Theme

Here’s a good theme: it’s back to Judd Trout’s earlest note, about earlier human happiness. This seems dry. But it has blood and flesh and spirit in it. And universal importance. I think this has been mentioned or at least touched upon in these texts. Here it is: the human animal evolved in stresses that exercised es capacities and heights and profundities. Challenged en — to the hilt. These challenges surely often involved that profoundly wonderful thing: to hold one’s life in one’s hands, right this minute. This is more suited perhaps to younger humans. But I don’t think we ever lose it, getting older. We want that incredible, chemical, heady, heart-racing risk and fear and surmounting. We crave it. We NEED it. I think women have their versions of this, and big-time. For guys, it’s outside them. For women, it’s bringing in life, pure and simple, and keeping it alive. Life and death is ALWAYS in the hands of women — even when their kids are adults. Still, today, come to think of it. Today, men seek that gutthrill in driving fast, climbing mountains, adventures, and war. For sure, war. Young guys don’t NEED any political rationale for going to war. We worry about their morale. Sure, some go nuts. But many are over there for the obvious reason: that’s where there’s an enemy. I know. I’ve done it. So, this theme. It’s what do humans do with this fight-kill-survive spirit? We’re not getting it in the fucking office. We’re not getting in in the rules of parliamentary procedure. We’re not getting it in front of the the TV. It’s gone. It’s in the past. So, the question: how do we either live without it, or create it? Where, how, can we find it? How can a human being be enself in today’s world? The state to which we have brought ourselves? How can we live as half-creatures? Do we have to? Thoreau: “All (most? many? I forget) men live lives of quiet desperation”. Is this the way we have to live? Shells of ourselves? I think that this is a really vital question, and I look to playwrights to answer that. Gentlepersons! To your pens! God (Art) help us! Tolstoy dabbled around. THIS, though, IGNORANCE, is going where angels fear to tread. Let’s go!

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16 Responses to Theme

  1. libidoless says:

    Heh Urv, off topic but I dropped off a CD with the Trouts for you, Shostokovitchs symphony mentioned in another thread.

  2. Urvater says:

    Urvater knows a theme when he sees one.

  3. Urvater says:

    A little bonus here, for those of you still awake. Frank Jacobs was the gentle, quiet editor of Cattlemen, a Canadian agricultural magazine, way back then. He attended all the high-pressure political meetings, to report them for his magazine. At these meetings, federal and provincial bigwigs often expressed lofty, highly impressive, profoundly manipulative, points of view, in sonorous voices. After such weighty pronouncements, sometimes, Frank Jacobs would stand up. Weighties, from Ottawa or Edmonton, cringed. Frank’s opener was often to the effect of: “I know I’m a little stupid. But could you explain to me …. ” And a sense of relief spread through the room. Because Frank’s stupidity, in the room, and on the pages of his magazine, uncovered more bullshit than you could pull with John Deere on a dry road. That’s a bit of the kind of truth, in a humanity-wide context, I think Twigkid might manifest. “A little stupid”. Ignorance. I mean, look where he started out! These folks don’t read the New York Times! The folks around the fire in the cave, evoking the spirit, were just wondering, if you could just explain a little better, something they don’t quite understand. Like, for instance, WTF? A vehicle for pointing the old shotgun at the authorities. Just tell me in REALLY SIMPLE TERMS. I can understand it better that way. Like, what the fuck are you poeple doing? We’ve handed you one hell of a lot, eh? We’ve lived and died for you, OK? It’s been a little rough, what with the ice ages, and our fairly simple implements in the face of rather large prey, and pretty basic living accomodations. So, please, could you help us undersand, like, what you’re doing? Are you people, with your comforts, your security, your consumerism, your superficial life goals, are you what we have lived and fought and struggled and died for? We’d really appreciate knowing. Thank you.

