Three Bertolt Brechts Walk into a Bar …

And we’re back!  In the interval beer has magically appeared.

DL: You may remember our cliff-hanger ending to act one … “Who Cares?” ringing across the land … and it’s a slow answer.

Brecht cares, for one – even though he never shows up on the board.  You like the first Courtesan scene because it shows you timeless human truths … but Brecht would say that’s only a tool to keep people down.  Instead there are only the circumstances of a given time, which are always subject to change – not eternal.

But does the American theatre about Brecht?  Not much … more in art contexts.

Who else cares?  Moises Kaufmann!  The rise of documentary theatre in the last two decades, and is pretty much the default mode today … my contention would be that if other modes weren’t somehow less urgent, it wouldn’t have been developed.

So let’s look at documentary theatre, which – since it requires a victim – will make the assumption that Venice has been sacked …

[when the dramaturgs are introduced, a car alarm erupts outside the door!  the outrage of a city expressed!]

JOURNALIST: A lot of people have also spoken about mistreatment of women –

VIOLETTA: Mistreatment?

JOURNALIST: Rape. About rape used as a weapon of terror.

[Slight pause.]

VIOLETTA: What about it?

DL: So what does all that information do?  All that extra context do?  It’s a fairly straight monologue, but you’re tossing in this contextualization … does it change the way you listen?

W2: it does make you think about how the information gets out there – about how the media functions, and why.

DL: Do you question her story?

W2: no, because the way it’s acted.

M6: I sympathize with her more, because she’s a real person to whom something happened – while we’ve all seen newscasters present information – about iraq, where ever – and it puts me in my living room, in the familiar experience of being distant from the story, from the experience.

W5: what would it be like if you mixed up the scene – had the actors take different positions, make the talking heads more active, etc.  I do think we could think more critically about the acting and directing choices that you’ve made …

DL: Okay, let’s say I am a director of “Play X”, and I’m worked up about the fact that no one cares about Venetian women (except Nicholas Kristoff) and I’m staging it to get people to really care … but that doesn’t seem to be enough, so I’m also going to take out a collection for a charity …

W5: I have a small question about acting choices for Jon Krupp: a pause in the Violetta scene, and cleaning your glasses in the Renaud/Jaffier scene … my question is about those humanizing acting moments, how do those arise, what impact to they have?  Do we care about your emotional responses – if we’re talking about political theatre, don’t these micro-level choices add up to a sort of ideology?

DL: Well, a rehearsal room is a microcosm of a certain kind of social contract.  The way we’ve been working is that the actors make choices, I tell them what I like or don’t – but the basic style has to do with naturalism, with a kind of rote even-handedness.  I don’t tell anyone to be sympathetic or not – I assume everyone is going to try to be sympathetic, that they’re “merely” going to inhabit their characters.  But there is a supposedly behind all those assumptions.

M7: But doesn’t it also beg the question of who‘s political – the talking heads, the journalist, the victim?

DL: The form certainly assumes that political content, but it’s often muddled by the fact that the audience is usually on one side, and watching with an assumption about what they already think.


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