PRINT September 1981

Charles Ludlam: The Mating of Theater and Art

IF WHAT WE KNOW as “art” has excluded theater from its purview, the reasons are not far to seek. I think the theater, even supposedly serious theater, like supposedly serious literature, has excluded itself from art. To become more tedious, what, then, do we mean by “art”? Well, to put a word upon it, to be an artist is to do something that you do not know whether you can do at all, and if you turn out to be able to do it, then you do not know if you will be allowed to get away with it. Most theater today, however uplifting or entertaining, is not art because it is craft; it is a display of an amalgam of polished capabilities in a context that is guaranteed to please the audience who assemble to get just what they get. Of course there are good performances, and once every several years, possibly a good new play—good in the sense that it is easy to recite and pleasant to behold. But no art.

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