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A Message for World Theatre Day.

More than 2000 years ago Euripides' Electra asked, "How should I begin my accusation? How should I end it? What should go in the middle?" In this era of euphemism and empty rhetoric, an era in which it is considered better form to spare everyone's feelings than to call things by their names, the cry of Agamemnon's daughter has lost none of its relevance. To accuse. Denounce. Provoke. Disturb. Isn't this the role of theatre?

The trend towards universality at all costs and the incessantly harped-upon globalization threatens to reduce our world to the size of a village where uniformity prevails. These are forces that will certainly serve to diminish the role of theatre in our increasingly antiseptic society -- which is now ruled from on high by two or three powerful cultural monsters. The insatiable desire to make everything on earth alike will result in everything becoming like nothing on earth.

No, salvation at the beginning of this third millennium will come instead from those small voices being raised in all corners of the world, censuring injustice and -- in keeping with the very foundations of theatre - extracting the essence of the human being, distilling and transposing it in order to share it with the whole world. These small voices are coming from Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, Quebec, Norway and New Zealand. They are making their cry of indignation heard everywhere. Sometimes they have a local color and a distinctive flavor that, it is true, have nothing global about them; but at least these voices are genuine.

And what is more, they eventually do speak to everyone because they are initially addressed to a particular audience capable of being moved as it recognizes its own turmoil and troubles -- an audience that is able to weep for and laugh at itself. If the portrait drawn is a true likeness, the whole world will eventually recognize itself.

Ultimately, the universality of a dramatic text is not to be found in the place in which it was written but in its humanity, in the relevance of its statements and in the beauty of its structure. Writers are not more universal because they are writing in Paris or New York rather than in Chicotimi or Port-au-Prince. They are universal when, in speaking about something they know about to an audience that is prepared to be self-critical, they manage, through their sincerity, faith and the miracle of theatre, to describe and sing the human soul; to delve into its mysteries and restore all its wealth. The universality of Chekhov does not lie in his being Russian, but in the genius that enabled him to describe the Russian soul -- something with which all human beings can identify. The same applies to all geniuses and even to simply "good" playwrights.

Each line of dialogue written by an author somewhere in the world is universal by definition if it expresses the fundamental cry of Electra: "How should I begin my accusation? How should I end it? What should go in the middle?"

Quebecois playwright Michel Tremblay's plays have been produced throughout the world and include Albertine, en cinq temps and Marcel poursuivi par les chiens. This essay was commissioned by the International Theatre Institute in celebration of this year's World Theatre Day in March.

Michel Tremblay, Canada's most-produced playwright in the United States, issued an eloquent message (page 4) for this year's World Theatre Day, Match 27, joining a roster of theatre figures of almost incomparable distinction. Jean Cocteau composed the first of these international missives in 1962, and they have been authored in the years since by Arthur Miller, Laurence Olivier, Jean-Louis Barrault, Peter Brook, Ellen Stewart, Eugene Ionesco, Edward Albee, Wole Soyinka, Vaclav Havel and a dozen others.
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Author:Tremblay, Michel
Publication:American Theatre
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2000
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