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.