Tag Archives: victims

Ultimate Indulgences

Mid-conversation, the lights go down and Simone Weil appears, or at least her hastily-garbed doppelganger, a pacing scourge.  Her challenges carom off the walls with a lacerating ferocity.

She strides off, boots echoing into the silence …

DL: Thank you guys for coming.

Applause …

… and we’re done.  Salut.

Playing Blog-ghost

Tonight the blogger of Simone Weil’s Venice Saved Seminar is being played by Mary Di Lucia in the role pioneered by Gordon Dahlquist and in the spirit of Cymoan Veil.

We are in the Bell Tower!

Fire in the Bell Tower on the i-pod …the House is open! In fact, it’s Electric 6, High Voltage.

All the blood connections are here tonight. Zeppelin now whispers, scratchily.

While Mariluetta dances, the imp!, Levine paces in blue t-shirt, unlit cigarette btw teeth. A bevy of audience sprawls along the table, unfolding swag from bags, bouncing glowing electric objects. SW bounces one, entranced. And a voice calls “Gordon…Come!”

It’s like being Pip, in the crow’s nest. What’s going on in the diamond spangled depths? I see the reflections of Ahab, and the footprint of God here as well, in the murk of Creation, of ART being created. What happens once we all fall in? Into the belly of the whale.

Only one coffee on table (Mud); 4 waters; a sprite. Reports have reached our ears that we are out of buttermints with Christian wrapping.

Stories of … Mistreatment

The KISS song has ended … people scurry back to their seats … except for one rather annoying late-comer who apparently thinks that the intermission lasts 25 minutes and so returns to knock on the closed door mid-scene [hey, thanks for providing the Brechtian alienation device!] …

DL: Political theatre did attempt to come up with a solution to Tara’s point before the intermission … so here we have Violetta, post-sack …

[Documentary theatre

M4: it’s a testament to words inability to convey the facts of historical disaster.  if you want to change things in the real world, maybe being told that words aren’t enough isn’t a good strategy.

GLK: but her silence is relative to the spokespeople, their wall of facts

M4: but if we’re not listening to the facts, isn’t that a problem?

JK: I find it political, in that it’s infuriating that they’re trying to co-opt her experience

W1: I think her relative silence is a contrast, and that it’s powerful

DL: this kind of theatre is descended from Brecht.  Brecht would say that the Courtesan scenes reduce an audience to passivity – that their esthetics are about promoting a static cirumstance where these facts are presented as “eternal”, and immune to change.  His point was to make change seem possible, and these facts contingent in all kinds of ways, to activate the spectators.  The idea of a donation at the end of a show is a test of this …

JK/JB: The Exonerated and the Gov. of Illinois …

JB: that’s about as much as you can ask for …

M9: it seems that part of the Brechtian apparatus is about setting things in the past in order to reveal the complicity of the audience  –

CW: Ruined really isn’t an update of Mother Courage

JBL: But it is the way they’re maketing it

DL: is The Exonerated a fair bar – that it doesn’t count without changing a law?

M10: it sounds like there wasn’t so much artifice in it

[Gellert’s It Is What It Is @ the New Museum ….]

Emilia: it was very comparable to this, I think

DL: well, comparing art and theatre, one is depending on an audience watching not the real people – e.g., The Exonerated – while the other is less structured, but with the real people

M5: I’d rather go to the Museum than the theatre, in a second

JB: how is the museum different from, say, talking to someone at the VA hospital?

M5: They’re doing a lot of the work for you

Emilia: the burnt-out car made a very powerful context for the conversations

W5: it depends on what level of agency you’re comfortable with

DL: does that mean theatre is a medium for cowards

w9: re: all the false memoirs nowaways, it seems like fiction wins – there’s always a desire for these stories – it seems like theatre is always more powerful

JH: the first questions at a fiction reading are always “how much is true?” and “how much research did you do?”

W9: I would rather see a play, where the experience is mediated, than go to the New Museum.  To me, fiction reveals more truth.

