Sunday, January 31, 2010

Animals out of paper

The SF Playhouse is a tiny, tiny theater in SF that seats around 100 people. As a season pass holder, I am invited to watch previews of plays, given questionnaires to provide feedback that is incorporated into future showings, and invited to special events.

I recently saw “Animals out of paper”, by Rajiv Joseph, which is (just to not give away too much of the plot) origami as a metaphor for life. I thought it was brilliant. The theme, the story, the writing, how perfect the actors were for the parts they played, and how talented.

I was thrilled to hear that at the end of the show the playwright, the director and the actors would drag fold-out chairs, open them up on the stage, and encourage conversation.

As I sat there listening to the author answer questions, I was startled by how different his intent was from my interpretation of the play. I wanted to raise my hand and shout, “that is not how Suresh felt at all!” except that I was keenly aware that it was a play he had written, and that I was just a spectator. I walked out of the theater almost wishing I had not stayed for the discussion, much preferring my own version of the meaning of the show and what would happen to the characters in the future.

If a director works closely with a playwright to bring his characters to life, does he then have to let go and put all the answers in the hands of his audience? (Yes, please.) How long do you get to keep what you write? Isn’t its very purpose to take on a life of its own, like parents with their children?

More importantly, how many times have I heard things –outside the confines of a theater – that I have taken to mean something completely different than the way they were intended? How many times have I attributed something to someone else when really the accidental author was my imagination?

Do we ever really get to know anyone at all? Or do things only happen in the confines of our mind, tracing with the people closest to us feather light parallel lines that, because of the flaws inherent in human nature, are destined to never touch?


Carol Miller said...

As Tomás says, "if you have to explain it, it's not art." The discussion was probably valid from the author's point of view but strictly speaking, having consigned his work to the public, his presence is no longer required and I consider him excess weight. My complaint against Disney interpretations of children's classics is precisely the theft of the child's imagination. To each his own Cinderella, Moby Dick, Snow White, Bambi, Wizard of Oz, Alice, etc. Who has the right to lay it all out for him? I think you should go with your own impressions of this play.

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