How’s this for an idea?
The initial impulse to do this show had something to do with the quest for happiness. Hence, the title – Ignorance, as in, Ignorance is Bliss. What’s bliss, and where does it come from, and why can’t we have it all the time? Why would ignorance have anything to do with it? It only occurs to me now that the phrase is generally interpreted to mean something like ‘it’s better not to read the newspaper, the news is so depressing, ignorance is bliss,’ but I always thought it was trying to tell us that our cleverness is the reason for our misery. It’s not an uncommon theory. I remember a revelation: instant coffee doesn’t actually taste bad. It tastes really good, actually, unless you think of it as fake coffee, an inferior copy of something real; your mind tells you it’s not real (which makes no sense) so it’s not as good, but if you stop thinking of it as ‘instant coffee’ and call it something completely different, say, ‘ungh,’ it no longer fits into the general category of coffee, and then it need not be compared to ‘real’ coffee, and can be judged on its own terms. And then enjoyed for the tasty thing it is.
What I’m getting at: if you were ignorant of what real coffee tasted like, or ignorant of the name of instant coffee, you’d be perfectly happy with your cup of Nescafé. And in the same way, we can really make ourselves miserable by comparing our real lives with the lives we imagine we could or should be having.
In other words, it’s the ability to imagine that ruins everything. The ability to imagine also makes it possible to imagine what would happen if you roasted those beans and then squirted hot water through it, i.e., to have coffee at all, so it’s one of those double edged swords we’ve heard so much about.
The point being: the show could be about the moment that imagination was invented. And then ruined everything. The moment when somebody has an image in their head of not-being-hungry when they’re hungry, or of not-being-cold when they’re cold. In other words, the moment Heaven is invented, and so is Hell. Tree of Knowledge, that kind of stuff. The Fall from Grace.
So, what if: the show was a creation myth, the story of how we fell from grace, how our minds grew to betray us, told by a tribe of cave-people? The whole thing would be like a wild and sometimes even impenetrable ritual, performed by our Noh-style cave puppeteers, using antlers and bones and skulls and sticks and furs to create totem-puppets of the first humans and the spirits that plague their dreams and the monsters that roam their world’s rim. As if the audience were fellow tribe members, gathered in the cave to whimper and laugh and shriek at the mysteries of their own faintly glimmering thoughts, the story of how we left home, and why we can’t seem to find our way back.
Something like that?