Friday, November 21, 2008

Sarah Ruhl on American Theatre and Boston

Submitted without comment:

10. Don’t Send Your Characters to Reform School

American dramaturgy is not actually based on Aristotle’s Poetics, it is based subliminally on Pilgrim’s Progress…that is to say: what has your character learned, how has she changed, what is her journey? Which is all a subset of a morality play. But I love morality plays because they are undisguised. It is instead realism in the grips of a morality play that is a strange genre to me—a morality play disguised as realism that I find to be untrue.

And as we know, the pilgrims who founded our country hated the theater, because they hated sex and the irrational. (Have you ever wondered why Boston is not a theater town?)

Try applying the generic question: “how complete is his or her journey?” to Beckett, to Shakespeare, and watch the question fall way short of the mark of what is illuminating about the play. It is not enough to know only one question and apply it to all plays.

And so I say: don’t make your play into a reform school to send your characters to.


Thomas Garvey said...

You just post this stupid stuff to bait us, right? ;-)

Ian Thal said...

I'm too annoyed by the simplistic explanation of "why Boston is not a theatre town" to even attend the rest of the argument.

There's plenty of theatre (and art) in Boston, it's just that a lot of interesting work is driven out: not by Puritanism, but by these large cultural institutions that promote only artists and approaches that have been already vetted by academia, and ignore anything they do not already know. The infrastructure for a viable artistic counter-culture isn't strong enough compete (or provide for interesting cross-fertilization.)