Saturday, February 10, 2007

David Mamet, "Theater & Dreams"

The theater is an expression of our dream life, our unconscious aspirations – a response to that which is best, most troubled, most visionary in our society.

In dreams we do not seek answers which our conscious rational mind is capable of supplying, we seek answers to those questions which the conscious mind is incompetent to deal with. So with the drama, if the question posed is one which can be answered rationally – e.g. how does one fix a car, should white people be nice to black people, are the physically handicapped entitled to our respect – our enjoyment of the drama is incomplete. We feel diverted but not fulfilled. Only if the question posed is one whose complexity and depth renders it unsusceptible to rational examination does the dramatic treatment seem to us appropriate, and the dramatic solution become enlightening.

Ecclesiastes 9:12. "For man also know it's not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil man, and as the birds that are caught in a snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time when it follows a suddenly upon them."

The solution is the dream.

The theatrical artist serves the same function in society that dreams do in our subconscious life-the subconscious life of the individual. We are elected to supply the dreams of the body politic-we are the dream makers of the society. What we act out, design, write, springs not from meaningless individual fancy, but from the soul of the times – that soul both observed by and expressed in the artist.

We all dream each night, but sometimes we are reluctant to remember a dream; just so we, as a collective artistic unity, create poetic theatrical dreams, but it sometimes we are reluctant to remember (stage, acccept, support) them.

The mass media pander to the low and the lowest of the low in the human experience. They, finally, debase us through the sheer weight of their mindlessness. Every reiteration of the idea that nothing matters debases the human spirit. It denies what we know to be true. In denying what we know, we are as a nation which cannot remember its dreams – like an unhappy person who cannot remember his dreams and so denies that he does dream, and denies that there are such things as dreams.

Who is going to speak up? Who's going to speak for the human spirit? The artist. The actor. Dedicated to the idea that the theater is the place we go to hear the truth.

Theatre – true theatre – is an art whose benefits will cheer us, and will warm us, it will care for us, and to elevate our soul out of the story times. The place we can go to hear the truth.

From three essays in "Writing In Restaurants" by David Mamet;
"A National Dream-Life"
"A Tradition of the Theater as Art"
"Decay: Some Thoughts For Actors"