Hospitality

So we’re four weeks in, knee deep in the process of making and feeling. This is the generative

moment when the associative faculties run amok, and the world is an amorphous glob of

subconscious goo stretching its amoebic tendrils every which way - up is down and down is a

Nintendo puppet show for your viewing pleasure. There’s no sense yet, only the senses – the

making and the feeling and the making and the feeling. It’s a glorious mess.

In all of this noise – this creative fervor – there is a single term that comes to mind, one sent to

me as a message from the past, one so simple and so elegant that it drives me mad. The term is

hospitality.

Let me explain.

A few years ago my friend Peter Bradley emailed me an essay of his, entitled Theatre Ontology.

There’s a lot to be gained in reading Pete’s paper - in fact I’ve always had a vicarious wish that it

be published so that others could enjoy it’s stimulating effects - but what concerns me here is

this term, hospitality, that Pete offers as a suggestion without any determinate explanation. He

writes:

The best contemporary theatre I have seen is like a party. The relationship between actors and

spectators and among the spectators themselves is an open one. The spectator’s presence is

acknowledged on a human-to-human level. The atmosphere created emphasizes […] the

presence of the others […] not by Verfremdungseffekt, but by something less aggressive:

HOSPITALITY, I would call it.

Pete doesn’t return to this notion. He leaves it there for us to chew on. So what is it? Well, we

know from what precedes that it emphasizes the presence of others without succumbing to the

aggressiveness of the estrangement-effect. In ordinary language, hospitality implies a certain

amount of warmth and according to the OED, a smattering of “liberality and good will.” In the

context of Pete’s paper, hospitality is the last word in a section that begins with this sentence:

“What makes theatre antithetical to the logic of capitalism is that its product is not reproducible

and disseminable along the usual channels of circulation.”

So hospitality is part of a larger critical project; it is resistant, defiant. It follows then that the

simple act of bringing people together into a shared space – while warmly acknowledging the

curious idiosyncrasies of our fellow human beings – this seemingly innocuous act is in fact

politically charged.

Though I tend to agree with this line of thinking, Pete’s observations miss something of utmost

importance: the process. As we move forward – making and feeling and making and feeling – we

continually strive to cultivate a hospitable space, one of openness and warmth, one that can

sometimes feels like a party, like hanging out with your best friends.

It is my contention that in order to generate an authentic feeling of hospitality in the context of

a performance one must foster an atmosphere of good will and liberality in the rehearsal room.

That’s what we’re trying to do now and that’s what we will try to do in April when we share this

mad piece.


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