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January 15, 1950 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1950-01-15

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Need World State--Slosson


Rowe Forsees Decentralized Theatre


(Continued from Page 2)

(Continued from Page 2)

easily be comprised or adjusted
in a federal framework. The Cul-
bertson plan, or the Hutchins
plan, or any of a score of other
plans find adequate answers to
such questions. The only p3rob-
lem that the theorists have not
solved is how to make the world
accept their solutions! Imperial-
ist ambitions in Russia, isolation-
isf in America, old prejudices
against "foreigners" everywhere,
make the most rational history of
the next fifty years far from be-
ing the most probable.
lTWEEN the best and the
worst lie a multitude of possi-
bilities. The United Nations may
follow the course of the League
of Nations, solving, many small
questions but failing to prevent
war among the great powers. In
which case it will no doubt be
superseded by some new agency
after an interval of war. Or, it
may survive the diseases of poli-
tical infancy and evolve into a
hearty adolescence gaining
strength from diplomatic victories
and dropping the crippling veto
power. This, however, implies a
degree of good will and common
sense in Soviet Russia of which
there are no present indications.
Or, a limited federal union may
be established among those na-
tions which are willing to take
the step. Such a union could
radually evolve from the present
North Atlantic alliance, the ERP,
the Pan-American Union, and
other experiments which still lie
in the future. Again, it could be
created outright by a special
world constitutional convention,
which the United Nations has the
power to call, though not the
power to compel Russia (or any
other nation) to ratify its results.
If a limited federal union came
into being it might be a unit with-
inithe framework of the present
United Nations, the, latter being
still maintained so that some com-
mon bond with Russia would con-
tinue to exist. Or, it might dis-
place and replace the present Uni-
ted Nations altogether, in the
same way that Bismarck's nar-
rower, but more efficient, Ger-
man Reich (excluding Austria),
replaced the old German Bund,
w i d e r but less integrated. It
would doubtless include all the
English-speaking countries, near-
ly all western Europe, and nearly
all Latin America. It might in-
clude all the rest of the non-Com-
munist world. In either case, it
would be strong enough to defend
itself against any outside aggres-
sion. There might even be hope
that the Russian camp would, in
time, disintegrate, and that Tito-
ism would spread to China, Po-
land, Czechoslovakia and other
countries; even in Russia proper,
though a popular revolution is

unlikely, /new minds and wiser
policies may in time arise at the
Kremlin. But therQ is a peril to
balance this hope. The Atlantic
Federation also might disinte-
grate. A new natiolialism might
arise in a rearmed Germany, a
new fascism might extend from
Spain and Argentina throughout
all Latin America, communism
might spread from China to India
or from eastern to western Eur-
ope, a political reaction at the
polls might cause a return of the
United States to the isolationism
of the nineteen-twenties.
ONE thing at least is clear. The
fate of the next fifty years
depends mainly 'on ourselves. The
United States i s n o t strong
enough, no nation is strong
enough, to stand alone in the mo-
dern world; but all the rest of the
world can hardly stand without
the aid of the United States. This
is, indeed, the "American cen-
Eury". When the phrase was first
used many people deplored it as
boastful and jingoistic, but ac-
tually it is merely descriptive. A
-combination of natural wealth,
industrial development, free in-
stitutions, and fortunate geogra-
phical situation have placed, the
United States in a more obvious
position of leadership than Spain
held in 'the sixteenth century,
France in the seventeenth, or
Great Britain in the nineteenth.
There has really been nothing
quite like it since the palmy days
of Rome. Fortunately for the
world, we have not been much
tempted to abuse our power by
wanton aggression. Unfortunate-
ly, we have not been much trained
in using it for world construction.
If the United States can deve-
lop a consistent, long-term policy
of cooperation with all nations
which are willing to cooperate
with us, we can prtserve the peace
of all the world, and the
liberty of most of it, for
the next fifty years. We must take
the initiative in proposing streng-
thening changes in the United
Nations Charter. If that effort
should fail, we must take the ini-
tiative in organizing a partial
world federation, either inside or
outside the United Nations. We
must share in the arming and
policing of the war-threatened
areas. We must give money and
goods and thought and time and
patience to sustain the nations
who also desire peace, and expect
our reward in peace itself rather
than in gratitude, for one nation
is rarely grateful to another. Un-
less we do all this, over and over
again, for at least fifty years, the
historian of the year 2000 will dip
his pen in blood-red ink as he
writes "On the whole, the nega-
tive attitude of powerful America
explains the coming of the Third
World War...."

scenes, nine sets) and Barrie Sta-
vis's Lamp at Midnight (sixteen
scenes, six sets), were released by
modern staging concepts to swift,
fluid, and economical production,
and the theatre was enriched ac-
cordingly. The two most success-
ful younger dramatists, Tennes-
see Williams in Streetcar Named
Desire and more notably Arthur
Miller in Death of a Salesman,
created new flexible form for the
scope of their dramatic expres-
A particularly significant recent
development pointing toward the
future is the rapid spread in the
non-commercial theatre of thea-
tre-in-the-round or arena theatre
with its numerous modifications,
such as theatre-in-the-half round,
of the basic idea of a central act-
ing space. Initiated in part as an
economy measure, the form is tak-
ing hold on directorial imagina-
tion and audience response, and
it may be expected that playwrit-
ing imagination will respond with
plays conceived directly for that
mode of producton. Particularly
in the non-commercial theatre,
with more and more people want-
ing to see more and more plays,
t h e direction appears t o b e
towards simplicity and economy of
modes of production to release the
scope of plays that can be pro-
duced. However the means may
vary, round, square, or vertical
theatre, skeletal set, staging with
identifying set pieces in curtains,
or spot-light and blackout staging,
the trend is that of focus on the
acting space, varying with the
needs of the script, that is, on the
universal essentials of theatre; a
story is being communicated to an
audience from a playwright's
script by actors in an acting space.
Audiences in 1950,twiththeir
background of motion pictures
and the national publicization of
Broadway, with what radio gnd
television" may contribute, are
more theoretically sophisticated
than the audiences of 1900, and
they demand good theatre, com-
mercial or non-commercial. It is
not likely that unfinished, slop-
py, or shabby artiness in produc-
tion will be tolerated by the audi-
ences of the future, nor with the
establishment of sound training
for community theatre in the
drama schools and departments
of universities throughout the
country is it likely that such pro-
duction will be offered. It does
look as though the good theatre
of the future, in creation and ap-
preciation, will be increasingly de-
termined by dominance over mon-
ey and materials of art, imagina-
tion, and ingenuity for the free-
dom of the theatre and the drama
it may represent.
* * *
IN SUBJECT matter, as part of
the continuation of the thesis

