Seminars in theatre; Episode 26 of 31
This is seminars in theatre a series of discussions with leading members of the theatrical profession who comment on the problems and pleasures of life in the theatre. Here now is the host of seminars and theatre Richard Pyatt. Good evening welcome to another of our discussions on theater as many of you listen to the program might know we're constantly berating the institution known as theater because it doesn't seemingly live up to anything. And tonight we have. Along the same lines kind of discussion that intends to bring a different kind of meaning to traditional fear. Our guests include Richard Castellan it who is the author of the theatre of mixed means by Dial Press and actually a contant of the book and the
ideas expressed will represent a springboard from which our discussion will begin. The concept of mixed means just briefly are mixed means. Theater rejects traditional dramatic techniques as object of plot development characterization and even a time speech in an attempt to actively engage the spectator in the experience being created and demanded more individual response to all kinds of sensations and the elements include new in this new theatre include music dance light sculpture painting. And modern technology along with rigid cost allotments we have Meredith Monk who is involved in dance theatre. One of her works that is represent her as I have been told is the 16 in a 16 millimeter earrings which is number formed at the Judson theatre. And we'll talk more about
her activities and her background as we get along. I can do is a director or creator of environmental theater and art and his background his play writing and Laurence Kornfeld who is the resident director of the Judson poet theater and currently has a production at the Cherry Lane Theater. His production is called encircled by Goto and start to begin by the way Richard cost a lot. I was born in New York City because AB The Great Brown University in American history at Columbia University as a Fulbright scholar in 64 and 65 he attended Kings College University of London. I'm being waved that presumably goes the other Want me to say any more about him I don't know but well I'm going to get her out of that and that's very much history we're talking about the present and the future. And now we've moved up to the present
immediately. And Richard what I thought of mixed means I read a little bit about what it intends but means is not a new concept regarding any kind of before me. It seems that mixing the media or mixing the techniques in the environment has always been with us. Yes but it's the way things are mixed. That separates the New Theatre from the old. For instance theatre is always use of lights and plots and new technologies but traditional theatre a literary theatre the emphasis to focus the major point of interest for the critic and the Spectator and the performer and director alike was the script which was the script of lines dialogue. Further back the primitive theater was a mix means theater in the way that I talk about it in mixing things on equal status so that lights props technology a performer have a kind of
equal and equal with an expressive mean. Expressive with the way they're organized. But what separates the New Theatre from the primitive theatre is that these are these various means tend to be used non synchronously disjunctive Lee you're likely chaotically or no I use the word order disordered rather than disorder disorderly there's a difference I mean in the sense when you go to see a Balanchine ballet dancers all move together and it goes with them and the lights go with the beat. This kind of thing doesn't happen in a new theatre you won't get that kind of synchronous of the various elements so that I think are the two essential differences. But what interests me more were talking about my conception of mixed means theatre and the things that it comes out of in my conception which means that it comes out of theatre. I've had literary theatre certain tendencies in there like Otto in a Living Theatre. It comes out of tendencies and dance tendencies in sculpture and painting and music and music for instance the concern of the space and to music is performed.
Cage I was into that Stockhausen into that cage is into that. What interests me though is in development of certain artists where certain pieces were music pieces or certain pieces with dance pieces and then all of a sudden they are into the realm of mixed means theatre you can see it in Merce Cunningham between his works prior to 1962 and his works in semi winter branch in variations 5 which are 30 pieces you can see it in Meredith Monk or to Meredith Monk's work with certain pieces. Prior to today 165 were very much dance pieces they were concerned with expressions of movement but starting a 16 millimeter earrings. This particular she was into whole theatrical conceptions where she was using film let's ask Mogadon something that you've established already. The idea is one of the ideas that you've highlighted in the major premises of the theatre of mixed means seems to be a disordered order and that again just to state it another way is the desire
to not follow a script not follow any kind of choreographic plan not to have the means criticised that's not entirely true. All right then in order to get at the truth I just want to ask you when Richard got to want to mention that. In a Balanchine ballet we see all of the dancers moving in unison. We hear the score following their rhythmic pattern and yet the feat of mixed means does not want this. This is as simple as I can put it. When you are for example your work that we've been talking about the 16 millimeter earrings. Why don't you want this unison. Why don't you want this rhythm. Well I think there is a little bit of confusion about these issues I think that some people that are working in new dance and a new theater are are definitely working with the idea of Unison I think where ballet is different is that ballet is dealing with one technology which is extremely specific and is in a tradition.