DL: My problem with both the NM and the theatre is where you end up afterwards … which of them adds up to any kind of result.  you’re stuck again with this bar of results … you may get more information, but then what?  The example of people signing petitions after a performance, where the act of signing somehow serving to excuse any future action …

FH: the story of iraq survivors writing & performance – this can have a great palpable effect (many examples …)

DL: okay, but there are institutional issues …

Peaceful Venice, in the Palm of my Hand

Jeff Beihl presents the haunting monologue of Jaffier on top of the Bell Tower at sunset, looking down at the city whose fate he controls … the question of pity, and mercy, hovering at the edge of his mind …

And then the Courtesan scene, with Colleen, Jon, and Jeff.  After this scene, after the wronged Courtesan (if you believe her, that is …) tells her story and then describes her bloody, cruel vision of revenge – even the mercenaries are taken aback – the discussion is opened up in earnest.

DL: So … is this political?  In any of the senses we’ve dicussed?  Political at all?

[crickets …]

JK: Sexual politics …

DL: Okay, what community is she talking to, or trying to shape?

W3: she’s talking about herself, her own neuroses – I can imagine her covering herself with Purele.  it seems confessional – deeply personal, not political?  How old was SW when she wrote that – 16?

DL: Actually 31.

W3: I would hope she’d be more nuanced.

DL: Isn’t it?

W3: No.

DL: what about her response: to inflict punishment on the women instead of the men.

W3: I don’t think that’s nuanced.

JH: it seems like you’re assuming the Courtesan is Weil, which seems wrong.

W3: she seems like a teenager.

CW: I see that, but I think the scene is nuanced, presenting the idea of rape as a weapon

DL: I do think that her vision of violation is something of a hang-up, but I don’t think it necessarily undermines her politics … let’s look at another version.

Who’s Special Now?

Violetta appears as a victim of the putative sack of Venice in a demonstration of documentary theatre:

DL: do characters have to be special for us to care?

W1: preferably not.

M4: I identify more with the special princess than with the token man on the street

M5: the first courtesan scene is scarier because there’s an identified villain, instead of the second, where it’s more of a system …

DL: but aren’t people actually prone to systems?  Weil specifies that the whole thing about being colonized – she’s also talking about systems.

GLK: the first scene might be more cynical because it implies an endless reversal of power – it’s more cynical; while the second, while the second courtesan is more cynical herself, the fact that it’s a clearer view of the world reveals more of an optimism

DL: the 3rd scene is both systemic and personal … how does that go over?

M1: it’s emotional – it’s about the feelings rather than the ideas – there’s tension, but also vague thought.

W2: there are numbers in the second Courtesan scene too – and you see the personal and the broader vision.

M6: to me the first scene is most moving, because you see that rape is not a by-product of war but a deliberate act, and here dictated by a victim onto other victims – a corrupt concept of justice lies behind so much of war.

DL: when we say something is political – what do we want it to do? there’s a range of possibilities that people have named –  is giving people room to reflect political?

JH: the less sophisticated the message, the more likely it is to reach a larger audience.  the more sophisticated it is, it’s going to reach less people – though it may reach people who are more educated, more powerful …

MDL: when you asked which scene people felt worked better, people are starting to participate more –

DL: which means?

MDL: so when it’s an esthetic question instead of a political stance, people are participating more …

W1: but being given a choice is empowering.

DL: but in theatre you usually get a choice in, like, the mystery of edwin drood.

[the issue of Seven Jewish Children arises …]

DL: does the requirement of a contribution imply that normal choice isn’t enough

JH: what is churchill going to do you if you don’t make the donation?

DL: she won’t let you do her next blockbuster starring Sam Shepard.

M3: I think I already know what the play [7JC] is …

[disagreement from people who’ve seen/read it, the play explained as at least a potentially ambiguous piece …]

DL: even if it’s asking for a humane collection, she is tying herself to a point of view

W7: interesting that at NYTW there was no actual passing of the hat – nothing so confrontational – I didn’t even see a collection box, only a slip of paper that gave you the information about the charity you could contribute to … it seemed really an avoidance, actually totally wimpy

– “that seems incredibly NYTW …”

[discussion of NYTW, Rachel Corrie, Homebody Kabul, etc.]

