Sunday, April 22, 2012

Theatre of the Liminal

This weekend, I had the privilege of presenting at SETC's Theatre Symposium. However, as opposed to talking about that, I want to talk about the keynote address by Dr. Tom F. Driver of Union Theological Seminary. It was, quite simply, one of the wisest pieces on the nature of theatre that I've ever heard. For those familiar with his book Liberating Rites, much of it may not be a surprise.
Theatre is not a dream factory, but the playground of maybe.
In that which Dr. Driver refers to at the "Blessed Assurance of Perhaps," he points out that doubt is integral to faith, and that strong dogmatism will kill both the theatre and religion. In this day of uncertainty, strife, and a feeling almost of mourning the fall of the American nation, what can theatre, ritual, and religion offer that is really relevant to contemporary America? In an America that is ideologically devoted to individualism, but the conditions of the world force us closer and closer together. And so, if performative practices are to remain relevant and healthy for today society, they must embrace liminality. To define liminality, we must take a step back and examine the structure of basic Rites of Passage.
1.) Separation (Creation of a Path)
2.) Liminality (Transition Point- Creation of a Commmunity)
3.) Return (Transformation of the Status Quo)
Theatre and its performative colleagues must begin to reach towards that tipping point that creates the communal experience.  Theatre magic makes a community of strangers, when it works.  However, no single technique will get you there, and we must keep in mind that they are simply tools as opposed to ends in themselves.

By striving for the transcendence and transience of performance, we can create a community out of our individuals, but we as artists must always prepare the way.

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