Found Theatre

One of my favorite adventures in Chicago came at the neofuturist theatre, where at midnight they staged 30 2 minute plays in an hour (and offered free pizza to everybody if they finished on time!).

Looking at their new season, I see this equally absurd idea for a play: The Last Two Minutes of the Complete Works of Henrik Ibsen:

Founding Director Greg Allen embarks on this, his 22nd production for the Neo-Futurists, by literally taking the last two minutes of all of Ibsen’s plays and slamming them together. What does Peer Gynt have in common with Hedda Gabler? What is the essence of dramatic tragedy? How does Realism with a capital “R” intersect with Neo-Futurism with a big “N”, little hyphen, and a large “F”? These and many other questions will be asked in this crazed attempt at combining all of the brilliant (and not-so-brilliant) plays of the master.

I like these concept plays. Someone somewhere removed the sex scenes from porn films leaving just the cheesy dialogue (“Can I touch it?”). Another playwright used transcripts from cockpits of airplanes shortly before they crashed. This sort of framing/recontextualizing reminded me of Marat/Sade where instead of feeling a sense of tragedy the audience is left experiencing a ghoulish sense of humor. 15 glorious years! I have to admit enjoying anniversary TV shows which inevitably include a lot of “clips” which don’t seem as hilarious as the writing teams seemed to believe.

In visual art and collage art, we have the concept of “found objects,” as we do with musical samples (RX and Evolution Control Committee being two of the more notable examples) . I’ll leave aside copyright concerns for the moment.

Novelists don’t necessarily lift paragraphs from other people, but often they steal techniques, similar plot devices and sometimes (unintentionally) phrases.