NARRATOR: During his residency on the Whitney’s fourth floor, Maxwell is directing open rehearsals of his next play.
We’re rehearsing, right, that’s what we’re doing—we’re rehearsing. And you could obviously look at it as a performance simply because people are going to be watching it. And a lot of people are going to be watching it; it’s an open rehearsal therefore it would qualify as a performance. I don’t like this idea; I don’t like that we could be thought of as mocking something up for the purposes of looking like a rehearsal. I like the idea of actually working.
I’m not seeking interaction. But if interaction happens we’re not going to ignore it. It’s a weird thing to foment some kind of happening or event with passersby, but they’re in the room. And one thing I talk to my actors about quite a bit is this idea of not denying anything that’s in the room, acknowledging what’s there and this separation or this fourth wall that gets talked about in theater just isn’t there. I feel like it’s a one-room experience. And a lot of times I think that because of the story gets told we’re tempted into a world that is not there, that is pretend. But I really believe in the actors having one, at least one, foot grounded in the room that we’re in. And that there isn’t this kind of hierarchy between stage and audience.
Marcel Breuer’s design is definitely highlighted in whatever we’re going to do, because I’m just so impressed with the scale and the proportions and just the sheer size of that space.
It’s a room that, actually, it’s inviting thought. It’s supporting thought—that’s what it feels like to me. Maybe because it’s surprisingly intimate. It’s vast, but when you actually are there and it’s empty and you’re talking it’s very alive and you feel very close to whoever you’re talking to, regardless of what the spatial relationship is almost.
In a way we’re flipping what theater is thought of, as product-based, and looking at the process of it. And I’m wondering if that is a way of thinking about belonging in the room that you happen to be in.
NARRATOR: To hear Maxwell read from his book, Theater for Beginners, please tap the screen.