Richard Schechner and Progress in Performance Concept

The chapter by Richard Schechner has proven to be extremely useful for my project.
He quotes Boal, Ataud, and Barba, which gave me more perspective and insight into those theorists. Barba and Artaud were theoretical in the articles I read, but Schechner’s input helped me to see how this work can actually help shape my piece.
Schechner writes about his six categories of the Avant Garde. In his sixth category, intercultural avant-garde, he explains, “It is about belonging to more than one culture, subscribing to contradictory values, conflicting aesthetic canons” (p 320). This immediately made me think of the Aboriginals existing in both their ancestral culture and modernized western culture. It made me remember my fascination with colonization. I began thinking… what is it like to know one god as a child and have to pray to another god all of a sudden? Clothing, social norms, spiritual practice, food, everything is shifted from one cultural existence to another.
Schechner comments on Peter Brook’s (another well known theatre theorist) Mahabarata, which I watched in a Hinduism class my freshman year. Schechner comments, “Brook assumes — as the English who own Shakespeare do — that certain works operate at the ‘human’ rather than cultural level” (p 320). I began to think of colonization in a global context and reading across cultures — to my own culture. Is that very Brooks of me?
Schechner also helped me to shape my piece more — how do I want to use my audience? I began to envision myself encircled by audience members. I don’t want there to be a divide. I began to think this up when Schechner discusses Barba’s concept of the “theatre of roots.” Theatre of roots is “rejection of the proscenium stage, closer contact between spectators and performers, integration of music, mime, gesture, and literary text” (p 318).
I began to think how I can use imagery and gesture to communicate my story. I thought back to the performance at Bangarra dance… I could use rainbow color and be stripped of it somehow. The visual transformation from one culture into another and back into your blood culture is a striking and powerful series of transitions — I am still in the process of discovering HOW to construct an image for that journey.

Something else I really loved is when Schechner said, “What is avant-garde is when the performance does not try to heal over rifts or fractures but further opens these for exploration” (p 320). Also, when he writes, “But the question is not, ‘Can anything new happen?’, but ‘Who cares?’ Does it matter?” (p 321).

I think Schechner is brilliant and I can’t wait to discuss him with Gretchen this week.

One more chapter from The Twentieth C Performance Reader, and then onto symbolist drama!



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