Monday, July 15, 2013

Words, Words, Words

by Julia Garcia-Combs
HYPERBOLE:bard at Annenberg Community Beach House

Movement coach & Part of the Development Team of Rogue Artists Ensemble's HYPERBOLE:bard

In the philosophies of Art and Aesthetics, Theater is considered a subcategory of Literature. Edward Hopper said, “If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.” Theater isn’t literature, because it isn’t meant to be read. What makes the theater so exciting as an art form is it’s incorporation of all forms. Theatre is visual, auditory, visceral, experiential, moving and changing. It is the closest artistic approximation to the experience of life itself: as soon as something beautiful has happened, it just as quickly disappears.

Imagine for a moment what it must have been like to go see the latest Shakespeare play. What relationships will we watch unfold? What decisions will they have to make? Will we connect to the character’s desire for love or power? Do we want what they want? Do we feel what they feel?

My favorite hyperbole, “O, I could weep my spirit from mine eyes!” (Julius Caesar), expresses a universally understood emotion; we all know what it’s like to feel betrayed by someone we love and weep our spirit from our eyes. We all know what it is like to ask, “To be or not to be - that is the question;” as artists we make it our pursuit to question the meaning of life.

But today, to the larger majority, it is just poetry. Beautiful poetry. But it’s literature. (Or it’s boring theater.) Why? In Peter Ackroyd’s Introduction to The Complete Works he states:

In recent years it has become all the more necessary to read William Shakespeare. We live in a visual, rather than an oral culture. Shakespeare’s first audiences were used to the long sermon, as well as the ‘mighty line’... The audiences of the twenty-first century are ill-equipped to listen to Shakespeare's plays... They cannot follow the dialogue, even if they can more or less comprehend the plot. Half the significance is lost to them. 

We must ask: what is this significance that is lost? It is not the plot, but the imagery - the associations of words that create meaning through memories, thoughts, opinions, emotions and beliefs. We must connect with the significance of Shakespeare's plays to our own, visual, real-time culture.

William Shakespeare used his gift with words as a tool in seeking to communicate, to express the full depths of his imagination to his audience. The key to unlocking the significance of Shakespeare's work today is not in speaking the language, but in asking, “What does the language do?” What did it do to the audiences of the day (where it was essentially pop-culture)? What does it do to those of us today who connect to it?

It is an outward expression of the internal experience. It makes us feel and imagine experiences outside of ourselves. It is this act of creating an outward experience to express internal forces. “It is as if we are gazing upon the spectacle of language in the act of expressing itself,” (Ackroyd). The challenge of HYPERBOLE: bard is to communicate a piece of Shakespeare’s imagination to our modern day, visual audience through a visceral theatrical experience.

HYPERBOLE:bard continues at the Annenberg Community Beach House July 17 - 19!

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