Emotion in the Theatre
When I was about 20, I started getting into the work of Robert Lepage. I loved his use of technology, his theatricality and found myself less taken in by his explanations of the work. It was truly work that spoke for itself.
Watching a Robert Lepage show instantly made me feel more secure and comfortable in my work. I had felt so intimidated by artists who were intellectually gifted and could philosophise and articulate issues in a way that felt like an Ivy League essay. Over time, I started to see the difference between artists who were genuinely interrogating issues, and artists who felt the need to justify their work.
When I finally got the chance to watch Needles and Opium live, I came out of the theatre saying “I needed that.” I had gone through a terrible breakup, chronic depression and was struggling with my direction in life. It didn’t galvanise me, but it did free me from my self-imposed oppression. I’m galvanised already by nature so I just kept on going.
But what about the contemporary audience? Whose greatest enemy is apathy toward our world? As someone who is not apathetic, all I need is that catharsis. But we need to dig deeper today.
Lepage once spoke about emotion in the theatre. He posed the questions which I’ve been investigating recently: “Should the emotion be in the actor or in the audience?” He’s in the camp that it should always be in the audience.
And I suppose this boils down to taste, but I disagree. In our modern society, too much emotion in the actor results work an audience finds hard to connect with. Too much in the audience and it becomes blind entertainment. Neither of those spur a society into motion. To not just interrogate their immediate environment, but to be galvanised enough to act on it.
The theatre needs to wrestle with the audience by filling them with emotion, then giving a break to rationalize before diving into emotion again. This tension between thinking and feeling is what I believe will ultimately create a long-term following of the theatre and a more progressive society.
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