Monday, April 19, 2010
Unrelenting Truth-Sense of our Entrails! by Natasha Terranova
A desire for immediacy attracts me to the theater. I long to experience the indefinable breadth of our human experience, culminating in a single moment, or series of moments. I find it in the theatrical, before my eyes, penetrating my ears, surrounding me as the great globe itself. A string of words, a string of moments, are as contemporary as our need to experience them; written two thousand years or two thousand seconds ago, we know contemporary language when we hear it because it speaks to something so far beyond our comprehension that we are forced to rely on the unrelenting truth-sense of our entrails.
Why, then, am I so often estranged on paper from the words of writers with whom I do, literally, share space and time? Why do they seem so overly clever, so intellectual, and so dry, like an almond? And then how do I characterize the transformation that occurs once their words resonate in the chest and resound in the theater? Possibly the inherent theatricality and sophistication emerging on stage is born in the conflation of an almost-too-cleverness on paper with the living, full-bodied, bare-naked, moment to moment, energetic truth of theater.
Reading Sarah Ruhl’s “Melancholy Play” did not generate a sense of longing. Instead, I was removed from the visceral by an awareness of what I thought the writer was trying to get me to feel. The beauty of the piece only began to emerge once I experienced the impact of two characters, standing two inches apart, both closer and further from one another as any two people have ever been—breathing together, building a rhythm together and breaking it down together, experiencing a parallel weighted legato giving way to a parallel light and airy staccato. Sarah Ruhl does not break the fourth wall, she simply dispels the illusion that there ever was one.
Contemporary language contains the capacity to hit and engage an audience via a self-awareness that refuses to limit the size of the theater. In a successful artistic execution there is no room for commentary; There is no exit provided by which to get outside of the artifice. Today we are exposed at a rate of ten thousand flashbulbs per microcosm, but it has always been the challenge of a contemporary playwright to betray unrelenting scenic life, to imagine, endow, and record the seemingly disparate array of images in which we are eternally steeped. The scripted material remaining may not be a traditional narrative, but slowly reveals itself as a story.