Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

In the Wings: On the Possibility of Theatrical Space

Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

In the Wings: On the Possibility of Theatrical Space

Article excerpt


This text inquires in a poetic way the possibility of theatrical space by exploring the question "what space makes theatre possible?". The central argument is that threatre creates an intensive yet fragile space of possibility and the possible through creating affects. The text, written in between a prelude and an epilogue, approaches this space of desire and intensity indirectly by exploring the perspective of audience, actors and "angels" as they are seized by desire and awaiting the play in the wings. We argue through interweaving these three angles that every play presupposes a twilight zone, a connecting boundary which forms a transition into the magical where dream and desire can take over, where the virtual and the everyday can become connected and where new lines of flight might emerge. The aesthetic experience of theatre is characterised by participating in a clearing of openness where truth happens and where its practical implications might be heard. There is no change possible without engaging with the open-endedness when entering the wings of theatre.


Enter: The caterpillar -

Creeping up their sleeve -

Looking for a space.

Wrapped in expectation -

Cocooning, soft and safe -

Away, yet in it all.

Exit: the butterfly -

Feeling of being possible -

Wings unfolding.

Theatrical Lines of Flight

"The rest is silence" is how Hamlet ends his part in the play and how Robert Wlson starts his monologic version of Hamlet to indicate that it is as much here that the play starts, that play becomes possible. The possibility of theatre is the silence, a line of flight that affects us.

There is quite some magic in the silence before a play starts and theatre becomes possible. It is the moment when one hears the echo of the theatre bell, when the lights are dimming and last coughs are dying out. It is a silence of intensity and tension that asks the Lyotardian question: "Arrive-t-il?" does it happen? It is when you keep your breath while you should be breathing out.

There is also quite some danger in that silence, alerting us to the fragile space of theatre. Any moment that space can implode, any fraction of time might escape us, a resonance might start: an anticipation of transformation.

Theatre is a space of possibilities, a space of the possible. This is our question: What space makes theatre possible? What does it mean to consider the performance space as the site of possibility? What is this hierophantic space (Gk. hieros, holy; phainein, to show) which is the site of ritual, the place of theatre. In theatre, everything is possible; nothing is fixed. Time collapses and slips, characters change, transform themselves, gender is fluid, nothing is disallowed, everything and anything can enter the site. Nothing is what it seems. These familiar attributes of theatre come to represent a place where anything is possible. So it provides an opportunity for the most "dramatic" and revealing transformations to take place.

For our answer, we will not enter the stage directly, nor try to conceive the theatrical space unswervingly since no representation of this "empty space" is possible. The only possible way is by entering the wings, the sides of the scene, the off-scene. The wings surround the scene and form the scene. From the wings, audiences, actors and angels - each with their own angle - go out and meet on the inbetween stage. The interplay of their multiple outlooks - this multiple authorship creates the intensity and the surprise that is called theatre.

Now the bell rings! Follow the audiences gathering in the foyer. Look at the actors waiting in the wings. Take on the wings of angels and troubadours that make magic and carry them like the Gods that brought us theatre. Silence emerges. Imagine to be in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and to hear Benjamin Britten's operatic music where three parties form our three angles we think co-construct the possibility of the theatrical space: the lovers as audience who watch the play by the craftsmen; the craftsmen who as amateur actors rehearse their upcoming play and the fairies who like angels intervene in matters of life and love. …

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