Anne Bogart is a big deal. The renowned director founded the SITI Company in 1992 with Tadashi Suzuki (of the eponymous method); has won OBIE, Bessie, and Guggenheim awards; runs Columbia University's graduate directing program; and generally blows minds wherever she goes. On the Boards will host her SITI production of Death and the Ploughman (written in Prague in 1401) and she will lecture at Seattle Children's Theatre. She is also articulate and pleasant on the telephone.
On her first (and only) trip to Seattle: "It was in the late '70s, when I was a young thing-I bought a 30-day rail pass, went to different alternative theaters, and asked if they wanted to be part of my American tour. I didn't even have the show done yet. On the Boards [which had just opened] said yes."
On Death and the Ploughman: "It's the story of a happily married man who loses his wife in childbirth. He goes to Death, completely bereft, and begins the most profound discourse on how we live and why we die I've ever encountered-by an extraordinary and passionate mind. It's a cry of the spirit at the end of the medieval era and the beginning of the Renaissance, saying: 'No, this is not acceptable, God's top-down hierarchy with humans underneath.' He doesn't even mention Jesus until the very last scene."
On her lecture: "Since 9/11, I've been interested in how we adjust as artists. Art is more necessary now, but less condoned. The obstacles are bigger. Obstacles can help clarify the mission (if you have no obstacles, what you do doesn't have much presence), but we need a humanistic assessment of our souls. We've been numbed by the events of the last five years."
On the culture industry: "There is a buzz-FOX, CNN-and you can't hear anything. Art needs to break through that buzz. I like what Leonard Bernstein said: 'A musician's response to violence is to make the music more intense.' Not necessarily more serious, but more intensely funny or rigorous."
On regional theater: "Regional institutions have been taken over by their marketing departments. I was sitting in a room with the artistic directors of the largest theaters in the country, who said: 'Our theaters need to be blown up-this top-down system isn't working. These institutions need to be filled with cells, diverse groups taking over parts of the building.' That lures new, young audiences."
On smooth theater: "Most social acts are mediated by computer and TV. The notion of breathing common air is more rarefied and radical and there's a lot of confusion-a lot of plays and acting are for television instead of the stage. They're about me and you and our apartment and our problems, with episodic blackouts and a limited sense of poetry or engagement."
On those who lament the imminent death of theater: "They aren't standing up when they're needed-despair is too easy." ■