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Poetics of Outbreak

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

A Dig Deeper Article by Production Dramaturg Kian Moradi.

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash.

What is more problematic today than the emergence of weird, unwished for, scary spots emerging from nowhere? A hole has been seen in the ozone layer and it is getting bigger and bigger; no one can stop it. A virus has emerged and infected the planet; no one can stop it! In this way, one can talk about violence, ignorance, foolishness, and fascism.

According to Marshall McLuhan, it seems that one of the byproducts of our global village is outbreak. Everything is outbreaking. How has theatre reflected on the phenomenon of outbreak so far?

Let us introduce a structure called the poetics of outbreak. Theatre’s focus on the poetics of outbreak goes back to the ancient world in Oedipus Rex by Sophocles in which adversity outbreaks in Thebes in the form of plague. There are many modern masterpieces showing this poetics in the realm of drama: the outbreak of fire in Frisch’s The Fire Raisers, insects in Sartre’s The Flies, and the outbreak of consumerism in The New Tenant, another play by Ionesco. Antonin Artaud has an extreme formulation of this poetics in his definition of theatre, that the prophetic mission of theatre is to contaminate the identity of human as audience, like plague. He sees the outbreak of plague as the theatre’s double. When plague comes, hunger will come. Then your neighbour becomes a thief who attacks your home to find something to eat.

Theatre reflects on the poetics of outbreak in our production of Rhinoceros. Introducing a neologism, the city is getting Rhinocerized. This coarse and wild animal is outbreaking as an infectious disease. The catch, however, is that the rhinoceroses are not actually wild beasts attacking the city, they are humans who tend to be coarse and wild in their behaviour, either consciously or unconsciously.

While this new tendency could imply a wide variety of human misbehaviour, director Jake Planinc has found fascism one of the new age horrible adversities which has been outbreaking for decades. What can stop the outbreak of fascism? Maybe the only answer is to love.

Suggested Reading:

Artaud, Antonin. The Theater and Its Double. Grove Press, 1958.

Frisch, Max. Three Plays: The Fire Raisers, Count Oederland [and] Andorra. Methuen, 1962.

Ionesco, Eugène. Amédée. The New Tenant. Victims of Duty. Grove Press, 1958.

————. Rhinocéros : Pièce En Trois Actes et Quatre Tableaux. Gallimard, 2011.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, edited by Terrence Gordon. Gingko Press, 2013.

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. Macmillan Films, 2021.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. The Flies. H. Hamilton, 1946.

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