This quotation about naturalism really jumped out at me (and my wife, Acacia) and will no doubt become part of my permanent repertoire.
(The juiciest bit is at the end, so if you're short on time or attention-span, skip to the bold part.
We have to be very clear when we talk about naturalism in the theatre. It's a stylistic choice, and it's a deadly one for the theatre. Naturalism is a style that developed in the '40, '50, and 60's, that supposedly comes from the Stanislavski approach - but that is to misunderstand Stanislavksi. Naturalism is not suited to the theatre because theatre is about communication with the audience. In the end the only question in the theatre is: How does the play become alive? In fact, theatre only exists in the mind of the audience - it does not exist on stage, or in a play. It only exists because the audience brings it alive.Amen, brother Simon, amen.
I saw kabuki theatre in Japan, where, in a given scene, weeping takes place on stage in an extraordinarily stylized form. I was transfixed, looking along the row of faces alongside of me and watching how everyone in the audience was weeping, too. The emotion at that moment on stage was real, in the same way as when Don Giovanni is led down to hell and he sings his last act of defiance. The emotion of that moment is also real--it's heightened, it's extreme, but it's completely real. Reality in the theatre is created by actors, and it occurs only in that moment--which is why you will find actors saying "we had a good night" or "oh, tonight wasn't so good." What actors really mean is that they have found that point of communication, so you can have a great production and you can go and see it and it won't mean anything to you at all if this moment of connection between actors and audience doesn't happen. Equally, I have seen pieces of theatre that are rough and appallingly overacted or rude--and yet I've been deeply moved by them. Sometimes, even with terrible performances, actors find a way to communicate with an audience. That's why theatre can't work on video. It's an imaginative act on the part of the audience. And that is theatre's appeal, that's why it continues.
Everyone thought theatre would die with the appearance of cinema, just as everyone thought painting would die with the appearance of photography. But all photography did was to liberate painting to be itself. Without photography, we would not have Picasso or Rothko. Painting would still be trying to do what photography can do much better. We need painting to do what happened on the walls of caves eons ago - to record what we deeply feel, and the complexity of what we feel and imagine. In the same way, film has liberated theatre to be itself. Without film, we wouldn't have Jacques Copeau, who gave rise to Antonin Artoud. We wouldn't have the plays of Beckett or Pinter. So in the theatre, what you do is to create the language to communicate with the audience on that night in that moment.