I am interested in this exchange, of course, because my life is spent determining the relationship between story and idea. Story equals narrative theatre, traditional theatre. It's great, and I love story-based theatre, the core of western civilization, as a matter of fact.
BUt theatre that goes beyond narrative looks into ideas. Such theatre prefers form in defiance of content. Generally, maybe it's true that idea-based theatre tends also to be formless, the so-called story may wander all over the place in non-linear fashion. BUt the idea gets looked at in this kind of theatre, as if looking at a prism: we can see it in all its facets. The storyline of a traditional play features essential conflict through dramatic action, ends up in resolution or some melodramatic device, and not clarity about an idea.
Yes, the best traditional theatre may also include ideas, such as Ibsen's ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE where the story is about a person who reports contaminated water in the supply system, and is a pariah as a result; but we get to consider the abuse of wealthy people when confronted by the reality of a danger to the community, the idea of this.
It must be important to hear good stories, especially new ones, not deriving from old stories. And surely it's important to know about ideas if we are to continue to improve our society and generate new ways to look at our culture.
Had I been better prepared when Curt interviewed me for this article, I might have added some zingers. But the truth is that we seek more and better ways to do what we do as performers, and this is how we get tested. The ways in which we interact or not with things in performance we know little about, that are beyond the universes from which we all emerge, our college training programs and the like, these factors are what make the avant garde. The avant garde consists of artists who seek to find new ways to say the truth, search for the truth. These artists conjoin into smallish groups, and try to use their skills for the purpose of unveiling something.
In my view, it's more adventurous to make a performance about an idea, or ideas. But stories are cool, too.
And allow me to correct something: 7 Stages has not cut back on our mission or what we do. We are making several new music-type performances that premier this year and next; and we are also producing Jim Grimsley's lovely story, MR Universe, not exactly a traditional play, but certainly one with experimental roots. And we do continue to present avant garde companies, like this year's Art Spot from New Orleans, and Dah Teatar from Serbia.
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