Theatre of the Mind
by Shelley Berc
We do not need any more actors directors playwrights designers critics. We do not need any more love, hate, psychology, politics, history, space, intimacy, stages, or especially money. We need so much that we can’t need anything but a theatre of the mind.
Crawl through the dark cave of mind that is the womb of all theatre and you will discover the theatre of the mind. The theatre of the mind is the loudest, brightest, most theatrical space in all of creation. It is collective and individual, invisible and all envisioning, narcissistic and universal, beautiful and ugly and brutal and tender; it is the only theatrical hope/experience that keeps us going back and back, performance after putrid performance; it is why we love to read the plays of Shakespeare, to enact the magic incantation of their story heart and language smell in our minds and why so often their stagings disappoint, frustrate and limit our imaginings. The theatre of the mind is the stage of perfect wonder that each one of us and every one of us ever smitten by live performance longs to see again, a lost Eden that comes so easily in our secret thought and appears so hard to realize on the living stage. And it is a tragedy– this loss of a live, transformative theatre, this cavern of twisting into labyrinth into gorge into ocean and sky because we need its external presence as a people, as community to act in the very fact of its occurring as omen, talisman, catalyst, to dream out the potentiality of life; to dream a new blue print of civilization, together.
When I was a child, a stage could be anything–a piece of the linoleum basement floor, the top of the oval chrome and Formica kitchen table, the rotting top step of the back porch stoop, an empty grandmother’s bed, a patch of dirt under a willow tree. It could be anything and with some words and performers and watchers (sometimes just two people who kept trading places with each other) we en-acted the great battles of good and evil and the dilemma of greed, the hunger of selfishness, for an arrested breath of time we could be glorious, heroic, in harmony with the earth under our feet and the sky above our dreams. Children play, live together in the theatre of the mind with all its darkened nooks and bright alleys; there they meet and spin the promise of our future and learn to become the adult actors of history to come.
The theatre of the mind defies the narrow stage definition of time–time man made gives way to time star made and rock made; rain made and earthquake made.
This is a theatre you can dwell in–as actor and audience, both actor and audience–for the rest of your life and for the time before and after your living, before fame money power ambitions and other theatrical delusions came to play upon your mind, to cut it up into apartment complexes, factories, and statements.
Sole condition of a theatre of the mind
that it can not be done (that it is as Plato’s perfect bed; the pure, conceptual pre-textual non material ideal of all fabrication. But, despite all this, it is the least cerebral of all performances; it is the most active, most impossibly alive.)
In the painted cave of the theatre of the mind are the actors of the theatre of the mind–a sea bed throng of signs and questions, humans and beasts; monsters and butterflies all of whom we recognize/have seen before in our sleep and our moments outside of linear birth to death time and dreaming of illimitable sky. Now here they come, these performers, perpetrators of our dreams, parading like a beauty pageant– weddings and murders, pairings and disappearing taking place right before our unwatchable eyes where each of us sees the play unfold exactly as her own soul requires.
- Action in the theatre of the mind
In the theatre of the mind things are never what as comforting as recognizable as they seem. Here, plot is a trap, character a land mine–you enter one broken being after another, survive one explosion after another; the fragment of you, the audience, that is left is the play to be performed live at that moment in your head in dialogue with the life on stage that night so that each night of theatre of the mind is a thousand nights of theatre, a thousand different plays being performed on stage in the dark cave behind the curtain of audience eyes all at once, each play a different one–the broken bits of humanity that speak therefore to journey like the constellations in the sky. And yet, for the theatre of the mind to thrive we need the living stage to serve as the catalyst and clearing house between minds, engendering a vital, imaginative, ethical community of minds with common foes and goals and most of all a common language, a vocabulary of discourse that does not reduce but expand ad infinitum our possibilities as human beings.
The theatre of the mind is the theatre of yearning, humanity’s yearning where we admit/confess to the darkened stage and the light flooded finale that it is impossible for any one play to speak to see to hear whole. Through the theatre of the mind of mosaic visions this wholeness of sense that is ultimately denied us can at least be glimpsed grasped, in a thousand clapping hands in each of our own theatres of the mind, echoed and beckoned and seduced to performance by the theatre of the impossible set upon the stage that night.
Aspects of space and imagination in the theatre of the mind
Here stage space is a book in which the makers of theatre of the mind write down dreams and fears to be ‘read’ by the audience who are themselves writing other books in the theatres of their minds. This book that is the theatre of the mind is like the medieval stained glass walls of cathedrals. You can read them as sign and story–loud bright bloody vocal outpourings of myth. In the theatre of the mind that is the illuminated manuscript of images, the images don’t move but the audience moves, from mansion to mansion, station to station in the house of wonder agony and compassion that is our common home. The compassion comes when the show is over, a death of signs and acts, the final peace from the exhausting accretion of overwhelming life.
