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Following that thought, you also say in that same entry that "you end up living the narrative you describe." It made me wonder if you feel like you've narrated your life or your career in a specific way?
Yeah I do, I absolutely do, and I'm now questioning, what's the next narrative.
Can you describe the narrative that you have used in the past?
There is a narrative which is the typical journey narrative—that I left the United States because I hated it, and I learned by leaving that I'm deeply American. So all of my work for the past few years has been about understanding what that means. That's the narrative that I've lived by and now I'm looking for the next one.
That's interesting given that so many contemporary experimental theater artists talk about having to make their livings in Europe because they can't build a sustainable life in the arts here.
Yeah, I resist that. I definitely resist that.
How have you managed that? So few people do.
I think you just have to put it together. You have to use wile and I think you can't solve it in any one way. Certainly as a company we're looking at that right now, which is how to move forward after all these years—change.
Sticking with that narrative idea, I'm intrigued by the fact that the American theater, if it were to live up to the narrative that it uses for itself, would consistently fail. Because that's so often the conversation that a lot of theater artists are having.
I think you're so right. It's a problem.
But it doesn't fail. That's what so interesting. You've been involved in so many aspects of theater—founding and running SITI, your short time at Trinity Rep, President of TCG for a period, running the directing program at Columbia University. Do you see a narrative in American theater?
It's not what you're asking, but theater is the most important activity that one can be exposed to, either in doing it or being a part of it as an audience. It's becoming more and more rare to be in the same room and concentrate together about issues that are social, because all theater is about social issues—it asks can we get along, can we get along in this room, can we get along in the play. So I think its narrative is about its vitality right now.
In Viewpoints Peter Anderson writes about the fact that in each of your productions you are probing the question, why theater, why make theater, why is that important? Does that question take on different meaning in each show?
Somebody, I can't remember who, maybe George Bernard Shaw, said that every novel should bring the whole question of what a novel is into existence and take it to a new level. I'm sort of in that school. So the language that one is using should question as one's doing it. The event of theater should be brought into question in the act of doing it.
Do you ever feel like you answer that question for yourself within a given production or is it always an open question?
I think it's an open question. I don't think it's ever answered. The minute it was, I think I'd move on. It's still endlessly fascinating to me—what are people doing in this room? Somebody gets up, another person watches them. I think when animals make noise, they're saying "I'm here, I'm here, I'm here." So is that what we're doing?