Jefferson Lindquist & Frank Foster

In 1909, F.T. Marinetti and friends, one night, ". . . under hanging mosque lamps. . .," began to weave their ". . . atavistic ennui into rich oriental rugs. . .," culminating with an "unafraid" declaration of ". . . high intentions to all the living of the earth" - a declaration that was to be hurled at the world as the Manifesto of Futurism.(1) 

In 1916, Tristan Tzara wrote: 

I am writing a manifesto and there's nothing I want, and yet I'm saying certain things, and in principle I am against manifestos, as I am against principles. . ."
Absurd? No. Born "...out of the need for independence, out of the mistrust for community," out of the denial of theories, out of the satiation of cubism and futurism, the Dada Manifesto was blazoned.(2) 

In 1991, lodged in a winter of discontent during the finals week of May, two theatre-ites, tired of being bludgeoned and whipped into submissiveness, by a "real, natural, and actual-istic" Hydra, to acknowledge, as Truth, the greatness and quintessence of the present theatrical standard, wrote a declaration. This is our manifesto. 

Riding on the back of a period in theatre in which isms grew like mushrooms on a dung-heap, we, acknowledging our use of isms(3), do not project this writing as the future ism. There is enough silt in the clouded pond already. In addition, we do not spout these words only as a means of stirring theatrical juices. We include ourselves as willing participants, supporters, and culminating points of this doctrine. This is our manifesto - the Progressive Manifesto.(4) 

What must theatre do? Theatre must entertain, represent, and challenge

1 - Theatre must entertain. This is the foremost purpose of theatre. We must capture and hold the attention of a consenting audience. Unfortunately, many artists hold this thought as being secondary. Artists create in order to reveal "truths" that they possess; however, many do so in a self-indulgent manner which alienates the audience members and, therefore, reveals nothing. We must remember that in order to have "theatre", we must have two entities - an artist and a willing audience. To think that every audience is willing at every moment is taking the idea of audience for granted. We must create, i.e., entertain, with the realization that they are of equal importance. Thus, we cannot think of entertaining as a byproduct; it is the bait of the theatre hook. 

2 - Theatre must represent. Theatre is a made thing. It does not spontaneously happen. This is not to say that there can not be spontaneous moments in theatre; these often are the most exciting and most memorable. However, there are practitioners who attempt to create with actuality, forgetting that everything in theatre is representative. Theatre has boundaries that are not present in actuality, in our every day existence. This is not to say that an artist should forget actuality altogether. Rather, the artist should remember that what is being created is the illusion of actuality. Sound, lights, scenery, acting, and the drama are representations that assist the creation of this illusion. 

3 - Theatre must challenge. We must create art that is stimulating, provocative, and intriguing. This challenge is two-fold. First, as it pertains to the audience, we must arouse the emotional response as required by the work, whether it be exultation or lamentation or any combination thereof. Second, as it pertains to the theatre practitioner, we must test the limitations of the art, striving always for new innovations that will enhance the theatrical event. 

Under the umbrella of these three basic requirements for the purpose of theatre - to entertain, to represent, and to challenge - theatre will progress back to what theatre should be - a shared experience. 

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(1) F.T. Maranetti, "The Futurist Manifesto", Futurist Manifestos, ed. by Umbrio Aollonio (New York: Viking, c1973), 19. 

(2) Tristan Tzara, "The Dada Manifesto", Dada Performance, 45. 

(3) The word isms refers to styles in theatre,i.e., romanticism, realism, naturalism, etc., ad nauseum. 

(4) This title was encouraged by a paragraph in Thinker on Stage: Neitzche's Materialism by Peter Sloterdijk. Special thanks to Dr. James Parker and Dr. Kenneth Campbell for bringing it to our attention.