Nalleblue's Weblog

What is my history as an artist?
February 25, 2012, 6:45 pm
Filed under: Artist, Clown philosophy, Uncategorized

Literary / Popular Theater

I have often been confused by how theater describes its history by starting with the greek theater 600 bc when what I think theater historians mean is that it was the start of what I call Literary Theater. Theater based on a written text.

In opposition I call what I do Popular Theater. Theater of the marketplace. In this I include storytelling, magic, circus, mime, commedia dell’arte, street dance and any form where the artist is in direct connection with the audience.

Historically I feel connected to the storytelling grandmother, the traveling musical minstrel or the ancient shaman. In all three cases the connection between the artist and the audience is very clear and tangible.

When I see art that lacks this connection I often feel that they have misunderstood their true history.

Of course there is never any 100% clear distinctions when it comes to the arts as creativity steals from all directions but I do see a political difference from art forms that historically connect to there audiences and art forms that often leave the audience in the role of the observer. We often speak of High Art or Low Art. High art being culturally superior art forms like ballet, opera och theater classics. Low art being physical comedy, street arts or entertainment.

I would categorize ballet as Literary Theater. Even if ballet is seldom based on the written word for me it somehow historically belongs to the path of literary theater.

I wonder if the two paths somehow parted when they started getting paid from different wallets?

Literary art forms have historically been funded by the governing powers so it was important for them to highten their status to be accepted by the ruling King or Government.

Popular theater on the other handed is historically funded by its audience. This of course forced them as well to the necessity of staying connected to them.

I can often feel working at the National Performance University’s in Sweden an ignorant bliss of these two different history’s and a definite snobbery against popular theater forms but interestingly as modern art has become in many ways estranged from its connection to the audience, because of funding needs the national performance institutes are turning very quickly to the creation of Popular Theater. The government-funded theaters are now competing with the private theaters with the same musicals.

Historically I feel connected to all the people who for whatever reason have found a way to create wonder in an audience. Whether it be the magic-using Egyptian priests, the cup and ball scoundrel of the streets or show off horse riders.

What we all have in common is that we are wonder makers.


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