The theatre of the mind says: How dare you pretend to resolve anything? How dare you erase the resonance of myth, the germinal of theatre, by dividing it into ‘acts’; budgeting it into this character and that; calling forth beginning middle and end when the sole purpose of theatre as the locus of memorialized action is to set the individual on journey after journey of discovery (which is the movement of text, of ‘forwarding the action’ or plot in the theatre of the mind) until a play’s end is the pile up/collision of a series of explorations into the sense of universe; wherein the character traveling is not just himself but a voice of the unison–the compilation of all characters–an illumination burning itself up with life on a field of darkness which is the stage at the beginning and end of every drama. Action in the theatre of the mind is the playing out of hands, the turning over of a deck of chance illuminations, placed one atop the next until there is so much overlay of light we come to the thankfulness of darkness, of ending, again. Then we are again at the beginning so that the theatre of the mind whose individual play pieces may appear diametrically opposed are always the detritus of the same never ending show.
Actions for a theatre of the mind
gesture of taste
sight of sound
will burning itself up
destiny melting down
Images for a theatre of the mind
worm choir in dirt bath
medieval flat perspective overlaid with quicktime movies
movie stars pasted in the eyes of enormous TV screens that walk the stage like
lamplighters in renaissance time
algae and fish life flying through underwater waves
the stage a tank of sharks
the stage a solar system with planets, moons, fallen stars
the stage empty but for magnified dirt on its floor boards, amplified sound in its wings
the stage empty but for the tears and hisses of audiences who cannot bear to go to hear to see anymore the kindergarten of lies put before them when they came to play out the end game of cosmos.
Elements of a theatre of the mind
lip stick stains on galaxies
hip hop music and magic spells recorded live on CNN
language of distinctive voice without definable meaning as we beg to know it and debase it;
the word, the poor holy word
a certain kind of weeping which only the heavens can.
The theatre of the mind refuses to answer any questions; in fact, it seeks to kill all answers (the catharsis of tragedy) which strews the proscenium with a sea of irrefutable dogmatic blood that rationalizes the forward march of history. In the theatre of the mind, all answers are beaten into questions. All the images and text of the theatre of the mind are pre-text for unanswerable questions. The theatre of the mind is the stage of these unanswerable questions and thereby the theatre of the miraculous.
Characters of the theatre of the mind
lightning thunder earthquake volcano meteorite rain comet blast
all angels of air and its dragons
all denizens of the deep
pure mouths rescued of bodies
the blood after cold blooded murder
the rotund earth
what we call divine
In the theatre of the mind, language kills and in the best of senses; that is to annihilate into other wondrous matter. Words here are visceral and the fortress of language with its bricks of sound, rhythm, and alphabet- vowel- consonant cliché innuendo context pretext make up the iconic language which is the vicious unassuagable appetite of the theatre of the mind. A theatre that you see and hear in your mind as you walk through the days that walk you through your life.
The matter of plot or story lines of theatre of the mind
the story of the big bang
the story of the creation of love in the western world
the story of war on earth
the story of earth
the story of separation
Conditions for the theatre of the mind
no subscribers to placate
no specializations or division of labor among the artists
a diviner’s gift of salvaging garbage treasure
a green thumb for resurrecting raw materials: the stage as the tramp’s last supper
In the theatre of the mind are a thousand roving characters who may be performed by one or a million actors on the stage who turn into each other as readily as reproducing and dividing paramecium. Consistency of anything–plot, character action point of view– has no place here for we are inside the action of time where nothing stands still or remains the same–neither star nor rock plate is without its parallel eternal metamorphosis. This is the drama and cast of the theatre of the mind.
(she who was there, is not)
We go to the theatre neither to see nor hear nor understand; we go to dream.
Aims of the theatre of the mind
to have and foster revelation
a notion of our limitlessness and our obscurity
a coming to beauty after devastation
screaming, laughing, weeping
to do away with all blue haired matinee ladies
to scare off all those who demand to know what the play is about
to create the equivalent of a rose growing in quicktime and slow motion that you can touch and smell inside your self
to be reminded of wonder and magic everywhere
To forge alchemists and theatre of the mind makers for an impossible theatre of us all; a theatre alive and on stage that is as magical for the collective as the solitary one within.