I did a blog on your theater face

14 Mar

Upon viewing the schedules for various theaters in Cape Town, and the line-up of the plays that are to be performed in Grahamstown, an immense boil formed on my neck and exploded bile and puss all over the lobby I was standing in. Doubled over and screaming in pain, I was comforted by a friend who kindly informed me that things are as they always were. The plays, for the most part, are the “same old thing” done by the “same old folks”. My friend said, “This is the way it works, and you should know this by now.” As I looked over the schedule again, I expected to calm down and accept South African theater for what it is, which is, mostly, a parade made up entirely of self righteous, unintelligible, smelling to a moral high heaven turd factory. This is the carnival of lies; the holocaust of ideas; the shit and piss that passes itself off as art (which is what theater should be. Entertaining, yes, but art nonetheless.) As I pulled myself out of my admittedly sour grapes state of mind, I realized that these shows, these plays, these lies, are what people enjoy. They enjoy making it, they enjoy seeing it, and then, like a soap opera plotline, it is forgotten. Because who wants to dwell on it? It’s just entertainment. Why must we expect anything else?

The truth is we suffer from low expectations and the comfort that comes with it. Knowing exactly what you’re getting removes the risk of being offended or displeased. It also removes any chance of gaining some insight into one’s self or provoking a change in thought, or even a worthy discussion about the nature of what you and those around you just experienced. A choice between the risk and the joy of the adventure should be made by anyone of reasonable intelligence.

The excuse given by practitioners of “the same old thing” is always money. The assumption is when people pay for entertainment they want to experience the expected. “Give the audience what they want,” they say. If a formula has always worked, why screw the pooch and fuck with what works? Why fix what ain’t broke? Isn’t that the same attitude that has stood in the way of intellectual progress for man’s entire history? As soon as progression rears its head, the guards of old inform us that what we have works, and should not be altered. Could the same argument be made for “art as entertainment”? If audiences were given the option of when and how art/entertainment should progress, we’d still be watching bear baiting and cheering at royalty and clergymen as if they were gods. (That still happens, I know. Bad example, but fuck it. It’s medieval.)

The goal of the artist should never be to give the audience what they want. Art (or even art-as-entertainment) should exceed expectations, and if expectations are met and not surpassed, nothing has been created. Hunger is sated by any kind of food, be it junk food or a meal prepared at home. However, a meal that’s worthy of discussion always involves overcoming expectations and being transported into the different realms of taste and flavour. If one gets exactly what one expects, then there is no surprise, no journey towards a discovery; no adventure.

The question is: Is there still an allowance for intellectually progressive theater in South Africa? Can we, as an audience, get behind something that makes us uncomfortable (i.e. think)? Can we rejoice at something which speaks to a nature within ourselves that we have ignored or didn’t know existed in the first place? And I speak not of Theater of Guilt (whether it’s guilt evoked, preyed upon, or relieved); I speak of theater having the plain, hairy, fuck-off balls to rely on our ability to have a response separate from emotion or the appearance of emotion. Can we find a thrill in watching something that speaks to us as adults and not mentally retarded children?

Don’t placate me, don’t provoke my base emotions, don’t perpetrate a lie, don’t exaggerate a truth, don’t tell me what you expect me to know and then pass it off as a lesson. I will not be taught by second rate con men who make their living by wagging a finger or invite me to agree with them. I will not be held at a beachhead by theater practitioners indistinguishable from so-called keepers of the moral code. Fuck off and die, for you no longer have the ability to argue a point. You are argued out. You are empty. Devoid of anything that truly matters.

If there is disagreement with what is uttered here, argue the point. Attempt a conversion for us non-believers, but forget the dogma. It only works on the faithful. The rest of us need proof of something tangible. Intelligence will trump blind belief. That’s your fault, not ours.

One Response to “I did a blog on your theater face”

  1. Adam March 15, 2011 at 14:37 #

    when an audience claps in a vacuum, does anyone care…

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