Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Regarding Theatrosphere - Is Villainy Inevitable?

"Communication is not just words, paint on canvas, math symbols or the equations and models of scientists. It is the interrelation of human beings trying to escape loneliness, trying to share experience, trying to implant ideas. "

William Marsteller - cofounder of PR company Creative Management.
Fellow theatrospherians... Are we really that different? So many of us stand on either side of imagined boundaries on a virtual map. Sure we have different approaches, different tone, timbre, volume, points of view. The obstacles we encounter are diverse, but sometimes we are our own obstacles.

In the end, haven't we each set up our own stations online in order to accomplish similar goals? If we pull back to absorb the entire periphery, we see a garden instead of a barbed thorn beneath a single bulb.

We may not agree as to the best method for tending the garden, but no amount of shoving each other will exile the other gardener. We can choose to be opponents towards each other if that serves to encourage debate, exploration, cross pollination. But, we should strive to remember that none of our "opponents" are attempting to ravage the green. No one's goal here is deforestation or desolation.

Kurt Vonnegut told an anecdote about how his father remarked that none of his stories had a traditional villain. I like my fictions filled to the brim with pulpy drama. Whereas the theatrosphere can certainly house fictions, it is for many a primarily non-fictional medium. When it comes to my non-fiction...I think it better to strive for Antagonism divorced of Villainy.

Antagonism is inevitable.
Villainy is not.

Related Links
Subtext to Text - RatSass
NonProfit Arts - Just a Substitute Teacher - Don Hall

15 comments:

Tony Adams said...

Is the tendency to cast someone whose views are polar opposites a villain online any different than in letters a hundred years ago? Or just a natural extension of preexisting (and also flawed) modes of communication?

Devilvet said...

The most obvious difference between blogging and letter writing is "Who is the audience?"

A heated exchange between 2 letter writers tends to remain a private matter. The only concern is how are these things one is saying being intrepreted by the person I am writing to.

But, with blogging I think there is often an attempt not to speak to the other person "having the conversation" so much so to perform for the listeners out there. So, that blogging (as a medium...as a form)even if you don't podcast is more akin to talk radio than letter writing. That form doesnt have to manipulte content, but It is one of the factors especially in instances where content is appearing online with extreme rapidity.

Tony Adams said...

Sorry, should have been more clear.

I was thinking more of open letters which were commonly published in various periodicals, papers, pamphlets, etc.

I'll admit the speed is much faster, and the ability to publish is more available, but I don't know if the content or the need to perform is anything new.

Nick Keenan said...

I think that blogging has a big handicap when it comes to cooperative disagreement (which nevertheless I always hope for even when I find I can't practice it). And that is: The context of tone. The written word is stripped of its delivery.

I'm waiting for the day when blogs have built in audio chat capabilities. I think hearing the voice on the other line would do a world of good.

I still owe you that things I learned the hard way meme. One of them - the big one - is that the more you know about someone, the more difficult it is to criticize them. I found this out about the leaders of large theater companies, but it goes for storefront theater practitioners and bloggers alike. When you understand the context in which people write, the writing becomes more and more reasonable and the context is really what separates us.

Devilvet said...

@Tony -

I don't think my point is that painting of one's opponent in open forum as villain is anything new (far from it).

And my allusion to the theatrosphere as a garden might not be the most epiphanial metaphor either.

What am I speaking to?

Our online network of folks who identify themselves as members of the theatrosphere seem to be drawing lines in the virtual sand. I link to two recent streams of contentious back and forths above.

Now, I don't want to put out the call for more "civliity" as it becomes increasing difficult for the participants to even agree that it is ...appropriate civility ... that is in question.

I read that quote above, and It got me thinking about how alot of my favorite bloggers seem lately to be widening the divide. Sometimes it might just be hurt feelings, other times it seems to be pend up frustration at having not secured enough or the right kind of apostles to one's thought.

So if one looks at the person they are talking to as a "great get" that never ends up in the boat...

Ultimately this post is a continuation of examining value. Not the value of theater, but the value of how and when and what goals we have for our theatrosphere.

Notions of villainy destroy opportunities for communication and collaboration. And, one day (if it isnt already here) the theatrosphere will be the theater...the two will become indistinguishable. The next generation will be striking a new convenant with the muse...and Brook's empty space will be from then on tied to the net.

So, do we have something to gain as a theatrospherical unit by setting aside Villainy as a mask we keep slipping onto the other guy.

Paul said...

I think that blogging has a big handicap when it comes to cooperative disagreement (which nevertheless I always hope for even when I find I can't practice it). And that is: The context of tone. The written word is stripped of its delivery.

Give the man a gawdemn kewpie doll.

Devilvet said...

@Keenan - I hope contextuality will lead to collaboration and ... hope.

Devilvet said...

@paul and @keenan -

I don't think it is tone alone. I think it has also alot to do with offline goals and frustration at how online is or is not influencing offline.

Belief
Testifying

There is sometimes an almost religious devotion to our POVs and I am not wholy convinced that hearing the tonal of the others' speech is the issue entirely.

Scott Walters said...

From my own perspective, Bob, sometimes the source of the overheated conflict is mental fatigue. Many time in the past, I have found it necessary to shut down my blog and step away from the keyboard because I had reached a tipping point where hyper-conflict had become the default. A few weeks away, some personal reflection on what I wanted to get from blogging, and I was able to re-enter the forum in a more productive manner. That has certainly been the case recently, and the rest has done me good. I suspect I will re-open Theatre Ideas soon, and with a personal resolve to do better.

