Monday, July 14, 2008

The Naked Theatre

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the creative process and how it is evolving, both in my own mind and in the world at large. Certainly today's artisans, be they working in theatre, visual arts or really any medium, are being faced with a world that is metamorphosizing right before their eyes, with monumental changes being brought about (some would say being forced about) through climate change, energy consumption, political dis-enchantment and a host of other factors. In simple terms it means that the world as we know it is changing.

In the past it seemed that the artisans were among the most prepped to absorb change - in fact they were many times the vanguards of it. This time I'm not so sure.

We're faced with a world where everything is subject to challenge. Do we need this? Is there another way to do that? Do you really need to drive 100 km to see your third production of "No Sex Please, We're British"?

Sadly, I think that this time artisans in general and theatre people in particular are ill-equipped to deal with change. We have clung too long to traditional beliefs about "good" and "bad" plays, citing over and over again a show that did well many years ago, even though the rules of the game have long since changed (try putting a live cow onstage at the Grand now!). We have become stuck in ruts of expectations about what it takes to put on plays and what we can expect of our audiences, who no longer have to choose simply between us and the cinema, and who no longer have as much patience for lacklustre production values or four-hour long plays as they once did (there was a time when if a play didn't last more than six hours you demanded your 5 cents back).

Can theatre survive the impending darkness of a world without oil, plagued by violent weather, poverty, hunger and the entire concept of Western civilization entering a period of decline? Well it's survived everything else in the last ten thousand years (give or take), so it stands to reason that theatre will survive us all once again. What I don't know, though, is how.

I have entitled this post "The Naked Theatre" not simply because it would get your attention, but because I would like to use the label and motif for a new project I am undertaking. No, I'm not about to start producing nudist theatre (see the anthology Theatre au Naturel for that), rather I am going to start searching for new approaches to doing what we do in the theatre, be it writing, directing, acting, producing, whatever. I'm interested in stripping away existing pre-conceptions, re-examining the "tried and true" methods of doing things, and understanding the causality of creative and financial success or failure in today's theatre. My ultimate goal is not just to uncover some of our discontents. What I want (and need) both as a creative artisan and a pragmatic entrepreneur, is a clear, clean, beautiful new model for doing what we do, one that is "naked" of predjudices, free of the ill-fitting garments of the past (though perhaps not ready to discard those garments entirely) and most importantly completely unashamed of being seen as she truly is.

I undertake this project for no other reason than I have an overwhelming desire for some answers to questions that have been bugging me for a long, long time. I hope that the fruits of my labours will make me a better artisan and producer. I'll share my progress as regularly as I can on this blog (it's not like I have a lot of time on my hands right now!), and who knows, maybe when it's all said and done someone will want to publish it (I have to admit, The Naked Theatre sounds like the perfect thing to be listed on a university syllabus somewhere). In any event, it should be an interesting ride.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Well, considering the theatrical world has been slowly redefining itself for the past 10,000 years give or take a couple here and there, I think careful look at the Theatre au Naturale may be just what is needed these days. A refreshing step back from the conventional and modern theatre and giant blind leap forward into the creative exploration of true theatrical endeavors. (That doesn't mean we have to do away with convention that just means...playing and twisting conventions is almost always more fun than following them.