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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

101 sentences about theatre

The idea:
Inspired by George Hunka’s wonderful 95 sentences about theatre project (which was itself inspired by Martin Luther’s Catholic church-challenging 95 theses), Praxis Theatre has decided to put together its own list of sentences about theatre.

We’re not saying we know where these sentences will take us – or what it will all mean when we’re done. We’re just saying . . . so to speak.

Here’s how it’s going to work:
In a series of blog posts over the next few months, Praxis Theatre will create and make public a list of 101 original (or, as original as possible) sentences about theatre. These sentences will be composed by various members of our creative team. They will be published anonymously and without regard for the order in which they have been submitted. In this way, we hope these sentences will grow to be a manifesto of sorts for our company – a true-ish representation of our collective voice.

And so here begins, Praxis Theatre’s 101 sentences about theatre:

1) The best thing about theatre is that you can’t do it by yourself.

2) Theatre can make anybody feel instantly educated.

3) Bad theatre rubs its own hands together in a public display of self-comforting false modesty.

4) The circus of humanity is explored.

5) The theatre of the gimmick is giving the children chocolate cake when they haven’t even tried the vegetable stir fry; after the cake has been digested, will they even consider the stir fry; or will apathy be the victor . . . again and again?

6) Even theatre that is done poorly or fails in its original intent has the wonderful effect of getting people talking and stirs artists to action.

7) The theatre tends to mirror social and political trends in the world around us, making the vast majority of it either hopelessly conventional or radical to a fault.

8) What are the best questions to ask ourselves about this form?

9) The thing about theatre is that even the reruns are a little different.

10) At its best, theatre is a form of communal self-betterment, pulling us and pushing us, exposing us, and maybe, if we’re lucky, healing us.

11) Guerrilla theatre – rarely seen of late – any ideas?

12) If you strive for financial security and you want a career in the theatre, you are likely to be disappointed.

13) Theatre has been “in trouble” for 10,000 years.

14) Theatre resists the universality of mass media, and withers under the glare of glossy magazine spreads.

15) Unable to turn away from what is disturbing or triumphant, one feels complicit somehow, the journey is real yet imagined and accepted because we are all here at once taking it all in together.

16) Bad theatre is a particularly embarrassing form of public self-flagellation.

17) The basic moral outline of Christianity and, therefore, society’s principal template, has blatantly shown us how to repress our feelings and fall back or rely on a state of emotional denial; while theatre shows us how to identify and exhume that specified and odious feeling, to scrutinize its causes and origins, and then simply to express it.

18) Theatre is not an empirical science.

19) The power of theatre is exemplified when artists answer a production they disagree with, or just plain didn’t like, with “I can do that better” – and when they actually get off their asses and do it.

20) At its worst, the theatre mimics self-exploration, and does it so convincingly that even it believes in its own magical powers, and then heads straight to the pub for a rousing self-congratulatory drink!

21) Boys and girls may come and go, but theatre will never leave me.

22) Exploration of how, why, searching for answers yet finding more questions.

23) There is nothing worse than listening to a group of actors talk about their agents and the industry.

24) Theatre is sport.

25) Sport is theatre.

26) Theatre is a dish best served with a post-show pint.

27) Theatre lives and breathes everywhere that an audience gathers; no matter if it’s one person, 400, or 2000.

28) This is frustrating.

29) In some respects, those little black-box theatre productions, ubiquitous in the vibrant cities of the artist, can represent some of life’s most disturbing and darkest corners; so the theatre can be a place where you should enter at your own visceral risk.

30) Theatre brings artists of all genres together to tell a story – or many stories – of the human experience, perhaps seeking to create community.

31) Theatre is most compelling when it engages both the audience and the performers as much in their pinky toes as it does in their brains.

32) When a theatrical performance really and truly grabs hold of me, it becomes very dangerous, and I realize that if the actor jumps off a cliff I’m going to jump with them.

33) Bad theatre is usually the audiences fault.

34) A one-hour piece of theatre can put your materialistic concerns on ice; come feel the warmth inside the theatre community and let some of that freezing cold ice melt.

35) Theatre is a museum of the human being’s visceral state; perhaps it could compete with the ROM or AGO if the patrons had to observe the piece blindfolded.

36) Theatre is awfully fun to make when you’re working with good people.

37) Theatre is a singularity.

38) Theatre is usually the most magical when its practitioners have small budgets.

39) When someone tries to undermine an actor’s job by labeling the description as ‘easy’, an appropriate retort would be: “Making it look ‘easy’ is one of the most difficult parts of the job.”

40) The theatre is one of last sources of mystery left in the modern world.

41) Theatre dies when it is not played HERE, NOW, TODAY.

42) If a single sentence could contain the essence of theatre, that sentence would surely cause the universe to collapse.

43) Alive: If it weren’t then this blog wouldn’t exist.