Sometimes hyper-conflict is an artificial attempt to inject some energy into the 'sphere. Ultimately, that backfires, I have come to believe.

The theatrosphere is what it is, and I suspect that the only way to make the conversations more fruitful is to be the change you want to see -- to model it yourself. I think you are doing that here, Bob, and Tony and Nick K also do so, as does Travis and several others as well. Unfortunately, those of us with vitriolic pens tend to dominate the conversation, as anyone who shouts drowns out those who wish to speak quietly.

The key is to find energy and reflection.

Tony Adams said...

I think that the stripping of inflection and tone is the greatest problem with writing vs. verbal communication, something that is only magnified with online communication, as many do not take a lot of time to parse their words.

I would agree that making someone who has a different POV out to be a villain is a stupid thing that we do. And I'd submit that the almost religious devotion to our POV's is a greater cultural issue. One only need look at the current state of politics to see how far reaching and deep the pseudo-divides are.

Many artists have a sense of entitlement, combined with insecurities that do not allow us to even think outside of our comfort zones. (Not to stereotype but artists have a tendency to be a little more temperamental than say accountants.)

Might just be me, but while I do see it as a problem, I don't see it as one that solely resides online.

What I'd wonder is has the creation of villains seemed to appear more online because they are missing onstage? Are more speaking offstage because it's not getting said on th e boards?

Devilvet said...

@Tony -

"What I'd wonder is has the creation of villains seemed to appear more online because they are missing onstage? Are more speaking offstage because it's not getting said on th e boards?"

elaborate please.

Don Hall said...

I think we're all making the assumption that A) our specific POVs are somehow less important than the all-powerful consensus of ideas and that B) things would be more interesting/fruitful/productive if we all just got along.

As to A: Example: while Obama and McCain certainly are more alike than they are different, it is in those differences that freedoms are gained or lost, wars are ended or expanded, and the future is paved. We can decry the extreme partisanship and it does have it's downsides. On the other hand, without the violent differences and raging debates, our democracy would have even less citizenship participation than it does now.

As to B: There is this pervasive belief that aggressive discourse is bad; that shouting is somehow less evolved; that "those who wish to speak quietly" have more to add than they do.

Let's examine the flipside: that convivial discourse leads to nothing; that shouting exhibits passion; that "those who wish to speak quietly" actually have little to say.

I'm not sure that plays out but in the paradigm of Villainny Creation there is also the false perception that the opposite is The Hero. Are you advocating that there be no Heroes ion the blogosphere (yeah - that just made milk come out of my nose).

Devilvet said...

@Don

"I think we're all making the assumption that A) our specific POVs are somehow less important than the all-powerful consensus of ideas and that B) things would be more interesting/fruitful/productive if we all just got along."

We aren't making such assumptions here.

I'm not speaking consensus at all. I can see how that is your potential preception. You get alot of people who type on their keyboards very hard in an attempt to Sumo you into a different POV.

So...Consensus...wrong.

What I see instead is people who can't not convince the person they are engaging abandoning that and making comparisons to say dictators, etc.

It is absurd that everytime a point of contention comes up and is vigoriously engaged in that if resolves with people leaving the blogsphere for certain time or getting so angry that (I wish I had a nickel for everytime one of us compared another to some one in the Bush/Cheney regime...etc.etc.)

"Let's examine the flipside: that convivial discourse leads to nothing; that shouting exhibits passion; that "those who wish to speak quietly" actually have little to say"

Please, Don feel free to write an engaging post on this at your site. Oh wait... you have.

And every time you do or Silent Nick at Night does...Passionately expressing a POV is exciting. I've done it a few times myself. But all to often it devolves in one of the participants telling another one to F off and walking away.

Plenty of folks have accused you of being a Villain (quite recently if I remember)...I'm less interested in stopping you from speaking passionately and more interested in the idea that if we remove the notion or tactic of painting each other as villains then the whirlwind of ideas doesn't reach consensus...but at least stays relevant without comparing overtly or subtly a reviewer or commentor with Stalin/Cheney/Evil.

It is not about being quiet
It is not about keeping along

It is about taking the sock puppets off...and talking to each other... rather than at each other while others listen.

Scott Walters said...

Take...off...the sock...puppets...??? I will NEVER take off my sock puppet. You -- you -- dictator you!

Tony Adams said...

@DV-if you look at new works being staged vs. existing works in general the scope of the worlds being created are far smaller in contemporary theatre. (Granted there are notable exceptions. Probably a series of posts in itself.)

So, and this is oversimplified for the sake of argument, in Chekhov you have small talk, indirect dialogue driven by the fact the characters can't bring themselves to speak of their world being destroyed before their eyes.

In LaBute, you have small talk driven by someone destroying a relationship. (And he calls his contemporaries pussies, for their lack of scope.)

There are also far more people wanting to be artists than are working at any given time.

So I wonder if there is a correlation that leads us to make arguments bigger than they are, because we are not creating big enough worlds for our collective voices onstage.

Big voice, big ego, tiny world is a world many inhabit.

I wonder if an issue to examine, instead of discussions online not moving off-line, is if off-line frustrations drive online arguments? Is the pipeline going the wrong way?

Open question. . .