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Devoted & Disgruntled 12: What Shall We Do About Theatre and the Performing Arts Now?

Comforting the afflicted is great, but where is the art that afflicts the comfortable? (reorganised notes)

Jacob Harmon - 1 February 2017

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Comforting the afflicted is great, but where is the art that afflicts the comfortable?

A. Works mentioned – Is this the art that afflicts the comfortable?

“Straight white men” by Yong Jun Lee - - A straight white man gives away his power, the audience were very uncomfortable.
http://youngjeanlee.org/work/straight-white-men/

“The shipment” also by Yong Jun Lee
http://www.ontheboards.tv/performance/theater/the-shipment#.WIh-_PmLSUk

“Parade of the Horribles” unperformed piece by Mish Weaver(present)- festival gate keeping.
http://www.stumbledancecircus.com/paradeofhorribles/

“Phlogiston Monkey” A satirical radio play by Jacob Harmon(present) and Christopher Hinton.
www.phlogistonmonkey.com

“November” Spanish street theatre
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noviembre_(film)

“Sojourn” 2 plays in different spaces come together to meet, they become particcipants, actors, not just an audience.

“Shunt” a split audience that were revealed to each other during the play.

(couldn't find anything linkable on these pieces)

“The better angels of our nature” book by Stephen Pinker (link to TED talk – same theme)
https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence

B. Afflicting the Comfortable

Doesn't creating space for the afflicted afflict the comfortable anyway?

Who are the afflicted?

Afflicting your comfortable audience. - who is your audience?

*“straight white men” - by Yong Jun Lee - A straight white man gives away his power, the audience were very uncomfortable. Also by Yong Jun Lee: “the shipment”

Can you ever really afflict the comfortable?'

- “The rich know only fear and confidence”
- Not if you want them to fund you. (hoho.)
- We are trapped by funding / permissions.
- Festivals create barriers to things that “people don't want to see”.

Provide an experience for your audience, not just something to look at. An experience which is uncomfortable might be -

-Non-rational
-provoking
-experiential
-outrageous

*”Parade of the Horribles” unperformed piece by Mish Weaver(present)- festival gate keeping.

Intentional mis-selling (surprise your audience, lure them into thinking things will be comfortable then discomfort them.) - []

(BUT think of the children when challenging public / private spaces)

(Dadaism)

-a pro Trump, pro Brexit play?

Has Trump ruined satire?

*“Phlogiston Monkey” A satirical radio play by Jacob Harmon(present) and Christopher Hinton.

C. Protest, Empathy and Theatre

*“November” - Spanish street theatre

By-pass audience / organisers / funders consent by going straight to the street.

The “gift” of Trump. He breaks the rules, he doesn't ask for permission, why don't we do that?

Where does art meet activism?

Organising people to challenge the comfortable (agitprop)

A political mover/shaker said: If you want to affect people hire a physicist / statistician not a PR guy. Get the numbers on your side.

Occupy tried theatre, but people said it was rubbish (they weren't professionals).

Art is propaganda, this was dangerous for occupy, there was a sense of a closing of space.

The artists job is to create space for conversation.

Grow empathy, reduce fundamentalism.

*“Sojourn” 2 plays in different spaces come together to meet, they become particcipants, actors, not just an audience.
*“Shunt” a split audience that were revealed to each other during the play.

Bringing “others” together.

Providing space on stage for “the other” those who are afflicted. Refugees, sex workers, oppressed.

Taking the afflicted into public spaces.


D. Ethical art making

How to create an “ethical” play (labour, materials sourcing)

Unethical isn't unlawful. We can push boundaries.

Being “ethical” is a tax.

Be a hypocrite.

OR Tell people about the struggle to create ethically.

E. Liberalism

Where is the art that challenges neo-liberal structures?

“Democracy is dead” (my words here for the idea that what we vote for doesn't matter and the elites rule - we all seemed to agree this was true)

Is everything that bad? Aren't things really getting better? Stephen Pinker's book.

*“The Better Angels of Our Nature” – book by Stephen Pinker.

Liberalism has been co-opted by power.

It's a “win” to support inclusiveness without challenging deeper issues. It's good PR and it diverts attention from those deeper issues.

“Othering” of people who are less concerned with political correctness.

What does “better” look like? We can't agree.

Reactionaries can appeal to an imagined past that everyone understands. We can't do that, we must imagine a future.

F. Post truth

There is no such thing as “truth” any more, only lived experience.

(example: climate truth “It's cold right now, global warming isn't happening, I don't care how many facts you have)

Post truth is wrong, it's post fact.

The lived experience of the working class is quite different to the lived experience of the middle class.

There is a truth in the community that elites fail to see.

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