Welcome to My Party!

Anne Bogart's picture

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.

(Henry Miller)

During the late 1990s SITI Company regularly led two and three-week summer workshops in Los Angeles during which time we had the great pleasure of getting to know many members of the local theater community. Generally, SITI stayed at the Highland Gardens Hotel in Hollywood not far from the Magic Castle Hotel. Highland Gardens is a rather seedy consortium of buildings arranged around a liver shaped swimming pool, boasting that Janis Joplin died there of a heroin overdose in 1970 in room 105.

Ways of Seeing

Anne Bogart's picture

Perhaps we could say that the power of theatre is that it gives us the opportunity of a sustained gaze where we can move slowly from looking to seeing. In such moments of ocular transmutation, we catch a glimpse of something other, something deeper; a second reality that tells us more about ourselves and the world we inhabit. This is the gift of theatre, allowing us to see through things to their core, where things are brought to light that might otherwise remain hidden.

(Brian Kulick) 

The word theater is derived from the ancient Greek theatron (θέατρον). “Thea” means eyes and “tron” is a place.  The theater is, literally, a place of seeing.  The Greeks seem to have had many words for seeing, each rich with different conceptions of the act. 

Ghosts

Anne Bogart's picture

The thing about the past is that it’s not the past.

(old Irish saying)

Perhaps the theater is a form of eulogy and our job is to raid the graveyard regularly. The ways in which we remember dead people, those who did not finish what they had to say, and the way that we give them voice is what matters. I like to think that if the theater were a verb, it would be “to remember.” We re-member the parts. We put the fragments back together again. We excavate history in order to allow the past and those who had not finished communicating speak through us in the present moment. We are flesh and sensation and we look to be filled with the spirits of ghosts. Can we vibrate with their energy and consciousness?

Ouch! The Role of Pain in Transformation

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

Pain is weakness leaving your body.

For many years I’ve thought the source of this adage was the monks of the Shaolin Temple where Kung-Fu was born and became the root of much of what we call martial arts. According to my research , it was actually a recruiting slogan for the US Marine Corps. I’m now not even sure how I got the idea that it was from Shaolin.

Wherever it comes from, it is, at best, only partially true. It’s a sad reality that all of us have probably experienced pain that is not weakness leaving our bodies. If I’m walking down the street and someone stabs me in the eye with an ice-pick, there is a tremendous amount of pain involved. Very little of it can be described as weakness leaving my body. It would be callous at best to describe the pain suffered by someone with a terminal illness in this way.

Conversation or Violence

Anne Bogart's picture

We have a choice. We have two options as human beings. We have a choice between conversation and war. That’s it. Conversation and violence. (Sam Harris)

You push me and then I push you back. If I do not intentionally restrain myself, I will naturally push you harder than you pushed me. If then you push me back, without intentionally restraining yourself, your push will be even harder than mine. Without deliberate modulation, the escalation will continue. To speak scientifically, if the “top down” control system in the pre-frontal cortex of my brain fails to modulate my actions, especially if there is an anger-provoking stimulus like a push, violence ensues.  These reactions are chemical, and they are natural.

What is True What is False

Anne Bogart's picture

Yes, I have tricks in my pocket; I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.

(Tennessee Williams) 

In the current climate of fear and lie mongering, Harold Pinter’s 2005 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech is worth listening to again or re-reading. Pinter sits in a wheelchair in London, too ill to make the trip to Stockholm, and speaks eloquently about the difference between truth and lies, reality and unreality in art versus in political life. He begins by taking issue with something that he himself wrote in 1958: “There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false.  A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.”

Dancing in the Dragon’s Mouth: The Civic Role of the Performer

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bom-bom
Tutti Frutti, aw rooty
Tutti Frutti, aw rooty
Tutti Frutti, aw rooty
Tutti Frutti, aw rooty
Tutti Frutti, aw rooty
A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bom-bom

This is how the inscrutably professorial Arnold Aronson began a lecture one afternoon in a theater history class he taught while I was working on my MFA at Columbia. This is also the distinctive beginning of Little Richard’s first hit, and one of rock and roll’s most iconic songs: Tutti Frutti.

Making Decisions Together

Anne Bogart's picture

My close friends who are jazz aficionados usually are surprised and puzzled by my aversion to a great deal of contemporary jazz. They assume that I would love all jazz because of my affinity for music and because I am so intensely interested in group creation and improvisation. They point to my fascination with the origins of American cultural history, noting that jazz is acknowledged as the first true North American art form. But the fact is that I cringe while listening to what I consider noodle-y jazz. I find myself annoyed at what feels to be chaotic and unstructured noise.

I do enjoy jazz from earlier periods, including New Orleans jazz from the first part of the last century, dance music from the 1930s including swing, Kansas City and Gypsy Jazz. I like bebop from the 1940s. But I duck out around the “cool jazz” of the late 1940s and especially into the 50s. I am lost when it comes to modal jazz, fusion jazz and smooth jazz.  

The Ecology (and maybe The Future) of Theater: My Summer with SITI

Nishad More's picture

In May of this year, I began my Fellowship at SITI Company, a position created as part of the Management Incubator program. The Incubator aims to give creative entrepreneurs of color the opportunity to develop their skills in a high-intensity, real-world environment. In this industry, the barriers to entry for administrative staff, management staff and of course, performers, are all the same, as many entry-level positions require significant (frequently unpaid) experience, which often comes at a high cost to young graduates.  

Hold Your Seat

Anne Bogart's picture

On a recent evening in Santa Monica I saw Bo Burnham’s new film “Eighth Grade.” I walked out of the cinema in a daze and remained haunted by it for quite some time afterwards. In the film, a young girl struggles to get along with her peers. She and her friends are glued to their phones and seemingly addicted to social media. She is desperate to be accepted and, although isolated in her personal life and at school, she sends out messages of optimism and motivation to the world via her vlogs and Instagram. 

Every once in a while, I encounter a work of art that feels so true to our current cultural moment that I become somewhat catatonic after the experience. “Eighth Grade” had such an impact upon me because it captured the culture of flighty digital dependency that I recognize as the base line, the underbelly, of our current daily lives.

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