Sunday 16 June 2024

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Writers, Artists, Scholars should form a Fourth World: Schechner


In the background of Indian writers and artists coming together to fight increasing intolerance, Prof Richard Schechner, a US-based theatre scholar, has thrown up an idea of creating a ‘Performance Fourth World’ by the artists, writers and scholars to change the world.

Citing an example of women’s uprising in 2012 after Nirbhaya’s brutal rape case in the capital of India, the theatre director called it a ‘social theatre’ that changed the whole scenario throughout the country.

Delivering the last lecture in the five-day series at D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas on ‘How to perform the 21st Century’, Schechner also presented a blue print of his Fourth World theory to fight all the three worlds that are all out to destroy the world and the human race.

(Click right below to read his full lecture)

Quoting Jawaharlal Nehru’s theory of the third world of 1955, the professor of performance studies said:

“Today the world is not bi-polar as in Nehru's days. It is triangular -- with tensions arising from conflicts among the claims of ideologised religion, militarised politics, and globalised economics. These forces overlap even as they are often in competition with each other; paradoxically, they are mutually dependent and antagonistic to each other.”

Against this tri-polar world, he proposes a "fourth world aesthetics”, making it a counterweight to religion, politics and business along the lines of Nehru's "moral force."

As a theatre scholar, Schechner proposes four kinds of theatres: 1. theatre for healing; 2. theatre for action; 3. theatre for community; 4. theatre for transforming experience into art.

"Social theatre takes place in diverse locations -- from prisons, refugee camps, and hospitals to schools, orphanages and homes for elderly”, he said.

Along with theatre artists, he feels filmmakers, novelists, poets, videographers – all such individuals and groups, movements and tendencies, artists and scholars should coalesce into a unified force for positive change.

“We must imagine, invent and perform alternative ways of becoming”, he says.

Schechner also proposes a manifesto of this Performance Fourth World, just in four axioms:

1. To perform is to explore, to play, to experiment with new relationships.

2. To perform is to cross borders. These borders are not only geographical, but emotional, ideological, political and personal.

3. To perform is to engage in lifelong active study. To grasp every possibility as a script -- something to be played with, interpreted, and reformed/remade.

4. To perform is to become someone else and yourself at the same time. To empathize, react, grow, and change. 

Having toured North and South America, Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia including India to conduct theatre workshops, Schechner feels the writers, artists and scholars should rise up against two kind of wars witnessed worldwide – the wars by humans against humans and by humans against the nature.

“Wars among people aren't the most destructive. They are exceeded by the overall human war against nature. This war is approaching”, he cautions.

This war, says the author-cum-artist, will lead to mass extinction because of polluting the atmosphere leading to climate change and acidification of the oceans, effluent pollution of rivers and the oceans, the introduction of invasive species, over- population, overfishing, deforestation, mono-culture agriculture and a lot more.

He however doesn’t undermine the open wars or proxy wars going on in the world, but also analyses these wars from a cultural point of view.

“American society and culture is infected and deformed by a plague of wars. What is it about war? Is it all greed and power? No, Indo-European and Middle Eastern cultures love war”, he opines.

Among all, he is most critical about his own country, the USA, which has spent 330 billion USD or 24 Lakh Core dollars till date since 1940 on arms, informs Schechner, who has received several life-time achievement awards and numerous fellowships.

“There have been big wars, small wars, long wars, short wars, good wars, bad wars, just wars, greedy wars, invasions, incursions, missions, actions in Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa”, he observes.

And even in a so-called free and open society, do we know how many secret actions there've been and how many are going on now? Do we know how many have been tortured and murdered in the name of peace and freedom?

While asking these pertinent questions, the performance scholar says: The cost is personal, cultural, and spiritual.         

References Richard Schechner on Fourth World is now on Telegram & also Youtube. Kindly subscribe for free & remain updated.

Total Comments :1

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In India the writers, artists etc are not in condition to shoulder this burden. They prefer to be chorus boys of politicians. They seek zone of comfort to be on the right side of politics. This is due to lack of moral character. Rather than becoming creator they have chosen to be merchandiser. Do not expect anything from such people.

Madhav Bastodker , Ponda



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