August 20, 2011

Ari and Elana and Art

I just met my friends Ari and Elana for brunch -- they're visiting the East Coast from Denver -- and we had a really interesting conversation about art.  Elana is a beautiful painter, and I was trying to relate her experience in the studio arts to mine in the performing arts.  Realism, for instance, has an entirely different meaning for her than it does in the theatre, and just the process of labeling one's work is a heady, overwrought one.  I have been categorized as both traditional and avant garde, and though I have fought against and distanced myself from these labels, I have also slowly started to embrace them.  I'm getting sick of being between categories -- lost somewhere between straightforward and weird.  I mix genres, styles, and techniques not so much to create a new art form but rather to enhance and amplify the storytelling traditions that originally sprung the theatre we know today.  And Elana has had a similar struggle.  In her world, labels are there to box you in and remind you that you are a painter, this is what you do, and this is what you must fight against if you are going to go "rogue."  She too finds herself caught between categories, and rather than describe how she paints, she has chosen to just paint.  She defines herself not as a still-life or portrait realist, but as a painter.  And from her I learn to say that I am not an avant garde revisionist or an adaptor of classics or an auteur-director, but rather I am a theatre artist.  I trust my imagination, I write, I direct, and I do.  And if it happens to be weird experimental downtown theatre or a naturalistic rendering of a classic, then so be it.  But today, this is where my whim has led me, and today this is where I follow.

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