A play ethic   Leave a comment

Timothy Morton’s lateset post is titled Drama as Ecological Form. I’m glad he is now considering drama as an ecological form and look forward to his thoughts on the subject. I’m also delighted to discover Una Chaudhuri’s work, given that my own impulse to transition from a geology PhD to further studies in literary ecology was initiated by a three week international voice workshop on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

In the course of the last seven years, I’ve searched out authors that have recognized drama as a “quintessentially ecological art form”. Part of my motivation being to write an “ecological play” about carbon capture storage. (I now plan to complete a second draft of my manuscript by this summer).

Here are some quotes from two references that I’ve found particularly useful:

In How Plays Work David Edgar writes that The playwright David Hare sees theatre as essentially meteorological – like the weather, it happens when two fronts meet: what the actors are doing and what the audience is thinking.”

Edgar also makes a very useful comment on “The liminal zone”… where lies are exposed, disguises tested and the truths of individuals are revealed (p 73):

“In exploring the relationship of location to genre, there are two special cases, one a tragedy, one usually seen as a comedy… Indeed, you might define Shakespeare’s two principal genres in starkly simple terms: in the comedies people are driven into the countryside where they dress up as other people, come in again, and get married; in the tragedies, they strip off stay outside, and die.” (p. 74-75).

Joseph Meeker in his “Comedy of Survival: Literary Ecology and a Play Ethic” (1997) suggests that in comedies people get back inside through a “strategic and clever” reconciliation (p. 16): “When the usual patterns of life are disrupted, the comic spirit strives for a return to normalcy… (It) is a strategy for survival. (p. 14 -15).” Meeker reckons that “a rhapsody extolling human conquests over nature appears at a crucial point in Greek tragic drama, for the human elevation over natural environments is an essentially tragic assertion.”

Personally, I also find it timely to rethink ecological theatre. This weekend I attended the “Literature and Altered States” conference at Lausanne University.

The first item on the program was “Mania in The Bacchae”. It was observed that in Euripides’s play each character has a different reading of the following terms: Sophia (Wisdom) ; Phrônesis (Perception/judgement); Sôphrôn (Knowledge of limits).

Are these idiosyncratic readings informed by each character’s place in society? …. The more I think of it, the more I want to devote time to an ecological reading of this play!

My last attempt to write about ecological theatre was for Geneva University’s English Department Student Newspaper. See:

Nisbet Eco-theatre

…Having completed my reading of Finnegans Wake, I remain intrigued by the many instances, not only part II- chapter II of the book, where I’m persuaded that I’m witness to a shadow play located within Joyce’s mind. J.L. Styan insists that “the play is not on the stage but in the mind” (Edgar 2009, p.7). In Finnegans Wake the play is not on the page, but in the mind…

Images from the 2007 Theatre du Mouvement workshop, “At the juncture of Body and Object”. International Puppetry Institute, Charleville-Mézières.


Posted March 7, 2011 by R.H.H. Nisbet in Drama, Gesamtkunstwerk, Shakespeare

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: