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Archive for the ‘Radio Macbeth’ Category

Reposted from SITI Co.’s own blog: http://siti.collectivex.com/blog/

“I am writing on election morning in Hyde Park, Chicago, Barack Obama’s very own neighborhood.  We are in tech today, Election Day, for Radio Macbeth at the beautiful Court Theatre on the campus of the University of Chicago.  I am full of thoughts and feelings about the world we inhabit and where we are headed.  How will we function productively in the future, this very particular future we are headed into?  The disorienting sensation of these past weeks is oddly familiar. In the wake of shattering worldwide economic and political events we find a certain silence emerging from what the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan calls “the real.”  Our ship has slammed up against the shores of “the real.” The real is what lies behind our daily busyness, our symbols and our imaginative flights.  Markets dive, jobs are cut, consumers stop consuming and the assumptions that we carved out to describe our futures are in jeopardy. Silence arrives because familiar words, sentences and paragraphs are suddenly not sufficient to quell our anxieties.

The market culture and its manufactured desires and materialistic promises have failed miserably.  The unregulated markets resulted in a ravaged landscape of unpaid for despair. In this uncertain and cataclysmic climate, the creative impulse and the art experience is essential. In art we find a direction. The capacity to see, to perceive the world through another’s eyes, to empathize, is a vital sign of a civilized culture. To touch upon the unsaid and find articulate shapes for our present anxieties is the goal of our work together. The myth of economic progress as the answer to our baseline problems is simply not true.  What else can there be?

I have come to understand that the creative act is ultimately action against natural human tendencies.  Left to natural devices, human energy and endeavor moves towards entropy and disintegration. Our lives lead inevitably to decay and death. In the morning we are weighted down by the burden of sleep, requiring a supreme effort to arise and join the world.  The end of a gesture, when not treated with an artistic attack of acceleration, tends to die out. The artistic impulse, in contrast to the entropic direction of a life cycle, rises above the tendency towards death and negation.  The artist searches for lightness and for exactitude in the face of rot and decay.  Fueled by curiosity, energy and hope, we enter the darkness.  We accept the darkness and in that acceptance sometimes we discover a thin vein of light.”

-Anne Bogart

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The Caroline set is being struck.  Kushner & Tesori are back in NYC (their presence at the second-to-last performance, which you may have seen on Chris Jones’s blog here, was a complete surprise to the cast and staff–everyone but Charlie, who was sworn to secrecy).  The cast is moving on to other shows, middle school, or childbirth.

And here in the office we are getting ready to welcome SITI Company back to Chicago.

The last time SITI was here was exactly two years ago, when they brought Hotel Cassiopeia, a gentle and moving exploration of the effects of deceleration, quiet, stillness, and non-narrative emotional storytelling disguised as a biographical play about Joseph Cornell.  Not every audience found a way in to the piece, which opened with Barney O’Hanlon softly reciting a list of sugary foods while a Satie Gymnopedie unfolded underneath his voice.  I saw Hotel, I think, seven times.  Something about being asked to slow myself down, to contemplate images instead of following events, and watching SITI’s peculiar performance style (characterized by the performers’ extraordinary physical control and spatial awareness) was an aesthetic palette cleanser for me.  I was engaged, yet calm, and my mind was given plenty of room to wander around the space while I watched.  It reminded me that “Twice as fast, twice as loud: twice as good!” is not actually an immutable rule of theater (though it is an immensely useful note under some circumstances).  Every time I saw Hotel I left refreshed, like I’d meditated or taken a bath.

Radio Macbeth isn’t going to be like Hotel Cassiopeia.

For one thing, instead of the curious, wandering, everyday poetry of Charles Mee, the text is entirely Shakespeare’s.  What SITI brings to the text (beyond the de rigeur and aforementioned physical control and awareness derived from their unique training method), and what makes it “Radio” is a new staging that emphasizes not only the play’s spooky horror elements but also its history as theater.  Because unlike, for instance, Orson Welles’s “voodoo” Macbeth or any number of other high concept productions that layer the trappings of a particular world onto the play, Radio Macbeth works by appearing to strip the play down, removing the theatricality, and showing you a group of actors, in street clothes, in a theater.  Except not really–there’s still a set, and a costume design, and the world isn’t our own, nor is it Shakespeare’s.  It’s a world where all productions cohabitate, where the thousand versions of Banquo’s ghost sit on top of each other and watch the play, comparing notes.  What’s it like for an actor to step into four-hundred-year-old blood-sogged shoes, aware of every Mackers before him, but unable to change the story’s course for all his knowledge?

Because most of us have seen it before, many times.  Why bother pretending it’s all happening for the first time right now, like we don’t all know exactly how it ends?  Do we need another Macbeth like that, even if the soldiers are carrying guns or their uniforms are vaguely Nazi or the witches are made up like (scary nurses/prostitutes/schoolmarms/fill-in-the-blank)?  By acknowledging the play’s history, SITI Co. are actually asking a bigger question, one with more immediate implications than “Can Macbeth murder his way to the throne?” or even “To what lengths will unchecked ambition drive a man?” or whatever other dramatic question you want to make the spine of your production.  They’re asking “Why have we been watching this for all these years?  What is it in this brutal, insane play that we want to see so badly?  What is it in us that wants to see it?”

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