Returns and Repression

We’re back.  A terse conversation during the intermission reveals our almost complete lack of surety about where to go next … and thus, perhaps as ever, theatre’s hail Mary pass gos to Brecht.  The irony being that it’s actually (always?) totally pertinent …

DL:  e.g. the promotion of the enternal human verities being, to Brecht, culinary theatre, whereas one ought to understand that human situations are thoroughy contingent and open to change – a view at odds with our expressed to desire to ponder human truths.

m8: I would say that even that you can identify with a character makes its theatre instead of history – that something happens in the dramatization.

W7: I didn’t think “that’s how it’s always been” to the first scene – that seems too small.  Also, I was moved by Mother Courage … do we really know that Brecht would have objected to that scene?

[And JG wins (!) by being the first person this night to point out the difference between Brecht’s theory and his practice]

JG: Also, the reference in the Renaud/Jaffier scene to sacking churches recalls really explicitly the decision to let the Irqi museums to be looted … that there was this Year Zero mentality.

DL: Not unlike New Orleans …

M9: Which recalls Paul Chan’s production of Godot in New Orleans …

DL: But at my most jaded, doesn’t that seem like penance?  If you translate that play to NOLA, you certainly get relevance … and ‘relevance’ is often immediately seen as equivalent to ‘politics’ –

JH: in some case politics there means giving black people jobs

W1: black people from harlem, not NOLA

[the spectacle of the jumbotrons being on in the Superdome, with people after Katrina seeing themselves being mistreated, sparking a fresh influx of empathy for themselves …”

DL: what does the dramturgy of documentary theatre do for you?

BF: At its best it brings you closer.

DL: What about Ruined, which updates Mother Courage with a lot of real world facts about the Congo.

BF: It’s not as imagined – in documentary theatre you’re listening to people who had those experiences – you’re not listening to dialogue, which is filtered by all kinds of things.  Documentary theatre is closer to real experience, and now people are searching for the real even more, since we’re saturated with “reality”.

M2: for Brecht, “theatre” was the TV of the day – where popular stories were told.  Now, theatre is by nature so much more obviously contrived that the audience has a different view – it’s already more “Brechtian” by default.  What’s finest about documentary is the notion of witnessing, of testimony from voices who aren’t normally present on the stage, or in our culture.

w7: And it sends you home talking about the issues.

[the notion of Anna Deveare Smith as, herself, a charged site of interpretation]

DL: what do the conflicting points of view do?  in a sense you could just have the victim and the journalist …

W9: it sparks more debate.  If we only had the interview, it would be limited to the victim’s experience.

DL: But do you really credit both points of view?

JG: yeah, I really hate documentary theatre – there’s something fundamentally dishonest, because it requires us to buy into this notion of truth.  It’s nowhere as sinister as reality tv – it’s well-intentioned – unlike, say, Survivor, which is totally fascist at its core – I mean, I still like to watch it – but I do think documentary theatre is making a similar claim to objectivity.  I do prefer something like the Civilians, who do this with songs, with a lot more art.

M1: But how do you represent this onstage, this woman’s experience?  If you really want to represent extreme experience?

DL: And often documentary theatre is predicated on showing you things you don’t know – because so often you’re not in the position to judge the facts … so, let’s look at a scene where you probably are …

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