  4. Urvater says:

    Oh yeah. I remember. What does Orestes / Adonis / David / Twigboy think/say? TRUTH. That’s what he says. The OBVIOUS. Twigboy doesn’t give a shit about his private interests, his connections, his estate, his finances, his job, what the neighbors think, what his political group thinks, what his wife expects. Twigboy just outs with it. The OBVIOUS. The TRUTH. We ALL know it, don’t we? It’s as plain as the nose on your ugly face. It’s the TRUTH! SAY IT! Have the courage to say it!
    At any moment, in any meeting: listen to your childish, sincere, totally YOU, inner voice. What does it say? THAT”S the truth. There you have it, friend.
    There, you have the essence of this play. And it will shock the socks off the folks. They need it.

  5. Urvater says:

    Forgot what I was going to say. And got back out of bed to say it, too. You’ve got to admire that!

  6. Urvater says:

    Urvater drinks. Ergo, Urvater is great.

  7. Urvater says:

    Virtus semper viridis. Virtue always flourishes. That’s our theme. That’s the philosophical thrust of the play. “The argument”, as Shakespeare would have put it. Michelangelo’s David, who arises from the ceremonial ashes in the cave, in the annual re-birth ritual, personifies the ideals that drive and lift the human race. The cave people around the fire expected nothing less. The ideals the human race forever, forever, forever, totally betrays. But in this play alone, the human race stands no chance. This is the first time in history that in the contest between Adonis, David, Twigkid, and the humanfuckingrace, the human race has no say. Here, we are in it for the dignity. For the Fine. For the great. Don Quixote says something to the effect: “I was born into this age of iron for the purpose of revitalizing in it the age of gold, the golden age.” Quixote is a soulmate, Boys and Girls. And so is Twigkid. The shining symbol. When the audience feels a choice between human cynical one and human cynical two (in the dilemmas), it is Twigkid, Born of the Auncient Flames, who confronts the audience in their guts and in their highest ideals with The Truth. It is Twigkid who says to us: “You know fucking well in the deepest squiggliest recesses of your pathetic guts that you contain greatness beyond the finest legends. You know fucking well that every morning you wake up and scratch your armpits and brush your teeth that within you is the seed of all the future of humanity on the face of the earth. In the Universe, for Christ’s sake! What else is there to face these amazing photographs of the galaxies out there? Shit, man, we’ll friggin’ BE out there before your kids are old! Wake up! We’re it, Man! We are All There Is!!! How many million more years do we need before we wake up to that?
    That is the theme of this play. This is the first public statement of the dignity of the human race. Let all the other books and e-books wrestle with human infirmity. The Old Trouts put it right up there. Dignity or death.
    And we know of which we speak. As does any human worth es salt.

  8. australopithecus says:

    Applause – Loud applause. Looking forward to following this to see how theatre will ‘Evolve’.

    I remember reading Aristotle’s ‘On the Art of Poetry’ and thinking how odd it was that one would avoid violence or death on stage. When I think of the patron who expressed his dislike for 3/4 of ‘Famous Puppet Death Scenes’ it reminds me how powerful good theatre can be. He was given space to react to what he was seeing (not being spoon fed) and it exposed his inner turmoil and emotions. You allowed this man to have a voice outside of his seat and opened yourselves up to his lens of his personal life. That, to me, is what theatre should inspire – insight into the thoughts and experiences of other human beings.

    The first time I saw ‘Famous Puppet Death Scenes’ I recall sitting in my seat wondering if I ‘should’ be enjoying some of the moments or if I ‘should’ be repulsed – laughing or crying? I have vivid images of those scenes in my head. What was brilliant about the experience is that – I – was left to decide. This gave me autonomy as a viewer. I had the choice. Powerful.

    Perhaps this twig creature is yearning to break from the tradition of ‘carrot before the horse’ and become a divergent thinker who strives for autonomy. Autonomy as a painter/speaker/writer/creating ‘technology’. We know that if ‘cave man’ could draw (which was a form of writing), she could speak. The connection between thinking, drawing and the tongue. For example, when kids start to write, they often push their tongue to the side of their cheek. This means the tongue muscles are strong enough to speak – therefore if ‘cave man’ could draw, she could speak. Does this solve the speaking or non-speaking debate? I would assume it would only further the debate. Do you need language to express this? Gibberish? Words? Music?

