Words onstage are weaklings. Consider the way music so easily overpowers its libretto in opera. Or the way multimedia images in avant-garde performance or gestures in more traditional drama speak volumes without uttering a syllable. Yet language provides our deepest vein of meaning. Only in the abstraction of the symphony or ballet are we truly liberated into a world beyond linguistic consciousness, and even then we run a silent commentary to ourselves about what we're experiencing. In experimental theater, the balance between text and stagecraft is a precarious one. New forms of storytelling aspire to treat the word as merely another part of the mise-en-scène. Artaud's injunction to "burn the texts" wasn't so much trying to banish language as to return us to a forgotten mode of ritual. Paradoxically, he advocated ransacking the resources of Jacobean and Romantic dramatists to get there. Poetry, in short, led to the metaphysical heart of his theater of cruelty, suggesting that, even in the most extreme nonliterary of visions, logos—or the vehicle for rational understanding—demands an integrated place in the... More >>>