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LETTERS

Theater as temple

November 03, 2002

I certainly sympathize with David Rambo's annoyance with impolite audience members who prevent each other from listening to a play due to ringing cell phones, crinkling cellophane wrappers and talking among themselves ("The Drama of Listening," Oct. 20). What I find odd is his romantic harking back to the time of Elizabethan drama when theatergoers actually went to "hear a play." Rambo seems to have overlooked that Elizabethan audiences had the far more distracting problems of constant chattering (especially from the rabble in the pit); the never-ending coming and going of people during the performance; vendors selling food and drink in the aisles; and, since it was often an outside venue, whatever noise forced its way in from the local environment.

I'm not sure what I find more dangerous to the future of theater: the very rare instances of rudeness that Rambo alludes to, or the almost hallowed atmosphere that he seems to desire for his personal house of worship.

Howard Casner

Los Angeles

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I was startled to read Rambo's assertion that until the late 19th century the theater was a place to hear but not to see or feel, and that it lacked "momentum." Was Aristotle hallucinating when he described the drama of his time (and, prophetically, ours as well) as structured on those very elements? Indeed Aristotle insists that a play has a setting, is acted, not narrated, and that tragedy evokes pity and fear. Created in the theater is a world of imagination and pretense in which the audience itself collaborates. As such, the power of Sophocles or Shakespeare, of Wilder or Beckett, would not be increased by realistic stage settings.

Certainly the convention of realism expanded the resources of the stage, but credit for that innovation can hardly go to Augustin Daly, as Rambo suggests. In fact the sensationalism of directors like Daly was exactly what Shaw thought it his mission to expunge from the stage as he sought to resurrect the theater as temple.

Sally Peters

Redondo Beach

Sally Peters is the author of "Bernard Shaw: The Ascent of the Superman," an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and a visiting lecturer in Wesleyan University's graduate liberal studies program.

*

Thank you, David Rambo and Calendar, for printing one of the sanest, sweetest, clearest, most moving "think" pieces about the theater I've read in any paper for a long time.

Working in the theater here for the last 24 years, acting, writing, directing and now teaching, I have longed to see this level of profound reflection on the whys and wherefores of our ancient craft acknowledged so thoughtfully. Beyond reviews and profiles of theaters and personalities, it is not only a great pleasure to read an intelligent playwright's overview of the meaning of it all, but a great service to the Los Angeles community as well. In writing about the nature of listening, Mr. Rambo cuts to the core of the most important relationship that exists for the theater in a healthy community -- the receptivity of its audience. We are all healthier for his thoughts.

Tony Abatemarco

Los Angeles

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