American Alternative Theatre by Theodore Shank (auth.)

By Theodore Shank (auth.)

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The unifying theme was the adaptation of people to various circumstances which tend to transform them into social freaks. In preparing the work the group drew upon some of the same sources they had used for Terminal and they also studied mythology and rites of change - puberty rites, marriage ceremonies, funerals - practised in various cultures. They became interested in Kaspar Hauser, the early nineteenthcentury German boy who spent the first sixteen years of his life in a cellar removedfrom the influence of society.

As the title suggests, the play is concerned with the ways in wh ich humans have been bound - physically, spiritually, and culturally. The setting is dominated by a large arch constructed of pipe. When the audience enters, performers are discovered bound with ropes in theatre seats. The performance begins when spectators untie them. Act One presents a dreamlike history of culture using historical and mythological figures. It is a history of increasing confinement. The creative inventiveness of the anarchistic Prometheus (Hanon Reznikov), symbolized by his bringing fire to mankind , is punished by Zeus (J ulian Beck) representing the forces of order.

Six Public Acts used the technique of a peripatetic audience and actual places were used instead of scenery. The Living Theatre had begun in 1951 with an attempt to resuscitate poetic language in the theatre, but by the mid-sixties they had de-emphasized words in keeping with the dominant tendency of alternative theatre. This was practical as they were playing in countries where different languages were spoken, but after creating Paradise Now Beck discussed another reason. The object was not to destroy language, said Beck, but to reach toward a 'kind of communication of feeling and idea .

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