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Recycling essays

Here's a piece I wrote around four years ago or so. Feel free to eviscerate its assumptions. (Anyone know why I can't indent?)

Theatre: Art Against the Gnostics

Film is a multi-billion dollar, international business, and art form. Theatre is international too, but doesn’t pull in anywhere near the amount that Hollywood does each year. Technologies keep developing to enhance the movie-going experience too, e.g. CGI, digital video, and now, DVD and HDTV for the home. Yet for all the great things film can do and show us it is still lacking in one thing: the human body.

Film can take us to foreign lands, alien worlds, and other times, but it cannot deliver the human body in all four dimensions. Film flattens. Film compresses. Film is not live bodies in front of us. This is the glory that belongs to theatre (and dance by the way) the human body in time and space right before us. Some theatre even goes so far as to involve our bodies with the show we are watching. We can go from passive viewers to active participants, depending upon the staging. Let’s not forget that live performers feed off of the audience’s energy too. A responsive audience catalyzes much of a cast’s enthusiasm. Film is static and the performance is the same whether there are 2 or 2,237 in the audience.

So what’s the deal with the title? Well, the Incarnation is a central point in Christianity. This proposition states that the maker of the universe disrobed in some celestial dressing room and costumed himself in human genomes, veins, and skin. God becomes man. By doing so, this action, God dwelling in a human body, tells us that our bodies are good. They were good enough habitation for a god, we certainly can’t complain. We are at home in our bodies, we tell stories with them and about them, hence theatre. Theatre is about bodies. Good bodies (and I don’t necessarily mean Bally bodies). Bodies at war, playing, avenging, loving, working, anything that bodies do outside the theatre they do in it. The Gnostics, a very early philosophic/religious competitor with Christianity, taught that the body, that all matter was evil. The gods or God, spiritual stuff was all immaterial, just like our souls. The good part of us, our souls, are trapped in these secreting, smelly bodies. That's a shorthand lesson on Gnosticism, anyway.

Theatre, as an antidote to the Gnostic impulse, can show us in our screwy society how bodies, grounded in time and space can be Good. Our society is screwy because we either view bodies with an idolatrous awe (witness the proliferation of weight loss ads, gym membership invitations, and hypersexualized presentations of many, if not most, bodies on TV, in many magazines, and films) or we hold our bodies in contempt, hence plastic surgery, creams to hold our youth in our pores, and some aspects of cyberspace. The Internet in particular has given some an escape from their bodies to exist (sort of) as pure mind. We don’t like our bodies in America so we either shape them to a Madison avenue/Hollywood ideal or we despise them ala virtual reality. Theatre offers a corrective to this madness. Young bodies and old, fit and fat bodies, all have their place on stage because all tell us the story of being human. And being human is what the Incarnation is about.

Of course, those bodies on stage have to have minds animating them as well, so a good story underlies any good theatre, but talky shows without physicality, perhaps would be better suited on the big or small screen which renders them only images anyway. So, support your local theatre and watch some flesh jiggle, wrinkle, sag, flex, or move in a way only humans can and be amazed that that is you up there as well.


CresceNet said…
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Scot said…
Thanks. Is your blog in Portuguese by any chance?
Anonymous said…
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