More From Tony Kushner, On The Future of Theatre

As noted in the previous post, at the end of our discussion, Tony Kushner fielded Crowd Sourced questions collected off my facebook page. I ganged three up into one final query about the future of American Theatre.

low res Kushner pic

From Michael Rohd of Sojourn Theatre: Tony, you are passionate about democracy. Your stories ask us to consider our private, public and collective souls. If you imagine artists engaging in the practice of democracy beyond their role as storytellers, bringing their assets as makers of meaning, as collaborators, as problem solvers, into public process, what do you imagine?

from Marin Academy’s David Sinaiko: As a decidedly analog art form in an increasingly digital age how does theater stay relevant – not just in content, but in the cultural aesthetic?

From DC playwright Nicole Burton: Working and middle class Americans, when given encouragement and opportunity, LIKE to attend theater. They they the liberation of ideas. In Tony’s opinion, what does a transformational American theater look like in our times?

Here’s how Tony responded–Tremendously optimistic! Full of faith (and a little bit of envy) in a new generation of playwrights like Annie Baker and her uncompromising confidence in addressing that shift from analogue to digital in her latest play, The Flick

And then Tony ended with this flourish:

“Finally, [theatre] is always just these people on the stage in the light talking to these people in the dark. It’s completely not capital intensive. It’s not labor intensive. It doesn’t last. We always need an unsuccessful illusion. That’s what theatre does. It teaches critical consciousness. It is a model of the human predicament. Things are and are not what they seem at the same time. And the only way to live in the world, to able to read the world, is to interpret it, to take meaning from it. And the only way to do that is to not be fooled by surface appearance. And film creates at this point, a visual manipulation, an increasingly overwhelmingly, perfect illusion.

I think we’ll always need theatre. We’re always going to be caught in this dilemma—of being in a world that we both inhabit, are born into, and create by existing in and demands our interpretation. And theatre, whatever else it teaches, and it can teach many things, is always teaching that. It teaches empathic imagination and at the same time gives you reason to doubt. It gets you locked in that cycle and being locked in that cycle is critical consciousness. I don’t think we can live without that.

quotation notated by Theater J friend, Kurt Nemes