Great Reckonings in Little Rooms by Bert O. States

Great Reckonings in Little Rooms: On the Phenomenology of Theater by Bert O. States, begins with the chapter: The World On Stage, wherein States establishes the dynamic of audience to the stage by examples of the child actor, the animal on stage, and the clock. He also discusses a conundrum of Moliéres. Let me summarize the first three examples. First, the child actor typically creates in the mind of the audience a reaction such as "look how well the child is acting..." thus taking an audience member out of the play. The problem here is not with the child but how theater requires the things of the world to represent the very things they are, whenever they are placed on stage. Or in the words of Peter Handke, on stage, a chair is a chair pretending to be another chair. Children, being generally naive to this gimmick, when they are placed on stage, break the semiotic spell because we have a hard time believing they can pretend to be anything other than themselves. Second, animals have the same limitations and States's example of Launce's dog is perfect because the natural reactions of any dog remain in sync with Launce's bit where he asks the dog questions and interprets the arbitrary reactions conveniently within the framework of the script. Works every time. But so do magic eight balls. Why animals take us out of the play typically rests upon their unpredictability. (My father has a great story about a goat relieving himself in the footlights during a performance of Tea House of the August Moon.) Was this tension of the child on stage or the animal what caused W.C. Fields to recommended never working with either? Third, the clock is inanimate and mechanical yet it takes us out of the play because it is asynchronous to the perceived temporal flow of the narrative. And Finally, in the case of "Moliére playing Moliére in the Impromtu at Versailles... Moliére is not Moliére rather Moliére plus a Moliére text or rather Moliére minus the freedom to "be himself."" (35) This seriously complicates the notion that "all the world is a stage." Or does it? 

Image: Moliére's Chair,  Robert Wilson Collection Photo: Antoine Bootz

1 comment:

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