I think about form because it’s my only hope

May 4, 2020


How to advertise for quiet in the midst of noise

The problem with the signal and noise metaphor
is that there is
Not any room for silence.

And it’s not
because it’s easy
or that quiet
reflects my inside

I think about Form
because it’s my only hope.
And the site of my resistance.

The minimal viable container.


Conditions shape what is able to emerge.

Constraints and availability
create conditions.

The Given Conditions:

“The actors must make an initial examination of the text to gather information about their characters’ situation, relationships, history and physical characteristics. This material is used as a baseline for all further character development. In addition, the actors are encouraged to consider how the details of the production, such as mise en scène, sets, lighting, costumes and properties, affect the characters’ psychology and actions.” LINK

We are encouraged to play the conditions.

A basic principle.

In Dramatic work,
the actor imagines
the conditions of the character
and brings those into their performance,
along with (to varying degrees)
the conditions of production. 

Traditions like the Viewpoints are alternatives to this
Training performers to care for
the space and the time
of the stage
as a whole
and to understand themselves
as part of a larger piece.

These learning emerged out
of Judson Church scene and
task based dance compositions.
Where the conditions could be
the task
and your reality that day.

Which was connected
to John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg
Who used chance and coincidence
To create unpredictable conditions
The performers would
to a degree,
not “play”
in order that the juxtapositions and collisions might be visible. 

On the Robert Wilson / Richard Foreman end,
the conditions are the rules and actions
set by the director
and the task is to
inhabit those conditions.

It’s worth noticing
that the more
was often generated by women.
Yvonne Rainer, Mary Overlie, Simone Forti, Deborah Hay and more.

In the UK
there is a history
of acting as craft
and form
that expects actors to be more aware
of legibility
and meta concerns of the theatre.

In the extreme imagination of US theatre,
The director is solely responsible
for caretaking the audience
perspective and needs
sight lines,
legibility of choices.

The actor is focused on
characters conditions
As available in the script. 

That analysis might
stretch to historical analysis
and contexts
not in the text
depending on
the budget and interests.

There are good reasons for this from film:
The screen actor trying desperately
to hide the truth of their conditions.
The gaffers,
hours in makeup,
fatigue, etc…

Awareness of the Camera and Crew
Is a rare gimmick, and usually
“in character.”

In those conditions,
a performance approach
of falling deeply
into a character
is an understandable reaction.


Moved onto the stage…
well, that’s not why I go to the theatre

If I want screen acting and screen writing,
I’ll watch a screen.


Theatre is something different

“Now more than ever.”

Embodiment matters.

We know,
with all of ourselves,
when we are with other people

And also we know,
with all of ourselves,
When the people
we are with
are paying attention to us.

There are clues
in the
5 mainstream senses.
Visual and audio,
of course,
pheromones and scents,
brushes and bumps against actual bodies,
the taste
overpriced wine and Hagendas bars 
all tell me
I’m at a theatre with other people.

And that move past the lobby.

In the room of the performance those sense are still live – though we mostly discourage touching, smelling or tasting the actors.

Though the potential is important.

The performances I love most, whether through intimacy of venue or design of approach, the potential is, if not realized, more present.

Other senses are even more important in knowing that we know each other are present.

The gut, the back of the neck, the hot ears, the magnetic and gravitational fields. Maybe these are an expanded notion of touch.

Most theatre, I wager and in my experience, doesn’t optimize for this sense.

The theatre I love does.

Most theatre has, since Wagner turned off the house lights, tried to find ways to minimize the sense of knowing that we’re together in favour of a focused attention on the genius happening on the stage.

The lights are an obvious target – bright and tight on the performer, even the rest of the stage disappears to audience and actor.

The audience is the only one who can see and they see only what the show wants them to see. The actor, because she is human, knows through all her sense that there is a group of people there, but she’s can’t see them as a whole or individually.

The lights are just an expression of the philosophical position.
The forth wall has been wrapped around the heart and mind of the actor.

She may know that other people are around her on stage and off. But she has been directed not to see them anyways, to spend most of her acting energy on pretending that the current conditions are different.

Which is part of the craft – the ability to believe. A muscle that actors train. And it’s a great skill. But when applied consistently it leads to Deadly theatre.

If I want to be ignored by great actors telling character based stories, I will stay home and watch a screen. And if I want to do that with a group of people in a focused setting, I’ll go to the cinema.

When the straight theatre needs a high horse to climb up on, despite so much time masking and minimizing the actual conditions, they talk about the shared experience, while offering less than the cinema.

Options for theatre:

We tell different stories:
A) The same way (4th wall wrapped / predicable and character obsessed)
B) Slightly different Ways (connected to the audience, flexible and changing, contextually aware.)
C-ZZ) Lots of other options that aren’t those 2.

My friend Frank told me that hockey players were coach to say, “Of course” after all their obvious answers: “In the second period, of course, we hope to score a few more than the other team.”
This lets them off the hook.
In writing I fear I am saying obvious things all the time and try the same technique.

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