The Necessity of Process and Potential Power In the Theatre and in American Society

by Thurman E. Scott


The American theatre and American society as a whole have tremendous potential to create. Within our society a multitude of cultures and races converge. This convergence creates harmonies and disharmonies. It creates drama within our daily lives, drama within the complexity of each of our consciousnesses. When we create, we must begin by accepting that drama and complexity already exist within each individual. This acceptance is essential. Without this acceptance creation cannot take place. Creation is a process of discovering and allowing to unravel the unique human complexity that already exists in every moment and situation of every life.

Everyone has the ability to create. Each person has a different level of development in his or her creative expression. A person can be helped to develop creatively if he or she can feel supported in the moment, supported to feel the core, unique expression that exists within them. Because most people are not given the time in life to experience the connection with their unique expression, they make decisions and life choices (or, in the case of the artist, attempt creative choices) based on economics or ego gratification.

Actors often say, “I don’t frequently get a chance to exercise my unique qualities or essence. Rarely is there a moment in a performance or an audition I can look back upon and say, ‘that was a moment I lived through with my full potential or, at least, the feeling of my full potential’.” The actor believes the opportunity for creative fulfillment so rarely exists that he makes choices to enhance his or her ego or control. He must make choices to be sustained by the outside, since he is not sustained by the security of a connection with the individuality that flows from the core of his being. He must be sustained by outside reassurance. He must maintain beliefs and philosophies which he can always change in order to please others in an attempt to fit in. The changeability of his beliefs and philosophies allows him to always fit in and therefore to receive the reassurance of a reaction from outside himself. Unfortunately, the dependence on an outside reaction creates false security. If the reaction is taken away, the individual is left feeling disconnected and isolated.

The strength of our society and the growth of our culture lie in the true support of the uniqueness of each individual. America has always been a country deeply committed to individual rights and freedoms. I love America. I am committed to America. I have fought for America. I have great feelings of sadness to think that America is facing an economic and cultural decline. I believe that the problems we face in the theatre today and the problems we face in the society come from the fact that we live in a time when the individual is not upheld. We live in a time of sameness. People think they must join in the sameness in order to survive. Corporations have not supported individuality. Traditional family structure has broken down. All of this has contributed to our need to gain security by aligning ourselves with those who look like ourselves. There is a fear of individuality and a fear of new ideas. This is damaging to the entire culture and to the country as a whole. We must turn away from our desire for sameness if we are to survive.

A whole segment of our society has been designated as an underclass. If one group is under, another must be above. Division is reinforced. Judgmentalism and fear abound as each side dehumanizes the other. By seeing each other as lesser, we justify the cruelties we vent on one another. We make way for violence, greed and suppression. The real crime is that the person society thinks is so different from itself, the person who has been delegated to the underclass, is not allowed his or her expression. These are our brothers and sisters who daily face issues of survival. Within their expression may lie the answers to the survival of our society, economy and aesthetics.

One of our great fears is that if individuals express unique points of view there is potential for upheaval. Our fear tells us that to uphold the power of an individual means to support the breakdown of society or create revolution. In fact, the opposite is true. When an individual feels supported, he or she feels worth. An individual who feels worth knows he or she has something to give, and is inspired to give back to society.

I founded my own theatre as a platform from which to make my creative contribution to society and the world. I needed a place in which I could allow creative process the time and space it must have in order to unravel. Within process something is always revealed because we are each endowed with uniqueness. Within process each person can give. Uniqueness of expression cannot exist without process. Uniqueness of expression cannot be preordained. One cannot decide to be unique; to do so is to be false. Uniqueness is discovered in the moment of creation. Through technique, the unique expressions within individuals and situations must be guided into a form which allows the intellect to accept, understand and appreciate those expressions. This is the process of creating drama.

A drama is entertaining when the unraveling of the human predicament is allowed to take place. Drama, today, has lost its ability to entertain because time has not been taken to discover the mystery of the dramatic moments. The mystery of how the human predicament will unravel is what makes drama fascinating to us: we are riveted by the mystery. We are entertained. Resolution of mystery creates enlightenment. Enlightenment awakens enthusiasm in the individual. The audience members feel the possibility of their individuality being expressed. The audience has an experience in the theatre. The audience leaves the theatre enlightened, inspired and strengthened as individuals.

