Conversation with Sheila Heti
On the subject of McSweeney’s Issue 42
Stories by Augusto Monterroso
Three translations in The Believer
20 December 2011
(from) Outtakes from an Interview with Václav Havel
‘AT: There’s a moment in Disturbing the Peace where you say that every member of the audience must find a play out for themselves. You’ve always separated this writing from your political essays—but is there a way in which your theory of the audience is also a theory of a citizen in a democracy, of someone who interprets and takes part in a dialogue?
VH: In my opinion, theater shouldn’t give advice to citizens. Theater is there to search for questions. It doesn’t give you instructions. I always fought for a more humble position in life. For the small, the mysterious: something that can’t be summed up in four words. How each citizen takes on his citizenship is very individual. And I think that theater is there to create a certain atmosphere of togetherness. I think people are there to ask themselves questions, as a community.’
Text Distributed In The Street In Milan At La Milanesiana
(From) A Conversation at a Cricket Match with Tom Stoppard
‘AT: A comment I love about dialogue in the novel is a moment where Lampedusa is talking about Stendhal. He says that in Stendhal “the fault of so many novels has disappeared, this fault which consists in revealing the soul of the characters through their dialogue…” Whereas in Stendhal, “there is no famous dialogue.” It’s just, “How are you?—I’d like some scrambled eggs please.” And I was thinking this is impossible for a dramatist—if you didn’t reveal the soul of the characters through their dialogue in some way, the play’s going to be impossible.
TS: Yes, yes. But the power that a play has over its audience, I think, in the end is not in the dialogue. It’s the situation. I’ve always envied playwrights who are knockout situationists—Ayckbourn is, for example. Who probably would be delighted to be bracketed suddenly with Stendhal, but I say this equally as the same compliment: he doesn’t write memorable lines, but you’re absolutely gripped by the situation on stage.
I recognized this very early on, and I’ve become aware that plays of mine which worked better are the ones where the style element just becomes a bonus. But it’s good if you find that your wisecracking people are actually in a situation which has the audience agog, and not really feeding off the style of utterance at all.’