Peter Wood Theatre 791: Asian Theatre Aaron Anderson January 30, 2005
‚??Preface‚?? & ‚??The Framework of Asian Theatre‚?? AC Scott
Scott says that change ‚??in form rather than content marked progression in the Asian theatre; curiosity about the human condition, which became a motive for innovation on the western stage, affected it very little‚?? (5). While everything that I have read has indeed indicated that the subject matter may be more stable in Asian theatre, my question becomes what if form = content? How is it possible to change form without changing content on some basic level? Indeed, later on, Scott seems to remark upon just such a connection when he examines how various linguistic forms can dictate dramatic content (13). This seems to be a major point and one that slightly contradicts his earlier statement. The idea that language itself can alter and shape theatrical content is a fascinating idea and I‚??m wondering if there have been any systemic studies of languages and the art forms that they give rise to.
‚??Introduction‚?? James R. Brandon
What is interesting about Brandon‚??s introduction is that there are many points of comparison with Scott. Specifically in the way both outline the difficulty of generalizing about Asian theatre and how complex and historical and diverse Asian theatres are. However, Brandon sounds much more contemporary in his assessment and in how he writes ‚?? I‚??ve been trying to pin down what the difference is exactly and haven‚??t had complete success. Maybe Brandon seems somehow cooler, a bit more distant, less obviously in love with his subject. I‚??m not clear on where I‚??m going with this really, just a feeling I had when reading them back to back.
Brandon points out that a ‚??performance, then, is one momentary arrangement of pre-known elements, one in a series of performances which are rather like the changing pattern of a kaleidoscope,‚?? and that performances are ‚??examples of an existing artistic form much more than they are the ‚??production of a play.‚??‚?? This connects nicely to Scott‚??s assessment about the place of community in Asian communities being more coherent than in Western (which, in a sense, is a fiction, but a useful fiction). There is a sense in Brandon‚??s statement that the rise of individualism in Western cultures is one of the prime differences between the different theatre‚??s that were (are?) produced. In the cult of the individual, the idea of staying within a pre-known structure is not the ideal of the artist.
It also seems that the popularity of groups like Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group and de la Guarda (to name a few) may be due to the return to Western theatre of the ‚??total theatre‚?? that Brandon sees in Asian theatres where ‚??all performative aspects are fused into a single form.‚?? While these groups might not be completely ‚??total theatre‚?? due to the absence of language and plot, there is a sense that they capture something similar to Beijing Opera or other Asian theatres.
“Points of Contact Between Anthropological & Theatrical Thought‚?? Richard Schechner
The six points of contact that Schechner outlines here do seem to be highly valuable, not only when looking at other cultures, but when examining theatre events in general.
I‚??m trying to imaging how one would be able to study the aftermath of a performance ‚?? it seems impossible to document in a comprehensive manner, to say nothing of interpreting the various ‚??twitchs,‚?? ‚??winks,‚?? ‚??false winks‚?? or ‚??parodies‚?? that might occur during the aftermath of a performance.
Speaking of theatre scholars, Schechner posits that you ‚??don‚??t go backstage unless you‚??re part of the show‚?? (19). Perhaps this is also to maintain the semblance of objectivity that has been so much a part of Western scholarship in the past (the semblance, not the objectivity necessarily).
Also of interest is his link between drawings and sculpture in the Paleolithic time as associated with actions and the idea that performance can be seen as ‚??patterns of doing not modes of symbolization separate from doing.‚?? Going back to Elizabethan England, it becomes apparant that for some, theatre was dangerous (or useful depending on where one stood) specifically because it was more connected to actions and not merely playing. It may not be necessary to go back 23,000 years to find performances that are examples of these patterns of doing ‚?? case in point, some of the Asian theatres ‚?? where the specific motion of a hand is symbolic, yes, but never separate from the doing of that motion.
‚??Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture‚?? Clifford Geertz
Overall, an article much more accessible on the second read ‚?? and funny. There are some points that I am not clear on. When Geertz says that a ‚??good interpretation of anything‚??a poem, a person, a history, a ritual, an institution, a society‚??takes us into the heart of that of which it is the interpretation,‚?? (18) I am wondering what he means, exactly (or nearly). For instance, how might this statement collide/collude with Derrida‚??s ideas about deconstructionism and dissemination, to whit that interpretation is never inward but always outward. In other words, to interpret something becomes an series of shifting signifiers and references which change even if read (seen) by the same reader (viewer)? Yet, there is a sense that even in deconstructionism, the interpreter is somehow getting deeper even if at the same moment she is flying out on wings of ever receding signification.