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Theatre of the Mind
by Shelley Berc

We do not need any more actors directors playwrights designers critics.
We do not need any more love, hate, psychology, politics, history, space,
intimacy, stages, or especially money.
We need so much that we can't need anything but a theatre of the mind.

Crawl through the dark cave of mind that is the womb of all theatre and you
will discover the theatre of the mind. The theatre of the mind is the
loudest, brightest, most theatrical space in all of creation. It is
collective and individual, invisible and all envisioning, narcissistic and
universal, beautiful and ugly and brutal and tender; it is the only
theatrical hope/experience that keeps us going back and back, performance
after putrid performance; it is why we love to read the plays of
Shakespeare, to enact the magic incantation of their story heart and
language smell in our minds and why so often its stagings disappoint,
frustrate and limit our imaginings. The theatre of the mind is the stage of
perfect wonder that each one of us and every one of us ever smitten by live
performance longs to see again, a lost Eden that comes so easily in our
secret thought and appears so hard to realize on the living stage. And it
is a tragedy-- this loss of a live, transformative theatre, this cavern of
twisting into labyrinth into gorge into ocean and sky because we need its
external presence as a people, as community to act in the very fact of its
occurring as omen, talisman, catalyst, to dream out the potentiality of
life; to dream a new blue print of civilization, together.

When I was a child, a stage could be anything--a piece of the linoleum
basement floor, the top of the oval chrome and formica kitchen table, the
rotting top step of the back porch stoop, an empty grandmother's bed, a
patch of dirt under a willow tree. It could be anything and with some words
and performers and watchers (sometimes just two people who kept trading
places with each other) we en-acted the great battles of good and evil and
the dilemma of greed, the hunger of selfishness, for an arrested breath of
time we could be glorious, heroic, in harmony with the earth under our
feet and the sky above our dreams. Children play, live together in the
theatre of the mind with all its darkened nooks and bright alleys; there
they meet and spin the promise of our future and learn to become the adult
actors of history to come.

The theatre of the mind defies the narrow stage definition of time--time
man-made gives way to time star-made and rock-made; rain-made and

This is a theatre you can dwell in--as actor and audience, both actor and
audience--for the rest of your life and for the time before and after your
living, before fame money power ambitions and other theatrical delusions
came to play upon your mind, to cut it up into apartment complexes,
factories, and statements.

     Sole condition of a theatre of the mind
     that it cannot be done
     (that it is as Plato's perfect bed; the pure, conceptual pre-          
     textual non material ideal of all fabrication. But, despite all this,
it is the least cerebral of
all performances; it is the most active, most
impossibly alive.)

In the painted cave of the theatre of the mind are the actors of the
theatre of the mind--a sea bed throng of signs and questions, humans and
beasts; monsters and butterflies
all of whom we recognize/have seen before in our sleep and our moments
outside of linear birth to death time and dreaming of illimitable sky. Now
here they come, these performers, perpetrators of our dreams, parading like
a beauty pageant-- weddings and murders, pairings and disappearing taking
place right before our unwatchable eyes where each of us sees the play
unfold exactly as her own soul requires.

          Action in the theatre of the mind
               spontaneously combustible

     In the theatre of the mind things are never as comforting or as
recognizable as they seem. Here, plot is a trap, character a land
mine--you enter one broken being after another, survive one explosion after
another; the fragment of you, the audience, that is left is the play to be
performed live at that moment in your head in dialogue with the life on
stage that night so that each night of theatre of the mind is a thousand
nights of theatre, a thousand different plays being performed on stage in
the dark cave behind the curtain of audience eyes all at once, each play a
different one--the broken bits of humanity that speak therefore journey
like the constellations in the sky. And yet, for the theatre of the mind to
thrive we need the living stage to serve as the catalyst and clearing house
between minds, engendering a vital, imaginative, ethical community of minds
with common foes and goals and most of all a common language, a vocabulary
of discourse that does not reduce but expand ad infinitum our possibilities
as human beings.

The theatre of the mind is the theatre of yearning, humanity's yearning
where we admit/confess to the darkened stage and the light flooded finale
that it is impossible for any one play to speak to see to hear whole.
Through the theatre of the mind of mosaic visions this wholeness of sense
that is ultimately denied us can at least be glimpsed, in a
thousand clapping hands in each of our own theatres of the mind, echoed and
beckoned and seduced to performance by the theatre of the impossible set
upon the stage that night.

     Aspects of space and imagination in the theatre of the mind
Here stage space is a book in which the makers of theatre of the mind
write down dreams and fears to be 'read' by the audience who are themselves
writing other books in the theatres of their minds. This book that is the
theatre of the mind is like the medieval stained glass walls of cathedrals.
You can read them as sign and story--loud bright bloody vocal outpourings
of myth. In the theatre of the mind that is the illuminated manuscript of
images, the images don't move but the audience moves, from mansion to
mansion, station to station in the house of wonder agony and compassion
that is our common home. The compassion comes when the show is over, a
death of signs and acts, the final peace from the exhausting accretion of
overwhelming life.

