Rorschach Theatre

I was stage-managing Kirsten and Dean’s show (Silent Poetry 2) down in Kansas City. Kirsten has a pretty awesome piece about a conductor who ends up battling her own hand. It’s a fine bit of slapstick, but one that also encourages further interpretation from its audience.

And one thought strikes me — does mime lend itself to interpretation because its boundaries are so vaguely defined? Relying as heavily as it does on audience visualization, there’s a point at which anything can represent anything.

I saw a preview of Joseph Scrimshaw’s show (The Tragedy of You) a few months back — the premise is that he interviews a random audience member and, based on details from their life, plugs them into a five-act Shakespearean tragedy.

The night I attended, a lot of his questions were responded to with political gibes: “Name a war-hungry general.” “General Bush!” “Name a politician.” “Senator Franken!” The upshot is that, for the night that I was in attendance, at least, the whole evening took a satirical bend — and one that I found kind of depressing as a political comic: the audience laughed gaily throughout, but they were responding only to the basic structure, with the pieces that they recognized inserted into appropriate places.

Oscar Wilde once said “Art reflects the audience, not the artist.” Which is a lovely little poetic sentiment, except for the fact that it almost entirely removes the artist from the equation of creation. I’m reminded of the man who said to the Jewish director Fritz Lang, after a viewing of his Metropolis, “You’re right. Hitler should be in power.”

Do I accept the premise that his interpretation is as valuable as mine? Is that really all that satire breaks down to? All that so much of art and storytelling breaks down to?

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