DL: does the hat-passing reduce it to propaganda?

MDL: I find that provocative – you had to go home and make a choice whether or not to contribute yourself …

DL: Eyre/McKellen production of RIII story: “Who is so bold …”

… which leads us into intermission.

Alternative Vision, Without Turks

DL: We didn’t do this with Turks, but there’s a common strategy of updating things in search of either immediacy or relevance …

A revised version of the Courtesan scene, updated:
DL: so what changes when you do that?  Your feelings about the characters, the scene?

M3: everything seems changed – even the shift from prostitute to courtesan – the rerevenge is more general, where for the first courtesan is more specific

DL: But which speaks more to our current situation?  What are the impulses behind that move in the theatre?

MDL: maybe it seems more sentimental …

DL: but the first scene is more distant –

MDL: it is.  I can identify with the second – but when I do that, I lose my critical faculties, I take it personally and aren’t thinking so much

M4: my problem with adaptations is that the second scene doesn’t make sense – I don’t think of Venice as the source of such prostitution –

W1: but it is happening in all those cities – paris, rome –

M1: the first scene is more specific – she has the list – whereas the second woman isn’t so individual

DL: but the 2nd scene has so many more facts

M1: that doesn’t matter.  the 2nd scene is easier to grab hold of, but the first courtesan is more special –

DL: but does the person have to be special in order for you to care?

A Lovely, Empty Building

And Violetta the Dramaturg gets a round of knowing laughter, and applause …

DL: So okay, what about the two talking heads do you agree with?

JG: both, really – I agree with James’ critique of the institutions, but I also think that there are things that could be done to make theatre more interesting.

DL: Like what?

JG: Like this – not that public conversations are the answer –

DL: Right, this is going to broadway!

[sidebar on advertising for theatre]
W10: well, ours isn’t a theatre-based society.

DL: okay, but this is a dark question – so revive me – but, okay, we were talking about the prevalence of beer in downtown theatre.  everyone does it – isn’t it over?  and my friend said it only makes it bearable, because already everything’s happening in such stretched circumstances.

EK: story of divulging the plot of Take Me Out to couple, the news of it being about a gay ballplayer ruining their entire evening …

DL: quote, “Joe’s Pub is connected to a theatre?”

W7: Well, what’s happening with all those people energized by Obama – has the action from it followed through, the calls for national service, the scope of people who heard that is huge, but have people taken it up? I think it takes a lot to move people, even now that push has come to shove, and people are angry, but still there’s a lot of passivity.

M9: does the problem go beyond political theatre, that it’s more a question of an activated citizenry?

DL: it raised Simone Weil’s idea of engagement – the constant amping up stakes – she’s eccentric, but she is also bringing suffering into people’s homes by example.

W1: But it’s single – it’s only touching a few people, and it’s from the aristocracy – compared to the factory workers in Illinois who refused to leave their workplace.  There’s an idea of collective action that seems much more forceful.

M2: there is an element of SW as a dilettante

M8: saying SW’s only dramatic work also misses the point that her life was also an act of drama – however futile it might have been.

M2: but we’re sitting here – she wrote a play, and that’s a powerful statement about the power of theatre.

W11: was she really thinking about theatre or was she just writing a play?  is doesn’t seem to me that she was necessarily interested in theatre as such – she was interested in various behaviors and power and politics.  but this whole conversation has been posited about question of an audience and a stage, and I don’t think that has to be connected to her intention.  is she just inhabiting a genre with a set of contraints to examine a political problem?

M10: I’m not here because of SW, I’m here because of the theatrical event.

[the unarmed parachuting nurse brigade story is laid out …]

DL: the point being that SW was inherently theatrical.  the idea that she’s a rich chick who gets saved is the same complaint made to political theatre in general – that we dip in and then duck out.

JG: So many revolutionaries have come from the ranks of the rich or the bourgeoisie