Tuesday, April 27, 2010

David Mamet’s Theatre

David Mamet shares insights and clear opinions about the American theater in his latest book, “Theatre”; 27 essays, 155 pages from the writer of "Glengarry Glen Ross". Live theater, alive and well in Kansas City, endures as a hothouse of reality where the audience makes immediate choices without remote controls and CGI. You may not want to read this book, however.

The author likens great theater to a ride together on an elevator, rather than a lecture. The audience is the “habitat” for the play, he contends. Plays need only text and actors in this director’s opinion. While great theater was born in the totalitarian atmosphere of Russia, American live theater is an example of democracy in action. New York, now “New York Land” in Mamet’s assessment, panders to tourists who wish to see a spectacle.

He believes that the purpose of drama is to keep them in their seats. Theory has its place, however, great actors become great performing on the stage in front of paying customers. Actors should keep their head up and look into the audience; no one wishes to study one’s forehead. Stand at an angle. Angles are powerful. Relax and refrain from gesturing because when you do, people may just notice. Speak up. As a writer, keep them wondering what happens next. Drama is godless. Drama is about lies. Comedy and tragedy have god-like rules.

For a bit of reality that isn’t real but may be more real than your usual reality show choices, season your life with some live theater, drama if you dare. And don’t read this book unless you’re in the mood to have some of your balloons popped…for example: a great American poet – Hank Williams, not T.S. Eliot. Eliot was a quitter who went to Europe.

- “…no adult New Yorker went to see Mama Mia!, for to do so would have been culturally repugnant, branding him a dufus"

- "...the dramatist has two teachers...the speaking one is the audience...the silent one is the empty page”.

You may not want to read this book…

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