Or: How visceral is too visceral?
Or: What happened to immediacy?
Or: How many titles can he give one post?
Over on AWG, Don to the Hall relates some frustration with an audience member refusing to play along with the anti-rules set in Soiree DADA. It's interesting, but I basically agree with Don: the audience member can certainly choose not to play along, but on the same basis, Don can certainly choose to escort him out. I don't know that I would -- it does seem to provide a challenging obstacle for the DADAs -- but that's Don's prerogative.
But the part of the whole thing that struck me with the need to return to thoughtful blogging after the recent dearth thanks to shameless self-promotion is in Don's instruction to his DADAs for future (non-?)troublemakers:
The emphasis is mine. Later, in the comments section, Regan touches on this point (pun only slightly intended):
That's an unfortunate occurrence, and, while I'm curious as to what show it was (and thus the reasoning), it sounds like the cast were entirely unprofessional about the audience contact. Which is no different than being unprofessional about stage combat. At the same time, are we really to a point where audience touching is disallowed from the perspective of the theatre artists as well? And if so, isn't that a signal that it's time for that stigma to be broken back down?
I was recently discussing the problems and possibilities of staging Fernando Arrabal's ...and They Put Handcuffs on the Flowers in today's environment. For those unfamiliar, the script calls for a completely dark room separating the lobby and the theatre. At the door to the room, the stage manager hands off each audience member (separately, splitting up any groups) to a cast member of the opposite sex who leads them into the theatre in a brusque hands-on manner. Arrabal goes so far as to suggest some audience members be carried over the cast member's shoulder. He also notes that if any audience members get nervous or upset that the cast member should be a calming force as well -- it's not all violence and scary; it's about getting the audience into a mindset without causing them to completely disassociate. Regan, Don -- are you saying in essence that this play is no longer feasibly produceable, albeit for different reasons?
As to Regan, protection of the audience is a tricky line to ride. There's a difference between being in harm's way and losing a line of defense by not being in control. An audience member who just got shoved with no warning is in harm's way. An audience member slung over a cast member's shoulder (a cast member who is intimately familiar with the space and has walked it with someone over his shoulder before) has little control and is probably uncomfortable and to a certain degree unprotected. If the latter is a place we're no longer willing to take our audience from time to time, there's a problem. I don't see "protection of the audience" (or "protection of ourselves", for that matter) as primary or even secondary goal of theatre. I know I'm distilling a different meaning than Regan intended, and I do understand the sentiment, but it's a word choice I can't pass up. Little risk results in little discovery.
Don's reasoning is harder to argue. Touching people who are unprepared to be touched can on occasion get ugly, and in today's court-saturated society things getting ugly often equals things getting expensive. My Arrabal-discussing friend mentioned having the audience sign a waiver, which is not a bad idea, but I hate the possibility that we've come to that. It's bad enough that nudity and foul language require a warning -- do we really have to say "Hey everybody, we might touch you during this performance, so don't freak out or anything!" Is physical contact now as taboo as the word 'fuck'? Or as simulated fucking? But I can't argue that to certain people the answer is yes, and physical contact in the theatre is opening a door to a potential (even if ludicrous) lawsuit.
But as an artist, I can't just roll over and say uncle. And I'm in a similar bind myself; I have a play I have written called Consent that I couldn't get produced to save my life. The second act revolves around an interaction with an audience member that most would consider violating. It is in response to the first act, in which an actor is put in a position most would consider violating at the hands of the audience. I don't give details because the Webbernets is a big place and these are details that work best if not known ahead of time -- an impossible task after a while, but no need for me to make it any more impossible. If you're interested, e-mail me for a copy -- it's a very short read. My big challenge in figuring out exactly how (or if) to produce this myself has revolved around this aspect of avoiding legal worries.
From time to time, Don sends a call out on his blog asking where the revolutionaries are. I echo the sentiment. And it seems to fit here. If we make concessions because we might run across idiots and fearmongers, we run risk of playing to idiots and fearmongers. Sometimes we have to have hope in humanity, wish for the best, and just say fuck all and do it.
Also: Who searched for "erotic stories Fran Drescher" this weekend? It's too perfect to be random, but whoever it was, you made me smile...