The theatrological blogosphere is very interested in this article in the Guardian, and these various articles using Athol Fugard‘s discontent as vehicles, for the generally accepted Good Question to Bring Up in Polite Liberal Company; is mainstream theater political enough these days?
The questions ‘political enough for whom and to what end’ would perhaps be better asked of Guardian watchdog Parabasis‘ Isaac Butler; I can only focus on a sad limitation, in the theater and its criticism (I seem to be indicating a complex variable when I say ‘mainstream’ and failing to define it…another post) of the idea “political” to SUBJECT MATTER, and the limitation of the definition of ‘political’ to “revolving around characters involved in current events.”
Žižek would insist that making plays focusing on subjective experiences and ‘real events,’ in the way that everyone is always rhetoricizing as ideal (for example Max Stafford-Clark in the article I mentioned above saying that “theatre has a responsibility to hold a mirror up to our society and necessarily that is to reflect our political activity”) only serves to reinforce the mimetic design of hegemonic regimes by creating instruction manuals (plays) teaching ourselves (audiences and artists alike) how to participate in the structures causing the problems themselves…
With that, and a plethora of other formal political considerations in mind, how can we apply political science, political theory, and politically-driven philosophy in the FORMS of our pieces intended for the ‘mainstream?’ Past that, how can we develop political methodologies as working artists? (Is Brecht’s verfremdungseffekt really going to be the last formal, applicable use of political/philosophical theory in theater applied for and by artists and audiences alike and discussed as such?)
Here are some VERY BASIC concerns about the cramped politicality of ‘mainstream’ theater as expressed from a pseudo-Marxist standpoint:
1.) Mainstream theater currently subscribes to a definition of ‘political’ that is limited to subject matter of a narrative play and character experiences and additionally continues to pose politicality as mutually exclusive from ‘entertainment.’
2.) The mainstream theater offers audience members the opportunity to experience empathetic emotions, which are consumables that can psychologically take the place of analysis and action.
3.) Mainstream theater perceives and subsequently treats audiences as dumb masses of bodies, consuming a product made for them by artist-industries, not as active participants in the Event of live performance.
But please friends, I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts (don’t be shy, you can comment here instead of sending me e-mails) on how we can apply politics methodology work yadda yadda, not just keep bashing the theaters we can’t afford to attend…