Is drama out cold? Is theatre? Is it sliding into chaos? In a short philosophical essay entitled “Rhapsody for the Theatre,” first published in 1990, Alan Badiou calls the art form the “ceremony of all ceremonies.”1 For theatre makes the state visible, and does not show the revolution. It is concerned with the consciousness attained in a particular political condition or circumstance, explains the status quo, is the inventory of all parts of a cohesive or “closed situation,” but under the sign of catastrophe, precipitousness, or emergency, as if all outstanding debts had to be paid and theatre were looking to an outburst, a blow-out, a conclusion, not a balance. The artistically expert, “strategic” listing of passions on stage, the encounter with power, causes tears or laughter. Inasmuch as it depend on the state, the call to which theatrical practice responds is that of representation. Theatre, drama, is not the art that presents the disclosure of a place, the constitution of a particular condition or circumstance, the emergence of a state, but the art that represents the state, and with it representation, in a performance. Hence theatre is a “ceremony of all ceremonies” in the sense that it could not exist without a state, a particular condition or circumstance, a closed situation, but always in such a way that this representation of representation aims for an outburst and is governed by Ideas. For Badiou understands the representation of representation as free and political, that is as a representation that passes judgment and in so doing proves to be critical. A critical representation of representation has to draw on Ideas, as it is the Idea that renders it possible. It relates the state, the particular condition or circumstance, to the Idea, to the intellectual representative that represents representations while also interrupting the mechanism of representation.2 But if freedom of judgment, critique, is a decisive element of the art of theatre as an art that stages, establishes, performs, celebrates the “ceremony of all ceremonies,” then the critical question of theatre is the question of how to understand the “ceremony of all ceremonies,” or the representation of representation, or the representation that is accompanied by a double crisis, by a crisis of outburst and judgment, of affect and Idea. Does the “ceremony of all ceremonies,” as a suspension of the status quo, the particular circumstance,...
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