Responses to the previous post:
I think the three scenarios you offer make sense. Just found this post from a blog called, appropriately enough, Mirror Up to Nature:
The Guardian talks about a movement called "Monsterism," which claims to be a doctrine to get playwrights to think bigger and better. I think it will probably prove to be only useful in making the first few practitioners of it famous enough to get regular work before they abandon the church they started. Think Dogma 95.
Their Manifesto for the most part lacks vision or creativity, most of it is a rehash of things one would learn from The Art of Playwrighting by Largos Egri.
Jose Rivera wrote a much more daring and inspiring credo for playwrighting in American Theatre a few years back.
I dug around for that article by Rivera, but couldn't find it in the A.T. online archives. As for Largos Egri's book, I don't recall much more about it besides the fact that it was written in the 50's with an eye toward screenwriting (when the overlap in playwright/screenwriter population was bigger than today). Would like to check those sources if anyone out there happens to have them. Esp. Rivera's, whatever it was.
If one of the dangers of the minimalist, po-mo aesthetic is that anything can be reduced to a semantic or subjectivist flourish (e.g. Buddhism was "soooo '1993'.") -- then Monsterism's greatest weakness may be the fact that it already has a name. Since I believe the romonsterist school (such as it is) would be doing battle with the minimalist/pomo camp that encourages such casual reductionism, these dangers and weaknesses are important -- if for no other reason than the monsterists would have to fight minimalism on its own philosophic playground before effectively carving out a place of its own on the bandwidth. Fight fire with fire, then with water. I think the author of "Mirror" is just trying to say that, as with any new school, there's the danger that monsterism will spawn a flock of annoying fundamentalists who never really knew what the fundamentals were. Now is the time to clarify.
After ten years, Dogma95 films offer little else than the knowledge that the film you're watching conforms to certain rules for lighting, camera placement, editing, special effects, etc. Because many of the rules strike professionals as arbitrary or self-referential, they don't "enforce" clarity of vision or purity of craft as much as they enforce the sustenance of Dogma95 as a movement. Not that great films haven't been made using these rules; just that the rules themselves aren't effective guidelines for making superior art.
Couple reasons I believe monsters won't fall into the same trap:
1. Dogma95 was about the imposition of fundamental restrictions on the craft of film-making (natural light only, no mounts for the cameras, no digital film/cameras). Monsterism is about the re-appropriation of existing resources to more deserving writers -- so that they may overcome restrictions. The lament that spawned it wasn't about economics as much as it was about management.
This ties into what "H" mentions in his/her post: If it's really about money, why are there so many crappy productions at Arena, Shakespeare, and the Kennedy Center? Taken further, this attitude goes from saying "more money's not the answer" to saying "more money's actually the problem." Both are false. The theatre community has money. Lots of it, actually. And while more support from grants and groundlings would be nice, it doesn't change the fact that we have to be smarter about the resources we already have. So while H continues that "marketing would be so huge that audiences would flock to see this fresh piece of art and a generation of true theatregoers would be born," I submit, again, that the seminal gripe from those early monsterists wasn't that marketing, design, acting, and directing resources were poor -- merely put in service of self-defeating goals.
2. While Monsterism makes certain judgements about contemporary theatre, it doesn't preclude two-person epics, living room dramas, naturalism, etc. I think I gave off the wrong impression earlier when I said something to the effect that Stephen Adly Guirgis's plays would work just as well on the radio. Well, they wouldn't and couldn't -- mostly because half the language wouldn't pass FCC standards. Theatre is still useful for writers who care to let language be the driving force of their composition -- a choice that mainstream media doesn't honor. Bear in mind, please, that print culture does this better than theatre does. Theatre can be a refuge for such writers, but rarely a home. After a while, the freeloaders need to move out and write a novel if they want that much linguistic/psychological sovereignty. Happily, Monsterism is more about kicking the canon forward than excommunicating the writers who've adapted to it. It's a school, not a crusade. And its starting axis is writers qua management, not writers qua writers.
Having said that, H brings up another interesting point: where do the fancypants actors fit into this? Sounds like H believes actors are even more susceptible to the influence of money. How many of us retreat to cushy gigs as third spear-shaker that will pay student loans for a change instead of bold, new works that can't beat off creditors when they knock? How will better play composition affect this? Mamet and Albee are decidedly anti-actor and I count that as their greatest failing. I believe the relationship of writer qua actor ties into this, even though it hasn't been articulated by the monsterists yet. Put simply, I believe acting is a creative, not interpretive, enterprise. Mamet, taken seriously, would prefer that actors not only resist creation, but that they resist interpretation, too. "Mimetic artist" is perhaps the highest calling he enunciates for performers. Why he finds mimicry "courageous" is beyond me. That we interpret goes without saying. It's like admitting that audiences should probably speak English before they sit down to watch Shaw. Beyond that, the distinctions are vast.
The creative v. interpretive issue needs to be resolved in its own right because any overall aesthetic should harness every last bit of creative umph anyone cares to bring -- monsterism is refreshing to me because it acknowledges that writers and producers need to be on the same page. But it's in service of better productions, not just better scripts. Mamet and Albee only ask that the fuckin' actors get out of the way of the true artists. And theatre is weaker for it. To borrow H's example of the lavish treatment of The Goat at Arena Stage -- it was a story that didn't merit its funding because at its heart was a writer who holds essential theatricality in shameful contempt -- after it was written, there was no hope of dolling it up to make it stage-worthy. That's why the monsterist revolution begins with writers, but depends on producers and actors, not as mere tools, but as honorable contributors to the creative process.
Economically speaking, again, the whole enterprise will be stronger and more competitive if actors are given the creative premium they deserve. I know this is hard since many actors are annoying as fuck. There should still be an authority structure that pivots on the vision of the artistic director, but the sad fact is you can have theatre without scripts. You can't have it without actors. If more actors realized the primacy of their existence, they'd be in a better bargaining position for their own well-being and could go about discriminating between projects for more compelling reasons (i.e. the value/utility of the project instead of the paycheck of the project). It'd be nice (though kinda silly) if AEA factored in the value of new characters over dead ones when they designed their pay-scales, but ... maybe they should figure out our dental plan first.
Regarding spectacle, I don't think the idea is to force theatre to keep pace with movies and television -- enough Broadway re-mounts are already in that trap. It's not about paying for an explosion on stage instead of paying for a good monologue or actor. It's about realizing that theatre is a temporal-spatial art form more than a language-driven art form. That third dimension is ours, kids. We should probably do something with it, and quick. The parallax between eyeballs isn't going to cut it.
Sure, we all "know" this -- but rarely are plays written or performed with that knowledge held as an irreducible axiomatic truth. Living room dramas are fine, as long as there's a reason we're in the living room. Naturalistic snapshots are fine, as long as there's a reason we need to visit nature at that time and in that place. Monsterism wouldn't purge these plays, but it would demand a more forthright justification for their respective settings and POV's. The best justification, in my mind, would be that the theme and subject-matter requires them. The very core of the story deals with issues of time and place. This does not hold that the story is strictly unified in time and space, as Aristotle would have it, but that our relationship with time and place is the first goal, however primordially, of the theatre makers.