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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 20 | volume IV | April-May, 2001



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 20April-May, 2001
Theatre Theory

An Unhappy Family

p. 1
David Mamet

    In the American Theater status - the ability to extract deference from others — is automatically conferred on the basis of a set hierarchy – on the basis of job title.
The actor is manipulated and controlled by the director, who is similarly in thrall to the producer. The unquestioned acceptance of this 'Great Chain of Being' is based on the fiction that it is 'good for the production.' But any reasonable person in the theater sees this is seldom the case, and so the conscious acceptance of this hierarchy ('It's good for the production and I better shut up or I'll lose my job') is coupled with a deep, deep anger.
    Those down the chain seem to have two choices: they may accept an idealized version of those over them: ('I don't know or like what they're up to, but — on the basis of their credits and their position – I can only assume that they are right and I am wrong'); or they may rebel, fume, gossip, and plot – much as if those in control were their parents – which is precisely what this relationship recapitulates… that of the child to the parent.
    This paternalistic pattern in the theater infantilizes the actors, so they feel compelled to please rather than to create, to rebel rather than to explore, to perform rather than to express.
    As in the parent-child relationship, the motive for control in the theater is always stated as The Good of the Child. 'I, as producer, director, must ignore your questions about the worth of this piece of blocking/piece of direction/piece of dramaturgy. My word is law, it is for your own good to obey unthinkingly, and if you begin to doubt and question me, the havoc you cause will destroy all the good I am trying to do for you and your colleagues.'
    In the family, as in the theater, the urge to control only benefits the controller. Blind obedience saves him the onerous duty of examining his preconceptions, his own wisdom, and, finally, his own worth.
The desire to manipulate, to treat one's colleagues as servants, reveals a deep sense of personal worthlessness: as if one's personal thoughts, choices, and insights could not bear reflection, let alone a reasoned mutual examination.
    Members of a healthy theater/family treat each other with respect and love; and those who know better do better, knowing that those who love them will

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