“Look At It Again”
by Janouke Goosen

A friend asked me right before I moved to New York to study at SITI Conservatory: ‘What do you think The Theatre will look like in the future’ . I told my friend I would tell him when I got back, when the Conservatory ended. I still haven’t answered that question – it might be time to follow up with him…

Because of my interest in how to live as sustainably as possible, my google searching eventually lead me to the “7th Generation Principle.” The 7th generation principle as taught by Native Americans says that in every decision, be it personal, governmental, or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendents seven generations into the future. The 7th generation principal was so important to some Native American cultures that it was codified in the “Iroquois Great Law of Peace.” Many Native American and indigenous tribes throughout the world embrace this teaching in some form or another. The earliest recording of the 7th generation principle dates back to the 12th century. To live by this principle, one would ask, prior to any undertaking, how it will affect the land, water, air, animals, birds, and plants? How will my decision now create the world that children will live in hundreds of years from now?

I realize that the way I look at time and make my decisions is very close to my own time, the time I live in now, my generation. I am mostly alone in my own time. I do have the desire to look beyond my own time to develop a vision for the time after me. In the past few years I’ve been trying to live this way a little by consuming less, or buy secondhand – by bringing my own bags and cups and commuting by bike almost always. And of course, since I am a teacher,  the information I bring into class I pass on to this generation and hopefully it will be passed on to more generations. Still my thinking is very close to only my generation. But by trying to be really aware of how my choices and actions will influence the next seven, I am able to open space with my thinking. I am able to create a new space – a new time.

The theatre doesn’t have to be a space with walls. It doesn’t have to be a space with a stage, a bar, and a wardrobe. Theatre can also take place in the space between people. We come together; we share time and stories. That is also theatre. Nothing more and nothing less. Theatre is a meeting that we keep repeating. We share space. We are present. We sit next to each other, we look at each other, and we are together. And that space between people has been there since the existence of the human race and it will be there seven generations after me, and seven generations after them, and so forth.

Last summer I was at SITI Company’s Skidmore Summer Intensive and I had to fetch SITI Company member Barney O’Hanlon a fan for his famous deconstruction class. This is one of his mind-blowing classes. I was watching the class and Barney deconstructed the fan and built it up again. I thought: Are we capable of doing this with the Theatre? What would happen if we did this with theatre spaces? Stone by stone, chair by chair, curtains, lights? Everything displayed – like the fan completely deconstructed on the ground – to be rebuilt again. What would we build? What would happen if we did this with theatre itself?  Would it be exactly the same?

One of my best friends got married last April. In lots of weddings there is that very traditional moment where the bride and groom perform a dance and after the wedding party has been officially opened. And my best friend likes being very traditional so we were heading to that moment. Everybody stood up and pushed their chairs back. We made space for my best friend (and her huge dress). My friend came walking in. She looked shy, because this was the moment we had all been waiting for. An open place was made, a small open space between people. She started her dance without music. I could feel the people around me holding their breath – hoping her dance would go well. Very slowly she captured the space, the time, the people. The band started playing “Marry You” by Bruno Mars (I said she was traditional, didn’t I?) and she became energetic, full of commitment. She is doing it. She has the guts. We look, to her and at each other. I saw an audience with full compassion and engagement. The involvement between performer and spectator was so clear, intense, direct, and dependent. She dances, and she can’t do it without us. We watch, and we can’t do it without her. We need each other to be there. We need guts to be there.

A friend asked me a while ago: “How do you think The Theatre will look in the future?” I answered: “I hope the past has created something fertile to build upon, something that the current generation can give to the next generation o that the new generation can look at it again, deconstruct it like Barney’s fan and rebuild it in their ‘own time’. Something as present and connected as a wedding where we need each other to be there. A place that bursts with energy and empathy.”

For more information on the 7th Generation Principle:  https://www.mollylarkin.com/what-is-the-7th-generation-principle-and-why-do-you-need-to-know-about-it-3/