Charles McNulty has an interesting LA Times piece considering a slew of recent avant-garde/pop hybrid pieces from Wooster Group (Hamlet), Will Power (The Seven), and even Les Freres Corbusier.
While commending all to a degree, when contrasted with the more severe alienating aesthetic of something like The Living Theatre's The Brig (currently touring in LA), he can't help wondering if the new generation of iconoclasts are chickening out a bit.
There's something usually quite rarefied about such theatrically assembled works. The audience, for the most part, is the already initiated or the intrepid few willing to stretch their performing arts paradigms, while more mainstream attendees are typically left scratching their heads. Recall what happened whenYes, it's hard to think of current celebrated enfant terribles actually surviving the poverty and fringe-existence a group like the Living Theatre thrived on forty years ago. But one could counter that the younger generation has less innate scorn for pop culture than did the predecessors (who came of age in the relatively homogonous and limited white-male fare of 50s and 60s Hollywood). In the age of the internet and all things "streaming," the current crop sees no shame in the current multi-cultural pop culture and perhaps a genuine opportunity to reach out to more people and build a bigger community.
Robert Wilson's "The Black Rider" played at the Ahmanson Theatre and subscribers unaccustomed to the stylized storytelling were reported to be leaving in angry droves, some before intermission.
Perhaps this accounts for why the new breed of innovators seems to be rebelling against the example of their sometimes obscure forerunners. Yearning for wider appreciation, these artists want their avant-garde attitude and their accessibility too.
It's an argument at least.
I do agree with McNulty, though, that the sheer indifference to audience pleasure you get from The Brig today is...well, refreshing!