History has given us an opportunity to learn, though a hard enduring lesson, one that requires time and perspective—a compass that guides the wayward path of the explorer. Perhaps an old adage but the past has a way of repeating itself and in this moment, in this momentary pause (that will soon come to pass), as creatures of many creative forms, we may find yet another chance to direct the path we are traversing to a more sustainable model. A map of longevity.
Theatre is not a new participant in this global crisis. There has been in many ways a virus; a pandemic and a bubonic dissonance that ruptured the fabric of society and at the loose spool of this thread have been theatre and its various forms.
Ancient Greece, Athens 5th century BCE, Sanskrit plays and Peking Opera, Artaudian, Commedia Dell’arte, London—Shakespeare locking himself inside his cottage and what came after the plagues, after the sickness and social reforms, was a wave of vibrant theater life. These names and places are mere subjects of history. Nevertheless one can identify, with the power of a few Google clicks, their significance in the Law of Inertia. In simple terms Newton’s first law of motion, Inertia: is a tendency to remain unchanged; to continue a course until an external force changes the original trajectory… In these terms the course of Theater, wherever it was heading, is now faced with yet another perilous pandemic. But the focus of this would be humorless short treatise, is to not search for the needle in the haystack of intellect, existing in the common era of fact-checkers; moreover to follow the very essence of the word Movement itself; to take action when necessary and use inaction as a way to gain perspective.
In the second law of motion, the change of motion is proportional to the motive impressed upon—a scissor of Change is now shaping the fabric nestling the economy. In sports there have been live events where in the indoor courts are only the players and the umpires. Schools have rather taken huge adjustments in their lesson plans and curriculum. Local bars and diners serving like food-trucks. Business done remotely, conferences held virtually, hiring and training all in the comfort of one’s living room. The period in which a generation adjusts to technology only took a couple of weeks, and yet this generation is still on the verge of adjusting its course. What pattern should the needle take? What shape would the individual stitches take?
The business week may be shortened and spending time at home or outdoors will be mandatory. Perhaps while interstate travelling is at pause, more local industries, local studios, local artists and local audiences will grow. Perhaps a pause was needed to refocus what lies ahead for the entertainment-theatre industry, productivity, and maybe it is time to use creativity as means to find a new path.
And Theatre, how it has woven itself through time, will find its row in the emerging embroidery of the changing times. Perhaps the regional theatres, the small independent company, the strong-willed schoolmates—friends, all from the shadows of the empty parks, will bring forth travelling troupes. In carriages, carts, and flying carpets. To an open park, where on the marked grass, audience members are physically distant; or perhaps a small studio set up for a live broadcast of One-Act plays (no gatherings of 10). Perhaps this may be a chance for the small theatre companies to gain some local following while the hundred-seating theaters are at rest.
While this humorless treatise offers no answer to these inquiries, it will, given the opportunity pose an invitation.
With the final law of motion stating that action and reaction are simultaneous forces; both part of a single interaction. Thus in the collective thought emerging in the current nature of art, what is the emerging Theatre Movement in this history we are making? What form is it taking? What designs are necessary to bring this about? Which threads are needed to weave this embroidery? What should it celebrate? What should it answer? Now that change is in the movement of theatre, will it be in the lines of Theatre of Life, Theatre of the mind, of resilience? Post-pandemic Theatre? A Re-Renaissance? Zoomism? Is there a need for change?
(What should Theatre, the people in it, around it and all over it, focus on? Is this the time for backstitching, running, crossing, blind-stitching? Is this the time for the individual to heal the self? To let the curtains rest for a bit, save its energy, for when it will rise again?)
Where should Theatre be giving its energies? And maybe in the initiation of that action, like the threading of a needle the movement will, like the weaving of tapestry, soon reveal itself in full beauty to be held.
This is for the people out there, creating, not creating, waiting, moving, watching, and listening. This is a clean cloth for everyone to thread their needles in.
Russell is an associate member of TeamTheatre. An avid collector of questions and forgettable moments.