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Tarlan Rasulov - MANIFESTO XXL : BACK TO THE FUTURE OF THEATRE

The theatre is a 'living dead'. It is neither dead nor alive. It is lifeless: devoid of life, devoid of vitality, having lost all its life-giving power. This Manifesto is dictated by the desire to see theatre alive again. Theatre people usually say that cinema is dead - art and theatre is alive. But theatre has long ceased to be different from cinema. Although it is claimed by inertia that theatre is alive, we see lifeless art on stage.

Only living theatre can transform and transfigure.

Only a living theatre puts the human being above the idea.

Only a living theatre loves life more than speculative ideas about it.

Only a living theatre can give birth to the new.

Only a living theatre...

 

1. THE THEATRE OF THE COPYBOOK MAXIMS

Man is the only living being capable of creating theatre. Theatre is a universal cultural phenomenon that helps people understand what it means to be human. Like man, theatre over time acquires stereotypes, patterns and clichés. Some of the templates are raised to a degree and given the status of dogmas and irrefutable truths.

The most common ones are as follows…

- Theatre is a temple; a holy place.

- Theatre is a school, a source of enlightenment, whose mission is to teach people to think.

- Theatre is a mirror of life, of society, of an era.

- Theatre is a tribune from which public and political ideas can be conveyed to the masses.

- Theatre is an elitist art, not a mass art.

Each of these theses has made its way from a progressive idea to a doctrine. These patterns, although contradictory, do not replace each other, but accumulate, continuing to exist simultaneously to this day, thus forming an internally contradictory space of theatre.

Neither together nor separately can these approaches fully express the essence of theatre. Selected as a guiding direction, they considerably narrow the view of theatre art. They limit the perception and possibilities of both theatre people and spectators.

2. THEATRE IS A LIVING ART!?

Theatre is a living art. The theatrical experience or the experience of a performance is live because it is born (created by the artist and the performance team) and develops right in front of the audience in space and time, "here and now". Theatre emerges at the moment of the encounter between the artist and the audience. This perception of the nature of theatre has acquired the status of a self-evident universally accepted absolute truth that presupposes no doubt. However, the challenges of time, which have undermined the foundations of life, have put this "truth" to the test.

A global succession of lockdowns and self-isolations has proved conclusively that the viability of theatre can be forced, among other things, by abandoning live performance: recordings of performances and online broadcasts have replaced habitual theatre visits. Filmed in high quality using good equipment, recordings of stage productions have become virtually indistinguishable from film productions but have not lost the identity of theatre or the label of performance. It turned out that theatre could present its artistic product not only live, but also in "canned" form. The pandemonium, however, was not the cause, but the trigger for a long overdue critical conversation that theatre no longer meets the definition of "live art".

What is offered to the audience during the performance? An interpretation made in advance, found during the production process, "fixed" by repeating it many times. What kind of "liveliness" can we talk about in this case? Obviously, a theatrical performance is not created and performed live "here and now" in front of the audience, as it is routinely claimed. Contrary to the incessant claims of various theatrical figures, the fact is that nothing happens "here and now" during the performance. What has been found and assimilated during the rehearsal process is only repeated, reproduced, "cloned" time after time. We do not see in the performance a living process undergoing changes and challenges, but a retranslation of the living process that took place in rehearsals. 

Theatre people intuitively feel that people are losing the sense of theatre's vitality, its vitality, and therefore theatres try to respond to it by available means.  This may be one reason why the practice of showing spectators the rehearsal process or theatrical sketches (work in progress) - perceived as a kind of performance - is widespread

3. THEATRICAL DYSFUNCTION

Social, enlightenment, temple, etc. - What functions, responsibilities and labels have not been ascribed to the theatre throughout its history. The time has come to free the theatre from externally imposed functions, layers, and obligations.

If there is a living process on stage, the theatre does not have to assume any additional functions. The methodological principle known as Occam's Razor is also fully valid in the theatre space: "Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity". We shouldn't outsource unnecessary tasks and missions to theatre, breaking the back of its true purpose - the art that transforms human beings.

The main and final function and destiny of theatre is the transformation of man!!!

The pressure of alien functions has steadily led to "theatrical dysfunction". That is why in the twentieth century many theatre reformers, including Antonin Artaud, Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook and others, tried to return to the origins of theatre in order to restore its transformative power. Their efforts to restore the vitality or viability of theatre were a journey 'back to the future'.

It should be stressed that it is not a question of categorically rejecting the various functions of theatre. The point is that these inherently uncharacteristic tasks of theatre should not be perceived as an end in themselves.

4. THEATRE AS A SIXTH SENSE

The creative process of experience at the heart of theatre has given rise to a persistent view of theatre as an art of empathy and compassion, in which the personal experience of experiencing a performance is seamlessly combined with the collective.

No matter how many representations of theatre as an elitist and individualistic art have been put forward, it has always had a mass character. That is why one of the main factors that attracts audiences to the theatre is the possibility of experiencing similar feelings and thoughts with a group of people at the same time, in the same place. The democratic nature of theatre has helped it to win the love of a wider audience and, as a consequence, survive to this day.

However, although theatre claims to capture the "single breath" of the audience, in most cases it fails to achieve this. Instead, we find a situation of conscious (at best) spectator observation and analysis of the theatrical event.

