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Dedthtre Hollis Huston Intellectuals, in particular literary intellectuals, are natural Luddites . -C. P. Snow Is the pen really mightier than the sword? Do we artisans of the word really believe so? If we believe it, why are we so frightened of equipment? Why so much contempt for all those vulgar arts which, not content merely to say things, proceed without shame to do things? Why does the intellectual /humanist relegate all such arts to a Siberian exile outside the warm nest of "culture"? Why is it "liberal" to read a play, but merely "professional " to act it? "Liberal" to interpret, "professional" to create? Technology is history's accumulation of the power to do, now rolling downhill with an acceleration that commands even the cloister's notice. We pretend to be amused, but the bile of our envy eats us from within. How can I write the novel, you say, to a seven-minute attention span? How write a poem to be judged as an acidic lyric? The paraphernalia of distribution appall us, and we rightly sense that the demon has done worse than beat us at our game, that he has altered the game itself in his favor, and before we compete we must now anoint ourselves with pitch and brimstone. We would rather, frankly speaking, smash the machines. How much deeper is the rage of the actor, whose ancient craft of presence is now mocked by machines which reduce him from the stature of a god to the minority of a faerie. Why should I carve space for the screen that will flatten it out again? Why should I awaken from my body the voice that touches the eightieth row, when another smaller voice has already arrived 17 there, riding freely on the ether? The camera and the microphone do not prohibit the old magic, but they reduce it to a sideshow. For rhetoric once was natural: it was the way one speaks to the mass; but now it is an affectation, a wasteful choice which, serving no purpose, must be inflated from the outside with purposes that are foreign to it. "Actor Training" still means stage training. The actor knows that he was born on the stage; but he can no longer live there, for he must earn his livelihood in films, commercials, and popular television. In our time, therefore, the actor is a wandering Jew with no homeland to return to. Or rather, his homeland is no home, but a place that must be struggled for against other claims. Art itself is morally dubitable: the price of your opera ticket could have saved lives in Ethiopia. If, therefore, money is to be thrown away on art, is there any excuse for throwing it away inefficiently? How dare we commit our work to the stage, for a few hundred people, when the camera could show it to millions? It is hard to defend such a choice with any recognizable morality. To defend it is to stand against common sense. The film actor feels as if in exile-exiled not only from the stage but from himself. With a vague sense of discomfort he feels inexplicable emptiness: his body loses its corporeality, it evaporates, it is deprived of reality, life, voice, and the noises caused by his moving about ... Luigi Pirandello Is the theatre dead? How would we know? Its senescence is so humiliating. Two thoughts merge in this actor's mind: on the one hand, my deceased grandfather, for whom I could feel no grief, since his last comatose years were an insult to him; on the other, the theatre, whose limbs gave out long ago, and which, if it now passes away, leaves only a wretched existence dishonorable to its memory. "The theatre is dead, and I may not mourn. I peer over the edge of the coffin where, like the bones of an old man, it defies recollection . I do not know who this person is, so small, so unworthy of his allotted space." There will still be actors. The mechanical forms of narrative need artists, and pay them well. But the splendid lie in which the theatre was born, the lie of public intimacy, does...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 17-25
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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