The dramatic unraveling of the mystery of the human predicament provokes thought in the audience. The power to provoke thought is the great power of the theatre. The theatre is a platform upon which society must examine itself. This examination should not be threatening to anyone because thinking is natural. Thinking is the first step of the process of forward motion. The ability to be in motion is power. America has always been at its strongest when it is mobilized.

Our economy is sustained by new ideas. Without new ideas, the same old ideas keep being recycled, renamed, revalued. Repetition limits the infinite potential of an idea. Repetition dissipates the energy of an idea. Without new ideas, the energy of our economy dissipates itself. Without new ideas, capitalism grinds to a halt. Without new ideas, culture dies out. Without new ideas, human beings become complacent and potentially violent in their protection of the status quo.

Humans must be mobilized within their individuality. New ideas stimulate debate. Debate allows humans to define their beliefs. Beliefs give definition to the self. Beliefs mobilize individuality and generate energy throughout the society. The concept that individuality cannot fit within the whole stems from fear. Fear of individuality robs energy from the society, the theatre, the corporation and the country and causes us to seek and to assimilate that which is malleable. Things that are malleable are ultimately useless. We live in a time when things without use have become upheld.

We fear individuality because when individuality is expressed, change takes place. When change takes place, the primal fear of upheaval flashes across our consciousness. Nature accepts change. Nature moves with grace from winter to spring. Regardless of the beauty of the autumn leaves, nature accepts the change to winter. Fear of change causes humans to become fixated upon singular images of perfection. The unattainability of these images results in feelings of impotence, frustration and anger. Our society’s fixation upon a few images of physical perfection supports the abuse and self-abuse of all those who do not conform to those images. By fixating upon a single image of human perfection, we have become a society that abuses ourselves, each other, our children and our elderly.

The truth is that the potential for perfection lies in all things. The spring blossoms as well as the dry leaves of fall, each have their own perfection. Change is movement from perfection to perfection. Always. Nature accepts this. But humans accept only a static image of perfection. That is what makes creation difficult for humans. One moment of creation reveals its perfection, and we want to hold it, rather than release it and discover the potential for perfection in the next moment.

The theatre must accept movement and change. The best theatre exists as perfected moments linked together to become a play. This understanding of the nature of theatre reveals the necessity of time and process in creation. It takes time to exhaust the full potential of a moment. It takes acceptance of process to allow mystery to unravel. It takes trust in process to know that enlightenment will be revealed.

America must return to the simplicity of process whether in making a good play, shoes, a car, a relationship or allowing a child to grow. The nature of creating, the true nature of making something, is to give it love, pride, patience, style, beauty; to have discipline, to commit yourself to your creation. This is what sustains us as individuals, gives us worth and inspires us to contribute to ourselves, to others, to the economy and to the culture.

When human expectation is desirous of material gratification to the exclusion of all else, it seeks only the finite. When human expectation is not fixated upon material gratification, humans look inside and seek creative and spiritual evolution. A society which seeks the finite is left vulnerable. It does not seek that which generates new expression and new power. It has removed itself from its natural connection with infinite possibility, its natural connection with spirit. This isolation from our natural connection with our spirit results in limitation of vision, fear that there is not enough to go around and a consciousness of desperation. Desperation justifies violence. We fight to maintain what we have. In heightened desperation, violence must come forth.

Today, the same problem exists in our society, within our theatre and within our psyches. We direct and control the moments of life, the moments of creation. We do not give the process of life the time it must have in order for the humanity of a moment to come forth. Humans truly are governed by their instincts toward humanity and grace, if given the time to have the process of debate in order to discover what they believe. We must not fear the process that leads us to articulate our beliefs. When we discover our beliefs, we have the opportunity to choose to act with grace. When we are ignorant in our beliefs, we are open to chaos and violence against the self or each other.

The simplicity of process allows the individual to accept his or her uniqueness of self. This heals emotional wounds and creates balance within the psyche. The simplicity of process allows the unique potential of the creative moment to unfold. This allows the culture to be vital and thrive. The simplicity of process restores dignity to the human task. This allows the economy to become strong as its participants feel a sense of worth and a desire to contribute. The individual must be upheld before all else.

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