Tag Archives: absurdism

And not the fun kind of absurdities either.

One need hardly amplify Chekhov’s indictment of the naturalistic theatre…The naturalistic theatre has conducted a never ending search for the fourth wall which has led it into a whole series of absurdities. The theatre fell into the hands of fabricants who tried to make everything “just like real life” and turned the stage into some sort of antique shop.

Meyerhold on Theatre. Trans. Edward Braun. London: Methuen, 1969: 30.

Change that moves too fast for us to adapt.

In Monday’s Duke Chronicle I caught a story/study that make me think both of Astrov and of last fall’s residency by PearlDamour and their How To Build a Forest installation/performance. The quote below has my emphasis added:

A recent study from the Nicholas School of the Environment found that forests in the eastern United States are exhibiting faster turnover in response to rising global temperatures.

The study was published earlier this month in the journal Global Change Biology. It is one of the first studies to demonstrate that forest turnover is currently more prevalent than northward migration of trees. The findings are in contrast to the prevailing prediction by environmental scientists that climate change would lead to migration through seed dispersal.

Christopher Woodall, a co-author of the study and research forester for the Forest Inventory & Analysis Unit of the United States Department of Agriculture, said these findings have significant implications for biodiverse forest success as a whole.

“[The findings] suggest that if climate changes rapidly then forests may not simply move with climate,” Woodall said. “If the rate of climate change exceeds the ability of tree populations to shift, that may suggest less forests with less tree species diversity.” […]

Woodall said that cooperation between governmental and academic entities will be important for preventing further forest degradation.

Beyond the obvious connection between Astrov’s thoughts on conservation, I was struck by the idea of temperature change as being too quick in impact for forests to adapt. I might be stretching the metaphor to its breaking point, but there’s a bit of that tension in the Professor’s big news and Vanya’s reaction to it. Up to that point in Act III, Vanya’s been bemoaning how languid life has become on the estate with the Professor in residency. Things are stagnating in ways that are different, uncomfortable from the previous sense of stasis (which at least contained work, to keep the estate running, to keep the revenue flowing back to the Professor, to help the Professor with his own academic production). And when the Professor makes his announcement, there’s shock and anger but I also sense fear about what will happen. It’s the one of three bold events of the entire play — perhaps the boldest since it would have an impact on so many characters. Yet it doesn’t go forward. It’s not just that there seems to be no warning and that Vanya’s reaction against the announcement is so violent (if incompetent), it’s almost as if it would be too much, too transformative. Like the trees in the new study that cannot transform fast enough to migrate away from places with greater temperature changes, the house simply reduces its variety. The visitors go, probably never to return, and the stalwart inhabitants stay. It’s not that the forest disappears but that it shrinks, dwindles, like Vanya and Sonya at play’s end. And, if that’s the case, then the speech she gives about work and rest, seem all the more absurdly inspiring and at the same time utterly tragic.