Creating the Self in the Contemporary American Theatre

By Robert J. Andreach | Go to book overview

6
Experimental Selves

The experimental theatre deforms the naturalistic theatre. Naturalism is both a historical movement and a mode of theatrical presentation. As a nineteenth- century movement, it conceives of human beings as physiological creatures, rather than metaphysical beings, who when studied scientifically, rather than imagined idealistically, are revealed to be determined by heredity and environment: by biological, psychological, socioeconomic, and cultural forces. As a mode of theatrical presentation, it champions a stage environment that actualizes the forces.1 In this conception, since human beings are creatures of nature, they are perforce governed by the laws of nature. Thus the experimental theatre deforms these laws to alter the spectator's perception of the nature of people and their ability to create themselves.

Mabou Mines is a collective of artists who collaborate on original theatre works and new interpretations of existing texts. Conceived and directed by collective member Bill Raymond and Dale Worsley, with a text by Worsley that includes excerpts from the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant and Julia Dent Grant, Cold Harbor has original music by Philip Glass, slide projections, and museum exhibits. The title refers to the site of Grant's attack in the 1864 Wilderness Campaign of the Civil War, when thousands of Union soldiers were slaughtered in a few hours.

The lights come up on a museum setting with two curators informally assembling materials for a Grant commemorative. Into the setting is wheeled an exhibit, glass front with wooden sides and back, containing the life-size figure of the Civil War general and eighteenth President. The exhibit is parked until the curators are ready for the museum staff to remove the figure from the case and place it in the commemorative's centerpiece, a tableau of dead fig-

-131-

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Creating the Self in the Contemporary American Theatre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Women's Theatre 1
  • 2 - Other Minority Theatres 31
  • 3 - Exemplary Selves in History 47
  • 4 - Exemplary Selves in Hell 82
  • 6 - Experimental Selves 131
  • 7 - Reconciling Selves 159
  • 8 - On the Eve of the Millennium 189
  • Conclusion: Engaging the Spectator in the Creating 219
  • Notes 225
  • Index 235
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