collaborate or perish

The other day in the Times Margo Jefferson wrote an article with the headline Words to the Wise Performance Artist: Get Help. Collaborate. Grow.

Pretty insightful and something that I’ve heard discussed a lot recently in the world of performing arts. I can think of two specific expressions of this idea.

One, in the world of large scale art, the idea of the “genius” is pretty much over. The notion of the grand auteur that must express their will in all aspects of a given production has become, thankfully, passe. Whether it is the financial situation that dictates this or whether it is a cultural shift that is less likely to invest ideologically in the idea of singular, nearly supernatural genius, the trend is towards collaboration. Probably for the benefit of all.

The other is a trend away from solo performance. Once again, this is due partly to the glut of poor solo work that has been gracing the stages. Jefferson says that “Art begins when people become tired of habit and convention. ” And solo shows have become habitual and conventional. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t good ones – there are – but by and large the excitement and innovation associated with solo performance twenty years ago has given way to bland “I can sing/I can dance/I can act” shows, lengthy psychotherapy sessions or extended stand-up routines.

So artists seek collaboration. I’ve seen a lot of young writers and performers doing compelling work and it’ll be interesting to see where it develops. What will be the impact of “alternative” or “experimental” theater artists returning to the conventional models of making work (writer, director, actor, etc.) – or will this lead to another era of new forms of collaboration? What will the impact be on narrative and form?

We’ll see. Are you doing something interesting? Let us know.

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