Monday, June 12, 2006

Theater of Cruelty

This title is actually not mine, but let's start at the beginning of my explanation. Somewhere around the year 1982 (yes, yes; mists of time and all that...) when I was still a Student, it was required that I should take some manner of Liberal Arts elective in order to escape the semester alive. As a Student of 'computer studies', this news fell on my psyche like acid off a duck's back. Touchy, feely coursework was to be endured, not enjoyed. It was a beer-stain on the rich tapestry of logic and technology that I was weaving for myself. In short, I was not with the programme.

But, a credit was a credit and so I made my selection; something general interest that afforded a bit of literate sampling without too much commitment. A spoonful of Voltaire, a mere taste of debating skills, maybe some critical analysis for dessert - it might not be so bad, I thought.

And it wasn't so bad. Had it not been for this one, lonely credit I would never have been exposed to likes of Herman Hesse's Siddartha nor would I have taken the time to really think about the context that lies between People and Technology. In the years since, I have forgotten the professor's name - but I'm thankful for the chance to have been his Student.

Which brings us back to Theater of Cruelty; which I learned about during that semester. The term is generally attributed to French actor/writer Antonin Artaud (died somewhere around 1950 - although I could Google this I suppose). Artaud had a passion for the experience of theater. That is, he believed that the audience was a central character in any theatrical production, not merely observers. In fact, the theater-in-the-round concept that is popularized, for example, at the Stratford Festival was inspired by Artaud's theories.

Theater of Cruelty summed up Artaud's position that theater should be an in your face experience. It was all about shattering illusions of reality and generating a more visceral response from the audience who, in turn, would feed that whole vibe back to the performers.

The expression stuck with me all these years, and it seems to be a good metaphor for the Blogging experience. So, am I in your face? Am I shattering your reality? Hardly. But I'll wager that those who post their thoughts on-line with a modicum of anonymity are, by definition, speaking Truths hidden in their daily lives. And that's our own small Theater of Cruelty, isn't it?.

Cue the Afterschool Special tinkly music.