May 1, 2021

Cosmology and the Seed: Reflections on the Genesis of Theatrical Worlds

Theatre is a living art. A production is a world. The genesis of a theatre work requires a catalytic force of cosmic magnitude. But this great potential, capable of generating a new Big Bang, begins infinitesimally with a seed.

The seed may be anything. For example: an image, sound, architectural environment, story, title, the memory of a dream. Anything.

It is important to manifest the seed in some way, such as the written word or a printed image.

The seed contains a profound passion, a deep-rooted connection to an idea. This kernel becomes a compulsion that renders the artist restless at night. It will grow inside, like a malevolent tumor, if not removed through the praxis of artistic violence. “If you do not bring forth what is within, what is within will destroy you” (apocryphal Gospel of Thomas).

One must connect to this passion unequivocally, without judgement. Early on, judgement is a paralyzing enemy, antagonistic towards ideas. The time for judgement will come later.

The seed must be guarded. It is a lodestar; when lost, return to it.

The seed must be protected throughout the planning, meetings, rehearsals, and long hours. It is easy to lose. If that occurs, the catalytic elements are lost and the world cannot take shape. The vessel remains empty (Luria).

How can we begin to understand the phenomenon of potential / seed crossing into being / performance? When we reach the limits of logic, we turn to myth.

For the Ancient Greeks, katabasis was a descent by the living into Hades. This mytheme concerns the difficulties of traversing between two completely different domains.

Katabasis is a metaphor for the artist’s work. The artist enters a terra incognita to bring forth what is in darkness. Orpheus’ example is to be avoided. Rather, consider Dionysus’ katabasis. The god of theatre, at once human and divine, defies the cosmos by bringing Semele into the land of the living. A godlike effort is required.

The seed is also the criterion for evaluation. Performance is an opportunity to consider whether entelechy has been achieved. But the judge is the spectator, whose gaze is another catalytic element that triggers a kind of alchemical change. A world unto itself emerges which, in truth, has nothing to do with the artist.
April 1, 2021

Space in the Time of Plague

During the pandemic, space is problematized. The fundamentally human act of a face-to-face encounter can be fatal. Mass congregation is impossible.

When we lose direct human contact, we also lose spaces. For example: restaurants, schools, and theaters.

Theatre cannot exist without space. The phenomenology of theatrical space is a mystery. When a performance meets the gaze of the spectator, we enter a different domain. It is conjured communally, with performer and spectator breathing the same air and experiencing the same flow of time.

We live in a digital age. In this time of plague, we have inevitably expanded our understanding of space to encompass the internet. In many instances, there is a kind of transliteration involved as we seek virtual substitutes for real-world needs.

I approach this space with a hint of skepticism. Foucault would understand the internet as a heterotopia (space of otherness). Similar to the “space” of a phone call, the online world is a readily accessible meeting point that, paradoxically, does not exist.

I, too, have an instinct to transcend the physical limitations on space necessitated by the pandemic. The space in which you are reading these words is for disjecta membrae (scattered fragments). A low-key outlet.