Why are we so reluctant to discuss the meaning of our work?Oh, just load it up while you're at it, why don'tcha, Isaac?
We have conversations about the meanings of art all the time while making it and yet... we get reluctant to share these conversations with our audiences.Some of this reluctance is understandable to me. You don't want to dominate someone's understanding of the work, and culturally we are trained to accept an artists' interpretation of their own work as paramount. Also, audiences/viewers can themselves chafe at the dominance of the artists' viewpoint. I am particularly hostile to directors notes that tell me how to feel think and respond to what I'm about to see. But surely there's a difference between telling someone before they see something how they should respond to it and discussing it with them, right?
Which gets me back to an old saw, one i deploy all the time and I see my fellow artists deploy: I want to make art that asks interesting/difficult/meaningful questions rather than giving answers. Which is something I do agree with, but at the same time as artists, certainly we come up with at least a few answers to the questions posed by the work we do, even if we don't put those answers into the work itself.
I think the sticky wicket is this: How do we discuss our own interpretation of a work in a way that invites others into the dialogue, to have their own interpretations of it, to approach it in their own way and derive meaning from it, even if we (strongly) disagree with their interpretations or the meaning they derive from it? How do we lead those conversations? How do we use our expertise (we are experts in our own art, after all) without becoming dominant authorities?
If I'm quite honest with myself, my reluctance to talk about meaning in my work is simple - I really don't know.
There, I said it.
I don't know what my work means. If I did, I'd rather just write an essay or something and get right to the point instead of dancing around it and being deliberately obtuse.
But the fact of the matter is I'm more interested in creating an experience instead of choosing or laying out an interpretive thrust for the play. To be frank, that's why I write for theater. I know I'm supposed to spend my energy on story and character and what not, but I'm afraid that's just not what I do.
This current play attempts to create a sense of enchantment - a sense or intuition of a deeper, richer reality than is apparent on the surface. It's a pretty nuanced thing to go for, so I'm not sure if I'm explaining it right. But there it is.