Devoted & Disgruntled 12: What Shall We Do About Theatre and the Performing Arts Now?
Creating Myths & Legends for our time
Frances Stoakley - Merriman - 17 January 2017
WHO WAS THERE
REPORT DETAILCREATING MYTHS & LEGENDS FOR OUR TIME - that is a time of environmental crisis & where new moral codes may be required (ie. not sticking to the path, and going deep, deep into the woods)
Not exactly sure - it started off with a few, then built swiftly and beautifully, as the momentum of the conversation galloped and flowed.
What guides us - our moral compass?
ARE THE MYTHS & LEGENDS WE HAVE STILL RELEVANT?
The question was asked ‘Are they still relevant today?’
General consensus from people who came early on in session was that Yes, they are still current - the important thing is in the reading of them - the re-interpretation of them for our time and needs now.
Look at the kernel of the story.
Rumplestiltskin was mentioned - how it can be used to look at the rights of a young girl, her choices. It was put forward that this story could be made very current and vibrant - that it is because of the strand of humanity that runs through myths and legends that means the stories survive and are re-told again and again.
MYTHS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Could myths & legends from the other parts of the world - European myths/stories be helpful - would they speak to us in ‘developed’ west, now that we are a global community?
SINGULAR HERO OR COLLECTIVE HERO?
The role of the hero. So many stories have a singular hero or singular entity that is the key character - attractive because it speaks to the wannabe hero inside but this role of a single hero is probably not going to solve or change the problems of climate change. Will we just sit back and wait for the ‘Jesus’ hero??
How can we make the collective hero sexy?
We need different models of leadership e.g. self-organising.
WHAT ABOUT GREEK MYTHS?
There has been a big resurgence in the re-telling of Greek myths. These have a strong CHORAL VOICE.
It was said that we need ‘hero’ stories - but what about collective networked action having an impact?
'The hero' - it's a romantic notion - which can lead to an authoritarian leadership. The singular hero - doesn't lead to PERSONAL RESONSPONSIBILITY. While waiting for the hero to appear - you can hide, and are not held up to account.
However, even if there was a collective hero, there must still need an emotional connection - there must be resonance for audience members - and this requires there to be individuals for you to connect with personally - even within the mass.
There is a requirement for certain INGREDIENTS:
THERE ARE ONLY FIVE STORIES IN THE WORLD
It is said that there are only 5 stories, or is it 7 (I looked it up on the internet - hang on maybe it's 8..) in the whole world and all others stories are based on these.
BUT some say we are on the edge of a LEAP IN EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS… in which case may we be on the brink of ONE extra plot…..? If it emerges it will emerge devised in an open space!
MYTHS, LEGENDS, FAIRYTALES & FOLK STORIES
Again it the point was raised that fairy stories and folk stories are a rich source - we should go back to the true origins - the originals of these stories. (Apologies if I don't relay this next bit accurately - I was struggling to write notes as I was getting so caught up in the flow of the conversation!)
BOOK: THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales
- stories often sanitised.. made moralistic
- originally not about morals
Originally these stories were descriptive, not moralistic - descriptive stories of life - about the problems we face at any point. These are rich points to go back to - there are rich analogies to make.
We need ACTUAL stories of how people live, not dressed up, not public - not TRUMPED UP!
THE DARK MOUNTAIN PROJECT - MANIFESTO
- I'm sorry I didn't feel I could do justice to what was mentioned about this incredible looking project so I am going to put here a section from their website:
The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself. We see that the world is entering an age of ecological collapse, material contraction and social and political unravelling, and we want our cultural responses to reflect this reality rather than denying it.
The Project grew out of a feeling that contemporary literature and art were failing to respond honestly or adequately to the scale of our entwined ecological, economic and social crises. We believe that writing and art have a crucial role to play in coming to terms with this reality, and in questioning the foundations of the world in which we find ourselves.
- There are lots of stories online
- Stories which are closer to geological time, to earth time, rather than human time. Cyclical time, and the birth of myth.
- Land myths
- The process of un-civilisation
DO WE NEED TO REIMAGINE HOW WE TELL STORIES OF OR FOR THE 21st CENTURY?
Advertising are the biggest storytellers of our age
- story and narrative
- each advert a 20 second myth - if you don't like this one, here's another one…
These are the myths that need to be challenged.
What about putting forward a strong new story - that gives people something to react too?
ARE MYTHS SOMETIMES ACTUALLY WISHES?
- Make us step away from reality and this is dangerous
- Hollywood is a myth factory - using same formulas of old
- marvel realities
MYTHS SHOULD NOT BE DIDACTIC
- not telling you how something should be
- they should be about giving people opportunity and space for exploration
Personalised journeys - refugees - documentary on iplayer - “Exodus”
Fairy tales - not black and white, dubious…. edge - about finding the grey areas.
