And yet, and yet


This may be the great drawback, the gnawing defect, that has made Shawn’s work less visible than it ought to be. In “Myself and How I Got into the Theater,” he writes that he was drawn to theater in the late Sixties because “the whole field…was a strange sort of non-field, in which the whole business of ‘standards’ just didn’t apply.” But that anarchic spirit—the rediscovery of the communal, ritualistic, dangerous energies of performance, in Artaud, in the Living Theatre, in the anthropological work of Victor Turner—has long been subsumed and synthesized into the bourgeois world of subscription-based regional theaters and Performing Arts Centers, Broadway and fringe festivals. Theater’s very irreproducibility, the fact that it can’t be televised, archived, linked, or DVR-ed, makes it both expensive and remote, especially to young and curious audiences. Shawn’s target is also his target audience, and this presents a problem, because the well-off, well-educated, middle-aged-to-elderly theatergoing public still wants to be flattered and reassured, not taken on a tour of its frailties presented in the harshest possible light. And yet, and yet: we still live in a large country with pockets of insurgent energy, and Shawn’s least actable play, A Thought in Three Parts, finally premiered in Austin in 2007, three decades after it was written, courtesy of the Rubber Repertory Company.

more from Jess Row at the Threepenny Review here.