Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A response from Hunka. Well, not so much a "response", as my points weren't addressed. But he did make a number of new points:

The definition of success, failure and relevance does not occur in a vacuum, but is very much determined by ideology.

Okay, so far we agree—though the idea that these terms are always utterly relative is an academic shell game. For example, I could have a "successful" theatre that produced no work, if I defined success as creating conceptual work that is never sullied by actual production. But only goofballs work that way.

A post-capitalist or consumerist definition of these words

I don't understand "post-capitalist" in this context, though I think I understand consumerist.

posits that success, failure or relevance is somehow quantitatively measurable (otherwise Daisey wouldn't be able to say that theatre is "failing" at something),

I'm not sure why it has to be quantitatively measurable, or exactly what you mean by quantitative in this sense.

and that some kinds of theatre are relevant and others not.

I suppose there would be a continuum, though I was speaking about what theater's context as a whole is in relation to American society.

After all, which cultural context is Daisey using?

I am using my own cultural context. The one I came packaged with.

What is "relevant" in this context? What is not? Success or failure of an individual artwork (not to mention an entire art form) is something determined by prescriptive aesthetics, and these aesthetics are precisely relevant to this conversation.

Relevant, yes, but they are not the entire conversation, ESPECIALLY when we are speaking about an entire field over an individual work. To ignore moral and ethical concerns is unacceptable.

(Sorry, Mike, about my "blinkered addiction" to them, but aesthetics are culturally determined too, and your theatre is driven by them every bit as much as mine.)

I was clearly speaking about the theater industry, not you. I don't know your work. Sorry you took offense.

I'd agree that of course my aesthetic concern drives my theater, IN CONJUNCTION with my own moral and ethical concerns.

These questions go to the heart of the issue that Daisey is reluctant to address ("It's true that I don't in my current arguments dictate what kind of work should be done. I believe that isn't my role in this discussion," he says), but without responding to these issues (and he needn't dictate, only provide some kind of precise examples) it's impossible to imagine what Daisey means by a "more relevant," "more successful" theatre.

I'm reluctant because it's unnecessary and destructive. My work has been primarily to illuminate and illustrate what is broken in the current system: you do not have to create a new system in order to do that.

That said, long-term my hope is to begin to examine what the shape of work will be. As a simple and clear starting point, I stand behind my own work.

If, like Justice Potter Stewart and pornography, Daisey knows it when he sees it, he's welcome to it. But Justice Stewart didn't do the cause of literature much good with that definition either.

Working for artistic reform in how theater is made in this country does not require the passing of judgment on the work within it. One does not need to be a connoisseur of sausages to recognize there may be serious issues in the slaughterhouse where they are made.

And as to my spelling theatre the way I do, what can I say? Perhaps I feel closer to Europe. "I spell theater -er rather than -re," Mike says. Why? "Becase [sic] I am American." Well, all right.

At least you've dispelled any illusions that you might actually raise the level of discourse.