by chris mills
Former: What makes a classic? Yeah, that’s what I’m asking. You may say I’m remedial (hell, perhaps you already have), but that’s today’s query. BECAUSE I happen to be in a company that is doing a production off Death of A Salesman in the fall (Oct 22, 14th St. Y theatre—c’mon down), and I read yesterday that Avery Brooks is to star in a production at Oberlin, directed by Justin Emeka, a professor of theater and Af-Am studies. I, of course, both have and am developing a set of reasons as to why this particular Miller (not my favorite), why Miller (easier for me to answer) and what the particular joy is about entering into a space SO mapped out, SO well-trod, so known. And what it might mean for both maker and viewer to come out on the other side. What do we learn from investigating what's already been investigated?
It sounds like a loaded question, but I mean it with all honesty (and weird joy, because theater is so caught up in the resuscitation of what already been done).
Latter: Information. I mentioned Jake Hooker’s show, What We Should Judge When We Judge… to you and got a chance to see it last night. And it was a delightful take on the “performative lecture,” which is a form I love and think is developing as more and more people take up its concerns. For me, it’s kind of like the explosion of “performance art” (a term I hate to use as it became—deservedly so, in many instances—a catch-all for bad work) in the 80s. It was a moment in which there was a kind of power as artists and others decided that they were able, and had the right, to make live art. But, what’s interesting and different in this 2008 performance chapter, The Performance Lecture is that it often deals with some deep or arcane or philosophically dense subject. And the subject (last night’s started with Greek Lyric poetry—remember iambic vs. trochaic? Pindar, Sappho and Anacreon?) is important to the piece and well-examined but also functions (in the best use of the form) as a springboard to ruminations that range far and wide, frequently returning to questions about “the human condition.” It’s a different form than the well-made play, say, which shows these questions; the performance lecture instead asks/asks about these questions through a veil of information, rather than through a creation of detailed realism. And what is the query, Chris Mills (you might be asking)? My question to you is: What works for you?