Monday, October 27, 2008

Theater as collective imagination

“The only reality of the theater exists in the mind of the audience. That audience looks collectively at what is going on on the stage and collectively imagines that this is real... But what is more fundamental is the notion that when everybody laughs together... at that moment we are bound together not by our bodies sitting in the theater but by a collective imagination. At that moment we understand the lie that what we think is only our own, that our internal lives are only our own. At that point our collective imaginations become one imagination and my internal life becomes the same as your internal life, which is what Aristotle understood when he analyzed tragedy. It’s a collective act in which we collectively understand something about being a community together. The moment we understand that, feel it, we feel a kind of responsibility in which we must collectively help and take responsibility for each other. That is part of the definition of our humanity and, if you like, if it’s not a contradiction in terms, our animal humanity.”

-- Simon McBurney, director of the current Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, starring John Lithgow, Patrick Wilson, Dianne Wiest and Mrs. Tom Cruise aka Katie Holmes (the latter two “sad casualties of Mr. McBurney’s high-concept approach,” declares Ben Brantley)

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