MONDAY, March 15, 2004
TUESDAY, March 16, 2004
WEDNESDAY, March 17, 2004
*members of Actors Equity Association
Rose Riccardi (lighting)
Theatre Brut (The creative impulse unfettered by social and artistic convention...)
It is our contention, that at this moment in history, mankind is standing at a precipice, and the critical question is whether the current conventions of theater as an art form are sufficient to confront the daunting ethical, moral, social, ecological, and political issues that we face today in America and the world. Theatre Brut is a search for those elements in theater that can begin to answer among other concerns, Camus' concerns about a "universe that is.deprived of illusions.and where man feels a stranger". It is a proposed forum to explore the psychic impulses and external forces that have led to man's evolution into a species, that though sometimes prescient is rapidly moving toward self-destruction as well as the destruction of this once green earth, the home to not only a creature that embodies the distillate of both darkness and light, but to a myriad of innocent, and unwilling fellow creatures.
Our search for a model and conceptual framework for this theater has led us to the Art Brut or outsider art movement, a concept first articulated in1923 by the German psychiatrist, Hans Prinzhorn, when he published his visionary book,"Bildnerei der Geisteskranken" ("Artistry of the Mentally Ill"). Prinzhorn had been collecting the paintings and drawings of patients in insane asylums that were generally destined for destruction by doctors and staff that considered the works too disturbing, too obscene, or meaningless exercises. However, he theorized that these works provided a clear glimpse into the subconscious, and when executed by talented, and generally untutored artists working outside of accepted artistic conventions, deserved the term, art. Although more accepted today, in his time, Prinzhorn's concept was revolutionary, and it was gradually embraced by the Surrealists as a model for their work. Decades later the artist, Jean Dubuffet, purchased Prinzhorn's original collection, that is now housed in a Swiss museum. He felt that there was a stigma attached to the term "psychotic art" and coined the more dignified name "Art Brut" or "Raw Art". Dubuffet further recognized that intuitive and original expression was not just the province of the insane but could be produced by anyone who worked free of normal cultural influences, thereby anticipating the broader term, outsider art. He felt that the cultural world had destructive effects on originality and creativity, and that true individuality of expression could only be found outside of cultural barriers. He further suggested that the mainstream culture always manages to co-opt each new development, thereby destroying its power, and that only the art of the artless was immune from the insidious influences of the cultural establishment in which no artist of genuine originality could survive.
Theater Brut is not "untutored" nor is it isolated from the cultural mainstream, but it does seek a new vernacular, and a new "theatrical language" with which to explore a world where man is increasingly cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots (Esslin). It adheres to no movement nor style, and aspires but to develop plays unfettered by social or artistic convention where the "strait jacket of logic" (Freud), and "the fossilized debris of dead language" (Esslin) are replaced by innovation and wonderment so that the human condition can become flesh on stage.
Theatre Brut: Project 1: A proposal to playwrights
While Theater Brut is not a political theater, it must still be responsive to its moment and time. Therefore, the first project of Theater Brut is prompted by the seismic grumblings that have begun to reverberate in our society, occasioned by the growing sense that we are no longer being told the truth by our leaders.
It is a constant and eternal fact that the leading elite have never told the truth to their constituencies whether they have been at the helm of democratic or despotic governments, but at different times their lies may be smaller or bigger depending on their degree of insecurity or disdain. Our current government has recently swung the pendulum in the direction of disdain so that it can now bare-faced explain away the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that was originally the justification for sending our children to die in a distant and alien land. It also trumpets the successes of the economy at a time when the entire people are aware that hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs, rather than telling the painful truth so that the people can become partners in a solution. Both ruling parties have nurtured and abetted an environment where greed and rapaciousness are rewarded and go unchallenged even when they destroy the present peace and the future hopes of the people that are the backbone and beasts of burden of our society.
Democracy is the sharing of truth between the ruling elite that has been selected by the people, and the people that have voluntarily but temporarily relinquished their collective power to it. There is an understanding that the elite will use its power for the good of the people and not for self-perpetuation, which is the province of despots. It is also implicit in this social contract that words will be held sacred and will be used to convey, and not to create truth.
It is both American and just for the people to make the ultimate sacrifice, the lives of their children, for this nation. It is also just for the elite to ask for this sacrifice whenever it truly represents the people and not merely limited self-interests, or merely giving expression to its own idiosyncratic hubris or one demagogue's twisted psyche, conditions all too familiar, and for which many have died tragically throughout history. The sacrifice is especially just when the scions of the elite share equally in it, a gesture that is rarely offered willingly or graciously and most often must be exacted.
But perhaps the people are now waking up and coming out of the dream that has been manufactured for them. And whenever the people do not have the words with which to articulate their predicament, or with which to express their sense of injustice, it is the responsibility of the artist to find and speak these words for the people. To quote Brecht, who was writing at another time of fundamental questioning and great upheaval in the world:
The writer is supposed to write for a people without living among it. When one comes to look closer, however, the gap between the writer and the people has not grown so wide as might be thought. Certainly a special effort is needed today in order to write in a popular way. But at the same time it has become.more urgent. The people has clearly separated from its top layer; its oppressors and exploiters have parted company with it and become involved in a bloody war against it, which can no longer be overlooked. It has become easier to take sides. Open warfare has, as it were, broken out among the 'audience'.The ruling strata are using lies more openly than before, and the lies are bigger. Telling the truth seems increasingly urgent.
We have selected for our first Theatre Brut project a three-day festival of short plays that have as their central motif the American cowboy, the quintessential American icon. The cowboy embodies our most potent myths of America: the independent spirit, the man who speaks the truth, the man who metes out simple justice, the trailblazer, the one willing to die for the democratic ideal, and the white-man battling the elements and a savage foe. The true nature of the cowboy and America is of course much more complex, and it is this conflict between the ideal and the real, the dream and the nightmare, that provides a fertile arena for exploration as well as the starting point for drama, comedy, pathos, and self-recognition.
Keep in mind that Theatre Brut seeks to foster the creative impulse unfettered by social and artistic convention. So be adventurous. If you have ever aspired to "experiment" or stretch the boundaries of theater, this is the time to do so.
We are requesting submissions of short plays (2-10 pages), for the three-day festival of script-in-hand readings titled, "My Rifle, My Pony, and Me", that will open March 15, 2004 and will run nightly through March 17. These pieces can be dramatic, comedic, musical, monologues, or whatever sparks your creative impulse. Deadline for submission is January 15. (There is a rolling acceptance so the sooner-the-better). There is no compensation for presenting the work. Playwrights retain all copyright of their works.Playwrights may attend the festival. Housing is provided, however, travel is not reimbursed.
Gabor Barabas, Executive Producer