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MICHA: The Future of Theater

Creating Documentaries about the Theatre of the Future

Rob Homer-Drummond - 8 July 2014

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I facilitated a listening session about an idea that I have been having a hard time dismissing. I want to see about writing a grant to create a documentary (documentaries) about the the directions in which the theatre is moving in North America now. We know what happened that was revolutionary in the beginning of the 20th Century. Stanislvski blew the minds of a small group of theatre artists in NYC. They found a kind of theatre that excited them on a very deep level—that excited their imaginations. They formed the Group. The Group experimented, formed and played and birthed deeply committed actors, directors and teachers.

What are we doing now—at the start of the 21st Century—perhaps even in the new millennium that excites us? What inspires the young people of today to attend the theatre. What “shows” do they come out of with a feeling that they have been transformed forever? In the era of Netflix, Youtube and facebook s there enough theatre of this type to keep our communal tradition alive?

Here are some of the thoughts that came out of this listening session:

A documentary may be an important way of informing the public about some of the exciting trends in theatre. Some people who might not normally go to the theatre might view a documentary about new forms of theatre and decide to try a live experience.

There is a dichotomy between contemporary playwriting and contemporary acting training. Much contemporary playwriting is moving in the direction of the fantastic/the spiritual/the magical. Much contemporary acting training continues to be training for “ kitchen sink drama.” We need training that addresses theatre that excites the spirit and the imagination. Perhaps the Chekhov training can help to fill this gap? What are the other techniques that can do this? Laban? Viewpoints?

The early 70’s were the era of extreme realism—of the docudrama—the page has turned and we yearn again for more of a theatre of the fantastic. Of course, these things come in waves. It is not new. Strindberg dealt with this. Beckett, Grotowski etc.


Kinds of theatre that are exciting new audiences/young people:

Devised Theatre—theatre that helps people to tell their own stories, stories perhaps of the problems that this generation faces—problems that may have been brought upon them by the current generation?

Drag Theatre—Drag is moving more in the direction of Commedia/Mime. More in the direction of the grotesque and away from the “Beauty Queen” model. It is becoming more counter-culture. Commenting on society. There is an “underground clown
community” in Drag.

Applied Theatre—Theatre that gets us away from “the Cinderalla story” and moves us into the real world to deal with real problems. That doesn’t mean that the theatre itself is realistic, but that is is applied to particular problems in the society.

Physicalized Theatre—Theatre with a particularized form or structure, but one that still connects with the contemporary audience, i.e. a new Commedia piece Truffaldino Says No! Truffaldino takes off his mask and refuses his character, but he finds that the modern world is inherited by characters that are just as grostesque as those in Commedia.

Immediate Classical Theatre—By this I mean a reinterpretation of the classics that brings them home in a palpable, tangible sense to a modern audience. They must be exciting and filled with conflict. Shakespeare that makes the language live. Vankhtangov said, “The feeling of today was necessary in a play.”

Site-Specific Theatre—The famous example is Sleep No More in NYC, but there are many other examples? Why not Ibsen’s Lady of the Sea on the seashore or partially in the ocean?

What kind of theatre is not exciting new audiences/young people?

Issue Driven Theatre/Propogranda Theatre—theatre that seems too PC

Traditional theatre that does not engage their world/their problems

What do we fear?

We are moving into a generation that will control the money, but will not value theatre.

Will regional theatres continue to exist with the availability of so many forms of media/entertainment.

Many Thanks to Lionel and Arthur! Please feel free to contribute your thoughts as well. My e-mail address is rhomer-drummond@andersonunviversity.edu

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