Whereas what people are doing now is much more concerned with mixing technologies like the technology of movement with the technology of film with the technology of sound. However Are these mixtures are sometimes conceptually just as planned and just as synchronized as anything else as a bow I would never bet you don't move you don't have things where the pieces where these elements move synchronously as Peyton they synchronously as a ballet dancer. Well I don't know I think that's that would be an interesting idea too I think it would be very interesting to do that. By now I think of even Rayner's work and she's definitely interested in a certain kind of precision and unison movement which is absolutely precise to the last degree. All right we'll get back to this because I want to bring out something I want to move to ask a large cornfield question he has a play presumably a play I call it that running at your event there. Did you write this. Richard Stein
wrote it right. What is your function as a director with it. I interpreted it and I said it on stage with the actors and the composer. You followed her. Now she gave her stage directions script Gertrude Stein play consists of this play consisted of nine and a half pages of sentences giving no characters no sack no plot and that is for us to decide. And this is my third Gertrude Stein played involving the same. The mixed means if you will to see this it would look on look very sad very planned Well it is by this time the actual working out of the play was one of using people. Using them as their own characters finding out what they had to offer not just mine and the authors say idea of what it should be it was a communal effect. I have I want to get you something that you've been united and saying about
the mixing technologies. After about 12 or so years of doing plays and events and happenings in environments that if you want to call them I discovered actually that I don't like technology. He was in almost every one of the things I've done I've tried to eliminate the machine and the there's much mechanical things is possible but I'd not just try to eliminate them. I've tried to substitute a machine with people and this is sort of the reverse of what's going on I don't know if anybody else is aware of this than me. I think that that's very much what's going on I think there I mean I'm working that way now to I think I did I'm working on something which is extremely static and it's much more aligned to what's happening in painting and sculpture now than it is to theatre at all. And I decided that at this time I really want to eliminate the film and the tape recorder. Situation I just was so close with your work
because it was like. My what Knology. Oh Larry it seems to me that what you're doing is using a mixed means process as I describe and have to put together your place here lately as people do their own thing here letting you know you have a freedom in the US. Also what area almost post-literate ideology. Richard let me say let me interrupt you for a second because from your book you said that very few. This is not very popular with audiences. If you had to take a number you'd say about a thousand persons really have attended mixed means performances of any kind. So with that in mind I just want to establish a base in a frame of reference for another few minutes. For our audience by mixed means we're talking about specifically what. In the book or here or here I'm talking about a kind of theater which happens in a setting in which is theatre in a sense some people gather together
and their mutual concerns use Ken's definition. Some people got you can put it some people gathered together to act upon others in various ways. A theatre which is different from the literary theatre as we know it the traditional Renaissance theatre although it doesn't necessarily happen outside for Seanie and some of these pieces happen inside prison rooms and explains the Percy name situation which is very crucial. And I just I just would leave it there now. Now as I said before in development of certain artists you can see the difference between their dance pieces and their theater pieces and the mix means there are pieces and music pieces in the mix means there are pieces there literary pieces in them explains pieces. Now the question I wanted to ask Larry since he is working very much out of the mix means vocabulary is why do you use a script. A literary script written by an eminent authors no less and let us that be is what I was getting because you seem to me to and this is quite singular in your experience because I always have.
