I watch cartoons. A lot. Perhaps too much. I should probably get it checked out, this predisposition to SpongeBob, Robot Chicken, and the like. I really don’t care what the cartoon is. My taste is wide and ranging. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I have any taste. I just like cartoons. I like cartoon characters. I envy them their limitlessness. The fact that they are unbound by naturalistic conventions. They have strange voices that defy normal vocal capacities and strange bodies that can endure impossible physical trauma. They leap without looking. They are fully committed to their most immediate and pressing goals.
Sometimes, when I watch a cartoon or animated series or whatever the hell the common industry vernacular is at the present moment, I’ll be amazed at the creativity I’m witnessing, the absurdity of it, and the humor of it, and I’ll think to myself, “Why don’t I do that ever on stage?!” Make a seemingly bizarre choice, dare myself to imagine be-yond conventional expectations, truly confound everyone in the rehearsal room. Leave
them all – fellow actors, stage manager and director – wide-eyed and mouths agape. Cartoon stories zig and zag all over the place. Full of surprises, ironic twists and turns, and a shameless pursuit of all that is absurd.
And at the risk of boring the reader, a little history might be useful.
Albert Camus, in his 1942 essay The Myth of Sisyphus, made the startling suggestion that humanity had to recognize that any rational explanation of the universe was im-possible or at least beyond mankind’s capacities. In 1962, thephrase “Theatre of the Absurd” was invented by the critic Martin Esslin. But Absurd elements existed in Greek drama in the plays of Aristophanes. The point is that the theatre has been arguably
obsessed on some level with the inexplicable – those things that can be experienced and witnessed but defy explanation. These are the things that make life awesome, inspiring, wondrous, incredible — which is defined in Webster’s as “so extraordinary as to seem impossible or unbelievable.”
And I think that this is what I like about cartoons. There’s something very liberating about the cartoon world – even invigorating. And the same is true of theatre. The ability to get me to believe in what is initially impossible or unbelievable. The ability to get me beyond my own conventions and my own preconceptions of how the world works. The ability to get me to believe, to invest whole-heartedly in things not seen and only experienced, to have a sense of faith.
….That’s all folks!