The great myths exercise a terrific and sometimes terrifying influence on us. For example, I've been driving around Austin listening to Derek Jacobi -- first, his recitation of Mallory's Le Mort d'Arthur, and more recently, his reading of the Robert Fagles translation of The Iliad. Those are stories that shaped the self concepts of the ancient races and nations. The narratives and the rich language exercise a hypnotic influence on a listener today, despite the veil of time.
Our American culture is certainly going to leave behind its own huge rubbish pile of cultural artifacts, ranging from Edgar Allen Poe to Hemingway to Casablanca to I Love Lucy to The Matrix to YouTube. And what out of all that is likely to endure? While living in Nicosia, Cyprus, I made the discovery that the word in Greek for "newspaper" is εφημερίδα -- "ephimerida." These days, back in the United States and seeking to understand American culture, I come back again and again to the ephemeral nature of it all.
All the more so, given the fact that I've chosen to explore theatre arts and to recount for an unknown audience my impressions of an art that is among the most immediate but also certainly the most ephemeral of all -- the live performance of narrative. You have to be there. A theatrical performance varies from night to night, responding to the audience, the weather, the humors of the actors, and to whatever else is in the air.
There is something innately magical and tribal in the ritual of theatre, particularly in the theatre of willing spectators huddled in a small space to hear a familiar story. A sort of delicious delirium. You get it around the campfire at scout camp or around a table in the back of the bar, late at night. That's just the feeling you have at this production of
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