second part, called “what is theatre? II,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

What is theatre?

I wrote that we don’t at first know the answer. The immediate answers—like democracy, and philosophy, a Greek invention; a bunch of poofs in tights pretending they’re kings and queens; a beast that will eat your heart (this was my father’s description); a colonial artform, isn’t it?; a place of terror, cruelty, poverty, boredom or entertainment… or the people who make it that… or these foisted on an unsuspecting public by whose presence or absence it is defined—seem to refer to the place and time they were given rather than to the thing they would describe. And this in turn would seem to point to a certain type of realism with regard to the question.

A certain type of temporality or temporalising would seem to apply to theatre that theatre is product of, and, producing which, it is the embodiment of, or space for. The answers given possess immediacy and are possessed of or subject to immediacy, much as if they were all talking at once on the stage. What is lacking, and why they must be abandoned, is that it all happens at once.

There is no rising up to be done. To accede to being the platform for a bunch of poofs in tights… Or to being a poetic or a pscyhoanalytic place of terror, and so on. But there remains the question asked us, asked us by the answer given, which is what it asks of us: it is the beast that would eat your heart. Surely only if you wore your heart on your sleeve?

And that we don’t want to rush in with answers points to the certain type of realism of being a theatre of theatre. It is insofar (in so far only?) as it is where one wants to be. Where. One. Wants… If it is where one wants to be, we can choose where, but not when.

And then there, we give the answer at once, in the immediacy of the moment. Or withhold it, knowing that as soon as given it is not good enough, that it will be abandoned. It will be, same as we said it. Same as we never did.

One of David Byrne’s lyrics for The Knee Plays, music intended for Robert Wilson’s The CIVIL warS, a work intended for an art festival, to coincide with the LA Olympics in 1984, that never took place, goes that the sound never leaves the theatre. It builds up. This is why being there is more important than knowing what is going on. Until, when everyone leaves, the accumulated sound leaves with them:

To become forever part of the landscape
In no particular order.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.