Amy Muse, English professor at the University of St. Thomas College of Arts and Sciences, recently spoke with The New York Times for a story about the long, silent pauses in plays written by Annie Baker.
From the story:
Amy Muse, a professor of English at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., and the author of The Drama and Theatre of Annie Baker, offered a theory rooted in the metaphysical. “We fear silence because it seems to indicate an absence of meaning,” she wrote in an email, adding, “Indefinite stretches of time, like space, fill people with dread.”
More likely, she continued, “they’re fearing they’ve wasted time and money to be bored watching ordinary people doing ordinary things, instead of listening to the smart dialogue they expect from a play.”
For admirers, though, Baker extends “a kind of sacred invitation to be present,” Muse said. It urges a leaning in, sensitizing us to the minutest moments, gestures and expressions, and the ever-present ache of her characters. What’s said attains extra significance surrounded by what’s unsaid, and details accumulate like snowfall, as the critic Hilton Als wrote in The New Yorker.