Bess Rowen recently conducted an interview [http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6058808] with the French theatre artist Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, who is currently directing a revival of Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author” at BAM’s Harvey Theater in Brooklyn.
Emmanuel is a veteran theatre maker and some of his responses were music to my young, cynical ear. In a midst of discussions about budget cuts, insensitive sell outs, censorship, weak choices, and commercialism in our society, it was refreshing to hear a professional talk about theatre the way I thought about it when I first fell in love with the art form.
When asked why theatre is important, this is what he said:
“Personally, I have always been emotionally attached to theatre, from my childhood, for its capacity to bring together individuals around a work: the collective that is formed with the team that accompanies me for several years, some even from school; and then the community that we form with the public. Human beings in front of other human beings. The thing that constitutes a major difference from film. The sharing and, therefore, the exchange. And finally, the capacity that art has, the theatre in particular, to influence individuals, to develop the imagination, the sensibility… I personally experienced how essential it is, from a young age, to be in contact with art, even more so an art that is practiced together in a group, like the theatre. I have seen, concretely, how this can influence our way of understanding each other, of perceiving the environment, and of assessing the world around us. And if I take even another step back I think that a theatre, I’m talking now about the building, also has a mission to accomplish in the area, the city in which it is built, to meet the population, to overflow its walls, to offer beauty, reflection, wonder, invention, audacity, even enthusiasm-which doesn’t hurt these days…I do not know if art can change the world, but I see many ways it can influence individuals.”
It’s nice to touch base with the root of things while often wading through a sea of bullshit in our modern day theatre. Between the ego wars, the money disputes, the funding nightmares, and the inability to be heard, it is vital that we keep in contact with the beauty of the craft and the incessant need to continue it.
Emmanuel also talks about using the art form as a weapon to soften the violence that we experience in our everyday lives- to put the worst scenarios onstage in front of a group of strangers and ask them to watch theatre provide a solvent for the pain. This is how it can make a difference. One individual at a time.