    Motivation. What truly motivates us? Many studies have been made regarding Motivation; past a certain point of financial stability we strive for autonomy. Check out this link on ‘What Drives Motivation':
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

    I am intentionally writing ‘she’ as I do think there is something to be said of the sexes. Why avoid it? Women held a tremendous amount of power and are slowly returning to that now “A million years ago women commuted to work together to gather their fruits and vegetables, they came home with 60 – 80% of the evening meal, the ‘double income’ family was the rule and women were just as economically and socially, sexually powerful as men” (Helen Fisher – Bialogical Anthropologist). For more see:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

    We are ‘life-obsessed’ (I love that, Urvater) and we all choose the path. Perhaps your stick creature was the first to make a choice beyond the carrot placed before her. What implications would it have on those around her? The close calls of death. Learning through the courageous or cowardly deaths of others. How does the ‘twigling’ learn about death and begin to face her own mortality? Fear? Understanding? How is she perceived by others? Allow people to laugh, feel uncomfortable and to have questions.

    Inspire us to grab you at the end of the show with a strong opinion, idea or rant.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share my voice.

    Sincerely,
    Australopithecus

  9. Urvater says:

    Right off, eternally, since the dawn of theatre, and forevermore, a dark area in front of an audience, that is now, at this moment, dramatically lit, especially with music or sound accompanying the lighting, is one of the most magical moments in life. That act, the light coming on, the stage, the awaitingness, already opens the mind like little else can. It’s another world. You can even feel this in ancient theatre sites, ruins of stone seats and sunken stages. The ancient magic lurks and looms with heady power, wherever you go: onto the stage, up into the high seats. It’s theatre! I think the ominous inferences right at this opening moment that a rite of passage is about to happen is perfectly in line with the potential of theatre, in line with its historical role. Yes, all the planning, the tickets, the dressing up, the hiring of the baby sitter, the navigation to the theatre, the parking, it all builds right to this moment. Images in the mind from publicity, even on the tickets, even just the title, all build into this moment. You have a seat. You’re waiting. The lights go down. The chatter stops. It’s a moment we cherish from childhood. This is it! And, holy shit: it happens. Right there. You KNOW you’re REALLY IN FOR IT. This can be done. This is well within Troutpower. Big sound, big, magnificent pace, weird stuff happening, something, a cry, a sound, that strips your guard right off of you. I did see/feel this happen once in a simple but very effective setting. True, I was a kid. But I think it really worked for everybody. And I know the Trouts could do this sort of thing easily: there, in West Texas, the Albany Fandangle historical pageant. In the near-darkness, an outdoor natural amphitheatre, tom-toms out there. Heavy stillness, silence. Just the drums. Tension builds. And, suddenly, here and there, in the audience, holy shit! Savages were creeping in from BEHIND us, down the aisles, amongst the people! There was a breathless moment when you honestly didn’t know how really dangerous this was. But when they suddenly shrieked and shouted and rushed down to the attack (suddenly lit wagoneers reaching for their guns), you KNEW it was curtains for everybody, yourself included. God, how did we survive? I alone am here to tell the tale! That sort of thing. Rite of passage, for sure! J. Trout mentions the hospital ward. Teaching death. Let’s do it to them! I mean: these people this play is about: they are extinct! They’re all long long ago dead. But they LIVED. They lived for us! They live IN us! We should know how to die! And, like the terminal illness teaching, there are elements within us that can prepare us. The counsellor knew those strings to pull (or tried to). And, we are much the greater for knowing this. How to die. (Back to the mountaineering. Or combat. There’s nothing like living through a close call.) Like all of human evolution, we’re not death possessed, limited by fears and safety and avoidance. We are life-obsessed. We learn how to face the blank, stare it down, go through it. Laugh! Huge laughter might be a wonderful sound and sight to wrap up a rite of passage, eh? Lift the whole audience right through the roof!

