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September 25, 2006



Who are "we" again?


Wow. That was almost bitchy. Almost. Next time, I'll be straight up bitchy.

That's an excellent post. You've always wrestled with your innate elitism and redneckism.

I'd say that bad theatre is bad theatre. Religion is the root of the mental illness I call theatre. In fact, I'd say that theatre is the vulgar, drunken bastard of religion.

Have you actually ever been to a SOuthern Baptist revival? They can be thrilling to the extreme. And catharsis happens in both the pulpit and on stage.

Christ and ol' Macbeth both die for our sins, don't they? By observing that spectacle, we are unburdened of sins we have committed, or will commit. No?


Theatrical artifice has been a tool of the faithful since well before Jesus walked on water for dramatic effect.

At any rate, "Jesus Camp" is indicative of nothing more than a minority of fruit loops...we disgusting tourists out here in the depressing provinces can see that much.

David Cote

Now I see what it takes to get DeVore to comment: Insult a large portion of the American populace and set the highbrow against the lowbrow. Well, I take your point about theater being the id to religion's superego but that doesn't mean I can't cry hypocrisy. In fact, I'd say that theater is the healthy expression of human psychic pain, and religion is the irrational suppression of it. I truly don't believe that religion improves people, just makes them more docile, maybe more hardworking. And I accept that Christ and Macbeth are fictional creations, I love their artifice. To me, pious dupes succumb to the power of art without even realizing they're being manipulated by aesthetic beauty. They mistake a metaphor for truth. As for JR, yes, artifice and faith have a relationship going back to the Greeks. Doesn't mean that in the 21st century we shouldn't tear down the curtain and beat the fool behind it. I hope you're right about the "minority of fruit loops." Especially 20 years from now.


RE: More on the Jesus Camp video including Parody

Sadako I.

"Drama is the exact opposite of the inert, inculcating homogenity of ritual. Religion, as we all know, is bad theater."

But what about T'azieh, passion plays, Dionysus? What about epic religious festivals in Cuszco, Peru? What about astonishing "gue pelou" dance from the Ivory Coast? What about the moment of transubstantiation? I myself yearn for transubstantiation in almost every piece of theater I see or do. Radical Christian fundamentalists are deeply troubling, but what about all the great, badass progressive Christians...the Dorothy Days and the Philip Berrigans? And lastly, I find praying on things doesn't exclude thinking about 'em, and for me, seems to enlarge the possibilities of both thought and action.

David Cote

Where I'm coming from is a profound antipathy to the pathology of religion and even the purest religious impulse. I'm not disputing that some great spectacle has been generated from religious sources, but that doesn't make it a) sacred art or b) nobler than, say, Shakespearean comedy. I'd argue the opposite in fact. I've read and loved some Corpus Christi plays and saw the three Ta'zieh plays at Lincoln Center three years ago and found them moving experiences. (I also found Ta'zieh full of death pornography that involved child-martyrs, but that's a cultural thing.) Basically, I have a very militant separatist attitude toward religion: If you insist on living your life in a magical delusion such as fundamentalist Christianity, you deserve to be shoved into a a time machine and beamed back to 1317. You don't deserve modernity. I'm just horribly literalist and materialist and can never forget that the faithful—god love 'em—actually take the metaphors of religious humbuggery seriously.

walter a davis

Apparently I did something wrong when I wrote a long comment on this yesterday. For some reason it didn't post. Maybe I'm not allowed to post. This luddite lost in the electronic univese...
Briefly, I want to suggest that the issue isn't highbrow versus lowbrow or saving some notion of religion as the superego to or ritual form for art, drama etc.
The issue is how to preserve traumatic experiences in forms of art that won't compromise them. And the only way to do so is by finding new forms.
Religion (and for now I'll leave this term without the qualifications that protect liberal believers etc) is the greatest danger we face because it colonizes the psyche in a way that ravages every independent and creative possiblity. (yeh, I know, it created Bach etc.) But not today. Today it creates Jesus Camp. (Not yet available on DVD but a must see thanks to David's description.) Everything is historical. This may very well be the form that religion must take in global capitalism. (Sorry for the brevity and tone. This was much longer. It is always painful to disappear into hyperspace.)

David Cote

Mac, an honor to have your thoughts on my site. And I don't know what happened to your previous, longer comment. Don't let it deter you!

Joshua James

Don't have anything to add other than that I love this post, David, and I'm with you all the way (though I'm a Buddhist and not an atheist).

Chris Boyd

"I take your point about theater being the id to religion's superego..."

Okay, we have an id. And we have a superego. What would the egotistical Mister In-Between be?

Politics? (Scary thought.)

Terrific post, BTW.


Don't you think it's a sign of some kind of insanity that people actually literally believe in the stories of the Bible. The Tower of Babel, for example. These people actually believe that a suppossedly all-powerful, all-wise God mixed up peoples languages to keep them from communicating, because they were about to build a tower that would take them to heaven. All they had to do was keep on building, and keep on climbing.

If you can take the kind of crap seriously-literally-then you can be convinced of anything, convinced to do anything. Worse, you can get quite worked up about it.

Sadako I.

"If you can take the kind of crap seriously-literally-then you can be convinced of anything, convinced to do anything. Worse, you can get quite worked up about it."

Yes. And it also seems to be true that theater blog types can spend a lot of time getting worked up about religion and religious fundamentalists, convince themselves of their intellectual, ethical, rational superiority, and call it a day. Wasn't "what do we DO about this issue" one of David C.'s questions in the original post (albeit obscured by allusions to "disgusting" tourists?)


Sadako, have you ever been to a fundamentalist church? I have, and believe me, if you've been enough times, you will see that it is the religous fundamentalists who are the ones obsessed, to a great degree by theatre types, and the arts and culture in general. Look around the blogosphere long enough, and you'll discover they actuall blog about it.

David Cote

I read recently that the average household income in "rural" areas is only about $2K less than those in "urban" areas. People in the country can get hooked up to HD digital TV, the Internet, they can probably find a Starbucks or a Barnes & Noble fairly near to their homes. In short, the American lifestyle is becoming increasingly standardized. Why are right-wing religious zealots still hellbent on holy war? That's what I want to know. Why don't they drop their God and donate time/money/attention to the local regional theater or museum? I'm very serious. Why can't art & culture win over the mind of Joe Q. Heartland-Public? I'm preparing notes toward a long post about this.

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