Playwrights at Night
is up and running!
JSAC on the first Wednesday of every month
@ 7 pm. Next date, August 3rd.
The Joy of the Messy
Is avant-garde theater dead?
It seems so to many people, but theater-makers have to remember that during the pandemic, many people thought theater was dead… and it’s not.
Avant-garde, French for the advance guard, is used to denote the pushers of transformation, upheaval, what is unexpected in the theater… the people who worry more about asking questions and less about answering them… more about inspiring questions… and joy.
According to Sara Farrington in her book, The Lost Conversation, changes in the economics of theater have a lot to do with why many believe that avant-garde theater is dead.
But one of Sara’s interviews for her book, her interview with Lola Pashalinski of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, offers an epiphany to those of us who crave more avant-garde theater: the importance of joy.
Sara’s book quotes Lola speaking about the Ridiculous Theatrical Company saying, “The basis of the company was joy. There was something spiritually joyous about it. I always felt that way.”
The Ridiculous Theatrical Company was part of the American movement or genre christened the Theater of the Ridiculous which was born in 1965. Of course, 1965 was not the beginning of the avant-garde in theater, but it was the birth of the “messy avant-garde”:
“There was a tremendous amount of freedom in it and courage in the improvisation and the ability to go in front of a new audience and work something out in front of them without, you know, worrying about the result,” states Ms. Pashalinski.
The messy avant-garde is even today a push to allow playwrights and actors to continuously remind the audience that what happens in performance is far different from real life. All avant-garde is a far cry from Naturalism.
Realism and Naturalism are dependent on what Coleridge described as a “suspension of disbelief.” Since Coleridge defined that state of being, numerous scientists such as Norman N. Holland, in Literature and the Brain, have explored the human reaction to drama. Holland asserts, “Losing ourselves refers to another element of poetic faith, when the audience is, in the psychologists' term, ‘transported.’ We cease to be aware of our body, our posture or our environment. Perhaps most important, our limbic system causes us to feel emotions—anger, disgust, jealousy, desire, fear—about the stories we are watching or reading.” In theater, this means the audience actively feels and passively accepts the reality of performance.
This is obviously not the goal of the avant-garde theater-maker. Most avant-garde theater looks to Bertolt Brecht’s concept of alienation. “… taking the human social incidents to be portrayed and labeling them as something striking, something that calls for explanation, is not to be taken for granted, not just natural” (Brecht). A story is told; feel it if you will but think about it and try to explain it to yourself.
Theater of the Absurd in some way extends this idea: you may try to explain it to yourself, but you will probably not be satisfied with the explanation. Imagine trying to explain The Scream to someone who has never seen it. In his Noble Prize lecture, Harold Pinter said, “Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so.” The task is clear; the endeavor is messy.
Eastern theater such as Kabuki and Noh Theater offers a different path to what some may call “alienation,” or a cognizance that the performance is not realism. Tradition commands that Kabuki actors speak in monotone. Kabuki makeup colors are symbolic of the character's tenants: for example, red lines signify passion and valor; black signifies wickedness, and purple indicates nobleness. Realism would not allow kumadori-colored lines to signal the characters' moral principles.
Noh Theater tradition employs masks in a similar way. Noh embraces sixty-character types, and masks are used to portray the age, gender, and social status of these characters. The actors are trained to exploit stage light on the masks to codify and convey controlled emotions. Noh, like Kabuki, observes rich traditions in storytelling, inspires emotional reactions in the audience, but does not endeavor to create a naturalistic or realist theater experience.
Brecht, Eastern traditional theater, Theater of the Ridiculous, Theater of the Absurd… these are the ancestors of the messy avant-garde: the small theaters operating now who embrace process and, as Pashalinski states, are not fearful of revealing the process to the audience.
Not every theater experience has to be polished and shiny and without the possibility of surprise.
Videos can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNvSrbhgGy96nHgX5kPJfuQ
Please check us out:
first Wednesday of every month
@ 7 at the JSAC in Ocean Grove.
More to come!
Also, here are two recorded plays. The first is called, THE VALOR OF MY TONGUE by sheila duane. The title is taken from Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy from Act one of Macbeth. It is a meta-play written about the evening General Macbeth of Shakespeare fame meets the woman who will prompt him to murder, regicide and his own bloody death by decapitation. Oh, Macbeth the signs were there. The play will be performed by AJ Melnick as General Macbeth and Renee Panagos as Ingen aka Lady Macbeth, both actors are founding members of the Dromio Players. Stage directions will be read by Sheila Duane, the author and director.
The second play is a much lighter piece of writing called Wanna Sing the Blues. It also stars Renee Panagos as Kitty Greene, a very young southern belle who wants to run off with a Bluesman saxophone player. Her problem is that she has to convince the sax player that she can sing and contribute to the success of his career. And she can’t sing. So she seeks the retired superstar bluesman, singer and trombone player… the town celebrity, Cosmo “Papa A” Abraham, played by AJ Melnick who is himself a talented singer, to teach her to sing… I guess she’s looking for magic. Aren’t we all?
Two plays and a monologue:
Dinner by Cherielyn Ferguson (staring Renee Panagos, AJ Melnick & Sophia Parola)
Conferences: by Sheila Duane (staring Sophia Parola)
and The Circus Master and the Peanut Dancer, also by Sheila Duane (staring Renee Panagos and AJ Melnick)
at the MAC
Our peeps: Renee Panagos,
Sophia Parole, Brendan Gillespie,
A reading of The Ghosts of the Morro Castle
November 2nd, 7 pm
Our wonderful actors:
AJ Melnick, Sophia Parola, Renee Panagos, Brendan Gillespie and Jude Duane.
FILM NOIR ON STAGE,
September 21, 2019
Femme Fatales Don't Die of Old Age
by Sheila Duane
Mission statement: To create opportunities for local playwrights, artists, musicians and actors to express socially relevant, community- building works of art that are inclusive and meaningful…
oh, and comedy...
Further, as part of our Mission, we offer women playwrights and actors more opportunities, including but not limited to representing / producing 80% women writers / playwrights.
we do it all!
Please go to our CONTACT page to make a donation!
We write; we sing; we act; we play music...
Dromio does it all!
732 804 8997
Dromio Players is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization. We gladly accept donations for the wonderful work our actors, writers, musicians and other artists perform. Please visit our contact page to donate and help continue our mission.
Do you want to be my special Peanut Dancer?
Thanks to actors Deb Maclean
& Dennis DaPrile
Photo by René Atchison Photography...