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Philip Bither, senior curator for performing arts, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

IT will surprise many how robustly theatre will break free from its current constraints. "Theatre" will come to encompass a much fuller range of performance possibilities. Complex media forms, visual art, new sonic and sensory designs, object theatre, creative movement, extended vocal techniques, new visual and ritual forms, simplicity and minimalism, physicality and high design, will all push theatre forward. What's viewed as "experimental" today will become commonplace.


Kitchen-sink realism will no longer hold such sway; film and TV can do naturalism so much better. In the DIY age, content delivery will not just travel on a one-way street from the playwrights, directors and performers to the passive ticket-holder sitting still in the dark. A greater embrace of interactivity, participation and personal lineal connections with artists (before, sometimes during, and after performances) will become the standard. The social and presentational will deeply and regularly intersect.

Theatre will play an essential part of our culture, but only if it continues to take chances, push out at the edges, rethink its relationship to time and space. "All really good theatre," said A.R. Gurney, "has an element of anarchy underneath it, of chaos, of real darkness." Radical theatre practice will be the fuel that drives our live art forms on paths that serve as an alternative to small- and large-screen magic.

What we currently think of as "unusual" theatre venues--social settings (clubs, bars, living rooms), site-specific locations, galleries, black boxes, parks, community centers--will become the new normal, while traditional proscenium venues will become more the selective shrine, the museum.

The ensemble and the collective will assert an even greater spirit; older hierarchies will break down both internally (with strict job functions falling away) and externally (with presenters and producers, commercial and not-for-profit sectors, audiences and critics blurring roles with abandon). As interdisciplinary approaches become more standard and artists with distinctly different training and backgrounds collaborate, content will also expand. Youth and pop cultures as well as global influences and diverse cultural perspectives will blossom forth, allowing theatre to play what David Jubb of London's Battersea Arts Centre wrote he hopes for--"a more dynamic and responsive role in 21st-century life."

Yes, theatre will confront severe crises of confidence in coming decades, but these pressures will force collaborative conversations, new formal approaches, and more immediate social and political directions, which will allow theatre to become more relevant and welcoming, important and surprising, provocative and fun, fast enough on its feet for a breakneck nation in the digital age.

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Title Annotation:AN EYE ON THE FUTURE
Publication:American Theatre
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2009
Previous Article:Sarah Benson artistic director, Soho Rep, New York City.
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