Saturday 2 September 2023

When Theatre Was Fun

(Apologies to Joe Brainard)

I remember when theatre was fun

I remember when we used to anticipate rehearsal with longing, not fear

I remember when directors were not perfect (no one was)

I remember when there were no rules about being together and rules about touching one another

I remember when actors wanted to be vulnerable

I remember when actors went into psychotherapy but they wanted to know how fucked up they were instead of being afraid of it

I remember Marylin Monroe

I remember James Dean

I remember when actors were brave and eager to confront startling issues and 'hot topics' and to play crazy characters (and you could say the word ‘crazy’) and it was all part of the fun

I remember when my friend David Roche used to call theatre 'four people being rude in a room' 

I remember ‘hump the hostess’ and ‘get the guests’ and ‘what a dump!’

I remember when people with mental health issues didn’t have to apply for their own grants in a special category but worked with us — because a lot of real artists have mental health issues anyway -- and the whole theatre community understood that and welcomed people with mental health issues with open arms, as art itself was a mental health issue

I remember the imagination

I remember the subconscious

I remember dreams

I remember ‘madness’

I remember not policing language

I remember jokes

I remember real sensitivity, not when people broke the unspoken terrifying politically correct rules, but real people were sensitive to real human things in the moment

I remember when we didn’t lie except in the right way

I remember when we didn’t do lip service piously to all sorts of dogma that we didn’t really believe in -- but we now think that we must -- in order to continue our work

I remember when art was political, but you didn’t have to agree with the politics to do it

I remember when it was about your body and your soul and most of all your heart and not your social justice ideas

I remember when theatre was surprising and unsettling

I remember when actors and writers and directors didn’t hold artists up to impossible expectations that they.could never realize themselves

I remember when we had to learn how NOT to judge, instead of  HOW to judge

I remember when thought was free

I remember when no idea was a crime

I remember when everyone knew that a lot of artists have been criminals, and artists weren’t afraid to welcome the criminal element in their work which, after all, to quote Penny Arcade, is what separates art 'from academia’

I remember when theatre was yeah sexy and boozy and in your face

I remember when actors used to yell at the audience directly -- not religiously and passive aggressively lecture them about politically correct dogma

I remember the God DIonysus

I remember when there were awful bad people in the theatre and there were things like sexism and homophobia; but we tried to deal with it without demonizing everybody, and turning acting and directing into a terrifying nightmare in which we were all afraid to be honest with each other

I remember feeling things, as a group

I remember when theatre was a place where --  though we were often wearing a mask -- we could be ourselves

I remember hiding in theatre, in a very good way

I remember catharsis

I remember seeing horrible images in rehearsal and onstage, and not turning away or asking for sensitivity training or check-in days, or crayons to do colouring

I remember laughing from the gut and not feeling guilty 

I remember when theatre was fun

Do you?