(Saško Nasev, PhD: “The Seriousness of the Game – the Aesthetics of Contemporary American Theatre”, Époha, 2002)
This book is a redacted version of Saško Nasev’s doctor’s dissertation, presented at the University of Philosophy, in 2001. The title itself induces the knowledge of the great body of the work on themes, dedicated to the aesthetics of the Contemporary American Theatre (CAT), then why did he choose this in particular, and what is it actually all about. Before we go on with our clear and detailed approach, we face the fact that this is, without delusion, the first philosophical and theatrological effort on this subject in our country. That’s the reason why we’re about to take a deeper view inside this work, where for the first time, we have the chance to see the sublime con/text of the American issues up close and personal, and maybe it’ll make us forget it all, considering Bush and his company.
The artistic and aesthetical tools of the thesis
Nasev is very honest whenever he reaches the limits of the exploration. From this stance, we’re clear about the concise questions: Why did he choose this topic and what is CAT really like, for he sees, and analyses it within the USA way of living, and his own spirally knitted ideologies, inside the theatrical and aesthetical dimension. The CAT is the one that introduces all the new and spiritual tendencies in the contemporary way of life. A theatre that represents a prism for the psychology of mankind; the (copied) ontological source of mankind. Throughout his exploration, in an almost shaman way, Nasev unites the diverse and dispersed visions, of great contemporary thinkers. And that’s why he speaks about/with the aesthetical (philosophical, social, ethical, historical, ideological) meanings of the American theatre. This is where his depth becomes profound, and that is beyond the mere break down of the dramaturgical structure. In a model that is inter subjective and auto referential, and takes over Frances Fukujama’s model of the “habitué of the information”, Nasev’s entire thesis unites different views, marks of the aesthetics and style, existentional, ethical, interpreted and represented artistic attitudes in CAT. Even, if you’d like, he has found an alibi in John Kennedy’s statement, that the culture is big as much as the nation wants her to be!
A compact synthesis on social and cultural history
Before he approaches the 11 most crucial creative figures in the CAT, following the method of generalizing, through one general and compact synthesis, Nasev covers all relevant, previous, social manifestations/concepts, that made an influence upon CAT’s development. “First, there’s the concept of the colonists, when theatre literally meant popular entertainment and was part of religious rituals. The second, is the concept for theatre organized as an industry, which leads to some kind of artistic industry for making money; the so called commercial-Broadway theatre, derived out of this sense. The third is the concept of representing the philosophical and aesthetical access to the college able (or the “knowledgeable”, academic) theatre, which insists upon aesthetical values and avoids any similarity with the previous concepts.” The first stage represents the appearance of amateurism, inspired from theatre, commedia dell’ arte and the burlesque, as parts of social life; then the furious anger within African-American slaves rituals and the very beginnings of jazz – the music well known today. The second stage, which is closely connected with the Anglo-Saxon’s tradition, is oriented towards transforming art into professionalism. Here, “the commercial American playwriting is relieved from transcendence and forced intellectualism”, and begins its full-blooded realistic way of performance, the narration in a straight line, and the impulsiveness among the characters. The third stage is the institutional theatre versus the puritan, amateur and commercial theatre. Those were the days for aesthetical experiments. Sasko Nasev sublimes this stage, with all the historical events, dates, appearances which, without any doubt create the social and artistic pyramid, and not pure facts only. Using them all, he creates a chronological and diacronical story, a polygon of information connected with all its diagonals. Starting from here, very smoothly, he makes a connection between the facts: since the 16-th and the 17-th century, the Americans became obsessed with the French and Spanish playwriting; theatrical dances were fashionable, also people’s interpretation of religious miracles; in the year 1702, Benjamin Coleman wrote the first American play “Gustavus Vasa”; 1703/04 is the period of the very beginnings and cultivation of American theatre, altogether with the professional British actor Tony Aston and his troop, who performed pieces about the artist and the poet, or the so called decadent themes. Using Nasev’s words, Aston was called a ‘vagabond’, and it’s meaning nowadays equals with ‘subculture’, a realm where new spiritual, philosophical and ethical horizons arise; the theatre repertoire was founded at Southwark Theatre, the American classical works, the mimesis, and the enjoyment as an educational principle; the author Thomas Forest in his work “The Disappointed”, initiates the need for individuality (for the colonists) and their engagement. In the 18-th century: the intention for distorting all life irregularities in the world of dramaturgy; the appearance of the musical, as a recognizable American theatre form; for the first time they induced the “Negro” character/type, as a synonym for the empathic tendency in art, and coming along with that, the dramatisation of (such) prose: “Uncle Tom’s cabin”; next we could also find out that, the actress Lillian from Jersey started the usage of costumes and scenery for the first time in Washington (while in Europe, the theatre stages were still immovable).