Thoughts and Musing 2011- 2012
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T.S. Eliot -- "Little Gidding"
Nostalgic longing for a simpler, better time is always tempting, but as I look back at over 50 years in the theatre I am struck by the profundity of T.S. Eliot’s lines. Our tireless exploration of the realms of creation and art lead again and again back to a place of simplicity and truth. We struggle and strive to achieve a sense of completeness. And when on those rare occasions we get it right, it is the shock of recognition that is overwhelming. Catharsis, epiphany – call it what you will. We all know that glorious synergy when events on stage resonate in a deeply personal but profoundly universal way. The feeling is ephemeral, but indelibly imprinted, as we set off once again on our journey to create and experience our aesthetic high.
This desire to understand our most primary instincts and responses has always guided our repertoire. When selecting this year’s season we kept returning to two plays that had appealed to us in the past. They both are highly theatrical, contentious and moving: all qualities deemed essential in selecting work for the company. But both plays focused on an issue that no longer seemed relevant or urgent – the terrifying destructive force of nuclear energy. The selection committee debated the merits of the plays and the relevance of the issue and ultimately decided that the plays were so inventive and emotionally satisfying that we would present them in tandem and reveal two aspects of the story of J Robert Oppenheimer and atomic power. Three weeks later the tsunami devastated Japan and our plays are hauntingly prophetic.
Our desire to know, understand and control our world is arrogant yet irresistible. Through the dramatic maze of Oppenheimer's story the complexity of our ignorance, hubris and humanity are explored, for as Albert Einstein so pithily explained: "The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...The solution to the problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."
The next play in our season, Quills, is the ideal expression of a major project that will be taking place in all departments of CSULB during 2011/12—an exploration of the ramifications of censorship in the B-word Project. The Marquis de Sade, notorious as a philanderer and reprobate, is revealed in a very different light. The play confronts us with some very unsettling images and issues and asks the crucial question about boundaries of freedom expression.
Tom Stoppard's inventive delightful and very smart comedy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead looks at the random vicissitudes of life refracted through the world of Shakespeare's Hamlet. As eternal observers - watching great drama unfold without any comprehension of the significance of the events that shape their lives in a world of illusion and deception - the title characters are the perfect expression of our mad contemporary existence. We watch in horror as wars are fought, stock markets soar and crash, political mayhem dominates and we, like Hamlet’s hapless friends, can do nothing but flip a coin and try to dodge the fallout.
Great theatre is informed by politics and social context but transcends the particular issues of the day. We trust that this season will draw you deeply into the most fundamental issues confronting all thinking feeling adults but also provide solace. Join us on our journey of exploration.