Speaking about Violence

Speech on conference in Sofia.
Ladies and gentlemen,
speaking about violence – if public executions were practiced today, we can be quite sure that they would have more audience then theatres. Gladiator contests 2000 years ago, the medieval burning of witches, guillotination during the French Revolution, hanging of nazis on main squares of europian cities quite recently – all of these were performances in way, their absolutized dramatism alwaus attracted crowds.
Hollywood producers still believe that there is a murderer and maniac hiding inside every average citizen. And all midlle-class citizizens, from teenagers to housewives, love to identify with criminals, or, at least, with people who are carrying guns. One might assume that the modern society, which is obsessed with the security and forming itself according to a model that increasingly resemblesa totalitarian kindergarten, deep down in its heart, craves for terror, destruction and blood. This may truly seem to be the case if one looks around at what is happening on the stages of world theaters today. But is it really true?
In the middle of the 20th century, Antonin Artaud promoted a new theatrical paradigm, according to which the human subconscious is to be revealed onstage, and the theaters task is to explore teh teritories whisch are concealed and invisible. Perhaps this seemed inspiring 60 years ago, yetm today, in my opinion, thid is no longer interesting. For these territories did not hide anything of particular depht and complexity. There is plenty of evidence awailable to prove the fact that human beings originate from monkeys, an searching for some more would be a waste of time. Today, much more exiting challenge is trying to rpove the opposite – what makes people different from animals. And in my opinion, Artaud's idea of the theater today has been fully exhausted and is simply boring. Mushrooms don't grow there anymore. They all have been picked up.  Seems to me, Sarah Kane's example is the last stop or the final destination for this movement in the theater.
And yet, why do the theatermakers still are convinced that the best way how to communicate with the audience is by using aggression and violence? Why today, when the proffesion of a theatrical makeup artist has almost disappeared, the amount of artificial blood used on the world stages keeps increasing? Why do the theater professionals, who try to avoid aggression when communicating with their family members and friends, believe that this the best way how to form a dialogue possible in the first place?
I am focusing on the professionals, as, in my experience, there is far less of aggression to be faced in the ameteur theater. Is the answer reallly as simple as that –  money and the market? Tobe as eccentric as possible, to make noise?
Being a professional director, I can assure you that the technique of building a mise-enscene by escalating its aggressive potential is extremly somple. It is, indeed, a primitive method and does not ask for a very special gift or knowledge. To build a mise-en-scene by evocing instincs is just as for a cook to boil an egg and to fry potatoes.
In the New Riga Theatre, we have following quotation by Peter Brook painted above the door throug which the aactors walk on stage; THE QUALITY OF ENERGY GENERARATED  IN THE AUDCIENCE WILL ALWAYS BE IDENTICAL TO THE QUALITY OF ENERGY COMING FROM THE STAGE. Simple physics. The low wnwegies will always communicate only the samelevel. It is impossible to hope fo spiritual dialouge if you are using aggression as the means of communication.
Of course, we know that that since the ancient history of the world drama, characters of the plays are used to silving conflict situations by killing each other, stabbing each other, poking out each other's eyes or cutting pieces of flesh out of each others bodies. This, however, is not how people would normally behave. Let us face the truth: anyhow, it is obious that almost all the plays in the theater history have been written about mentally disordered individuals. Lieke wise, we know for a fact that according to some cultural traditions (for instance, the German-language theater), the society views the theater as adoctor, whose duty is to search for the diseases this society is afflicted with. These patient – dictor relationships has been historically institutionalized and – Thanks God! – well paid. And there is no wonder, therefore, that the German theater stages so often remkind us of the hospital emergency rooms and the scene that opens before our eyes is clinical both visually and in essence. And there is most bloody theater today.
By the way, irony, too, in my opinion, is a form of aggression. Because it is kills emotions. Without doubt, there is something suspicioud and unnatural in the very ideea of the theater. After all, it is not a normal situation when a large number of people who do not know each other gather ina the dark room where one part of them are watching, while the other part are pretending to be someone they are not. Having worked 25 years in this profession, I have made some weires conclutions. A good deal of the people who have chosen to become actors and directors – how shall I put it more delicately – are people with mental problems. And those who are not – having worked for many years in theis profession – becomes ones, It is not a heakthy occupation, after all. It leaves its consequences, sometimes medical as well. I'm not the first one to have noticed this. Stanislavski used to write about it in his time. I ame sure that each of you can name some examples that support this theory.
By the way, one of the reason why I agreed to speak before the audience was because I am convinced: that theater critics are largely responsible for cultivation of aggression in the theater. This id possible because many of directors do not think independently enough; all they do is follow the current trends. And those generated by theater reviewers. And you are the ones who invented this synonym: a sxandalous poor director is a successful director. How else can one earn this praise of yours? How canthe poor director capture your attention? Such are the rules of this simple game which is called – theater market.
Undeniably, to make positive theater is most difficult. The masohidttic critics in some coutries call it „feeling good theather”. An the hardest task of all is to make a performance about harmonioud and happy people. Technically, it is a task on the highest level of complexity.
And the enthusiasts of violence in the theater, according to my own observations, are not the audience, but rather the theater practitioners and critics. The audience has tired of it long ago and they simply do not connect with it and do not take it seriously. But this is theater's eternal problem: the audience always grows-up faster than the theater itself, which foreever keeps staying behind, struggling eith its own immaturity.
Artaud's paradigm is dead. A new idea must come. Completly opposite.
In the 21st century, the theater will be the only form of art which will not surrend to digitilization. The theater will always exist, not oin discs, but in this exceptional situation, when live people meet live people. It is a very humane mis-en-scene. But here, again, we must be very careful and try not to confuse affectation with emotion. And if one really cannot help hitting and punching, then I offer a new slogan – punch with tenderness.
By the waym using the force has always been a sign of weakness,
Than you.

Alvis Hermanis 

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