"I remember speaking to one film director who deplored the fact that he had to write an article about his film. In his words, he'd be happy to talk about it as much as he could, but writing was weighing him down. As the person who, instead of a silver spoon, was probably born with a pen, I obviously asked what he didn't like about writing. His answer was that writing was 'a lonely experience'." (from Notebooks, by Julie Delvaux - a writer's blog which I stumbled onto via a Google search for Andre Breton and homo ludens)
Been diving head first into Living Theatre, Artaud's Theater of Cruelty, Jerzy Grotowski, Antero Alli's Paratheatrical Research, Peter Brook's Happenings (and book by same name) and especially Brook's incredible book "The Empty Space", and performative installations.
More so the ancient theater of carnival, ceremony, festival, rites, and the tour de force of the unknown and the modern theater of World of Warcraft and Second Life, than necessarily Les Miserables on Broadway.
It couldn't have been merely coincidence that as I dwelve into theater, I find myself seated the other day at a tea lounge next to the experimental theater director for foolsFury: ("We crave thought-provoking visceral experiences that use all
three dimensions, and multiple senses. [Bingo, I crave that too.] Our work incorporates a wide range of arts, including physical movement, music, audience interaction, circus and dance skills.")
The foolsFury ensemble had just completed a seven-day sequence performance at Yerba Buena Gardens from 365 Days/365 Plays. The idea was conjured by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks after she commits to writing a play a day every day for a year. Starting November 13, 2006, "the 365 Days/365 Plays National Festival will present the work simultaneously across the country, creating the largest collaboration in the history of American theater." (Now that sense of creating daily, unfolding without a sense of beginning-middle-end, and collaboration sounds so like social media.)
"Theatre isn’t about narrative. Narrative isn’t necessary. Events will make the whole." - Peter Brook, "The Empty Space"
Below I share some raw (yet moderately edited or they'd be much more muddled) musings from some correspondence with social interaction designer and friend Adrian Chan.
In the post "If Not on the Day I Die, Then Not Today" I wrote that two of my life goals were writing a book, and creating a documentary film. Although I'm not so sure either of those two engage me with people quite enough to suit my inclinations.
Lately I find blogging more akin to theater, more like performance, than the process behind creating either a book or film.
"Theatre exists in the here and now. It is what happens at that precise moment when you perform, that moment at which the world of the actors and the world of the audience meet. A society in miniature, a microcosm brought together every evening within a space. Theatre's role is to give this microcosm a burning and fleeting taste of another world, and thereby interest it, transform it, integrate it." - Peter Brook
I've written for 'mass' media, from my college newspaper (I
started off in journalism before switching to computer engineering) to tech magazines, and been interviewed
for television. The lack of an immediate, live audience gives it a different feeling all the way around than say blogging.
The last taped TV interview I did, I was engaged with the interviewer, but totally divorced for any concept of people in the 'audience' because there were no people in the audience except for the camera people. I didn't have any sense of connection to any audience due to the recorded aspect of it and the time lag to its eventual viewing.
distribution is scattered so it feels like the taped interview itself (object)
has the connection to the audience, and so it's decoupled from the stage (me, interviewer, and the set).
In social media, the distribution is coupled to the stage (i.e. whether it's the MySpace profile or a blog) and near-live performance, (yes, there is syndication possibility). But I also have a direct distribution mechanism via RSS, Feedblitz, etc and therefore direct, near-immediate, connection to an audience. It's nicknamed the World Live Web for a reason.
"The only thing that all forms of theatre have in common is the need for an audience. This is more than a truism: in the theatre the audience completes the steps of creation." - Peter Brook, "The Empty Space"
When I blog, it feels closest to having a live audience - very very cognizant that I have an audience in a way I never ever felt in other writing, and it's not exactly like speaking one-to-one, face-to-face, or to a small group either.
When I talk to artists, there seems to be two kinds. For instance, there's the "I paint for myself" kind that doesn't necessarily feel moved to share their work. I meet artists like this all the time: there's is no driving compulsion to engage and share, and then there are the performers.
"It is hard to understand the true function of spectator, there and not there, ignored and yet needed. The actor's work is never for an audience, yet it always is for one." - Peter Brook, "The Empty Space"
I cannot write solely for myself. And I cannot stretch and learn without another being being involved. Even with the magazine pieces I only completed them because of the back-and-forth relationship with the editor.
"The actor does not hesitate to show himself exactly as he is, for he realizes that the secret of the role demands his opening himself up, disclosing his own secrets. So that the act of performance is an act of sacrifice, of sacrificing what most men prefer to hide - this sacrifice is his gift to the spectator... Grotowski's actors offer their performance as a ceremony for those who wish to assist: the actor invokes, lays bare what lies in every man - and what daily life covers up." - Peter Brook (on Grotowski's theater), "The Empty Space"
When I look back at times I have actually written (and not merely thought about writing some day), it's always involved others and writing in the present, such as:
- I write during writer's workshops because we are doing exercises right then and there, and then share them aloud within the group. I meet many writers at workshops that only write during workshops and lie fallow the rest of year. They typically beat themselves up for the fact they haven't written much on their own. I'm starting to think that maybe they are simply shared word writers like I am.
- Blogging. I have a sense of an immediate audience whether they give me direct feedback or not. I know they're there and they encourage me to lay bare, to stretch.
- I was struggling after a single day of writing THE book last May, until I seized upon the idea of writing whatever happened in next forty days (and that could include fantasies and flashbacks to past occuring in my mind). And writing it as a letter to a single friend. The focus of writing to a friend rather than writing the Great American Memoir to the void did the trick. Then I shared snippets in my journal in progress via email with an actual friend (and it greatly influenced the direction of the book as well, as nothing two-way leaves any side unaffected.)
that's where I think the "mass" media thing just doesn't hold water for
me, I have been very influenced by readers (often whom have a "stage" and a presence online
too). And I've been influenced in ways I'd never have anticipated until I blogged
There is a dynamic moving lively human quality in social media that isn't present for me in other media. Only performance.
Bonus: Wonderful paper where a quantum physicists tackles Brook's theatre, Gurdjieff, Attar’s Conference of the Birds, the invisible, and much more.
p.s. I recommend Peter Brook's book, "The Empty Space: a book about the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate" (it's supposed to be about theatre; hmmm, but i saw it about much much more)
"There is only one interesting difference between the cinema and the theatre. The cinema flashes on to a screen images from the past. As this is what the mind does to itself all through life, the cinema seems intimately real. Of course, it is nothing of the sort—it is a satisfying and enjoyable extension of the unreality of everyday perception. The theatre, on the other hand, always asserts itself in the present. This is what can make it more real than the normal stream of consciousness. This is also what can make it so disturbing.
No tribute to the latent power of the theatre is as telling as that paid to it by censorship. In most regimes, even when the written word is free, the image free, it is still the stage that is liberated last. Instinctively, governments know that the living event could create a dangerous electricity - even if we see this happen all too seldom. But this ancient fear is a recognition of an ancient potential. The theatre is the arena where a living confrontation can take place." - Peter Brook, "The Empty Space"