Thursday, April 14, 2005

Spring!

Interesting article in the new issue of THEATRE TOPICS by Leon Ingulstrud called "Why Devise? Twelve Thoughts on Devising with Undergraduates." The premises to be pursued tend to get a tad foggy as they try to make distinctions where none may exist like declaring that art is distinct from entertainment because art tends to question assumptions and the status quo while entertainment confirms assumptions and the status quo. Whoa! You say. Well so does Mr. Ingulstrud who immediately after declaring this adds "Despite this distinction, entertainment can contain artistic attributes and art can be entertaining." Not sure where this leaves us other than up a tree. I would personally prefer to define the word "entertain" as "holding the attention agreeably." This implies that art ought to hold our attention by many means including pleasant affirmation of the values of the status quo and prickly challenges to it. If we do not agree to pay attention, we will never experience art or entertainment.

His assumptions to be dispelled are more direct and more agreeable to me. Stop thinking that the director knows the answers is a good one. As is stop thinking that theatre is easy. Like him I have often wondered why the difficulty and cultural value of music and other performing arts is recognized and why a theatre event (even if professional) is seen as a slightly more polished version of a junior class play. Why isn't the great pianist seen as just a guy who hit a few more of the notes than the kid in his first recital in front of grandma? He goes on to remind us that there is no way that theatre is supposed to be and that silly or stupid ideas need to be heard. My opening remarks to classes for years contained the statement that "The only truly stupid question was the one that wasn't asked." Somewhere else in the journal another author explored the same question by declaring that people working in group or collaborative situations need to refrain from using the word "No" for at least five minutes after the introduction of even the craziest of ideas. Sounds like good advice.

Another fine idea from the article is an idea attributed to Beverly Sills.
"There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going."

And happy spring!

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