What is the PoLAAT?

February 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Post-Living Ante-Action Theater, or PoLAAT, continues our self-conscious translation of 1960s countercultural theater into a performance of the present. In excavating theatrical tropes associated with that era, including resistance and radicalism, we situate a contemporary quest for agency against a backdrop of previous struggles. A critical view of the late 1960s and early ’70s illuminates a range of performance practices that share a hybridized approach to leftist politics, disciplinarity, artistic authorship, racial and sexual identity, and the positioning of the self among cultural fields inherited from Modernism. The successes and failures of previous countercultural movements offer models from which we may organize our own lives in the face of an increasingly powerful hegemony.

The title Post-Living Ante-Action Theater references two radical avant-garde performance collectives of the ’60s: the Living Theatre, which originated in New York, and Munich’s Action Theater, which became known as antiteater under Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s direction. The Living Theatre’s Paradise Now(1968) leads the audience through a series of ritualistic improvisations, using group encounters with Kabbalistic and Hindu texts to conjure a lived experience outside of the artificiality of traditional theater. Pre-Paradise, Sorry Now (1969) is antiteater?s response to that work: a series of randomly sequenced scenes of bourgeois life intersected with readings from the diary of a child murderer. The Action Theater started after members saw the Living Theatre perform in Munich, reinterpreting the collective ethos as a means of addressing their own cultural moment in West Germany. Both groups were dependent upon collectivity as a mode of production, a model for action, but while the Living Theatre sought radical liberation, antiteater performed radical critique.

M.B.

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