Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Collaborative Theater - PART ONE: The Battlefield

It is a muddy field we battle in. The rain falls hard and fast, the soil unearths and unsteadies itself, and the slop of the field mars our true colors. So much so, in fact, that we may easily sometimes find ourselves facing off with another whom we are unsure of what side they fall on. Are they Red? Blue? Yellow? Green?

Or rather, are they an Artist? Or an Indolent Imposture with lack of knowledge and ideas claiming to be just about anything?

The trouble with art is that anyone can call themselves an Artist, unlike how, for example, not just anyone can call themselves a Doctor. To be a Doctor, you must have studied certain medicines, received certain degrees and credentials. To be an Artist, one only needs to claim to have ideas. But Artistic Merit is garnered by the reaction of peers and audience. Anyone can say they are an Actor, but it is those watching who will ultimately decide, if only for themselves.

Some say this is very bad, and that the artistry of the Theater, the noble profession of Acting, is being degraded by all of those that think they can jump right on in. I, however, think this a cause for celebration. Actors, myself included, should revel in this destruction of (oh god, dare I say it?) a Master Narrative. Those that are clouding our field of work only force those among us with true artistry to reevaluate ourselves and forge ahead with vigilant specificity – a specificity that slowly slunk away as Postmodernism slammed its way on in (which is all a part of the living nature of the theater; when it trudged its alien self upon our banks, the water fogged strange and new shades of grey. But having now settled, it is easy to think critically and objectively of what is superciliously splayed for consumption, and the time has come to embrace the challenges it has brought, finding the glory of what our overcoming of this obstacle can bring). And this is not a specificity waiting to be bought and consumed. This specificity comes from deep inside each unique individual that allows one’s true self to be present when working (auditioning, rehearsing, or performing). And the battle to move forward – the filling of that vacuity brought on by the Postmodern anomaly – happens when an actor refuses to give up this unique self for some fa├žad that the vagueness surrounding them encourages one to think might be better than who they truly are.

Great thing about that Battlefield, those attempting to be something they’re not are easily spotted and will not last long (though occasionally convincing enough in an audition to get themselves into a show. That, and there are of course corporations perpetuating personality types that defy the true complexity of the human psyche, such as MTV). The hope then is that these individuals will come to love the Art: rather than wipe mud on their faces in the hope their idling is perceived as work, they will crave the battle, diving head-first into the tussle, unaware of the grim in their hair, the raw earth marring their once silky, teenage idol skin – they will discover the immense depth they hold within themselves, and take joy in the vulnerable demands of the field, thus transforming from Imposture to Artist. (An excellent example would be Mr. Daniel Radcliffe; lacking knowledge of the Art as he embarked on Harry Potter, the love of the Art persevered and inspired a maturity, as he has now challenged himself with the study and practice of the craft in Equus).

And all should be welcome to the Arts. Maybe I’m an Idealist, but I believe it a place meant to be devoid of Elitism.

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