    • Neandertaler says:

      I think Judd Trout and Urvater are onto something incredibly important. I think theatre (or any other form of art) has always had the potential of being something of a rite of passage for its audience and that it’s often succeeded in being just that. It’s also the ONLY reason I personally go to the theatre, not to be “entertained” in the literal sense of being kept busy or “held between” other (more important) activities, but to be transformed in some way.

      All too often, though, I clap vigorously at the end of a performance because it was all so well acted, well designed, WELL DONE and I want to acknowledge the artists for their efforts, but afterwards I feel cheated. The performance was like a magnificent balloon defying gravity, but in the morning it’s just a deflated, wrinkled piece of rubber. “Moving” an audience is harder than it looks, but everything else is just icing on the curtained cake.

      The recipe for a strong story are simple enough, so simple that Hollywood cranks out scores of “cakes” every year. Take a hero or heroine, push them out of their comfort zone and make the accomplish some feat despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, thereby saving from certain doom their marriage, their family, their honour, their beloved’s life, their village, their personal integrity, you name it. It’s a formula that has worked for storytellers since the beginning of time. But I think that what puts substance in the cake is what’s at stake.

      Antonin Artaud tried to nudge his audience out of its comfortable complacency by using “cruel” theatre techniques, much like what Urvater describes: fearful events, loud sounds, big images, colour… an all-round assault on the senses. In my view, this only makes the balloon bigger and brighter, unless the “cruelty” goes deeper–as I’m sure Artaud tried to accomplish as well. If we see that the actor is not just up there on the stage because it’s fun, or because the pay’s OK, or because it feels good to pretend to be someone else, but because she or he needs to do battle with something deep, difficult and disturbing, then we cannot help but be drawn into the combat zone.

      When Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski told his star actor to set himself on fire, the guy broke out in tears, because after hours of gruelling rehearsal, in which he’d been urged to break through all of his personal boundaries, he thought Grotowski meant it literally. For Grotowski, actors must sacrifice themselves on the stage…

      Here’s a link to Dan Harmon’s pages on story structure. I’ve never heard anybody explain so well, and so concisely, why we humans have this urge to watch fellow humans (in this case actors) go down into the “basement of the mind” where “it is older, darker and much, much freakier.” The video on the side is annoying, but the site is well worth a look:
      http://channel101.wikia.com/wiki/Story_Structure_102:_Pure,_Boring_Theory

      I commend you all for going into the cold woods with that bucket of KFC. I think that’s where things do start: by putting your own comfort on the line.

  10. Judd Trout says:

    Back in the day, when we were performing Famous Puppet Death Scenes (one of our shows) we met an audience member whose job was helping people deal psychologically with terminal illness. I think he had some controversial theories. He absolutely viewed our little show with the utmost seriousness: did it help us to deal with death, or was it just going to divert our attention from the truth of our mortality like everything else in our consumer culture? (He thought the show was terrible until two-thirds of the way through, when we redeemed ourselves.) At any rate: we talked quite a bit with him, and visited him in his office in the children’s ward, and felt completely dwarfed by the immensity of what he dealt with all day long. He talked a lot about rites of passage — how, in his opinion (as I probably inaccurately remember) they were all about experiencing a kind of imaginary death so that we might be able to live with the knowledge of our own demise. Without that knowledge, or that experience, we were doomed to wander limply around and then completely come apart at the seams when we find out we’re terminally ill. He said he tried to teach people to die, instead of to be killed. To take responsibility for it, I think he meant.
    At any rate: what’s the connection between a rite of passage, and theatre? Truth be told I have only the vaguest sense of theatre history, but I picture the Greeks having great festivals of tragic plays, with actors made giant with stilts and masks singing wild songs about heroic death, followed by collective acts of abandon so barbaric that they never wrote about them — we have to imagine what happened.
    If we could manage to make a puppet show that somehow felt like a rite of passage, that would be something.
    Although I don’t know if that would be entirely up to us — the audience has to be as much a part of that plan as we would be. Maybe more so. And I don’t know if that’s what they’re hoping for.
    There’s a crucial moment at the beginning of the show — or, more broadly conceived, it’s a series of moments that extend from the decision to go to the theatre, the practicalities of doing so (finding a parking spot, buying a ticket), finding your seat, watching other people come in and find their seats, going to black, lights up on stage, the first things you see and feel — that has to be understood as a transition from the real world to another world. How that transition takes place in the minds and hearts and spirits of the audience and the performers is taken very seriously I think in some cultures, past and present, and maybe not done so well in our own at the moment. I wonder if there’s something in how this threshold space is handled — theatrically, conceptually, even architecturally, that might prepare an audience for a rite of passage instead of entertainment per se? I wonder if the intention itself would be alienating or annoying or pretentious?

