I haven’t been ignoring ecoTheater for the past few weeks. No. I’ve been on vacation — a very real, out of town, mostly out of touch-type vacation. And it was nice to get away. Eye opening in many ways, in fact.

One thing I did on vacation was begin seriously looking at an old book about the theater that I only recently found in a local bookstore here in Madison. It’s called Grassroots Theater: A Search For Regional Arts in America by the late Robert Gard. I was amazed to find that Gard was a professor of theater here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for years, beginning in the 1940’s through his death in the early 90’s (I believe). While on vacation we visited some good friends in Seattle toward the end, and one morning I sat in a coffee shop devouring the book. Just what was this old idea of Gard’s that I had somehow missed all these years (including during my college days, when I was supposed to be studying the damn theater!)? Did it fit with my idea of a new model, or did it lead somewhat more pointedly to the notion that the ideal theater (like the ideal democracy) is of the people, by the people, and for the people — which may mean that professional theater artists are superfluous?

As the NY Times posits that bigger is better I can’t help but feel more and more alienated by our theater, and my role in it. Speaking of his time in Alberta, Canada, and his clear inadequacy to represent the stories of the people there, Gard wrote that he “was a false window, a glass that gave back only a dim, shallow image.” A false window? Is that what theater artists are? Are we simply poor knock-offs of the real thing?

Okay, maybe this is just another of my half-baked ideas that make blogging the accessible, imperfect medium that it is. I could never hope to get such an open-ended, stream of consciousness bit of writing published in an reputable print publication. But there it is. It’s what I’m thinking about. And as I finish Gard’s very important book, I’m sure my thoughts will firm up and become more coherent.

Anyway, I’m back from vacation, and have hit the ground running. Keep reading.


2 Responses to “grassroots”

  1. June 6, 2008 at 6:24 am

    Mike — Gard’s book is fantastic and inspiring. Even if you don’t buy his ideas (and I buy most of them), his pure love of theatre shines through and warms the soul. I am so glad you found a copy. If I was smart, I would have my students read this book for my “Theatre of the Oppressed / Community-Based Theatre” class this fall.

  2. 2 Katie
    June 6, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Thank you very much for this wonderful blog! I check it regularly and am always interested by what I find. I look forward to many more postings and hopefully contributing as my thesis in Green marketing for Non-profits moves forward!


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