CONTEMPORARY ADAPTATIONS of Greek myths/tragedies
- good at capturing human problems, but not solutions… and give a collective voice.
- people try to ‘fix’ the problem by doing this they …
- it's about a continuing conversation, cyclical conversation
- doesn't nail a way to be, we know what the problems are
- The question ‘why aren’t you doing something?' doesn't help, change can occur in relation to complexity and empathy.
This is a problem - then as a reader of the myth you look through your self for the problem - discover solutions for yourself, not being given what you should do.
No good being given a sticking plaster, a quick solve it solution - need to go out into the world instead.
Greek myths are generally about individuals making selfish choices..
Myth can be good as way of exploring problems and paradoxes and what the resolutions could be… but not prescribing what will happen next.
Revenge cycle - dynamic in myths - very old way of settling a social score - is this still relevant? Can we move on from this?
DO WE USE THESE MYTHS AND SMUGGLE MESSAGES UNDERNEATH?
Want to create myths that make and audience reflect on the questions:
'What is my relationship to the future?'
'What do I want the future to look like?'
'Where are we headed?'
STARTING WITH REALITY
- You just have to start with reality, however flawed that reality is, myths - such stories say what reality is.
- Starting with our own imperfections
- Greek characters are similar - they are flawed, full of imperfections - so we feel close to them, we feel connection due to our own imperfections
ORAL VERSUS WRITTEN MYTHS/STORIES
- oral stories are not fixed - they would have changed with every telling
- In the past the purpose of the myth/stories would have changed depending on who told the story, what purpose was required at the time
- Is a myth new in every telling?
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN AFFECTED IN ‘HOW YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE’ BY CLASSICAL THEATRE ie. Shakespeare, Greek mythology?
- One conversation goer felt he had had no personal effect whatsoever from classical theatre, whereas he had from contemporary theatre. Others had had profound personal effect from both contemporary and classical theatre.
AT THIS TIME
We are in a world with exponential amounts of information
In the past the most information there was, was
what could be found in an old woman's head.
Then it was what could be found in a library
Now it's what can be found on the phone in my pocket.
Problem is we are overloaded with information
Myths are a useful way for addressing these current problems.
They provide a baseline narrative
CREATING A NEW MYTH…
is a HUGE undertaking.
Maybe we should just tell really good truths, that are true to you and maybe it'll become a myth, you'll have created a new myth.
This is the moment to do something though, while everything is up in the air.
Write a story that is true now - the truth that is now.
Could a new story now become a religion in 2000 years??
The play ‘MR BURNS’ came up in the conversation at this point.
A story of the future. It's actually not about society now, but everyone thinks that it is.
Mr Burns - a post-electric play
by Anne Washburn
Anne Washburn’s imaginative dark comedy propels us forward nearly a century, following a new civilization stumbling into its future.
“After the collapse of civilization, a group of survivors share a campfire and begin to piece together the plot of ”The Simpsons“ episode ”Cape Feare“ entirely from memory. 7 years later, this and other snippets of pop culture (sitcom plots, commercials, jingles, and pop songs) have become the live entertainment of a post-apocalyptic society, sincerely trying to hold onto its past. 75 years later, these are the myths and legends from which new forms of performance are created.”
It is suggested we could try creating a new myth right now - could we make one up?
A myth in a minute.
Someone asks: ‘What about telling stories about myths?’
Right now who are making up the myths and legends of tomorrow?
A discussion ensues about societal decisions attempted to be made which are inside/outside the law… something dangerous about this.
Human rights issues being discussed - with BREXIT, people are looking at creating a new set of human rights to be created… there is something dangerous about this.
'The Government has proposed to consult on repealing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a Bill of Rights.'
MYTHS AS POWER - TRUTH AND LIES
So we talk about truth a lot. But not always lies… yet people in power use lies and these lies become part of mythology for power.
There is something about the scale of a lie told well and the power that that has. For instance, Trump is not being truthful, and is not afraid to create a myth for his political agenda. This has happened right through history - Persians, Romans, Nazi's, Western world…etc.
With this as a backdrop - small acts of change guided by myths or otherwise, are not enough - less detail and acts on a much greater scale are required.
But surely this is just fighting fire with fire, and everyone knows you just get more fire.
Be authentic, genuine and as accurate as you can.
Think about who's truth?
Truth is truth, but lying is deliberate act.
The discussion continued, and I'm sorry I wasn't able to capture anymore as we were out of time. This is obviously just a snapshot and really doesn't capture the richness and depth of discussion - but I hope it proves of interest.
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