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Tony Grist

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The Empty Space [Apr. 27th, 2008|09:06 pm]
Tony Grist
I've been reading Peter Brook's The Empty Space and it's taken me back to theological college in the early seventies. John Armson, the college chaplain, recommended it to us because, he argued,  ecclesiastical ritual is another form of theatre and Brook's radical thinking would freshen up our chancels. 

I didn't take him up on the recommendation because I was awkward that way- counter-suggestible.  Besides, I didn't like him. He'd shouted at me twice (and I hate to be shouted at): once because he didn't think I was praying enough (he was also my spiritual director) and once because I praised Stevie Smith as "anti-Christian" and he couldn't see how a Christian could encounter a person like that and not want to smite them. He was a hard person to be around. Unpredictable. You'd be having a nice, polite, Oxbridgey conversation about poetry and stuff and the fanatic in him would suddenly leap from ambush and take you by the throat.

I could kick myself now for being so touchy- because in retrospect I like him tremendously. I think of him as the most thoroughly medieval person I've ever known-  by which I mean the most austere and spiritual. He's still out there, nearing seventy, living (I rather think) on the Welsh borders. It would be nice to get in touch with him again.

Especially now I'm equipped to engage him in that long delayed conversation about Peter Brook.  Well, I'd say, I see what you're driving at, but does a priest at his altar really have the freedom an actor or director has to make things new?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: margaretarts
2008-04-27 11:30 pm (UTC)
I like that neologism: counter-suggestible.

A few decades after college, I'm still counter-suggestible. If the last 2 films that a friend suggested to me turned out to be horrid in my opinion, I'll know not to take her film reviews to heart for myself. Maybe you do this, too, and I prefer to think of it as a time-saving device.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-28 08:27 am (UTC)
I tend to keep away from anything that is too fashionable or cool. There are quite a number of absolutely crucial books- Orwell's 1984 for instance- that I've never read because I absolutely refuse to be pressured.
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From: amritarosa
2008-04-28 12:52 am (UTC)
We read that book as part of the Dramatic Ritual & Theater discussion group a couple of years ago. It's one of my favorites and I recommend it (and Mamet's True & False) to any budding ritualist who asks me for suggested reading.

Full o'good stuff.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-28 08:31 am (UTC)
It's excellent. Very well written. Brook is a fascinating man.

Random fact: As an undergraduate at Oxford, Brook directed a production of Dr Faustus and, wanting to get the magic right, went to consult with Aleister Crowley. Sheesh, but that took some chutzpah!
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[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2008-04-28 07:18 am (UTC)

the freedom an actor or director has to make things new?

I don't know about today as religious ritual seems, in Orthodoxy - at least - to have calcified. But, clearly religious ritual at its origins was intrinsically linked to theater performance. Especially during the late middle ages, the great masses that accompanied Saint's Day observances were not only performances but one objective was absolutely the same as modern theater - that of eliciting funds from the audience, in the earlier case to fund the building of all those spectacular churches.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-28 08:35 am (UTC)

Re: the freedom an actor or director has to make things new?

People like John Armson- and others who were around at the time- believed or half believed that liturgical renewal would lead to a great revival of the church in England. They were sadly wrong, of course....
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From: manfalling
2008-04-28 07:46 am (UTC)
Beside the point, but-

Yesterday 10 people (or one person 10 times?) came to my website after searching for 'tony grist' in a search engine. That's strange from the off because my site is only on the 5th page in Google after that search.

I wonder why the sudden interest in you (or at least sudden interest that leads to me)? I panicked for a second and thought you'd died or something!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-28 08:39 am (UTC)
One or two of those visitors will have been me, googling my own name. Oh the vanity! But ten? I may have flicked backwards and forwards a few times but surely not that often.

By the way, I love the site. I thought, seeing as how this is your birthday and all, I'd give it a shout on my LJ this morning.
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From: manfalling
2008-04-28 08:53 am (UTC)
That's a great idea actually. I was thinking of requesting a review of one of my stories as a birthday present- but a shout-out is good too.

Hey- got the card- Ailz has a way with those. Very nice- thanks :).
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-28 09:41 am (UTC)
I've posted the shout.

I'm glad you like the card- and glad it arrived on time. We only put it in the mail on Thursday.
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From: manfalling
2008-04-28 10:28 am (UTC)
Hey dad- thanks- that's a great birthday present! Already your LJ friends are checking out my site. Gonna put up a new story soon- finally took an overnight bike trip! Only 4 years in the works. It's not around the world, but it's a start.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-28 10:54 am (UTC)
Excellent.

I've got friends who are professional writers and publishers. I'm hoping some of these will take a look.

An overnight bike trip? You'll be blogging about it, right?
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From: manfalling
2008-04-28 11:00 am (UTC)
That would be great. Am looking to develop some friendships with other writers too- got a few lined up already, published in the same zines as me. It's good to see their success, chat with them, support them, as well as reading about their lives. It makes me realize publication is possible.

The bike trip I'll post definitely- hopefully with video. It was great- though I'm exhausted now.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-28 11:15 am (UTC)
Publication is definitely possible. You've just got to go on pushing. Submit, submit, submit. And a bit of networking doesn't do any harm, either.

The website will help, I think. It's very attractive and user-friendly
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[User Picture]From: richenda
2008-04-28 10:17 am (UTC)
Don't you think that there is an importnat distinction between liturgical dramatization and "theatre"?
Also, there's an important distinction - isn't there - between (for example) dramatizing the Passion and celebrating the Eucharist? I remain appalled by a certain bishop who called the Eucharist a dramatic presentation - but perhaps we are not of one mind on this point.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-28 10:52 am (UTC)
I agree with you. The Eucharist is fixed in a way that a play text isn't.
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