What the fuck is going on?

The tyranny of questions
By Ian Mackenzie

On this Friday, November 23, we will publish here the 50th in our “10 questions” interview series. That’s 500 questions and 500 responses from 50 of North America’s finest contemporary theatre makers.

Since starting this project back in October, 2006, I’ve often thought that when we got here, to our 50th, I’d take a few weeks off from conducting interviews to take stock of the series. Of course, 50 is an arbitrary number, and I’m not entirely sure what form this “taking of stock” will take. But I do know one thing: it will inevitably involve the asking of more questions.

Questions beget questions
Looking back on the 49 interviews we’ve published so far, I am left with many more questions than I started with. I wonder about the questions themselves. Have I asked the right ones? Have I asked them to the right people? Have any unifying theories risen to the fore? And is it my job to search for and re-present any such unifying theories?

Or, worse, has the tyranny of the questions themselves prevented deeper truths from emerging? Do interviewees ever feel bullied by these questions or by the format itself? And what kind of assumptions do these questions contain? Are they sexist? Racist? Classist? Ageist?

And why do I get to be the one to ask the questions? What if my questions are bad? Or stupid? Or – even worse – expose some otherwise-hidden prejudice – a naiveté that belies an unflattering presumption on my part?

Feel free to reject the terms of the question
The good news is that none of this really matters to the people on the other end of the interview – the 50 amazing theatre makers who’ve taken the time and care to share their ideas with us on this blog. Each of these 50 interview subjects has, in their own way, transcended the tyranny of the questions. And for that I am grateful.

Maybe that’s what I love most about the “10 questions” format: it affords the asker the liberty of ignorance – permission to not know the answers, and even, to a degree, to not know the right questions.

So let’s see what happens with this taking of stock. It will probably involve some remixing of these 50 interviews. And a rethinking on my part of what it means to ask a question. After all, what is a question. Really? What is its purpose? And how do we know which questions to ask?

In the mean time, I encourage you to revisit the 49 interviews we’ve published so far. I believe they contain an uncommon wealth of insight, humour, grace and intelligence – all of it theatre-related. All of it shared with us free of charge, generously and in the best spirit of community.

As for this Friday’s interview – number 50 in the series – I think you’ll find it to be a most fitting denouement. It introduces ideas and language that I feel will become important as this series moves forward and onwards to its (again arbitrary) 100-interview milestone.

And, as always, any feedback or suggestions for improvement are most appreciated.

4 thoughts on “What the fuck is going on?

  1. Ian:

    Obviously I am biased, but here is my feedback: Please don’t stop asking questions. I look forward to reading Theatre Is Territory with coffee each morning. Enjoy your time to reflect, can’t wait to see #50

  2. When I first discovered the 10Q series I was quite dumbstruck. The simplicity and the generosity of offering theatre artists a sounding post (if you will) to prompt discourse on their favourite topic with the world resonated with me instantly, so much so that I instantly co-opted the idea for the West Coast. Here’s some things I know about theatre people since my addiction began…

    1.) They are wicked smart.

    2.) They are also enthusiastically opinionated.

    3.) They know exactly what to do with a soapbox when it finds them.

    4.) They are all a part of a progressive community that is yearning to connect at last.

    5.) The greatness of theatre is in the width of the spectrum of its practitioner’s personality and style.

    6.) The heartbeat of the independent theatre body is strong indeed.

    7.) I am proud as fuck to be a part of this artistic community.

  3. Well said Simon! Your seven points here are exactly what I was trying to say. In preparing this post, I tried various ways of summing up what I’ve learned from these interviews and from the process, but could never find the right words.

    Somebody asked me that the other day, “What have you learned from doing these interviews?” and I found myself at a total loss for words.

    It’s like, “What did you learn during the last four years of school?” It’s almost too big a question.

    I opted, instead, to write about the questions. It seemed more manageable.

    Anyway, Thanks for summing it up so nicely.


  4. i too am proud as fuck to be a part of this artistic community. and pleased as punch to have answered a question or ten on this thoroughly addictive blog.

    keep it up, kids. here’s to fifty more.

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