The second scene plays out, the nakedness of the pathos enforcing a certain tone shift in the audience – or at least the understanding that outright laughter would be rude – but still any flick of irony in the scene finds a hopeful ripple around the table. Lights up.
W5: her revenge got lost – the emotional basis of it.
MD: there’s something specific about having a list, in the first scene, it’s more emotionally evocative
W6: also in the second scene, there’s something mitigated about the ending – as if Venice can’t be completely destroyed, that part of the contempory vision means less scope.
EK: the second scene seems like journalism. with the first scene, you’re dealing with values and morals that seem out of time, while updating just alerts to you a current problem, not a timeless one.
DL: Okay, but what does that involvement in the first scene inspire you to do – save 17th century courtesans?
PL: Does the 2nd version make you save 20th century prostitutes?
W5: well, the whole notion of being “ruined” in the first scene is outdated, and maybe we do need something to be updated
W4: I stop being sympathetic to the 1st courtesan when she starts in on her revenge against other women. I don’t think the 2nd one is asking the mercs to do anything they wouldn’t do anyway. I can sympathize with her because it doesn’t have the same consequences.
DL: every time you stage shakespeare this happens: are you doing it with ruffs, or updated (e.g. Ruined) – why make the move to update?
M1: when you update a classic often something is lost. I think the first version isn’t as overtly political, but it’s more memorable. You can’t brush it aside like you would a news story.
W5: too often people try update things by just finding a contemporary analogue, but that doesn’t necessarily carry forward the dramaturgy or the language, etc. just focusing on the content leaves out all kinds of other things, the structure –
M2: Didn’t we just go through the Courtesan scene with taxpayers and AIG?
W6: the second scene takes away options.
DL: But doesn’t it implicate you?
W4: the first one is more emotional, but the second is more political, more Brechtian
DL: some people cite the 1st scene as Brechtian because of historical distance, with the 2nd as more political relevant – it’s two very different views of political theatre. People who do these adaptations obviously think that the former isn’t enough – they think you need this information.
MAD: but Ruined seems different from updating Shakespeare, which seems to be the impulse of artiustic directors not trusting their audience to make the connection themselves between the play and their lives. Ruined seems much more about a writer’s imagination, whereas the updating Shakespeare is about people not understanding or distrusting imagination’s role.
PL: Also, with the updating, there’s an enormous contempt for the past – that people can only take it in as costume drama, as estheticized spectacle.
DL: can’t you also say that the urgency of the present overwhelms the spectre of the past …
[further discussion of Ruined, defense of Lynn Nottage, it doesn’t depend on Mother Courage, etc.]
DL: Granted. Another angle on this, trying to bridge the tensions between these two views is documentary theatre, which has its own conventions …