Detox Shows – Weekend
During the time (several hundred years) that the theater has existed in its usual form, generations of the “young and angry” (alarmed, implacable, reckless) made several attempts to radically change it. Today, this revolutionary aspiration has resurfaced—but, unlike in previous years, it is not about art at all.
About what a rebellion of youth in the theater is, Chekhov wrote most exhaustively (as well as about many other things). Nearly 125 years ago, in December 1898, the hero of his play The Seagull, the exemplary young reformer Kostya Treplev, said the coveted message from the stage of the Moscow Public Art Theater: “New forms are needed. New forms are needed, and if they are not there, then nothing is better,” and he illustrated this with a failed performance about the soul of the world on the stage of the country theater. These words were spoken by 24-year-old Vsevolod Meyerhold, the first Mkhatov performer of the role of Treplev. Three years later, tired of waiting for new forms, Meyerhold would gather his own troupe around him and set off to wander around the Russian provinces. We note in brackets: the person from whom he leaves was himself at that moment quite Treplev. Just a different kind. Konstantin Stanislavsky, at the age of 35, played the imposing cynic Trigorin in The Seagull - but, strictly speaking, it was he who in that 1898 relied on the laurels of a radical and rebel.
Treplev will remain the archetype of the angry young man in the magical world of backstage and backstage. The main distinguishing feature of Treplev is his loserness, written by Chekhov with a great deal of self-exposure. To this day, any young theatrical reformer from time to time at least mentally tries on the muzzle of a Treplev pistol to his temple. Despair is a side effect of any revolution in art, both failed and, sadly, successful.
An unanswered question is hidden in the selflessly-narcissistic-infantile "new forms are needed, and if they are not there, then nothing is needed." New forms - what exactly?
The answer to this question has changed dramatically over time - and today it is changing again before our eyes.
Treplev's "world soul" rebels against the flat, life-like, mundane: this is the ambition of an artist who strives to embody the non-embodiable, the ideal, which has no earthly image - and is resolved by absurdity.
In reality, the situation was not at all so hopeless - at the same time as Meyerhold, all over the world, Treplev's peers and followers create a theater that goes far beyond the boundaries of simple "reflection", beyond the boundaries of "reality". They will enter the 20th century not even with a new aesthetic, but with a multitude of new aesthetics (if Stalinism had not happened in the USSR, they would have flourished in it as well).
However, the radical aesthetic shake-up did little to change the theater as an institution. The artistic revolutions in the theater of the 20th century were revolutions intra muros, “within the walls”. The nature of the "walls" themselves remained the same. Meyerhold, Tairov, Vakhtangov, Reinhardt, Piscator - in general, whoever you take - were busy looking for the aesthetics of the theater of the future, while leading the troupes that were quite old-fashioned in essence, and it seems that this did not bother them at all.
Yes, in their program writings they all prescribed new principles of organization, but these principles remained on paper. In this case, we are not talking about the sources of funding, the distribution of responsibilities, the length of the rehearsal period - here everything just changed a lot over time. Theatrical everyday life remained the same - and those human types that she cultivated. Even Stanislavsky and Nemirovich, who hated the vile theatrical “routine” that dust settled on the wings (they called it the beautiful forgotten word “Kabotinism”), declared war on it in the “statutory documents” of the Moscow Art Theater (all these “the theater begins with a hanger”, of course, an announcement war), but very little time will pass - and the dust will return to its place.
Open any document of the great theatrical era - from Nemirovich's letters to Koonen's diaries or the chronicle of the closure of the Moscow Art Theater-2 - you will find everything the same: cynicism, hack-work, petty and big intrigue, provincial struggle of vanities, tolerable dishonesty by default, favoritism. Mikhail Bulgakov in his "Theatrical Novel" and in "The Cabal of the Hypocrites" describes the same theater by Ivan Vasilyevich Molière. All this lived and flourished beautifully in the scenery of Golovin, Tyshler and Dali, to the music of Sats, Weill and Prokofiev, to the dialogues of Brecht, Maeterlinck and Cocteau.
That is, in the first third of the twentieth century, a completely new theater really took shape and grew, in which everything was new, except for the theatrical organism itself.
The second theatrical revolution began as part of the general youth protest movement of the 1960s and created the post-war theater that we, with some amendments, live to this day. The manifestos of this theater were written simultaneously with the slogans of demonstrations and anti-war marches. His main ancestral gestures were the gestures of demand and refusal - the demand for autonomy, freedom, civil rights, the rejection of caste, dogmatism, the obligation to be "artistic", to be generally something predetermined.
The post-war world theater can be called the theater of artistic and social willfulness. His ground was the essentially romantic conviction that the artist (actor, director) lives in every person and has the right to self-realization. In general, an internal artist has more competence and more rights than an internal politician or an internal accountant. He has the right to turn any available space into a stage and create an artistic statement from any event.
