What I was thinking


THE “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?” AWARD Small Wooden Shoe’s Dedicated to the Revolutions, in which theatre artists attempted, badly, to explain scientific concepts they did not, or could not be bothered to, understand. What’s next: Hairdressers Teach Shakespeare

I would like to answer the question, “What were we thinking?” (At least for myself, I can’t speak for the others.) I think your question was rhetorical, but it’s always a fair one. I also think it’s fine if you didn’t like the show – of course that’s going to happen. But I do think that questions should be given some kind of response.

When we made Dedicated to the Revolutions, I was thinking a lot about expertise and knowledge – about broader social questions of specialization and the assumptions that go along with them.

A culture in which some people are allowed to speak of certain things and others (hairdressers, actors and the like) should just sit quietly and then applaud at the end is what I was thinking about. I was thinking that science (and art) are areas where this opinion is particularly strong – areas where non-experts fear to venture due to possible scorn and humiliation at the hands of the experts.

It’s an attitude that can lead to catastrophe as expertise removes itself from the everyday and we suddenly find ourselves with an economic crisis we can’t understand, a world we have to take on faith and hairdressers that aren’t allowed to do anything else.

I was thinking about how there might be room for something other than a particular kind of virtuosity and showing-off. And I love virtuosity and showing-off, and I think from your list that it’s the style of art you prefer too, but I wonder about other options – of proposing other strategies.

Of proposing vulnerability and even the importance of exposing our vulnerability in public. The show was loose and goofy in parts – maybe too much for your tastes – but it was intentional. The act of standing in front of people and trying to think, as opposed to recite, with pleasure, desire and not a small amount of vulnerability was a proposal for the loosening of the structures that dictate who can think about what.

Questions of expertise and virtuosity in art are long standing and always shifting, but those aren’t the most important questions – taste in theatre and the people who write about it will change and change back. It’s the social questions I return to.

Of course a 90-minute performance isn’t going to solve these problems. But maybe we can be part of a discussion; maybe we can open up the conversation even just a bit.

That’s a least part of what I was thinking.

Jacob Zimmer Artistic Director, Small Wooden Shoe