Q: Is anyone writing plays now that you consider well made and that you like?
CHARLES MEE: I'd rather say the work I'm crazy about and love deeply is the work of Pina Bausch, Alain Platel in Belgium, Jan Lauwers in Belgium, Sasha Waltz in Berlin at the Schaubühne, Anne Bogart in the United States. I'm crazy about the directors Robert Woodruff, Les Waters, Daniel Fish, Tina Landau and my daughter — all of whom I've worked with — and the kind of work that opens up the world rather than closing it down.
Q: The artists you mention are all considered avant-garde, and, though not everybody agrees about what that means, most see the birth of the avant-garde as happening at about the same time that theater became less of a popular medium. Is that a coincidence or cause and effect? Is the kind of theater that matters the kind of theater that has to exclude a popular audience because it either won't appeal to them or will not be clear to them?
CHARLES MEE: The exact opposite is the case. The decline of theater as an essential art form in America coincides with the triumph of naturalism and the well-made play — which is boring people crazy out of their minds. The great hope for the theater is that it returns to the immense energies that were in Greek theater and Shakespeare, theater that includes not just text and interpersonal relationships but also spectacle, music, dance, physical performance, color, noise, fabulous events happening. The stuff of musical comedy — such a popular form — should always have been the stuff of all theater.
What happened was that the work of Ibsen — which in its time was wonderful, innovative, avant-garde, rule-breaking theater — became a standard of reduced, reductionist, drawing room, interpersonal relationships best suited for small television sets, not for large theatrical spaces. People who thrive on that kind of theater are well served by television and movies. I'm talking about a whole tradition of brilliant, genius, masterful, great playwrights whose time is over.
People who love theater as it has been for 5,000 years, with the exception of this small, unusual period in theatrical history, welcome the return of a more highly theatrical form. And that's the tradition out of which, I think, I work, out of which a lot of work is being done in Europe today and out of which a lot of downtown avant-garde work is being done.
-- New York Times
author/director of Theatre de Complicite's Mnemonic
Seven of the Provincetown Players are in the army or working for it in France, and more are going. Not light-heartedly now, when civilization itself is threatened with destruction, we who remain have determined to go on next season with the work of our little theatre. It is often said that theatrical entertainment in general is socially justified in this dark time as a means of relaxing the strain of reality, and thus helping to keep us sane. This may be true, but if more were not true -- if we felt no deeper value in dramatic art than entertainment -- we would hardly have the heart for it now. One faculty, we know, is going to be of vast importance to the half-destroyed world -- indispensable for its rebuilding -- the faculty of creative imagination. That spark of it which has given this group of ours such life and meaning as we have is not so insignificant that we should now let it die. The social justification which we feel to be valid now for makers and players of plays is that they shall help keep alive in the world the light of imagination. Without it the wreck of the world that was cannot be cleared away and the new world shaped.
-- George Cram Cook, founder of the Provincetown Players, 1918