E D I T O R I A L
My apologies. This autumn 2019 issue of Plays International & Europe
(PIE) has arrived on your doorstep later than the three month interval we so assiduously maintain between issues. The autumn issue is (and always will be) the one with the shortest turnaround time since the goal is to include, to the extent possible, reports on both summer festivals and on new autumn openings in theatre capitals. This means a later criticcorrespondents’ deadline than for any other issue. The temptation is to panic and rush through the editing, but we have resisted this; hopefully you will find the present issue as accurately fact-checked as any of our others.
This Autumn 2019 issue of PIE is burning with references to an unasked question: “Why theatre?”Within the kingdom of the Europe Prize and all of the prestigious awards for huge-budget and entrenched and absolutely brilliant theatre, this is not the question to ask. The European Commission has decided that culture is valuable for the well-being of the European Commission and the Europe it envisages. We do not need to ask “Why theatre?” since “they” have already decided on the answer, which is: “Because we say so”. This august institution has decided for us that theatre belongs to Culture and that, therefore, it is important to we who are the prosperous Europeans the way bread is important to the starving person. And so we must bend our heads and honour it. In that anonymous way we have so gotten accustomed to that we do not even give a mouse squeak when it happens over and over again, the eminent bodies of knowledge about theatre (preponderantly men, and further old men well set in their ways) have told us whom and what we are to admire without bothering to ask our opinion. We are not really part of the equation, those of us who dedicate their lives to running theatre magazines and those of us who attend theatre performances in the hope of finding an answer to the question that gnaws away like a stomach ulcer deep inside of us. The August Body has decided, and to hell if we are in deep December.
Never are the prizes awarded to inferior productions. That has to be said. Whether it be Regietheater performances blaring out at us through amplifying electronic instruments, text-based theatre sensitively performed on the harpsicord of yesteryear, or “happening” style chaotic events that were already invented and savoured in the long-dismantled ’68 era, each of the big name prize-accruing directors, theatres, plays, and performances is worthy of the highest accolades. But, unfortunately, that does not answer the question: Why theatre?
When I interviewed the Almada Festival artistic director Rodrigo Francisco in Portugal this past July (see the article on the festival on page 34), Rodrigo said it is always a joy for him to interact with school-age children in classrooms in his theatre’s outreach programs. To prove his point he told a story. He was talking to teenagers in a high-school in a tough neighbourhood, and he asked them: What is a novel? “A novel” a girl said,
standing up to answer him, “is when words are put together with love”. To end his story, Rodrigo said he thought that what the girl had said was true. Born to working class parents who owned no books, he had himself found a kind of salvation when he discovered literature and its capacity to reveal “other worlds”– and from that discovery he had moved on into theatre.
When I think about that story, I think I have learned something. I ask if it could be that theatre seeks a fusion between performer and spectator, a curious reverse fusion where our unvoiced, perhaps hitherto unrecognized, private monologues and images – our most intimate and secret thoughts – are given form and density in a public space and are then reflected back on us, giving us ownership of these once elusive thoughts and joining us to one another in the process? And could it be that this magical exchange occurs only in a medium of love? Is that possible? Could theatre have such a skin-shedding meaning and such a human-nature-intrinsic psychobiological purpose? Could it be about giving the individual, the spectator, the right to own those thoughts and images, to absorb them back into the private self? If this is so, then theatre-goers have little need to be intimidated by the great god, Culture.
What I think is that yes, this is so. And if you read attentively in the magazine you are holding in your hands, you will find that there are many many theatre practitioners around the world at this moment in history who are also answering: “Yes. This is so. This is why we practice our trade”.
Contact Dana Rufolo at email@example.com
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