drama on social problems, certain
topics show enough impetus, both
in unproduced manuscripts and
in production, to extend into the
second half of the century, not-
ably those of race problems and
of atomic energy. The most sig-
nificant trend in content, how-
ever, is one of approach to human
conduct whatever the specific top-
ic may be and,, consequently, is
likely to have duration. Especially
on the part of younger playwrights
there has been, since the war, a
questioning of too exclusively so-
ciologicaliand psychological in-
terpretation of character, and of
the economic, material, and sci-
entific thought which has domin-
ated the modern world. Failure
from the immediate past is ap-
parent. They are seeking deeper
ethical motivation and energiza-
tion for the future, and are reas-
serting the individual will and
personal moral responsibility.
There is the conviction that the
state of society depends upon the
state of heart and the principles
of conduct of the individuals that
comprise it, and there is the con-
cept of human society, of the
world, transcending the concen-
tration of the serious drama of the
thirties on specific social problems
of our own country.
The theatre can be a potent
force towards international under-
standing. Following World War
I there was a significant inter-
national exchange of drama. The
influence in this country was pri-
marily artistic, upon form. World
War II has again stimulated in-
terchange of drama, and the pro-
cess is being accelerated by
UNESCO and the International
Theatre Institute for the, speci-
fic purpose of international un-
derstanding. March of this year
is to be International Theatre
Month in theatres throughout the
United States. Independently of
organizational efforts, the spon-
taneous spirit of younger play-
wrights, in this country is inter-
national, and the significant in-
fluence of interchange of drama
following upon World War II
promises to be in broadening of
ideas and view of human exper-
ience more than upon form.
* * *
DRAMA, by the immediacy and
directness of audience relation
in the theatre, is quick and sensi-
tive in response to changing cur-
rents of social thought and feel-
ing, impact of events, and chang-
ing material developments. Sur-
rounding events are unpredict-
able. However, it is significant at

this time that the National Thea-
tre Assembly to be convened in
Washington, following upon the
Javits Resolution in Congress, for
the purpose of planning federal
implementation of a national
theatre represents definition of a
national theatre as the theatre
activity in every phase of people
throughout the United States.
Thinking thus channeled will in-
escapably be propulsive in the
theatre of the next decade and
indeterminately into the future.
The direction is decentralization
of theatre, a decentralization pros-
pectively more durable, by reason
of improved transportation, a
broader theatrically interested
and sophisticated audience, and
better trained personnel, than
that- of the Little Theatre move-
ment of the second and third dec.
ades of the century. What is in
view is not a decentralization in
conflict with Broadway, but one
of potentially constructive inter-
change which may well be the sal-
vation of New York as the theatre
capital of the country. Broadway
absorbed the talent developed in
the Little Theatres and was re-
vivified thereby, but the Little
Theatres were desiccated. The
concentration in New York, now,
however, has reached the point
of diminishing returns, and Broad-
way can no longer absorb the
playwriting, directing, stage de-
signing, and acting talent of the
country productively to itself, to
the talent, or to the national
drama and theatre interest. There
will continue to be a special place
in the national life for a theatre
supported by the concentration
of population inNewYorkand
by the established theatre tradi-
tion and organization there -
every good American loves Broad-
way. But a foundation of theatre
throughout the country develop-
ing talent with free interflow be-
tween those theatres and New
York will at once sustain Broad-
way and make theatre in the
United States truly national. Not
only, as now, will there be pro-
ductions of new plays for the brief
runs of university and community
theatres throughoutthe country,
but from this trend it seems reas-
onable to predict that, growing
out of those theatres, there will be
professional theatres in all the
larger population centers where
production of new plays will orig-
inate, have their runs, and go to
other theatres. There are a few
such theatres now, each the pro-
duct of the rare abilities of a sin-
gle man or woman. Many more
such theatres, for the most part,
like those now existing, profes-
sional rather than commercial,
will engage more people and open
the way to a more broadly based

economic way of life in the the-
atre. Some of the plays initiated
in ,such theatres will go to New
York, but there will be play-
wrights, as well as the other work-
ers in the theatre, sustaining
themselves in professional careers
who will never have a Broadway
production. Upon a foundation
of educational theatre, and com-
munity theatre fully developed at
all levels from completely ama-
teur to fully professional, as well
as Broadway, there will be a na-
tional drama.
Balanced Skepticism
AS WE ENTER the New Year I
forsee no end to the cold war
between the West and the East.
The bases of conflict are present.
Only the occasion for a fighting
war is lacking. Whether the Soviet
Union will choose to allow the cold
war to become hot, is anybody's
guess. I am convinced that the
United States at any rate will not
provoke a war with the Soviet
Union. But we will take no chanc-
es about Russia. Our defense must
always be ready.
I approach the next half cen-
tury with a balanced skepticism.


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