Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Michael Barnes on Paul Woodruff's "The Necessity of Theater: The Art of Watching and Being Watched."

I really enjoyed this Michael Barnes Out and About column in the Statesman today about Paul Woodruff's book, “The Necessity of Theater: The Art of Watching and Being Watched,” which will be discussed at the Texas Book Festival on Sunday.

The Statesman page isn't linking properly, but I found this particularly interesting:

“People need theater,” Woodruff writes. “They need it the way they need each other — the way they need to gather, to talk things over, to have stories in common, to share friends and enemies. They need to watch, together, something human.”

Woodruff ranks theater alongside religion and language as essential distinguishing human characteristics. I’d add socializing to the list, for many of the same reasons.

Both kinds of watching and being watched, social and theatrical, start early in life. “We hardly take ourselves very seriously unless we can get others’ attention,” the slender, hesitant Woodruff says at rain-splashed Mozart’s Coffee Roasters on Lake Austin Boulevard. “The first thing we know as an infant, after finding a mother’s breast, is how to get her attention. And newborns are excellent at that.”

Yet the process doesn’t stop there.

“Learning how to give attention is a little harder,” he says. “We are naturally wired for getting it more than giving it.”

No comments: