An Unscrupulous Art: A German Playwright Detects the Glory of Theatre in Its Imperfect Present

By Dorst, Tankred | American Theatre, March 2003 | Go to article overview

An Unscrupulous Art: A German Playwright Detects the Glory of Theatre in Its Imperfect Present


Dorst, Tankred, American Theatre


World Theatre Day is celebrated annually on March 27, a tradition set four decades ago by the International Theatre Institute. Each year, in honor of the event, a theatre personality of world stature issues a message to the global theatre community. The first such message was written by Jean Cocteau in 1962. The following is the message for World Theatre Day 2003.

WE KEEP ASKING THE QUESTION:

Is the theatre still relevant to the times? For 2,000 years, the theatre has held a mirror up to the world and explained our place in it. Tragedy has portrayed life as being subject to fate. Comedy has done this often enough, as well. Human beings are flawed; we make fatal mistakes; rail against our circumstances; clutch at power; are weak. Deceitful and naive, we are happy in our ignorance and sickened by God.

I hear people say that life today is beyond the grasp of the traditional instruments of the theatre, and that it is consequently no longer possible to tell stories. Instead, there are different sorts of texts--no dialogues, but rather statements. No drama. A new kind of human being is beginning to appear on our horizon-beings that can be cloned and genetically manipulated according to whim and plan. These new, flawless beings, insofar as they are possible, would have no need for the theatre as we understand it. They would be unable to comprehend the conflicts that drive it. But we don't know the future. …

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