Can a performance be honest without being realistic?
Yes, definitely yes.
However, one cannot deny that the western world, exasperated by film, has come to expect realism from almost anything it considers to be serious or worthwhile. This expectation, of course, was born out of a time when the majority of the arts did not operate in realism. Pantomime, or melodrama was the tune of the age until a group of crazy kids came along and demanded the truth.
But the truth has always existed, and as long as people have been performing, they have found ways to convey it.
A clown takes the stage. She begins to cry. Big, mocking, tearless sobs. The audience, though attentive to the action onstage, does not believe that this clown is actually sad.
But the clown continues to sob, and sob and sob. Sometimes looking out at the audience. Sometimes looking down. Sometimes looking up. And eventually, the audience begins to consider that although there are no tears or curses nor any other trappings of realistic mental breakdown, the act of intentional sobbing for long enough, no matter how unbelievable, always signifies some deeper emotion.
It is almost Brechtian, her sobbing. While we watch, while we disbelieve, we are forced to consider why we feel this way, why we mistrust her, what must a sob be in order to be real?
Is the act of sobbing, repeated until it cannot help but be motivated by emotion, as truthful as any breakdown scene that we would dub ‘realistic?’.
Every movement in art is created by the swinging of some great pendulum.
A guy gets tired of standing in the back and repeating after everyone else and the actor is born.
The theatre is no longer banned by the church and so receives patronage and a permanent space to play.
The plays on Broadway in 1931 had nothing to do with the plight of the common man so some friends got together on a farm and started talking about doing theatre that spoke to the people.
Realism was a reaction as was every single theatrical innovation.
But when we forget that what came before it was a reaction too, when we put all of our plays in one basket so to speak, I think that great things get left out. Weird, surrealistic, pantomimy, melodramatic weird things. True things.
If we’re to go on at all, we have to accept that there is no singular answer for good or true or profitable. We’ve forgotten so much. The least we an do is be open minded.
About the Author: Jen Davis is a stranger in a strange land. Following a life of wandering and re-location(where am i? WHO AM I?) she made a decisive (drunken) decision to forsake all things holy and move to Southern California. She recently received her BA in Theatre while narrowly avoiding a minor in philosophy. Jen has staged plays, mimes, sword fights, and cakewalks throughout the Pacific Northwest, most recently as Associate Artistic Director of Toy Boat Theatre Company. She seeks to revitalize and re-establish the theatre as a necessary part of American life through producing, writing, and generally crying out to anyone who will listen. Her marketable skills include learning to juggle, baking, and persistence.