Filed under: theatre, What I wish American Theatre Would Learn from the Brits | Tags: Complicite, devising, Improbable, Kneehigh, theatre, Wooster Group
#3 Expand our standard Theatrical Categories and Vocabulary
In the UK, there is an accepted form of theatre called DEVISED THEATRE. It’s essentially actor-created (or actor-designer-director-writer-etc created) work. Some companies that have become well know for it (that I love) are Complicité, Improbable Theatre, Told By An Idiot and Kneehigh Theatre. We have some companies that devise work here in the States, too. The Wooster Group, Mabou Mines, The Siti Company – but we don’t call them devised. I’m not sure what we call them.
When I tell people I create devised work or that I’m interested in devising, very few people have the slightest idea of what I’m talking about (unless they’re in Theatre in Education, interestingly.) I don’t know why this is but I think it’s time for a change. I think there’s a way where, by not naming this very established and important form of theatre making, we are continuing to marginalize it. Now, the Wooster Group is certainly not suffering for lack of recognition and I don’t think they hurt for ticket sales – but only in certain circles. What they do is still called Avant Garde and experimental, despite the fact that they’ve been an established company for decades, inspiring many other devisors behind them.
For the average American, theatre means only Broadway or musicals or both and we need to expand our categories and allow for physical theatre, devised theatre, verbatim theatre, promenade theatre (all legitimate recognized forms in the UK and mostly unmentioned here despite their presence) and give them a proper place at the table.
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