Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Theatre Ideas: Herbert Blau on "The Impossible Theatre":

In 1964, Herbert Blau published The Impossible Theatre: A Manifesto. This is how the book began -- the first two paragraphs that set the tone:

The purpose of this book is to talk up a revolution. Where there are rumblings already, I want to cheer them on. I intend to be incendiary and subversive, maybe even un-American. I shall probably hurt some people unintentionally; there are some I want to hurt. I may as well confess right now the full extent of my animus: there are times when, confronted with the despicable behavior of people in the American theater, I feel like the lunatic Lear on the heath, wanting to "kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.

My friends, wanting to spare me my murderous impulses and practicing a therapy I respect and despise, tell me to calm down, give it time, things are happening. Things are happening: I want to look at them and see what's really happening. And to those who share my view of what the theater might be but defer to the sluggard drift of things, I want to say what Brecht's Galileo said to the Little Monk, temporizing in pity for those who, fixed in the old routines, scrape a living somehow -- on the premise that if whatever is is not right, it is at least unalterable -- "I can see their divine patience, but where is their divine fury?"

Nearly a half century later, I regularly hear the same advice: calm down, give it time, things are happening. It used to be that one could say that change in the theatre was glacial, but these days even glaciers change faster than the theatre does. And while I do not feel quite the level of hostility as Blau-Lear, I do often wonder where the divine fury is.

10:16 PM