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ACTS OF CRITICISM Bonnie Marranca The following speech was delivered by Bonnie Marranca on April 15, 1985 on the occasion of receiving the 1983-84 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for her book Theatrewritings. I thought that since today is April 15, I might speak of the taxonomy of criticism, and, in particular, what it is I think I'm doing and why I'm doing it. One of the reasons I do what I do, that is, write, is that it is all I have ever done or wanted to do as a way of being in the theatre. I think of it less and less as criticism and more and more as, simply, writing, and perhaps that is why I called my book Theatrewritings. In the Anglo-Saxon tradition there is too much distinction between what is called criticism and what is called writing. I look forward to seeing those borders abolished in a new cosmopolitanism of the pen. With the same stroke, I look forward to seeing advances in the social sciences incorporated into the humanities for a richer, more pluralistic account of the contemporary world and all of its artifacts. Anthropology and literary criticism are beginning to have the same texture of desire. What is wonderful about writing is its ability to re-imagine worlds in endless possibilities, and what is more remarkable, even dangerous, about theatre 9 is its ability to demonstrate the potentiality of future worlds in their very possibility of being acted by human beings living now. Increasingly, what intrigues me is to read the future in works of the past and to read the past in works of the present-simply, to find a way to make writing live in historical and aesthetic time. In Edward Said's graceful phrasing the world, the text, and the critic form an ineluctable trilogy that shapes being in the state of writing. That state also has a politics which is, finally, a matter of taste. The question before us now is not so much how to make a living in the theatre, but how to make a life in the theatre. Where does theatre, with its obvious identity crisis, fit in the culture, at this time of crisis in contemporary life? Even more to the point, what will theatre do, now that life itself is experienced more and more according to a theatrical paradigm? What is it that will make being in the theatre important to us today? I just returned last month from 10 weeks of teaching at the University of California in San Diego. During that time I lived near the Pacific Ocean and spent many hours walking along the beach, thinking about these questions. The ocean in front of me was like an endless blank page that my thoughts could never fill up. Consequently, all the writing that I did in this period was in invisible ink. I was only writing in the landscape. Italo Calvino once wrote, "There is no better place to keep a secret than in an unfinished novel." I believe the same can be said of the essay. Among the ecologies of theatre, I began to think of the promise of culture as horticulture, and myself as a naturalist, so to speak. Theatre appeared as an endangered species. This way of thinking seemed to me to point to an all encompassing humanism that would embrace biological, social, ecological and political issues in the study of an art form in relation to its environment, its culture-in other words, its livingness. In this context, critical writing is not merely an activity but a way of life, an attitude toward living. It is the same verb, to cultivate, that gives definition both to cultivation of the land and of the human body. And sometimes in history knowledge grows on trees. It is the promise of worldliness that makes writing so powerful a way of being . I love the idea of "worldliness." That is what attracts me to beloved writers such as Anton Chekhov, Marguerite Yourcenar and Hannah Arendt. In fact, it was Arendt who wrote: "Art works clearly are superior to all other things; since they stay longer...


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