one hundred essays I don't have time to write*

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52. Oh the proscenium and, Oh the curtain

When I work at a theater with a grand proscenium or a grand curtain and walk backstage during intermission in order to urinate, the whole enterprise reminds me of Plato’s cave. I am aware of the grandness of the arch, and the seeming impermeability between the watcher and the watched; yet all that is required to burst through the illusion is to slip behind a curtain and use the facilities. Slipping through so easily from one state to the other calls to mind the seeming impermeability between different states of being and how quickly they are punctured; between the sick and the well, between the state of being alive and being, well, dead—where the divide seems absolute but the crossing is as swift and simple as passing behind a curtain.
It is perhaps for that reason that I find it inexplicably moving to walk backstage while the audience is still in the house, talking (perhaps wildly and nobly excoriating my play) and buying candy. It is often the back of the tapestry that turns out to be more beautiful than the front; being able to see all that work—the waiting, the drudgery, the pricks of blood…
Some might charge that the proscenium creates a less radical or less communal approach to theater because of the separation between the watcher and the watched. This is perhaps true. On the other hand, the proscenium is an attempt to replicate the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave and then make the illusion disappear at the end. For the purpose of creating a Platonic illusion and then laying the illusion bare, prosceniums and curtains are serviceable. If a world without curtains is a world without illusions then perhaps the curtains should come back.

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