44) How many theatre artists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

45) Dialogue is useful but action is eternal.

46) Theatre is the one of the few things in my life that is sacred and ceremonious.

47) It is theatre that stops me from having a 9-to-5 job.

48) Transgression and betrayal of the senses and the accepted reactions of society.

49) Theatre is pornography with your clothes on.

50) Theatre is the art of bleeding in public.

51) What is most interesting about theatre is seeing/experiencing the collective mind in action – no right, no wrong, just the ‘attempt’ at working through a vision honestly.

52) The human spirit is viscerally attracted to and innately seeks out stories; theatre is just one medium to tell a story.

53) I’m tired of seeing B-list TV celebrities on Broadway who can’t act “taking a break” from their lousy careers and making me suffer.

54) To change the landscape of what is revered and what is questioned.

55) Why do I have to become a film star before people will come to see me in the theatre?

56) Theatre is better than movies because you can travel through time, space, gender and class using only the actors and the audience’s collective imagination.

57) One is transported to a different space and time with little recognition that one is simply watching a performance, instead they are experiencing and performing along with the artists.

58) The best theatre misses being terrible theatre by a hair.

59) Theatre creates dialogue and community.

60) Please forgive me for my weak performance.

61) There are no lines across which good theatre is afraid to travel.

62) If one could truly do theatre by oneself, from scratch to sculpture, there would be a lot of more it.

63) There are numerous differences between going to the cinema and going to the theatre, but the most pressing difference that is endangering the life of theatre as a mass artform in North America is the respect needed/demanded by both the audience and performer(s) to exist in a room together selflessly.

64) Theatre is like throwing Christians to the lions, except the lions have to pay to get in.

65) When the lights go down and I walk out on stage, I feel most alive.

66) Renewal.

67) To turn one’s stomach upside down and then laugh.

68) This shit is addictive.

69) Live bodies moving and making sound to tell a story to other bodies in the same space is a unique experience which has no comparable substitute.

70) Where are our First Nations performance traditions?

71) Theatre can fail.

72) Movies are better than theatre because they pay you more.

73) Boring theatre is bad theatre.

74) Canadian theatre has unprecedented opportunity for growth: It takes place in a society that values the arts, has an educated and relatively wealthy potential subscriber base and a whack-load of talented artists.

75) Applause.

76) Visual ecstasy explored.

77) Own your shortcomings.

78) Theatre is the playwright’s medium; film is the director’s.

79) Canadian theatre is in a deep, but not irreparable state of affairs: It has decreased funding, an aging audience base and a reputation for being boring and elitist.

80) Where are my glasses?

81) Theatre is better than movies because it can respond to the now (if you’re not waiting for a grant).

82) If a company does become larger and acquires more funding, hopefully they don’t fuck things up by using money to take the short cut around a problem.

83) I’m always afraid that someone is going to forget their lines.

84) Standing ovations aren’t always necessary, it’s nice to take a moment to absorb in silence.

85) The best theater happens unplanned.

86) True theatre experience: I clenched my fists and alternated between wanting to fall asleep and wanting to scream.

87) Theatre is not now, nor has it ever been, in trouble.

88) The tingle in my arm hair when theatre transcends the gap between performer and spectator – to be truly challenged and truly included even for a split second.

89) You have to want to make the other person feel good.

90) Theatre is the medium that requires the most cooperation and the most conflict.

91) Movies are better than theatre because they can reach a wider audience.

92) Theatre is better than movies because each show only happens once.

93) Think about it.

94) Is it possible to watch theatre that’s performed in a language I don’t understand?

95) Where are the new forms of theatre that give way to exciting changes and that shock and titillate?

96) Are we simply recycling bad ideas?

97) The heart of exploring what one bottles up and censors.

98) Theatre is stymied by the fact that it is an insider’s game that rewards connections over merit.

99) Theatre ought to get its game face on, as there is a lot of competition for entertainment dollars.

100) Nobody is going to give you a medal for being poor.

101) Theatre is being comfortable with asking those uncomfortable questions.


E. Hunter Spreen said...


Anonymous said...

re: #2 i have definitely been to theatre that made me feel like i had lost brain cells from the experience. the opposite is more probable, but it's not ipso facto educational. said...

"1) The best thing about theatre is that you can’t do it by yourself."

True, although there have been many frustrated days during production that I wished I'd have been born a painter instead of a theatrist, so all I'd need to make my art would be a small room, a blank canvas, and a bottle of wine. Lucky bastards.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Simon. Agreed. But let's not forget the painter's all-consuming sense of alienation and loneliness, though, in your otherwise romantic portrait of our dirty-fingered brethren.

I'd also like to applaud the strategic use of semicolons in sentence number 5. They smartly circumvent the single-sentence rule of this project. Did I say "circumvent"? I meant "circumnavigate." Or was it "circumcis–" never mind . . .

Remember kids: punctuation is not a toy.

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