Mar 31, 2015

Book Report: The Empty Space

“A stage space has two rules: (1) Anything can happen and (2) Something must happen.”  ~ Peter Brook, The Empty Space
I first read this book right after I graduated from college and have revisited it time and time again since. It is dense and Brook, as with his other books, is accessible and clear, but passionate. And he never dumbs down his thoughts and concepts for passive readers.

I have written of the wonderful things about Brook in a previous Book Report (about his book Threads of Time). He is one of my major influences. The Empty Space is one of the defining texts by Brook and, in my opinion, one of the defining texts about the theatre in the last century.

In a nutshell, Brook explores what was (is) wrong with the professional theatre by breaking it down into overlapping categories: The Deadly, The Holy, The Rough and the Immediate. The Immediate, or a theatre that genuinely lives in the moment between the performers and audience, is the goal for Brook (and for many of us that have been influenced by him).

The real value of this book is how it shifts one's mindset. Peter Brook's lines of exploration and questioning work to sort of move one's frame of reference. Reading Brook, who is serious in his criticism, I come away thinking differently about the theatre. Question everything. Take nothing for granted (even tradition). Never lose sight of the goal: to genuinely, truthfully and spontaneously engage and share something worth sharing with the audience. In this way, theatre may just create lasting memories for audiences.

In The Empty Space, Brook leaves us with an incredibly simple (though not easy) formula for what theatre can be. Here is a man that believes in the power of the stage, the infinity of a particular moment, and the saving grace of theatre. He is also well aware of the pitfalls, too. He's been there. And he's still out there. For that, I'm very glad.

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