Bryan Reynolds (UC Irvine)
Theater: Electric Subjectivity, Emulative Authority, and the Force of Subjunctivity
Theater lovers often explain their devotion through reference to grandly unifying, humanely edifying comforts: that plays can be remarkably faithful to human nature insofar as they represent tragedy, comedy, beauty, and wisdom in ways more authentic, potent or exuberant than other art forms. To an extent, such an explanation may be true, and so it provides a rationale for why audiences attend theater. Nevertheless, it is a sublimation of something no less human, but rather more excessive and fugitive: perhaps the allure and mystery of sex, knowledge, or power, or, as I want to argue, something else and more. Using the theory and methodology of transversal poetics to explore the media of live performance through an excursion into the fields of biology, consciousness studies, primatology, neurochemistry, and cognitive neuroscience, I hope to unveil the incentives and causality behind aesthetic appreciation and audience experience. I hope to show how theater or performance, specifically embodied live art, can achieve a rare magnetism — the magnetic energy it produces — which is grounded in the somatic, emotional, and cognitive transversality it inspires; and, perhaps more importantly, I want to explain how the media of live performance best serves this purpose. Liveness can reverberate with a power of immediacy, arousal, and titillation, but its “transversal performance” can go much deeper, wider, and electric. It is this, acknowledged or not, that has seduced and pleasured generations of theatergoers through live performance. Indeed, liveness can transform the audience into the subjects of performance.
Bryan Reynolds ist Theatermacher der Transversal Theater Company und Professor am Department of Drama der Claire Trevor School of the Arts an der University of California in Irvine, USA.