In creating a modern theatre which we hope will liberate for
significant expression a fresh elation and joy in experimental
production, it is the most apt symbol of our good intentions
that we start with a play by August Strindberg;
for Strindberg was the precursor of all modernity in our present
theatre just as Ibsen, a lesser man as
he himself surmised, was the father of modernity of twenty years
or so ago when it was believed that A Doll's House wasn't--just
Strindberg still remains among the most modern of moderns,
the greatest interpreter in the theatre of the characteristic
spiritual conflicts which constitute the drama--the blood!--of
our lives today. He carried naturalism to the logical attainment
of such poignant intensity that, if the work of any other playwright
is to be called "naturalism," we must classify a play
like The Dance of Death as "supernaturalism"
and place it in a class by itself, exclusively Strindberg's since
no one before or after him has had the genius to qualify.
Yet it is only by means of some form of "super-naturalism"
that we may express in the theatre what we comprehend intuitively
of that self-defeating self-obsession which is the discount we
moderns have to pay for the loan of life. The old "naturalism"--or
"realism," if you prefer (would to God some genius
was gigantic enough to define clearly the separateness of these
terms once and for all)--no longer applies. It represents our
father's daring aspirations toward self-recognition by holding
the family Kodak up to ill-nature. But to us their old audacity
is blague; we have taken too many snapshots of each other in
graceless position; we have endured too much from the banality
of surfaces. We are ashamed of having peeked through so many
keyholes, squinting always at heavy, uninspired bodies--the fat
facts--with not a nude spirit among them; we have been sick with
appearances and are convalescing; we "wipe out and pass
on" to some as yet unrealized region where our souls, maddened
by loneliness and the ignoble inarticulateness of flesh, are
slowly evolving their new language of kinship.
Strindberg knew and suffered with our struggle years before
many of us were born. He expressed it by intensifying the method
of his time and by foreshadowing both in content and form the
methods to come. All that is enduring in what we loosely call
"Expressionism"--all that is artistically valid and
sound theatre--can be clearly traced back through Wedekind
to Strindberg's The Dream Play, There Are Crimes and Crimes,
The Spook Sonata, etc...
Hence, The Spook Sonata at our Playhouse. One of the
most difficult of Strindberg's "behind-life" (if I
may coin the term) plays to interpret with insight and distinction--but
the difficult is properly our special task, or we have no good
reason for existing. Truth, in the theatre as in life, is eternally
difficult, just as the easy is the everlasting lie.
So pray with us--and (although we don't need it, of course,
but it may do us some good) for us.
Back to Eugene
published in Provincetown Playbill, no. 1, season 1923-24.