Monday, February 22, 2010

In Defense

So I saw Making It, Stew's concert, last week, and I'll give an incredibly positive review of it momentarily. First, however, I want to get off my chest the aspect of it that has been upsetting me more and more since the concert.

Stew in this show was very critical of theatre - theatre as an art form, theatre as a whole. According to Stew, theatre doesn't carry the truth, the simplicity, the truth that rock accesses - it infantilizes the audience - it's deliberate - it's artificial - it tells you what to think and how to think it.

Well, yes, bad theatre does all those things. And bad rock music is solipsistic and narrow and shallow and annoying, and bad paintings are ugly and meaningless and pompous and condescending, and bad classical music lacks heart, and, ok, fine, so what?

Either Stew has only seen bad theatre, or theatre's mode of approaching and seeking and exploring the truth doesn't click with him, and that's fine, everyone has different tastes and ways of being and seeing, but this was more than a it doesn't work for me, it was a it doesn't work, and that's not fair, and it's not true. Theatre - straight and musical and in-between and otherwise - can be organic and genuine and puzzling and difficult and gutteral and true, on many levels.

I love theatre in a different way than I love music, and I have frequently been heard to say things to the effect of "I always think I love musical theatre, and then I listen to rock," meaning that rock clicks with me at maybe a different and deeper and more fundamental level than theatre, but that's not entirely true. The different part, yes. And maybe the deeper part, but if that is so it is because I am more willing to give myself over to rock music than to theatre, which may or may not be true, and even if it is, it is a thing in me and not a thing in theatre. Maybe theatre is usually more intellectual for me, maybe because it usually tells a more precise story than rock, but that doesn't mean it doesn't reach the same honesty and fundamental meaning and it definitely doesn't mean the audience doesn't have to work for it, and it really definitely doesn't mean it doesn't present itself for a myriad interpretations. The point is, good theatre is not didactic, and good theatre is not fake, and good theatre is challenging and moving and astonishing and even transcendent. Just like any other art form.

Obviously, I have no idea what Stew actually thinks or means - and of course, Making It is about emerging from the world of theatre (i.e. producing Passing Strange), which was not comfortable for him and did not feel like home, which is a wonderful thing to ponder and discuss and sing about - but I can only react to what he presents. And what he presented went beyond the personal (the personal was perfect) and into the personal of others, made the personal objective, which can be perfect, maybe, if you are fair about it, but he wasn't.

That's all. Forgive this post, please, for being a little brainstorm-y and run-on and scattered and unilaterally critical. In the next post, I'll give Stew the praise he is due - and he is due a great deal.


  1. great post! I love when you run on.

  2. i thought i might get called on "gutteral." it was just the word that popped out. maybe i meant, "from the gut"? or "raw"? something like that.

    thanks! i'm glad you love it! i never know whether it is effective or just confusing and awkward.

  3. I am impressed that you actually used the word solipsistic. The only times I have seen it used is when it appears in English novels or literary criticism.