Because you come out of a theatre to have him come out of the theatre tradition the tradition of the Living Theatre where I practiced and as you know because as a general manager and assistant director there. And the first mixed means of production I was ever involved to it and I have a saw was the Living Theatre production of The Merry Maiden by Jack McCloud with the score by cage. I was the pianist in the pit for that went to Langley Langley It was very minimal. I mean the language was very minimal it was from the IChing. And. I use Gertrude Stein in the same way. If I do a play by Paul Goodman I don't use it the same way I use literate theatre literary theatre plays because there are some literary plays I'm interested in and I to have you done things with literary scripts. Oh yeah. Well I've used just words and then I've done things. Try not to use words at all. No can do is a playwright or at least that's his background. We understand that from your coinage. Richard
that's a literary figure it has a specific object a specific objective that is if we go to see any play running we go to say barefoot in the park we go to see the exercise any one of these plays. The stanza there is some meaning and some plot and some meta conventions really I objected. Right right but what I'm establishing here is we know the audience knows what is expected of it and it goes there for some mutually expressed purposes right now. But it often goes to see how the conventions which are familiar to them are fulfilled that's a step ahead of this elementary step because a new theory. You can't go for that kind of expectation. You're not what I would you know what conventions are there although conventions do arise in fact conventions do arise. Ultimately because there's no place to go but into a conventional sense unless you break out into a new innovation I mean conventions arise in the sense of somebody
gets a good idea or somebody else's library level to do it again himself because you can't repeat a good idea doesn't it. It does yes and the whole lot on guard notion is you shouldn't either but people do. In other words you've established and I'm still trying to get to can do it. Well I think I think they can very much took the leap that we're talking about you know with Larry in a sense that he hasn't used literary scripts recently but you started out composing literary scripts for performances right here let's see if I can toss it back to you in a form that you can relate to because it's that I'm sitting here at this moment confronted with the same dilemma that's confronted me in the past. 12 or 13 years since I began to write plays the paper today has this headline. Columbia students hold Dean captive to second page because we all reacted to that earlier. And the other was there is no reaction now we don't know how this incident is going and it may end as a tragedy
maybe the man will not survive this in some kind of way we don't know what the result of this protest is at this particular time. Here's a dramatic happening which is unfolding right as we're sitting here talking now on the second page but the headlines are mass peace protest awaits LBJ in Chicago gloomy on peace talks. Is the F-111 in the air more grounded and then a list of the war dead women hating the whole idea and concept of cause and effect. And this is just a happening. Well no the point is this. People who are responsible for communicating and taking who have accepted theatre as a technique at a certain point and are now retracing some of my own experience were confronted with the fact that the daily newspaper with its
pill of the improbable coming at you the street event the occurrence that you you were confronted with right then was very often more dramatic and had a more impact on your life than then. The kind of thing that you might sit down to write a play about and I had several reactions what what could you do as a playwright where you could sit down and in fact write a play about it which might or might not be produced for six or seven months at the earliest. By then you'd already had to assume how many hundreds of other experiences similar to these. The problem then became Could one expand vocabulary and get out of the limitation of the literary construct some form of making an intelligent response to this kind of experience. At that time
and on that spot maybe in the street wherever it happened to demand it so that the step was then taken to see what what else could be included in the vocabulary of common now. If he was a little curious thing with words it's plain right. W r i g h he plays a rought. They don't have to be written they may in fact be written but the intention has always been that they are constructed as a boat are constructed and the volcanic in the vocabulary need not only be the literary one. So you're looking at a group of people who at various times of the explored only other vocabularies that are available to someone wishing to go and I think we all confront the question of the theatrical environment you invite people in to do something to them and what you remember back to what has been done to you in this environment and what is important and certainly in my theatregoing
experience. Although I trained in history and literature it's not been the literary theatre that has moved me as much as the nonliterary theatre as I call it and move me as much in the way that art can move you particularly in America particularly in the past few years. My theory of something to do with conventions with conventions going stale particularly in a literary theatre in America at this time. I mean how many times have I seen that character stage left scream that he's a failure come stateside or call on a table put his head in his hands and sob. Whether this is whether the problem is with the medium itself you simply can't do anything more with literary theatre or with the directors themselves if they can't do anything more. I haven't quite decided certainly what Larry is doing suggests it's not the problem with the media but the problem with directors but there is a sense of this. So what do you mean. Yeah I mean that your originality if your
