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Theater is a political muscle

Last fall, I didn't feel like going to the theater, even if I had the chance. It's not because I was afraid of catching Covid-19. For all I knew, a theater had never been a breeding ground. Sanitary measures did not scare me, although I tended to asphyxiate under my mask. No, if I didn't want to go to the theatre, it was because the muscle that made me want to get together and be in the presence of others was no longer responding. It took me some time before I found the desire, the taste, the need, and I would say, the sense of being there, simply, in the middle of the crowd. I suddenly understood the life of those people who never go to the theater. I also understood to what extent the theater cultivated in me a certain idea of the collective, of life in society, and that this muscle in me could atrophy at any moment.


Regardless of the subject of the play, the theater is, if only formally, political, since it calls for the collective and designates a real gathering of people, as in the National Assembly. The theater is perhaps even more political than the National Assembly, since the collective does not live there solely in the logic of debate and opposition, but in a multitude of modes of expression and of sharing to the group, such as membership, refusal, reflection, misunderstanding, transformation, listening and silence.


In this month of January 2022, artists and theater artisans find themselves without a platform. They express their bitterness on social media, that other complaints office. The best known, often the same ones, make public appearances in the media arena. The associations that represent them speak on their behalf, but paradoxically leave them speechless. Where are the authors, the authors, the directors, the performers, the designers? Where do we hear those who are hardest hit by the pandemic and who are the lifeblood of theatre?


It is on stage that the theater artist expresses himself fully. It is there, I dare say, that it exists in the City.


Plays have been canceled, postponed, canceled again, webcast, then turned into a podcast. Texts were written, rehearsed, edited, and ultimately never performed. Shows have never met their audience in the hall, and these pieces are so many voices that have fallen silent, words that have not been expressed, ideas that have not been debated, emotions that have not have not been lived, of universes that have not existed. They do not only mean empty rooms, unsold tickets and unemployed artists, with its share of job changes, loss of meaning, burnout and suicides, which is already tragic enough.


The absence of these words on our stages represents, in my opinion, an important democratic setback, since it signifies the shrinking, or even the disappearance of the theater as a public agora. One day we will have to take the full measure of this atrophy.

The theater world in times of a pandemic sometimes makes me think of a chicken without a head running around without realizing that it has lost it...


In the circumstances that are ours, before asking ourselves when, how much and how, can we reflect for a moment on the meaning of what we are doing? Can we even hope to rethink an already dysfunctional system, perpetuating ever more restrictive modes of production and distribution, in which artists, technicians, cultural workers, programmers are exhausted, modes that pandemic times have become downright aberrant, even monstrous?


For how can we hope to create meaning if we immerse ourselves in the absurd?

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