  11. Urvater says:

    Actually, it’s clear that young males have no self-identity. They’re lost bags of outworn conventions. Young women now have the torch. The sad movie The Name of the Rose (not great, but, a try) plumbed the depths and horrors of the male psyche, and elevated womanness to the highest ideal. Meet the young Russian woman, Pelageya, on YouTube. Listen to Kristina Rad, Rumanian, talk on YouTube. I haven’t followed Lady Gaga, but I guess she makes waves. Examples abound, of women moving away from, beyond, men. Now, could this be because THEIR primeval role is still at the core of their lives? In this limited little island of 21st century technolife, they have taken away mens’ weapons. But woman have been left their babies and children and home challenges. Women are still alive. Men don’t know. Eh? Are we trying to make the whole world a cave, with no outside? I don’t think it’ll work. Doesn’t for me.

    • libidoless says:

      The rites of passage have sort of disappeared -well in the west-,,, my dad actually complained and said, don’t kids raid gardens anymore,, his garden was a class A garden, if you got my Dads carrots without being spotted you were a true Jedi,, Mr Andersons vine apples at his backdoor were also a class A challenge. We used to get dropped off at age 12 and 13 (about 10 of us) at the Bragg Creek campground for a week with no adult supervision or camp the summer away in the backyard (I beleive this illegal now, even the backyard camping without adult). I fish, which isn’t about fishing but patience, a tempering of will or pending the fish -getting creative, learning to read water, watching the sky, learning that the sky is bringing a need to pack up_,,, I’m rambling -a really nice rendition of “silent night” is playing at Starbux- it’s making me sentimental, uh-oh!!!
      When I was in junior high our afternoon options were shop, golf, swimming and Hunter Training Outdoor Education,, I chose the latter and it was intense, the main theme was etiquette and environmental conservancy with an incredible test at the end. When I turned 14, I finished another level of the course, gun handling and gutting,,,,, the thing is, where in the fuck is this applicable to society now? Besides my own feel good bit there is no fit for it. The last time I hunted I was 21, it was a moose, it was sad -by peta standards- but we had enough moose meat for a year and gifted a lot of it too. I’ll stop rambling.

  12. Urvater says:

    Of course: political correctness, which, after all, is only objective fairness, consideration. I’m a man. I’ve climbed with women, who could climb better than me. More guts. I’ve also been among women who were facing combat challenges far greater than my own. Again, guts. Balls. I’ve also nourished tiny infants through their challenges, and related one-on-one to both male and female kids. I feel I’ve looked at love from both sides now. So, a woman generally has trouble planting a seed, a man is at a loss to give birth. Traditional roles have put men in combat, have put women to nursing. Also, have put women to putting up with men, and men trying to deal with women. Impossibilites abound. But we make it. We survive. But … are we in a good place? Are we going in the right direction?

    • Urvater says:

      THE BEST NARRATIVES ARE EASY TO FOLLOW. I hit upon that in something I was reading two days ago. How true it is! Obfuscation, density, complexity, great intelligence, interwoven flourishes of mysterious implication, obscure allusion, stunned, incomprehending audience, all that: inferior. Great literature leads you into it, through it, out the other side. No navigation problems. Just voyage. Honesty. Or, put another way, maybe: if you find youself in a delicate, subtle, amazingly bewildering choice, you at least know that the author is right there in that with you. E’s not leaving you alone. Or, put another way: your feelings are always very clear. That’s what we want.