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the curtain 5.14.19
#5: hyperlinks, consciousness, and more
Happy Tuesday! Hope your week is off to a good start.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how our tools—especially the internet—shape us.
The medium is the message. They contain within them a shift that forms a new consciousness.
For instance, pre-language society was an aural, interwoven experience not dependent on the specialization of the eye. Then one night some thinker sat in a cave and thought the thought that some things can represent other things. From this, imagery emerged. So too did language and the written word, which became an extension of this idea of representation. This shifted us from an aural people to a visual people.
From the written word many things followed very quickly. Things like civilization.
Much later, the invention of movable type and the printing press would shift our consciousness once more, accelerating our shift to a visual society, and encouraging literacy. From movable type so too did nationalism (seeing the vernacular) and the industrial revolution (books as a repeatable commodity) evolve.
The telegraph began yet another shift, towards a new electronic age of increasing paradoxical connection. The communication technologies of the 20th century — TV and phones, in particular — expanded this closeness, while also distancing us physically. Marshall McLuhan predicted in the 1960s that we would turn into a technology-enabled global village, restoring our sensory balance by once again becoming all-inclusive.
The Internet is this global village, which has again become the medium that is the message that has shifted our consciousness. With the introduction of the hyperlink, we have a whole new way of thinking, a generation of internet natives growing up on the notion that consciousness, knowledge, everything is a web of interconnected things, not necessarily dependent on the physical world of things you can touch and move and smell. In a way, this recalls pre-language society, only in a different realm.
I think about how Maria Popova of Brainpickings writes in a way that is everything at once, her blog connecting every thinker to another thinker, and her book Figuring jumping from thinker to idea to everything to idea. It’s a style of writing informed by the Internet’s shift in thinking.
What does this hyperlink consciousness mean for the future of art?
Speaking of hyperlinks, I wrote up a collection of my favorite links on theatre. I’d like to use the internet to help spread ideas about theatre, and help it evolve in the 21st century.
I've been collecting these links for years. (Bookmarks are very powerful!) It was a lot of fun to assemble, and there’s a wide variety of stuff there, so I think you’ll find something worthwhile.
Things worth sharing
I stumbled upon Cormac McCarthy’s only non-fiction piece, published in 2017 in Nautilus on the subject of the unconscious and the origins of language. It’s fascinating and deeply well-written, and I drew some influence from it for my short essay that began this email. Highly recommended.
Apart from its great antiquity the picture-story mode of presentation favored by the unconscious has the appeal of its simple utility. A picture can be recalled in its entirety whereas an essay cannot. Unless one is an Asperger’s case. In which event memories, while correct, suffer from their own literalness. The log of knowledge or information contained in the brain of the average citizen is enormous. But the form in which it resides is largely unknown. You may have read a thousand books and be able to discuss any one of them without remembering a word of the text.
McCarthy, besides being one of the great writers of our time, sits on the board for the Santa Fe Institute, a research institute focused on complex adaptive systems.
Racial Justice in Theatre
Is there an organization of white people in the theatre world working to educate other white theatre practitioners about racist practices? Like, a SURJ for theatre folks? ’Cause it is sorely needed and folx of color shouldn’t have to do this work.
If no one’s doing it yet, someone should consistently call out racist reviews.
If no one’s doing it yet, someone white should educate white audiences who are mad about a POC centered play in their season.
Someone white should maybe talk to white folx about why the depiction onstage they’re laughing at while the POC next to them is cringing is painful.
Someone should remind them that whiteness has ABSOLUTELY shaped American theatre at ABSOLUTELY every level.
Maybe someone white could explain to white casting directors that having white readers read Black roles in auditions is a problem. Gatdamn.
’Cause theatre folx fancy themselves progressive but I call bullshit.
Aaaand…my Black ass shouldn’t have to do this work.
Like a White Nonsense RoundUp, Theatre Edition, where every week white folx unpack WHY that tweet/programming choice/podcast/review is racist. White people have a power and privilege that we don’t. You can get other white people to listen! Use that privilege, Boo!
Grassroots Efforts to Diversify Broadway Audiences
One thing to constantly be asking: how can we do better with getting more diversity in audiences? It shouldn’t be up to Jeremy and Jose.
Publishing books is a different thing, of course. I try to disconnect from that. Don’t think about it — the publication of it. What I want to do is to be in the space where I’m writing. It’s also a way for me to understand what’s going on, to see things that I normally don’t see because I’m very much enclosed in myself and in my own space, and I don’t really notice things, and I’m kind of closed off to the world. So writing is a way of opening up, also.
There’s a lot of things, but I’ve been writing for so long now that it feels like a place I can go to. Go into that place and sit down, and I will be at peace as long as I am there. Even though I write about terrible and heartbreaking things, it still is a place of peace.
I do find reading the same thing. I’ve always done that. I think that was why I read so much when I was little and when I grew up. I think I became a writer the moment I realized that that space is the same. The reading space and the writing space are basically the same, and you do the same things there in those spaces.
This is from a weird and wide-ranging conversation on Conversations with Tyler. I’ve just begun My Struggle finally. It’s quite something.
Peter Brook on Becoming a Director
You become a director by calling yourself a director and you then persuade other people that this is true. So, in a way getting work is a problem that has to be solved with the same skills and resources that you need in rehearsal. I don’t know any other way apart from convincing people to work with you and getting some work under way—even unpaid—and presenting it to any public—in a cellar, in the back room of a pub, in a hospital ward, in a prison. The energy produced by working is more important than anything else. So don’t let anything stop you from being active, even in the most primitive conditions, rather than wasting time looking for something in better conditions that might not come off. In the end, work attracts work.
From the great book The Shifting Point.
I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but I do for some reason follow it on Twitter like I would sports. This thread is a good read on the writing struggles of the show, whether you watch it or not. George R.R. Martin writes by the seat of his pants (hence, pantser), while the show runners are intense plotters. Now that they gave themselves a finite endpoint, the two sensibilities are clashing.
Is pantsing better than plotting? No. And this has nothing to do with which approach is ‘right’, anyway. It’s about the approach changing in the third act. That’s the sort of thing an audience can feel happening, even if they can’t put their finger on exactly why.
The audience fell in love with one kind of show, but the ending is being imported from a different kind of show
Brooklyn can be very beautiful, even in the rain.
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Have a great week!