I don’t believe that I’ve linked to the on-line magazine Exeunt before; I’ll make amends today, in lieu of a Friday video.
Founded in 2010 and edited by Natasha Tripney and Daniel B. Yates, Exeunt is a British on-line theatre and performance journal which seeks to “refine and redefine the notion of quality criticism” and “recognise that much of the best theatre writing exists on the web. To document the changing role of the critic, from guardian, to curator, to scheduler, to filter, to friend. To show that far from undermining the profession, the web’s multiplicity of voices, schooled in various experiences, is a catalyst for theatre criticism’s renewal,” according to the About page of the journal.
Several recent articles are delightfully contrarian — I point to only two. “The Necessity of Narrative?” by Deborah Pearson, a curator of the Forest Fringe festival at Edinburgh, questions the ethics of narrative itself, warning that it may be born of fear and insecurity rather than a happily innate human desire to amuse and be amused:
I sometimes wonder if the real reason we need stories originates from the fear that our lives may never find a final resolution in any way that we will be conscious of. If this, mortality and the confusing nature of an ongoing existence, is what is really behind our desire for storytelling, then perhaps we should just see it as a neurotic quirk of the human species. A kind of coping mechanism or security blanket. In a world where our desire for story (through history and the media) has edited out so many lives, so much suffering and joy, is it theatre’s place to pull the security blanket out from under us to expose an actual truth? Or is that just sloppy story telling?
You can read the full essay here.
Second, Exeunt recently ran a three-part series of essays by dramatist Arnold Wesker in which he dissected the rise of directorial interpretation at the expense of the dramatic text, mused on the distinction between show business and art, and finally offered “A Defense of the Word.” A brief passage from this last:
I warm to abstract art, whether on canvas, in stone, or in architecture; but I cannot sit through two or three hours of abstract drama where characters without words speak to me only in simple terms. I am a complex being in a complex world. I require the power of words to formulate thoughts that help me stumble through a complex life. Theatre-without-words tells me only that spring can bring joy, that kindness can melt hard hearts, that all we need is love, that war is evil. It cannot detail the conflicts of interest that lead to war so that I can make judgements, nor can it heart-achingly explain why war sometimes may be needed to combat evil. Theatre that tries to communicate simple thoughts in images or action without language is finally a theatre of primary emotions. At its best theatre-without-words may arouse admiration for skill and imagination, at its worst it may mislead by omission, and in leaving out so much risks dishonesty. In spreading thin its specificity it becomes kindergarten theatre.
All three essays are excerpted from Wesker on Theatre, published last year by Oberon Books — but I wouldn’t have known that if Exeunt hadn’t brought the book to my attention.
It’s now quite rare for new journals or blogs about theatre to be launched; much of the attention and energy has gone into proprietary systems such as Facebook and Twitter. But the Web is open and accessible to all, not only those who subscribe to those new corporate services. The Web remains the most effective source of long-form writing on theatre. Say the editors, “As paywalls and paid-apps steadily enclose, [we try] to return a sense of editorial optimism to the free-web. That far from Babel, the free-web represents the best opportunity to present a networked, dynamic, cultural resource.” The journal Exeunt is worth a moment — or several moments — of your time.