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

What is theatre?

But why? Why this question? Deleuze and Guattari—the authorship has been contested in that Guattari is said not to have been so active in the writing of What is Philosophy? but from Dosse’s double biography we know that Guattari, enduring the ‘winter years’ of the 1980s, read and gave his authorship to the book. And we know, as Deleuze said, it could not have been written without him, that it came out of their friendship. Perhaps Deleuze understood this friendship slightly differently, since he understood it in the sense that we will get to in the course of this writing: he understood his friend’s little bit of crazy; he understood it to be the reason why he loved him, the crack… like a window cracked open a fraction, a window giving onto an outside altogether other than that within his own purview, outside his compass, letting in air of a different type (much as we might say, a certain type of realism, so a different type)—Deleuze and Guattari answer the question ‘What is philosophy?’ by saying there comes a time in life when one asks oneself what is it I’ve been doing all these years? … To what beast have I given my heart?

Although you might think, Ah, then, this is why. Why he returns to this question! And you might forgive me. Although you need not. As if I, a little bit crazy, must, through some accident of my psychological make-up, keep coming back to it.

Although you might think that it’s a time of life issue, a personal tick or a deep and unresolved, and therefore unresolvable, perhaps even masochistic, at least self-defeating and leading to self-sabotage—the self-sabotage of every project that might work it out—thing with me, let’s say a personal thing, this is not the reason (O, but can he say so with certainty?) for my writing. Neither is it, despite appearances, to play it out.

I am writing against the notion, even though I know I can’t help it, that I am performing. That writing is of course performative. Against the notion that this is all we can hope for, from writing or, in particular, from theory. That it is, as Blau writes somewhere, mirror-struck. And as Stravinsky denies being of his own mental processes.

I don’t believe words are inadequate to express… ever: but this does not mean we can get to the bottom of things; or that some privilege is entailed in getting to the bottom of things. That only the just, the true and good ever can. Or the bad, mad and mean. Dead white men, and so on.

No. Then it is a theoretical text? I love the theories of Herbert Blau and Samuel Weber, Blau also a practitioner, a director and a theorist, or simply writer on theatre, of theatre, but I don’t intend to present a theory here. That is, I have no wish to present a thesis, no matter how well grounded in the concrete, in either what can be or what has been called theatre. I’m more interested in what must be called theatre—in despite of its practice or its theory.

Weber’s is, helpfully, about displacement. Displacement and replacement. The mobility of the theatrical scene that renews itself in its referral. His example in Theatricality as Medium is Oedipus at Colonus. It is how Oedipus dies and the reason he dies. Or, how his death works on the world is a function of it not being represented. So Weber’s theory goes against anyone who might say that art has no effect on the real world as well as anyone making the assumption that it is the art of representation par excellence.

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