly at odds with itself--wanting to develop yet continuing to produce stuff in a style that is one hundred years old. Think -- if film or tv or the visual arts still continued to be b/w, silent, impressionitic, there is no way they would hold our interest as they do. Yes, I just labeled TV as an art form, mostly due to shows like Weeds and Six Feet Under, as well as those parody shows on Comedy Central, though those also run the risk of becoming tired, like theater, as they are continually made over. And yes, the truly iconoclastic will remain just that. Major art forms continue to grow, and get over the fact that the new expressions of style are "weird" and "frightening" and thus must be marginalized while we all either sit through A Doll's House. Again. (no diss on Ibsen, what he did was great. For the turn of the century). Or else we go to those "weird" shows in order to show that we are hip but not actually enjoying them because we have lost the trajectory of theater and thus an understanding of what is going on or what should be going on.
This is nothing new. And I am not trying to ignore people who have made great strides in the form. I am trying to figure out what I can do to continue to develop theater and why I should even bother, if I more often than not see only its flaws and not its beauty.
Theater makes me incredibly angry. It has become the fat, lazy art form (12/5 note: wow. ok, that is angry). There needs to be less theater. There needs to be more focus in theater, more focus on why are we doing this rather than "we need to get in a subscriber base and thus we need to do five shows a year" rather than "slow down, calm down, and create one great show." Peter Brook called this the Deadly Theater. Given how much deadly theater happens each year, we must really enjoy it. Or else be too desenstized to do anything about it.
There needs to be more support for theater. Why do we let shows run on and on for years? Give a show a few nights, if you miss it, so what? It would be like life itself, like time sifting through the fingertips, never to be repeated. (12/5 note: channeling artaud here, i guess.)
I offer no solutions. I do not even know what I, a freshly minted MFA, will do. Find the work that interests me and invest myself in that. Ignore the myriad productions around me that do nothing to spark an audience's (my) interest. If the deadly theater receives no support, it will be forced to go away.
Maybe that is the solution. Only invest time and dollars and effort into work that truly matters. Here we get into the issue of value judgement, and who's to say that a boring, uninventive, completely lacking in creativity show, is in fact all those things? A show has to mean something to someone or else why do it?
And maybe that is the solution. Stop doing theater just to do theater. There are plenty of entertainment options in the world. No need for a poorly conceived version of Cats or yet another production of a play by (enter name of realistic, edgy contemporary playwright here). Stop doing theater that has anything to do with television. This includes plays about TV, plays where people sit and talk for longer than five seconds, and ***here I stopped originally, way back in October.
And now here we are in December, and shows are dropping right and left, at least on Broadway. I find it hard to mourn their passing, given that they were all those things above that I was ranting about (for the most part).
It saddens me that I can offer no solutions to the conundrum of theater--a conundrum no one really even thinks about. Would most of the world notice (er, most of America) notice if theater just stopped? I am not suggesting that it do so, rather that we really need to seek out what makes theater necessary and return to that, or else it will fall from being a minor art form to no art form at all.