Daniel Is Always Wrong

An Ongoing Conversation between Joe and Daniel Kucan


 DANIEL: I’ve always been a little more into political theater than you have, I think. But I’m completely frozen in regards to the jackass who just shot up our hometown. Do we do something? Do we make a piece of theater? What role, if any, do we play in an event like this? Which, I guess, raises the question of what role does any type of theater play in the face of this kind of lunacy?

  JOE: From my perspective, the best that theatre can hope to do is tell the stories of everyone involved in the most honest, incisive, microscopic way possible. That being said, it’s easy to want to paint such pictures with broad, enormous strokes, over-saturating the work with the idea of a ‘big message’ or a ‘whole truth.’ I think that type of theatre runs a great risk of appearing to be nothing more than self-serving posturing – trying to make a statement because of the over-whelming feeling that a statement must be made. The only way such ideas are ever successfully delivered is by presenting the experiences of people in a way that allows for personal connection, reflection and identification. That’s how stories are delivered; that’s how minds are changed.

  I don’t know. Le Mis felt like it painted in pretty broad strokes; Evita, Rent… I think a certain amount of grandstanding is sorta expected, isn’t it?

  What was Les Miz created in response to? What about Evita? Neither exploded on the scene in dramatic reaction to a traumatic event. Rent? Broad strokes about homelessness among the disenfranchised, AIDS stricken youth of NYC – gee, how long has THAT been going on; it’s hardly reactionary. Your examples prove (and miss) my point – specificity in story-telling allows for big themes, big ideas (and big production numbers!) without being overtly reactionary. I think it’s the notion of ‘reactionary theatre’ that I instinctively reject.

  Okay then, the Laramie Project. I think this is a really good example of a show that was born out of a true and honest sense of curiosity. How could such a thing happen? What sort of community can produce a person capable of such a monstrosity? But maybe this is what you are saying; that the work can’t BEGIN from a place of prejudicial political bias, but rather from where all good stories come, which is generally curiosity and a quest for truth. If that’s the case, then why can’t the same be said about the Vegas shooting?

  Because to me, it still feels reactionary. What was the first thing you thought when you heard about the event? “Gee, I wonder what makes a man do such a horrible thing? Was he crazed? Deranged? How can I get to the heart of what creates that sort of violence?” I don’t think so. Those certainly weren’t MY first thoughts. For me, anger, confusion and political nausea aren’t enough to spur interesting theatre. I think it takes time for the elements to present themselves; reaction to an event just isn’t enough.


More to come…


What do you think? Leave us a comment.

4 replies
  1. John Bernstein
    John Bernstein says:

    As is my bent, I shall wax metaphysical. From my perception, this dimension we’re in is about magnification. The issues we humans come to grips with are magnified in this 3D realm so we can better examine them. Why do we wish to examine Love, hate, intolerance, trust, murder, war, greed, courage, etc.? We desire to examine these ideas in order to grow our awareness by looking as deeply at them as we can. A theatrical treatment of the issues at the heart of the Las Vegas shooting would be iluminating, whatever we deem those issues to be.

  2. Brandi
    Brandi says:

    I view “reactionary” in a negative context (as indicated by Timothy), and the descriptor also requires a timeliness of action that theatre – at its best – simply can’t meet. Of the examples discussed in the blog, The Laramie Project was the most chronologically reactive (& only possible relevant example, see below), but it still took 16 months of work before premiering in Denver (another 2 years for the film). While the impulse to create may be immediate in the wake of polictically/socially charged events, theatre collaborators SHOULD allow the project to develop over enough time to ensure the final product can’t be likened to the reaction of a faceless, anonymous internet troll. Other art forms, by their own natures, may not require the same gestation period to ensure quality, but theatre does.

    Also, Daniel is also “wrong” in his suggestion of examples. Les Mis, Evita nor Rent are timely enough to be reactionary. Les Mis in its novel form was published 30 years after the historical events depicted; the musical, another 120 years after that. Rent used current social/political circumstances (of the time) to modernize Puccini’s La Boheme 100 years after its premier, and La Boheme premiered 40 years after it’s source material was published. Evita began development 20 years after Peron’s death. None of these timelines could ever be considered reactionary. They are simply “inspired by” &/or “based on,” not “in reaction to.”

    So let the event of Oct 1, 2017 catalyze creation, but please make sure any theatrical creation offered to audiences take its most complete form possible. That could mean offering a production/series/season with themes such as: “based on true events,” “heroism in modern times,” or “combating social intolerance.” Or it could be as simple as doing what so many already have done: opening a venue to public gatherings of grief/support; participating in community projects dedicated to the memory of; &/or supporting/using other mediums of creation to offer more “reactionary” thoughts.

  3. wilder125
    wilder125 says:

    Interesting conversation. Walking in as a fan from Joe’s former character in C&C. And coming back periodically to see more of this discussion. I hope there’s more to come.


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