Peter Brook’s famous questions made to a director are ‘Why do you want to make theatre and how?’ Let me see…
Theatre (similar to books) is a magic world where everything is possible, similar to the one I used to create when I was a child playing with my dolls. I created scenarios, situations, plots, characterizations, settings and even costumes and make-up. I totally ignored the image that a Barbie doll had in the market and I transformed them. I wanted to create my own characters through their plastic bodies and so I did. When I got bored with their faces and bodies, then I replaced them by perfume flacons or even colour pencils. Everything had life when I so wanted, and not because I didn’t have enough dolls to play with – oh I had more than enough – it is just that it seemed so fun to give life to whatever I wanted. As I grew up I realized that I should no longer talk proudly about my ‘characters’ in the world that I had created as it was no longer ‘cool’ among teenagers, so I realized that I could still play god in my writings and later in theatre. I acted for a while, but despite the freedom of becoming other people in my own body, I realized that what I truly wanted was to create a whole universe, with given words from other playwrights, or through my own. The first play I read was Gogol’s The Inspector General when I was 12 years old and the first play that I attempted to direct a year later was Alexander Dumas Fils’ The Lady of the Camellias with a bunch of 13 year-old kids. Obviously it did not work, since everybody else understood rehearsals as a disguise for getting-together-instead-of-learning-at-home. I let go for a few years, but then in Seoul, Korea, I had the chance to revive that fire in me directing adults for the first time in a 24 Hour-Theatre Event. From that moment on I knew that I had to be part of that world and that I wasn’t the only one wanting to play make-believe as an adult. Others wanted too, and audiences wanted to see us playing.
All I did and still want to do is for the pleasure of that madness that only theatre can create, despite some serious and organizational work behind. It is madness because it is ephemeral and magical. Some people do Realist theatre, but for me this is not playing in the sense of jouer in French, or play like kids do – make-believe like. Realist theatre is the poor sister of the cinema and this is neither appealing nor fun. Directors who like Antoine started bringing Naturalism and Realism into the stage are not to blame, because they wanted to create something new at the time, which is very creative too, but in times like today, where there is nothing left to experiment in theatre realism, keep doing it is the same as digging its own grave.
In a way, everyone sees cinema as a slice of life, as Realism, but the truth is that nothing comes closer to life than theatre, because despite the magic, theatre is ephemeral. One cannot turn back the clock and start again. What is done is done and time won’t forgive nor forget. Like life, a performance is magical but also scary as nobody knows what could really happen, but this is exactly the fun in it. Like life, you plan a path, you try to walk it, but you don’t know what or who could cross it in front of you and what your reaction to their reactions would be.
In the book Shakespeare and the Making of Theatre there is a quote that I have locked up in my heart: ‘Why bother to come to the theatre if one fears or does not value the pleasure of that madness?’ This is exactly what I mean. I don’t want to do theatre for the masses, but for a selected few who wishes to come aboard and have a great ‘trip’ in a similar way director Grotowsky worked. Audience members should be or at least inclined to be somewhat unruly, playful and mischievous, like director Jatinder Verma described performers once, who according to him are outsiders, but with a positive connotation.
Theatre-people can do anything, from comedies to tragedies, when the playful and mad spirit is behind each and every endeavour related to the theatre. What I want is magic and what I offer is a trip to an unknown world. That’s why I want to do theatre. How I will do it will depend on what I have in hands in terms of text, where I plan on doing it, with and to whom I wish to do it and for how long it is possible to keep doing it. In short: Who knows… One step at the time.
Luciana B. Veit