direction in avoiding particularly these these kind of town cliches suggested at the beginning that directors can overcome the problems is going to be intrinsic to the medium and I think well let's take an example the clattering of literary theatre that is broken away somewhat from convention take applied by pen to take the birthday party or take the homecoming. This is literary theatre. Certainly one of the few you know a few valid recent examples are researchers recent examples that strike me as valid. Yeah but then the argument here too I mean or they did the turn of mind is that you all of you discussed it with conventional and traditional literary theatre because it doesn't offer you stimuli sufficiently to make an impression upon you or get rock true. Well that is you know as you say it is you know you know I don't think any of us say we're disgusted with what I know I did with it. Well that's OK. It doesn't excite us as much although I think each one of us have could name a whole
list of literary plays that we would love to Ida see or be in or do that's not the point of what we discuss it with is not a matter matter of either or. Just that this happens to be what we're doing and many of us are interested in certain exciting things that excite us and new things because you do things unless you're doing things simply to do things and if you're doing something simply to do something without any do you know usually it has more validity and interest here. Certainly in terms I want to say I matter that yes thank you things because they do well then that would be an anomaly an eccentricity with your story and everyone is entitled to have eccentricities. And we find eccentricity as in conventional theater and we find eccentricities in everyone. But if we're talking about a meaningful experience for an audience which must put up with eccentricity is no matter where the eccentricities come from then we have a certain larger responsibility if we are publicly exposing our eccentricities. You call
originality eccentricity. I don't call any originality eccentricity. What do you imputing. I am only taking you at your word you said. Theoretically if Suppose you said yes you're only doing this because you wanted to do it why do you do your job now. What is my job. What is it. Why do I do it. What is it my duty. Well what it is is innate magic why I do it is problematic. Why do you do. You see we could go on endlessly but I want to ask me the thing question NO NO NO NO NO NO. I think I think what we were trying to get at is the notion of art as. Now I'm going back I can't follow that. I don't know but you see I don't I don't think there's a problem and it sort of is in your book too which I think is a marvelous book. Thank you. The critic does not have to be justified. Neither does the artist. They're not responsible to each other as much
as the critic would like to think so. As much as many artists would like to think so. Our head here at the table the other day Richard. You are not responsible to me and I'm not responsible to you your job is interviewing me. Mind you I that's not being interviewed. My job is running a director being an artist. I don't have to have a reason for what I'm doing. Other than that I can do it. I don't even have to have a justification before the advance. Right that's a very selfish personal outlook and you're entitle to it but we're not talking about you because you're relatively unimportant. What we're talking about is an audience which is relatively important in terms of a conglomerate mass trying to receive some impression. And that's what we're talking about you get your impression of when they go to the world but my work in this medium theater as opposed to music where you also get interested as opposed to dancing.
But I do work with music and dancing. OK. Because because because theater is a conglomerate art. Because I like it if I think they're the problem. I absolutely almost with a few with few exceptions I'm very disinterested in literary theatre period. As a statement and that is mostly because I think that because of a number of things that are happening in our society right now there is a definitely a change of consciousness certainly in the younger people and I think that what's going to happen in a few years is that for once and I see that as a hopeful thing is that people are now becoming a little bit more in tune with themselves as a unified body and mind situation it's the old dualism of body and mind and I am and I think what literary Fair has done is detach those two situations where an actor primarily is are dealing with the way the verbal word line situation first and then. Working with the body as a secondary source.
Bad actors do that. But let's talk about the good actor for the moment. Let's let's assume for the moment that we can delineate Laurence Olivier is an excellent actor a man of the theater but he's a man of words and isn't used to it he's a man of body and uses his body. I've seen him several times to clean it all and he went he would not strike me that way comparison presenter someone like Merce Cunningham suppressions. The difference there is it emerged most going in has a dancers presence. Yes but he doesn't have the other dimension. You see we're talking about absences of dimensional facets I mean and what we're talking about is the amalgamation. But you were speaking of the theater of mixed means which includes. The utilization of all kinds of means kinetically. Tactile e skull drilling whatever to make some kind of impression. Right but now what we want to find out is what impression are you trying to create through the theater of mics.
Now how you get to the critical question in the book. I did something a little bit unusual. In talking about any new art particularly an art that is between arts or between historical art you get into the problem of how do you talk about it. Do you use a language in the case the new language of dance the language of music languages culture language of painting. There is no fixed language particularly not yet since this art as I conceive it only about a decade old. So what I did in the book was used as explanatory chapters. My conversations with the various various major practitioners. Who cam out of the various parts in the sense that Kendall he was once in the literary theatre and how great was once in dance and John Cage's once in music Rauschenberg Oldenburg and Whitman and once painters and sculptors. And now as I said for these chapters I use conversations and in the course of the conversation it was after all not a real conversation but a fourth conversation of our conversation a fabricated conversation we developed a
- Seminars in theatre
- Episode Number
- Episode 26 of 31
- Producing Organization
- WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-26 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “Seminars in theatre; Episode 26 of 31.” 1968-07-02. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 27, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-hx15rp7s>.
- APA: Seminars in theatre; Episode 26 of 31. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-hx15rp7s