Thursday, October 13, 2005

Theater & Community

There's a new issue of Parabola out, called Body and Soul. It's excellent, and among many other thought-provoking articles, has a review on Peter Brook's new play, titled "Tierno Bokar" which is about an early twentieth-century West African Sufi. The theme of the play is Wisedom. Specifically, Brook states in his program note:

"His story draws us deep into an Africa is traditional, animist, impregnated with Islam, shaken by colonialism, and torn apart by internal strife. Starting with a tiny disagreement over the meaning of the number 11 as opposed to the number 12, merciless conflicts arise that lead to massacres, to martyrdom. These tragic events create a chain that eventually links a small African village to the highest political decisions of the Second World War." 1

I profoundly value Peter Brook's creations.. He's the same playwright/director who presented the 4 hour film The Mahabharata, (adapted from his 9 hour stage play), which I had the privilege of seeing at Cinema 21 more than 15 years ago. I find good theater (and it's sister art, film), to be deeply transformative and necessary to the cultural health of our communities and nation. The proliferation of "reality" TV shows says it all: the public has become bored and inured to the increasingly outrageous images, Brook further elaborates on this same theme in the play's program note:

"Theater exists to reopen all comfortable convictions. It has the best weapons for breaking taboos and smashing barriers. These are scandal, violence, and ridicule. But not today. Not any longer. The "shock-effect" cannot hold us any more, it is so close to daily life that it has become quite ordinary. Today, our urgent need is elsewhere, It is to catch glimpses of what our lives have lost. The theater can give us a fleeting taste of qualities long forgotten."2

Some of these long forgotten qualities can be found in community-based theater/events like Revels, Public Dreams in Vancouver, B.C., and here in Stumptown, City Repair. Most of these are free, and family friendly ; take an hour, or a day, and re-vitalize your connections to your family, friends, and neighbors. It's good for the soul.

1 Peter Lamborn Wilon, "Making Room for the Mystery : Peter Brook's Tierno Bokar", pg. 90-91, Parabola, Vol. 30, No. 3, Fall 2005.

2 Peter Lamborn Wilon, "Making Room for the Mystery : Peter Brook's Tierno Bokar", pg. 88, Parabola, Vol. 30, No. 3, Fall 2005.


Anonymous said...

My favorite movies tend to be an escape into the past and simple times, movies like The Princess Bride, and the Harry Potter series.

ladybug said...

Hey, I've got nothing against those; some of my "non-thinking" ones are the Bill & Ted movies, and of course, Life of Brian.

Sometimes I just need something with a little more....MEAT.

(cue Seymour..!)

The Moody Minstrel said...

Don't you mean Dewkid? I thought that was his trademark. Genuine drama. How I miss that! Being in the Thespians club was one of the biggest joys of my high school days...until the new drama teacher and the personality cult she quickly created conveniently drove me out (no doubt because I was the son of the former drama teacher). Even so, I managed to find my way into various drama productions clear up until I graduated.

I haven't done any stage acting since. However, I have done narrations for orchestral performances and plenty of in-class role playing, which are both kind of the same thing. And of course, there is my love of role-playing games of all sorts (which I haven't indulged in for at least six years now...).

Good character interplay is something that non-Hollywood movie makers have always valued over just about everything else. American movies used to value it, too, before shock-stimulus took over. Unfortunately, the promise of lots of quick dollars often leads to fancier wrappings and cheaper content, and the American movie industry is proof of that. Still, every once in a while a gem of character dialogue manages to make it onto the silver screen, and that always makes me happy.

agzkbgng - A remote village in northeastern Azerbaijan.

Pandabonium said...

I've played my share of musicals but the only thing I know about "the stage" is what I learned as a kid watching "Wells Fargo Days".

Word verification: njpuf - the name of a rapper from Trenton.

Anonymous said...

Eltigris growlie: I agree on one point for sure ...Because of prime time programming shift to dumbing down the lowest common denominator and the proliferation of reality TV shows ...I find it very rare to watch any of the free prime time channels because they have become such a wasteland for anything stimulating neural activity ..... "mental *meat*"

DewKid said...

I think the original source for the loud bellowing "MEAT" was from Seymour, though it has become my mantra of late.


Some Unwashed Hippie said...


otopor - The PC term for a guy forced to drive a cheap car.