After a half a year of critiquing local shows for LA Theatre Review, I decided that it was time to hit the books again for a refresher of sorts. Upon perusing my favorite Barnes & Noble I landed on two choices:
1) Critical Theory & Performance and 2) The Theater and It’s Double
Needless to say, as the former was not in stock, I settled for the slightly more provocative of the two, The Theater and It’s Double by Antonin Artaud. Accredited as one of France’s formost avant-garde theatrical thinkers, Mr. Artaud’s book is a collection of manifestos, originally published in 1938. According to Wikipedia, Artaud intended his work as an attack on theatrical convention and the importance of language of drama, opposing the vitality of the viewer’s sensual experience against theatre as a contrived literary form, and urgency of expression against complacency on the part of the audience.
Right from the start Artaud (incredibly) relates theater with culture saying in the preface: “Before speaking about culture, I must remark that the world is hungry and not concerned with culture … What is most important, it seems to me, is not so much to defend a culture whose existence has never kept a man from going hungry, as to extract, from what is called culture, ideas whose compelling force is identical with that of hunger.”
I supposed I am going to need an oxygen tank for this one. But I am already finding Mr. Artaud’s point of view very intriguing, finding parallels with the kinds of 99 seat theater I’ve been reviewing. The opening has already hit a nerve with me and my overall theater experience here in Los Angeles so far. Contrived, audience complacency, convention, vitality and the urgency of expression – themes and actions that are ever more relevant in our age of reality television, short attention spans, and believe it or not, lack of literacy or desire for it, it seems.
Needless to say, I am looking forward to taking my time with this book and diving in to this man’s world and language.