Design for the Stage: First Steps

By Darwin Reid Payne | Go to book overview

beginning of our conversation, I am delighted to see that you no longer look so puzzled.


§8 "The Building or the Theatre"

By Sean Kenny

The theatre has become a thing outside of life. Too far outside. It's a mediocre, minority, closed-group activity. It has nothing to do with people having bread or finding things that are exciting. In economically developing countries, people are finding, for the first time, that they can have things other than necessities. They can go places, do things, that weren't available to them before. If the theatre is to be an art form of our time, it must take these new excitements of ordinary people and develop them into a new voice. A new voice: a new theatre.

People are deserting the old form, the old theatre, because it's rubbish. There's nothing to it. We have to forget about eighteenth-century drawing room behavior and all that nonsense. Let's relegate Chekhov, Ibsen, and Shakespeare to their proper place: a museum theatre that would show how things were written and done in the past; how dancers, singers, and actors can interpret a life, a situation, a problem of another time. In art, people take a seventeenth-, eighteenth-, or nineteenth-century painter and consider his work a comment on things as and when he saw them--not a comment on today. But we in the theatre are still painting eighteenth-, seventeenth-, even fifteenth-century paintings and we call them modern. What we call Modern Theatre is Theatre of Yesterday. We go on using it because we've developed no alternative. It's as though there were no more movies and we kept showing Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers, saying: this is good cinema and this is the only cinema.

Our civilization is becoming more and more a civilization of action. People don't want to sit down, like coy Victorians, to watch a semirisque story and giggle. They want to take part; they want to do something; they want to shout, to answer back, to rebel and to acclaim. I think these people would want to take part in a new theatre, a theatre that would be theirs and theirs to enjoy.

They'd want to take part in a theatre that reflects what's really happening in this world. At the moment, we have culture salesmen, amateurs who peddle culture to the masses, proclaiming life is an extension of art, art is all. They say to the factory workers: this is what you've

-93-

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