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Additional info for American Drama in the Age of Film
Antonin Artaud envisioned the theater as a cathartic assault upon consciousness and being. In his evaluation of one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century, Brook observes Artaud’s noble intentions for the theater: “Artaud maintained that only in the theatre could we liberate ourselves from the recognizable forms in which we live our daily lives” (Empty Space 53). The theater does something quite different, then, from cinema, whose photographic essence works upon human memory and cuts into the nostalgic revelry of everyday life.
Each one has to follow in sequence and be presented in its entirety. A cinematic treatment, on the other hand, can juggle four versions by cutting back and forth between each one. Similarly, while many ﬁlms alter the temporal sequence of events between past, present, and even future, most plays adhere to chronological order. In part this is due to the fact that theater seems to need a building of events to achieve desired effects (such as catharsis), but more importantly it is because theater, once moving in a single temporal direction, ﬁnds it very difﬁcult to reverse directions.
Artaud argues the loudest and most passionately against Aristotle and the narrative theater. In his most famous work, The Theater and Its Double, he argues persuasively that theater does not fundamentally concern dialogue. He seeks to replace the theater of words with one of sound, incantations, gestures, and movement in theatrical space. Instead of a canonical theater, reverential to the playwright and the written word, Artaud issues his signature phrase when he concludes that we should not dally with dramatic forms, but be “victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the ﬂames” (13).