What’s the point?

So what is the point of acting, theatre, art….?

Jeanette Winterson has this to say….

A work of art is abundant, spills out, gets drunk, sits up with you all night and forgets to close the curtains, dries your tears, is your friend, offers you a disguise, a difference, a pose. Cut and cut it through and there is still a diamond at the core. Skim the top and it is rich. The inexhaustible energy of art is transfusion for a worn-out world. (p.65)

Art is large and it enlarges you and me. To a shrunk-up world it’s vistas are shocking. Art is the burning bush that both shelters and makes visible our profounder longings. Through it we see ourselves in metaphor. Art is metaphor, from the Greek, meta (above) and pherein (to carry) it is that which is carried above the literalness of life. Art is metaphor. Metaphor is transformation. (p.66)

Winterson. J., (1995) Art Objects, London: Vintage

and Simon Callow….

Nearly 35 years ago, I arrived at the Drama Centre, then a tiny fledgling independent school, now part of Central Saint Martins and thus the new University of the Arts London. One of the many challenges flung at us new students was the question: “Why? Why did we want to be actors?”

What was the point of the theatre? Of film? Of any art?

Most of us had only thought of the idea of becoming actors from our own point of view – what we could get out of the theatre, why we needed to be actors, what kind of actors we’d like to be. If we thought of the audience at all, it was in terms of making them cry, or making them laugh, being released somehow and then applauding us a great deal afterwards.

This view of the theatre as a sort of relief massage did not go down well with those two terrifying and brilliant firebrands, Christopher Fettes and Yat Malmgren, co-founders of the Drama Centre. To them, theatre was a crucial mechanism within human society. A ritual re-enactment of the lessons mankind had learnt about itself, a way of restoring the spectators to their full human experience after the routine alienations of daily life, and a celebration of desire.

Of course, art can be many things – playful, challenging, funny, frightening, romantic, classical, for five minutes’ amusement or a lifetime’s enrichment. But it seems to me that all the disciplines that now form University of the Arts London have within them the possibility of unlocking the closed chambers of our hearts, in Kafka’s wonderful phrase, of “Melting the ice within, of awakening dormant cells, of making us more fully alive, more fully human, at once more individual and more connected to each other”.


About La (Paula) Mor

La (Paula) Mór is a theatre teacher and director. She has taught and directed in the UK and internationally for 20+ years, both at Secondary and University level. La is currently working on Jeju Island in South Korea at Branksome Hall Asia where she develops original, contemporary theatre with her students and continues research into the applications of the Viewpoints in Theatre Education. La has been trained in Anne Bogart's 9 Viewpoints by SITI Theatre Company and Zen Zen Zo and delivers international Viewpoints training to young people, undergraduates, performers and lecturers. Academic background: BA(Hons) Bristol University; PGCE Leeds University; MA Applied Theatre, Central School of Speech and Drama.

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