I do theatre and watch theatre to commune with something:
After a good show:
I am ELECTRIC
Every cell in my body is dancing to techno at a Berlin nightclub
I can run across the country in a single blink (.)
I am INJECTED with life force
TREMENDOUS, TREMENDOUS, TREMENDOUS
Twentieth century German philosopher, Rudolf Otto, points to this very thing in his Das Heilege. The feeling of Mysterium Tremendum
“may burst in sudden eruption up from the depths of the soul with spasms and convulsions, or lead to the strangest excitements, to intoxicated frenzy, to transport, and to ecstasy…It may become the hushed, trembling, and speechless humility of the creature in the presence of – whom or what?”
Applause means nothing. Audiences should, rather, SPASM. CONVULSE. TREMBLE IN ECSTASY. THAT’s a way to say thank you. OR simply stay put: I know I’ve seen something good when I cannot applaud. My hands won’t do it; Clapping my palms to each other will CLAP me back into this world, and why should I return when I’ve been transported somewhere better? So I choose PARALYSIS. I like to call it my “speechless humility of the creature.”
So, as a theatre artist, how the hell do I make theatre that feels like an electric chair to the spirit? How do I make theatre that makes audiences convulse or freeze in awe of the tremendous? It’s what I want to do more than ANYTHING. How do I make theatre that’s a vessel to this sort of power? Is this sort of thing even in my power? Or does it lie outside of my control? Does the power come through simply when IT wants to come through? Do I just continue to make theatre and hope it’ll visit my audience at SOME point?
Happily, I think I have a hunch. One way of going about getting to an answer would be to revisit the moments that, as an audience member, made my arm hair raise or my tears tear away from their tear ducts. But while I can remember what and when those moments were, it’s of no use to describe what was happening on stage at the time to get to the answer I search for. Because maybe the vital ingredients can’t be described in an image. The sort of thing I’m talking about lives in the back-and-forth silent conversation between those performing and those receiving it.
After attending a talk at BU by Tony Award-nominated director and dramaturg Moritz von Stuelpnagel (Director of Broadway’s and West End’s Hand to God), I was reminded that this magnificent power is generated by this performer-audience exchange. Once the tennis game of energy and ideas is being played there is great potential for the enormous force to come through. And the way to get the audience to play tennis is by making work that is completely and utterly HONEST. Get to the CRUX of the piece. Find the HUMANITY. Find the head AND the guts. Find the beautiful AND the ugly, because the two are very much alive in the human experience. Be as TRUTHFUL to the human experience as possible, and THEN the gateway is open to something
For info on BU alum Moritz von Stuelpnagel visit http://www.moritzvs.com/
Otto, Rudolf, and John Harvey W. “Mysterium Tremendum.” The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry Into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and Its Relation to the Rational. New York: Oxford UP, 1958. 12-13. Print.