The audience comes to the theatre with its own problems, anxieties and thoughts, the barrier of which the stage action often cannot overcome. When the audience sits in the audience and watches a performance, they are not on the same frequency of emotions and thoughts as the characters or other audience members in the audience. In the perception of modern audiences, there is not an "us" model, but an "me and others" model.

This unattainability of universal emotional animation is one of the factors that make theatre arts lose their relevance in society today. 

5.ROLE PLAYS

The precursor of theatre is ritual. In the pre-theatrical era, there was no concept of the actor; a "sacred action", which had both sacred and practical significance, was performed by a servant, a performer, a guide. The belief in the sacred nature of the play was the main factor that transformed the 'performer' into a shaman, a 'sacred actor', and it also gave the theatre the power of suggestion.

As the art of acting developed and institutionalised, the theatre gradually shifted away from its sacral essence. The actor, the theatre's main functional unit, became an exponent of the playwright's or director's ideas and a powerless executor of their will, and after a while he himself refused to leave his "comfort zone. This situation continues to this day.

Although concepts such as the "holy actor," the actor-creator and the actor-mediator have been advanced at different stages of history, they have failed to change the vector of the profession's development because of their theoretical nature. Although the word "creativity" is used in the language when defining the art of acting, in practice this art is more of a performing nature.

Most actors are essentially performers of directorial tasks. Excellence in performance is subjectively labelled as 'creativity', while 'performance' takes on a negative linguistic connotation. This, however, does not stop "creativity" from being "performance".

6.THE THEATRE OF ERRORS

The terms and expressions "traditional theatre" and "classical theatre" are present in theatre circles. Despite their frequency of use, they can in no way characterise the phenomenon we see today. The theatre that is habitually called "classical" should be described as ORTHODOXAL, because this theatre rigorously, strictly and consistently adheres to the chosen direction, believing it to be the only true one.

In the orthodox theatre model, improvisation is a kind of "systemic error". Improvisation is either born when some error occurs (e.g. when an actor forgets a mise-en-scene or a text), or leads to an "error" itself. In a perfectly closed system, there is no need for any change, and thus no need for improvisation.

However, experience shows that it is improvisation that makes a performance more interesting, intense and poignant. Improvisation, i.e. an actor's "resistance" to a given structure, gives birth to the very life-giving "breath" of theatre.

Improvisation is not systemic. It is an exception that comes from the performer's individual approach. Another characteristic of improvisation is that it is short-lived.

7.THE METHOD OF SPONTANEOUS ACTING

The method of spontaneous acting is a new authorial acting technique that has emerged and is actively developing today in Azerbaijan. The main difference between the method of spontaneous play and improvisation is that it characterises actions that have arisen suddenly for internal reasons, while improvisation is characterised by external reasons.

Spontaneous acting refers by its name to the ideas of Jakob Moreno but differs from them in its essential and practical characteristics. In his book 'The Theatre of Spontaneity' Moreno, summarising a few experiments from his practice, confronted the following problem: an actor fills his baggage with clichés over time, as a result of which spontaneous acting, the main feature of the concept, disappears, becoming an imitation of spontaneity. Moreno, in order not to abandon his methodology, had it transferred to the applied field of psychotherapy. Combining his research with the ideas of Sigmund Freud, he created a trend called psychodrama.

The method of spontaneous play, approving new creative styles, methods, directions and organizational mechanisms is called to bring the vital force, vitality and vivacity of theatrical process, which was lost today both in the world and in Azerbaijani national theatre.

The main aim of the method of spontaneous play is to form a creative actor in the full sense of the word and return to the theatre its original essence, its inner basis, living art.

It is a "return to the future", a return to life that implies transforming the declared but seldom achieved in practice principle of the creative process "here and now" into a working mechanism.

Unlike improvisation, spontaneity here is characterised by a vector from the inside out. In spontaneous play, the performer-performer-actor freely enters the creative act of the "here and now" principle irrespective of any external reasons, literary basis or directorial interpretation. In this creative process he emerges from himself to return to himself again.

The application of the techniques of spontaneous play creates the basis for the uniqueness and uniqueness of each performance and the exclusivity of the audience's theatre experience.

 

P.S. (PRINCIPLES OF STAGE)

  1. The stage principle of "here and now" is the foundation of live theatre.
  2. The theatre should explore new territories, disciplines, themes and phenomena.
  3. The theatre ought to take a new perspective on ordinary, conventional events and phenomena.
  4. Theatre has to explore external, even psychologically dangerous or provocative subjects.
  5. Theatre shall be free to reflect the acute collisions, conflicts, confrontations and contradictions of contemporary society.
  6. Theatre and the audience are complementary components of the overall theatrical process.
  7. Theatre welcomes both the unity of the audience in its space and their dissociation.
  8. The theatre is interested in the use of innovative technologies in the preparation of stage productions.
  9. In theatre, it is advisable to make do with minimal stage design of the performance.
  10. The task of live theatre is not so much to entertain and/or educate the audience, but to evoke genuine empathy.
  11. One of the main objectives of theatre is to transform the audience from a passive observer to an active participant.
  12. Human transformation is the primary and ultimate function and purpose of theatre.
  13. Theatre owes only to itself.

 

Tarlan Rasulov,

Baku, 13.02 - 27.08.2169

МАНИФЕСТ XXL Театр. Возвращение в будущее

 

 

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