Recently, I have been given a theatre piece to read it and comment on it. Just to get it out of the way, I did not like it. However, it got me thinking about it, but not really in the way that the author perhaps wanted me to. Did I dislike it as only a member of the audience, or I disliked it as a person who knows something about drama as a form of literature and something about literature in general? There are many examples of critics ridiculing a work that would later turn out to be a masterpiece. There are also many examples of the audience popularizing works without any aesthetic or artistic values. Then how can we know what is good and what is not? To have an opinion about someone’s work is a responsibility.
To get back to this theatre piece, it is not that bad, but it is not that good either. If it never got turned into an actual play, the world would not lose anything. Even the local community would not lose anything, either. The only one who could be deprived in such a case is the author. But, should we let it be set up just so that someone’s feelings do not get hurt? The piece itself describes today’s state in a country that has been stuck in transition for years now, where the people struggle with poverty and confusion of how to act and how to feel. The characters are symbols of such society and they should show the difficulty of the choice that is either to stay or to leave. That was the first problem I had with it, the characters are abstractions of social occurrences, and not sketches of real people with whom the audience might connect to. They do not even have names, they are called by their traits, so we have characters like Genius, Tough Girl, Patriot nicknamed Pat, and Mother Supreme. And there is the problem with the ending. It is brutal and comes out of nowhere, unexpected and too rushed. It involves the characters of the Patriot and Mother Supreme, and even the actress who was supposed to play her wanted the ending changed. The author denied her request.
Now, I am not writing this to give you a review of the piece. Honestly, I wish it were in English so that you could read it too and give your opinion. However, I am writing this to try and discover if faulty art can easily be recognized and if artists can keep their integrity when defending their faulty art. It may seem that I have already decided that the theatre piece I read is faulty art. It is in true, in a way. But, I am also conflicted about my opinion. How can I know if I am right? What is the scale for measuring art? The situation set up appears to be a binary one. The first one is that the theatre piece is bad, and it would underperform with the wider audience, too. The second one is that the theatre piece is actually good, but it might not even be turned into a play because it did not appeal to the selected audience, which would be a pity.
The main problem might actually be the attitude of the author himself. Throughout the entire process he was unyielding with the choices that he had made in the piece. None of the comments he received were mean or insulting to him or his work, though. They were merely suggestions by the actors and the producers. All the people included want to see this piece become a play, just with some changes. And, for some reason he decided to take the stand of a misunderstood artist.
On the other hand, I have to admit, my opinion is very strong. If it were up to me, I would not let him correct a few lines, I would make him rewrite the entire piece. And if he turns out to be incapable of doing so, then I would not have any regrets at all. That is how much I appreciate what I have read. Still, I am conflicted. Not because of the piece itself anymore, but because its author defends its original form so much. How can he be so sure that it is good the way it is? It is fascinating to me, since I have never had such confidence about any of my work.
The art of literature will be fine. Perhaps it is the author of this particular piece who needs to be showed that following the advice of several friendly people does not jeopardize his artistic integrity. Maybe the piece should be set up the way it is in the original version. If it resonates with the audience and the reviewers, then all of us criticizing it will be proven wrong. If it does not, then it will be a proof that authors should sometimes distance themselves from their creations and observe them with an objective mind. Am I making art with my writing? It is nice to think so. But, I would not mind if people thought differently. The measure for art is truly a tricky matter.