VINCENTELLI In this particular case, noticing the capitalism theme was a result of both the changed format and the changed political environment. But overall, I have to admit that for me a play lives only onstage and the text is only part of it, and in some cases it’s not even the most important part. I am aware this is not a majority opinion (insert shrug emoji).
I know you’re interested in fandom, and I was wondering how you consider the audience’s role in theater and in pop culture (of which wrestling is a part). In the original production, for example, a wrestler named Old Glory (Christian Litke, back in the Play-PerView reading) got a roomful of New York theatergoers to chant “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” It was a powerful moment, and unsettling.
PHILLIPS Interesting! To your first point, while I do think the stage is an important part of theater, I consider it a literary art form, and our current situation has only reinforced that for me. We’re having to reconceptualize our idea of what a stage is, and why it is or isn’t necessary to a work.
VINCENTELLI Yeah, now is a bad time for those of us who think of theater as primarily a live performance art form.
PHILLIPS But to get to your second point, yes, I’m fascinated by fandom, and there were a few points during the production where I did miss that element. It was clear from Diaz’s writing that he is implicating the audience and examining how we will respond — and asking us to think about that, too. We are the other side of the equation: The creator makes the art and releases it into the world, but then immediately it’s ours, and we bring our own context to it, individually and as a community, and we change it, and that can be for the good or for the bad.
VINCENTELLI Mace is a fan who ended up working in the industry he adored. He is aware of how complicit both the wrestlers/actors and the audience are. He knows there is a degree of pushing through what you fully know is fake to get to the satisfying bits. We all do that! Where Diaz is really smart is that he says, OK, you know the wrestler named the Fundamentalist isn’t a real fundamentalist Muslim, but you choose to believe in the charade because it’s a good story — you as a viewer relish stories based on racial stereotypes and then you go out and pretend otherwise. Hypocrisy sustains not just us as fans, but entire swaths of American pop culture. And Diaz does it in a fast-paced, funny, sharp show. It’s masterly.
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
Streaming on Play-PerView through Aug. 20.