     The theatre of the mind says:
How dare you pretend to resolve anything? How dare you erase the resonance
of myth, the germinal of theatre, by dividing it into 'acts'; budgeting it
into this character and that; calling forth beginning middle and end when
the sole purpose of theatre as the locus of memorialized action is to set
the individual on journey after journey of discovery (which is the movement
of text, of 'forwarding the action' or plot in the theatre of the mind)
until a play's end is the pile up/collision of a series of explorations
into the sense of universe; wherein the character traveling is not just
himself but a voice of the unison--the compilation of all characters--an
illumination burning itself up with life on a field of darkness which is
the stage at the beginning and end of every drama. Action in the theatre of
the mind is the playing out of hands, the turning over of a deck of chance
illuminations, placed one atop the next until there is so much overlay of
light we come to the thankfulness of darkness, of ending, again. Then we
are again at the beginning so that the theatre of the mind whose individual
play pieces may appear diametrically opposed are always the detritus of the
same never ending show.

          Actions for a theatre of the mind
               wind walking
               sun speaking
               gesture of taste
               sight of sound
               will burning itself up
               destiny melting down
               courage singing

          Images for an theatre of the mind
               atom banquet
               bacteria dance
               worm choir in dirt bath
               jaguar eyes
               medieval flat perspective overlaid with
quick time          movies
          movie stars pasted in the eyes of enormous
TV           screens that walk the stage like
lamplighters in               renaissance time
          algae and fish life flying through
underwater waves
          elbow landscape
          the stage a tank of sharks
          the stage a solar system with planets,
moons, fallen           stars
          the stage empty but for magnified dirt on
its floor           boards, amplified sound in its wings
          the stage empty but for the tears and
hisses of           audiences who cannot bear to go to
hear to see           anymore the kindergarten of lies
put before them           when they came to play out
the end game of               cosmos.

          Elements of a theatre of the mind
               black holes
               lip stick stains on galaxies
               hip hop music and magic spells recorded
live on                CNN
               language of distinctive voice without
definable          meaning as we beg to know it and
debase it;          the word, the poor holy word
               a certain kind of weeping which only the
heavens           can.

The theatre of the mind refuses to answer any questions; in fact, it seeks
to kill all answers (the catharsis of tragedy) which strews the proscenium
with a sea of irrefutable dogmatic blood that rationalizes the forward
march of history. In the theatre of the mind, all answers are beaten into
questions. All the images and text of the theatre of the mind are pre-text
for unanswerable questions. The theatre of the mind is the stage of these
unanswerable questions and thereby the theatre of the miraculous.

          characters of the theatre of the mind
     lightning thunder earthquake volcano meteorite rain
          comet blast
     all angels of air and its dragons
     all denizens of the deep
     amputated limbs
     pure mouths rescued of bodies
     the blood after cold blooded murder
     the rotund earth
     what we call divine

In the theatre of the mind, language kills and in the best of senses; that
is to annihilate into other wondrous matter. Words here are visceral and
the fortress of language with its bricks of sound, rhythm, and alphabet-
consonant cliché innuendo context pretext make up the iconic
language which is the vicious unassuagable appetite of the theatre of the

A theatre that you see and hear in your mind as you walk through the days
that walk you through your life.

the matter of plot or story lines of theatre of the mind
          the story of the big bang
          the story of the creation of love in the western world
          the story of war on earth
          the story of earth
          the story of separation

          conditions for the theatre of the mind
          no money
          no theories
          no subscribers to placate
          hunger, thirst
          joyful dirt
          no specializations or division of labor among the
          a diviner's gift of salvaging garbage treasure
          a green thumb for resurrecting raw materials:
          the stage as the tramp's last supper

In the theatre of the mind are a thousand roving characters who may be
performed by one or a million actors on the stage who turn into each other
as readily as reproducing and dividing paramecium. Consistency of
anything--plot, character action point of view--has no place here for we
are inside the action of time where nothing stands still or remains the
same--neither star nor rock plate is without its parallel eternal
metamorphosis. This is the drama and cast of the theatre of the mind.
     (she who was there, is not)
We go to the theatre neither to see nor hear nor understand; we go to dream.

     aims of the theatre of the mind
               to have and foster revelation
     a notion of our limitlessness and our obscurity
     a coming to beauty after devastation
     screaming, laughing, weeping
     to do away with all blue haired matinee ladies
     to scare off all those who demand to know what the play is
     to create the equivalent of a rose growing in quick time
and slow      motion that you can touch and smell inside your self
     to be reminded of wonder and magic everywhere

To forge alchemists and theatre of the mind makers for an impossible
theatre of us all; a theatre alive and on stage that is as magical for the
collective as the solitary one within.

issue 7 home | broken news | criticual urgencies | cyber bag | ec chair | ficciones | gallery
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