“the central paradox of theater is that something which starts off complete, as true to itself, as self-contained and as subjective as a sonnet, is then thrown into a kind of spin dryer which is the process of staging the play; and that process is hilariously empirical”—Tom Stoppard, “Pragmatic Theatre,” Sept 23, 1999 http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1999/sep/23/pragmatic-theater/
“We’ve told people that avant-garde theater is not for everybody. We could do more of what the fashion industry does—they make avant-garde fashion something you want to see. You may not want to wear it, but you want to see it and experience it. So if theater could figure out a way to convince people that unconventional forms are exciting. “Oh you might get bored by this? That’s exciting!” The idea that the play or the performance is supposed to solve everything for you in the moment is insidious. No, it’s supposed to offer you a conversation—after. To me, performance is about inspiring people to do things. The time that you’re sitting in the theater is about giving you context for what you’re going to do after—it’s not the thing. I think that’s all theater artists really do.”—Taylor Mac, in this interview in BOMB Magazine (via itsdlevy)
Janice Paran is a Senior Program Associate for the Sundance Institute Theatre Program, the former Director of Play Development at McCarter Theatre, and the dramaturg on The Figaro Plays. Emilia LaPenta is McCarter Theatre’s Literary Manager, and Janice’s daughter. They recently sat down and…
“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”—Barbara W. Tuchman (via observando)
Mikhail Baryshnikov, Annie-B Parsons and Paul Lazar. Photo by Leslie Lyons.
Elizabeth Williamson, Senior Dramaturg and Director of New Play Development, sits down with the directors of “Man in a Case,” Big Dance Theater’s Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar to discuss their process…
JACQUELINE LAWTON: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you? JAMILA REDDY: I love telling this story, because it reaffirms my belief that no matter what happens, I’ll always end up exactly where I need to be. I tried out…
Years and years ago, there was a production of The Tempest, out of doors, at an Oxford college on a lawn, which was the stage, and the lawn went back towards the lake in the grounds of the college, and the play began in natural light. But as it developed, and as it became time for Ariel to say his farewell to the world of The Tempest, the evening had started to close in and there was some artificial lighting coming on. And as Ariel uttered his last speech, he turned and he ran across the grass, and he got to the edge of the lake and he just kept running across the top of the water — the producer having thoughtfully provided a kind of walkway an inch beneath the water. And you could see and you could hear the plish, plash as he ran away from you across the top of the lake, until the gloom enveloped him and he disappeared from your view.
And as he did so, from the further shore, a firework rocket was ignited, and it went whoosh into the air, and high up there it burst into lots of sparks, and all the sparks went out, and he had gone.
When you look up the stage directions, it says, ‘Exit Ariel.’
"Because the indisputable fact is, you guys are in charge, and I’m not. You guys work for the organizations and theaters, which are in a position to not only help me and other new artists from my generation, but essentially give us our starts. And how can you even begin to do that, if you know nothing about all of the stuff that my generation likes and says and does, or worse think those things are not only trivial and stupid, but something to actively fight against?"
We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language.
“Dramaturgs are beleaguered. They are bashed, they are silenced, they are badly paid. And still, they perservere. They are bashed by the very people they have sacrificed their own family lives and pleasure to defend! Playwrights! Already in these pages I’ve called them nuns. I’ve accused them of sharpening pencils too sharply. Let me honor you, dramaturgs. Let me shower you with love. Here is what we playwrights need and ask of you. We need you. We need you to be nice to us when the director is mean to us. We need you to be nice to us when the audience is mean to us. We need you to be nice to us when the artistic director is mean to us. We need you to sit next to us at the first rehearsal when we feel like we are being flayed open and exposed. We need you to sit next to us at the first dress rehearsal and tell us that it’s good or worth saving even though we feel worthless and doomed. We need you to sit next to us during the first preview and give us two or three notes that are easily accomplished when we want to leave the theater forever and take up marine biology or nursing or any profession that doesn’t involve public humiliation. We need you to deflect strange questions at audience talk-backs and remind the audience members that they are most helpful when they describe their own experience rather than trying to fix the playwright’s play. Or perhaps we need you to excuse playwrights from coming to talkbacks when we already feel flayed alive during previews; dramaturgs are better able to answer questions at talkbacks and then gently relate the audience response to the playwright who is either hiding or incapacitated in the nearest bathroom. (Gently knock and offer brown rice.) We need you to be articulate about our plays when we feel dumb about them, so someone can do the articulating for us while we do the more blunted and blind task of writing the thing. We need you to be as articulate about unconventional structure as you are about conventional structure. We need you to fight the mania for clarity and help create a mania for beauty instead. We need you to ask: is this play big enough? Is it about something that matters? Conversely: is this play small enough? And if the play’s subject matter is the size of a button, is it written with enough love and formal precision that the button matters? We need you to remind audiences that plays are irreducible in meaning, the way that poetry is. To remind our audiences that going to the theater is a privileged, emotional and irreducible experience. We need you to fight for plays at the theater where you work and in the broader culture. We need you to ask us hard questions. We need you to remind us of our own integrity and not to turn our plays into other people’s plays. We need you to remind us to make hard cuts and not fall in love with our own language when our plays are too long. We need you to drink with us if we are drinkers and not drink with us if we are abstainers. Train as an actor, or a director, or a set designer, because we need you to understand each element fully. We occasionally need you to leave the profession and become critics, because you truly love the theater, have critical and insightful minds, and would write about new plays with love and understanding. I love you, dramaturgs. I wish there were a better name for your calling than calling you dramaturgs.”—