File puptcrit/puptcrit.0810, message 365

Date: Sun, 26 Oct 2008 20:03:29 -0700
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Hobey and Mathieu in NYC

>What do you all think about taking an audience through such a sad 
>ordeal when there is
>nothing hopeful in the telling? Is  it jerking an audience around?  It is
>one thing to read a sad tale and another to take an audience there.  I
>really just don't know what to think.

Really good question.  I think it's always been difficult, but 
probably more so in recent years.  There are just periods in dramatic 
history when tragedy is accepted, and others where it isn't.  Oddly, 
I think there's been a reversal between film and theatre audiences. 
Used to be, in the movies you'd have to tack happy endings onto 
everything, whereas theatre was "more serious" and we could deal with 
the immense sadness of the finale of DEATH OF A SALESMAN, for 
example.  Now, it seems that anything goes in film, but in theatre 
you either have to add a final uplifting chorus (e.g. the end of 
SPRING AWAKENING) or make it some other race in a kingdom far away.

Most of our own recent work has involved very dark journeys with 
redemptive endings, because right now for me the challenge is to try 
to really *earn* those endings.  How indeed can we make resurrection 
credible and not just frosting over the cow-pie?  And I have to say 
that even so, I have friends who really don't want to see our work, 
even the comedy, because the journey itself is just too rocky.

But I don't actually think it has to do with the uplift of the 
ending.  It's a question of what *is* energizing about the piece. 
When it works, the act of the telling itself can be redemptive: in 
its energy, its skill, its depth of perception, its shared humanity 
- certainly that's what operates in any of the Hans C. Andersen 
stories.  If we have a strong sense of the presence and the "voice" 
of the teller, it can hold us in its embrace the way I held my kids 
when reading them a bedtime story - and I read some hum-dingers, and 
they survived.

I've just been rereading the entire Shakespeare canon in preparation 
for THE TEMPEST, and every one of the tragedies is, frankly, about 
the saddest ordeal possible - unless you think that the "new 
administration" of Malcolm or Fortinbras, or the slow torture of 
Iago, etc., really counterbalance the grievous waste we've seen.  The 
rare production that goes beyond Shakespeare-festival homogenization 
and really takes us on that journey is taking a great risk.  And when 
people say, well, the poetry redeems it, it's hard to imagine them 
sitting there appreciating beautiful language while lives and nations 
are reduced to rubble.

And yet I think they're on to something.  In essence, it's the 
profound energy of the telling, the truth about human behavior told 
in words and scenic structures that are incandescent.  I've seen that 
in puppetry, theatre, film, dance, and I think I've managed it a few 
times myself, but it's rare.  And if instead you get downbeat stuff 
that just lies there in a puddle of art, why bother?

But I can get even more depressed by a big, glitzy thing that has no 
soul, like one of those kids' toys that's all box and no toy.

Nuff said.  Back to work.

Peace & joy-
Conrad B.

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