An artistic statement can take the usual form of a performance, like in Peter Brook, Peter Stein, Luke Bondi, can mimic it, like in Robert Wilson, create territories of collective meditation, like in Grotowski, radical audiovisual experiments, like in Heiner Goebbels, aggressively destroy itself theatrical matter, like Frank Castorf. All this does not call into question the main thing: the authorship of the statement and the implicit or open protest nature of any creativity. Art in the post-war world is born from disagreement with this world, from the desire to shape disagreement into words, images, actions. Anyone who agrees can not waste his energy in vain and immediately go to accountants.
There were many benefits from the post-war youth rebellion: firstly, a huge and truly outstanding galaxy of directors-authors appeared, and secondly, the boundaries of the theater expanded dramatically, the classic front-box format (hall, ramp, stage) ceased to be mandatory at all - a theatrical event claimed any space, from a telephone booth to a stadium. The hated routine ("cabotinism") was destroyed wherever the theater ceased to be sedentary, where the model of "a permanent group of people in a permanent space" disappeared.
But not a single alternative model has yet appeared - a model comparable in viability to the classical theater hospital. One way or another, all the outstanding masters listed above returned to it when recognition reached some noticeable level. Leading a solid "house with columns" was and remains the most understandable form of expressing such recognition. Perhaps the only surviving and working alternative is the Theater du Soleil by Ariana Mnushkina, a social utopia of the theater of shareholders, with collective work and equal pay for everyone, and at the same time producing real masterpieces. But the Théâtre du Soleil has remained precisely a model, not a model: it is admired, but life is not made from it. There is a strong and justified suspicion that its main supporting pillar is this very woman who created such a theater at the age of 25, and today, at 84, continues to meet the audience at the entrance if it is her turn to work as an usher.
Since recently (by the standards of the theatrical chronology) since then, a wave of the next ... rebellion has been approaching this picturesque and relatively stable diversity? Perhaps too strong and inaccurate. Today's young people, if they are interested in theater at all, would like to change a lot, if not all, of it. From the menu in the buffet and the process of making scenery to relationships in the troupe.
The important thing about this impending wave is that it is coming, at least at first glance, from the outside. And this, in general, is a 180-degree turn - the other side starts the conversation. In previous times, the theater presented programs and demands to the city, the world and itself. And now demands are made to him: the city and the world are changing their procedural status from a witness to a participant. The challenge seems to come from nowhere, decentralized, it is brought by some kind of Offenbach's Opinia Publica. Does the theater respond to the challenge - because it was forced or because it wants to?
Once on the agenda, new requirements remain on it. This is an important sign. It is one thing to say that directors should have equal opportunities with their male colleagues, it is quite another - as the Drama Theater Frankfurt am Main has done now - to announce that only women will be on the big stage next season. It is clear that the theater, when announcing this program, knew that it would be an occasion for irony, and is ready for it. More importantly, such an application means at least that: a) this idea has supporters inside the theater; b) there are directors in the required number, with whom it is possible to conclude appropriate contracts (and the theater releases about 10 productions on the big stage per season); c) that all participants in the process are willing to take risks. Because it is a risk, and quite a radical one - for everyone. If "a", "b" and "c" were not given, no statements would turn into a real program of action.
We will sum up the results of this risk at the end of next season. But if what now looks like a kind of fashion turns out to be a model, then this model has not yet been described in any way by previous experience. It inherits neither the artistic insights of the turn of the last two centuries, nor the pathos of the social reconstruction of the post-war theater.
The theatrical community, over the past half century accustomed to any, it seems, forms of public excesses, is somewhat perplexedly collecting demands that grow like mushrooms after rain. Confusion has so far been converted into skeptical irony - a completely traditional reaction to the appearance of new Treplevs. "It smells of gray. Is it really necessary?
Indeed, it smells of sulfur, although it is not entirely clear where it comes from. Let's just say, if it's a revolution, it's vegan. And its demands boil down more or less to the need to take into account the potential interests, fears and resentments of all living beings who are not ready or not able to enter into a Darwinist battle for places in the front row of traditional hierarchies, including artistic ones. As well as the interests of the natural environment and the flora and fauna inhabiting it. Like Katie Mitchell, who - without any sarcasm - puts on a play where the actors themselves generate the electricity needed to light the stage, pedaling racing bikes.
Do not humiliate anyone, do not insult anyone, do not force anyone to do anything, do not manipulate anyone, abandon the feudal hierarchy for the sake of a democratic "horizontal", do not devalue anyone. Why does the theater (and not only it) see a threat in this manifesto of harmlessness? Because this discourse completely lacks what until now, with all the revolutions, was considered the essence and nature of creativity. There is no artistic logic and artistic result as the last, highest and main landmark. Yes, and in general some artistic requirements.
The only thing this revolution wants from the creator is what it wants from any other person, any ordinary profession - to become part of a new, non-toxic society. In which they save water, light and gas, exclude dubious words and expressions from their vocabulary, do not remind others of their age, nationality, skin color, gender. In short, keep a total distance in the name of public health, peace and prosperity.
In fact, establishing and maintaining such a distance is a rather fascinating and yet unsolved problem with an open answer. By the way, the "world soul", with its high degree of abstraction, in this context again becomes an ideal material for experiments. After all, Treplev's play, unlike The Seagull, has not yet been staged well.
Subscribe to Weekend channel in Telegram