Imagined interior of London’s Fortune Theatre (1599). Sketch ©Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland.
Occasionally a colleague responds to the term Theatrical Intelligence with “Isn’t that an oxymoron?” and much as it irks me to hear it, I understand. Theatrical logic doesn’t make much sense to those who are not in the theatre.
The theatre ditty below reflects amusing contradictions in what some think of as our oxymoronic worldIn is down, down is front Out is up, up is back
Off is out, on is in
And of course Right is left and left is right. A drop shouldn’t
And a block and fall does neither. A prop doesn’t
And a cove has no water. Tripping is OK.
A running crew rarely gets anywhere
A purchase line will buy you nothing
A trap will not catch anything And a gridiron has nothing to do with football. A strike is work (in fact, a lot of work) And a green room, thank God, usually isn’t. Now that you’re fully versed In theatrical terms…”Break a Leg”. But not really. Author Unknown The language is confusing but absolutely explainable.
In fact, there is a long history of theatrefolk being thought of as not quite normal or respectable: in the early 20th century, it was common to see NO THEATRICALS signs on reputable hotels and eateries; women onstage were assumed to be prostitutes. Yes, the prejudice was rampant.
When Actors’ Equity was founded in 1913 as the first labor union in the performing arts industry, it paved the way for The Four A’s: the Associated Actors and Artistes of America.
These days there is a national hunger for creativity in the workplace. Corporations, governments, academic organizations and communities of all kinds are looking to artists for inspiration and answers to the lack of satisfaction of their workers. It’s the reason I’ve started leading Theatrical Intelligence Workshops, because it’s time to spread the word.
So,what is the answer to the question “Is Theatrical Intelligence An Oxymoron?”
YES, if you’re a skeptic.
NO, if you’re willing to challenge your assumptions and imagine a stage as the center of your world.
For those of us who work in the theatre, that’s what we’re lucky enough to do every day.