Monday, January 03, 2005

Against Interpretation?

There's a discussion going on among several bloggers that started with an emailed query from ACD to George Hunka about why live theater should survive as an art form, when "the theater today seems a total anachronism, anything treated there better treated as a film."

And in today's sounds & fury, ACD comes back with this:

Let me make myself clear about this, if I haven't up to this point (and I think I have), by stating the matter in the bluntest of terms. The above quoted declarations of humanist faith notwithstanding, the audience doesn't count. The actors don't count. The director doesn't count. Even the playwright himself doesn't count. Nothing counts but the created artwork: the play itself and its aesthetic realization; a realization determined -- determined exclusively -- by the requirements and dictates of the play's text alone in which is contained what's necessary for the achieving of the "aesthetic transcendence" George above speaks of if the play is worth the paper it's printed on.

I find all of this puzzling. A film gives its creator(s) full control over the finished product, which then won't vary in content, performance, or form once it's completed. But somehow, playwrights keep writing plays instead of looking for...the Platonic ideal of the realization of their works? Apparently they think there's some value in the director, the scenery, the different views that different directors and actors will have of the work, and, yes, the presence of the live audience, or they'd be in the business of making films instead.

If the created artwork is all that counts, then why bother with interpretation or performance of anything? Why not just read the plays? Why shouldn't I just sit at home with the score of Tristan und Isolde and let it take place in my mind, instead of attending a performance or listening to one of the dozen or so imperfect and compromised CD and DVD performances I've got?

ACD, is that what you mean? Are you arguing against interpretation and performance? Or are those two Stage vs. Film postings merely the best justification you can come up with for disliking live theater? It's fine with me if you don't like and aren't moved by live theater, but the justifications aren't making all that much sense to me.

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