(Michael Feingold’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 3/13.)
A quote I often find myself recalling comes from the sociologist Erving Goffman: "Nothing exists like another person for bringing alive the world within oneself." Goffman, whose writings greatly influenced some key theater figures of the 1960s, including the director Joseph Chaikin, particularly relished the theater because he viewed reality as, in part, a mode of performance. His seminal work, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, shows how anyone's daily routine can be analyzed as a series of roles, each with its own pre-scripted demands and expectations. Yet life never becomes a string of predictable exchanges, Goffman explains, because each of us perceives those demands and expectations differently. Human encounters are, on the whole, standardized; human beings remain a constant surprise.