“The most essential element of theatre is transformation.”
– Heiner Müller
It has become difficult to publicly justify the necessity of art in our lives. Is art useful in terms of providing financial value? Can we quantify what it gives us, as we can with any consumer product? Can we guarantee that a performance, an exhibit, a book or a concert gives us our money’s worth?
Theatre is a luxury and its construction is mysterious, complex, very human. It nourishes us, destabilizes us, arouses us, provokes us. It is not always pleasant. It sometimes leaves us feeling embarrassed, bored, uncomfortable or annoyed that we can’t “change the channel”.
But the difference between theatre and television, Facebook or Twitter is that it possesses an invaluable asset. It offers us a live experience.
As spectators we sit facing a stage waiting to view an art object about which we know nothing or very little beyond words in a program, photos in a newspaper or interviews heard on the fly, but nothing that speaks to us with reliability about what we are about to experience.
We are sitting in the dark, it might be a bit too hot, we can hear the person in the next seat breathing, laughing, snoring. And then something happens onstage that has an immediate effect: the force of a word or the beauty of a word or a gesture or a beam of light that subtly transforms and modifies how we relate to the other, from the person next to us and then by extension to the entire community.
The performance of the actors onstage is shaped by the script, the lighting, the space, the breathing of the audience. Their breath warms the actors, touches their skins, awakens their senses, pushing them to act with more generosity, more abandon and intelligence, to raise the bar and surpass themselves.
That conjunction of breaths constitutes the vibrant link between actors and audience, each acting on the other as they embark on a mutual transformation, each helping the other to enjoy a unique experience. In the theatre every evening is different, for the show is never exactly the same, there is no rewind or Take 2. Each performance is exceptional.
The plays that I have the pleasure of presenting to you during the 2014-15 season have something special in common, something that unites them. Each in its own way, whether in its form or its content, evinces a metamorphosis, an alchemy of changes that are intimate, social or political.
These dissimilar scripts and forms are the work of artists, not objects formatted by producers of coded entertainment.
The Théâtre français provides support to several artists throughout the creative process. We participate in the risk of adventure, and all of us – the entire team – take pride in that artistic, human and financial involvement.
I fervently hope that we are able to speak to you through these original, personal worlds, so that we can all share in the joy and pleasure of these unique experiences, rich in meaning and beauty.