Where is the Truth?

Spent more time on Genet this weekend and early this week, performing in another scene from The Blacks for classmates, and analyzing scenes put together from The Blacks and The Balcony. The layers present in Genet's work are fascinating - every time you think you have gotten through to a new plateau, it cracks to reveal something further underneath, begging to be uncovered. In his plays, it seems there is a constant layering of lies; the characters are bottomless pits of identities, each new one to serve the purpose of their current situation. For directors this poses the challenge of helping your actors understanding what each identity is, where the shifts are, so that from the audience these cracks can be seen. The nuance between each must be subtle yet noticeable. Andrew suggested that perhaps some of Genet's "Truth" lies not in his plays, but perhaps in his novels. Or maybe it doesn't - in Prisoner of Love, which seems to sit in a middle-ground between fiction and documentary, just as the reader begins to feel they know his position on a subject, he'll pull that mat out from underneath you. No comfort, nothing is reliable, constantly undermining expectation. I wonder if this is his truth...the truth of the unreliability of the world, of expectation, of categorization.

Elsewhere, reading Edward Braun's "The Director And the Stage" as supplemental, given that I'm not in Sue's directing group for approaches. What I found really interesting was the sense of overlap this book gave; it is really easy to think that Stanislavsky did his thing, then Meyerhold, then Brecht, etc...but in fact there were little pockets of development happening everywhere, simultaneously, with achievements cropping up all over the place. What is also interesting is the afterword, the reminder that although they appear monumental now, at the time the events, the riots, the scandals, were relatively uneventful for the community as a whole, and it wasn't until viewed from the distance of the future that we can see the sigificance and assign value.

Some passages I found particularly useful....

On Jarry and the Surrealists (P58) - "Perceiving the universe and society as irrational and contradictory, they felt impelled to create works that were correspondingly irrational and contradictory in their forms, that stood the accepted conventions of theatre on their heads - and to achieve this they sought to exercise the closest possible control over the play in production, lest the theatre be tempted to impose its habitual symmetry on their calcuated disorder."

On Stanislavsky (P76) - "He seldon considers the peroduction as a total synthesis with a unified objective. What is more, he takes little account of the psychology of the audience, assuming that if the individual performancecs are truthful the spectator will necessarily respond to their truthfulness through a process of empathy"

On Meyerhold (P126) - "It was precisely because the spectator was shown so little that he saw so much, superimposing his own imagined or remembered experiences on the events enacted before him. In this way the dialogue and characters assumed a significance and a profundity which overcame their intrinsic banality."

On Artaud (P188) - "Artaud based his entire approach to the production [of The Cenci] on the principle of engulfing the audience with a massive accumulation of effects, so that its response would be sensual and involuntary rather than detached and intellectual."

On Grotowski and the production of Apocalypsis (P197) - "But when the lights came on and the room was discovered empty, it did not necessarily mean that he had gone - or even that he had been. The room had simply been returned to the state it was in when the first pectator entered. So what had been witnessed? A group of ordinary people, in everyday clothes. Roles were assigned, amidst mirth, and assumed, rejected, fought against. But each role, once assumed, posessed that person who was trapped within it, drained by the excesses with which he fulfilled or denied it."

Dared to Try

I've mentioned in an earlier blog that despite my misgivings, I am doing one of my sections of this term in Playwriting. This is at once exhilirating and terrifying. Today was our first class, and I will admit feeling sheepish, as the only one in the course who doesn't even slightly see herself as a writer. I can devise (sort of), and I can offer insight, but outside the sphere of choreography, I don't think I can write. The class progressed nicely, easing me into the idea. Our tutor, playwright Lin Coglan, let us know that her goal is to give us the tools of creation; the backbone of technique to help when the creative forces are slow to come, fizzle out, or seem to disappear.

We began with an exercise to look at starting with a character; simple ways in that could help us with a starting point, from which we can get into large picture narratives. Overall I found the process really interesting. It is funny the odd and seemingly incoherent thoughts that come to mind, and then suddenly they pull together as you might never have expected. I am looking very forward to the next class!

I also failed to chat about Scene Study last night, which spent time looking at Artaud, then re-visiting ideas of violence and suffering on stage. I need to do a re-read of Artaud's Theatre and its Double, as our task for the term will be to create a manifesto for the theatre (you big deal, right??). Oh goodness.

East - Steven Berkoff

I am simultaneously in love with, and completely disgusted by this play. In the best way possible. Berkoff shows us life in London's East End with no apology; his characters interact in a series of scenes which morph in and out of one another expressionistically, while what is contained in each is strikingly "real". Somehow he leads us to find these people charming, and then just as we are lulled into feeling some sort of empathy, he does an about face and causes us to be completely distanced, alienated, and disgusted...not only at the characters, but at ourselves for beginning to empathize with them.

The structure is seamless, and the language morphs in and out of modern text, Shakespearean parody, and expressionistic monologue.

It feels like Berkoff inherently understood the essence of what Brecht, Bond, Artaud and others wanted to do, taking it to new heights by managing to alienate us within a construct of what we are led to believe is realism. The graphic descriptions of violent sexual acts is far more shocking than Bond's aloof characters.

Berkoff is brilliant.

Anonymous - Mankind

Everyman was on our reading for Theorizing, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to read a couple more morality plays (why not, right?). I grabbed an anthology with three; Everyman, Mankind, and Mundus Et Infans.

Mankind was up first. Despite being attributed to somewhere 1400-1600 England, I was struck by just how modern the evil characters come across. Nought, Newguise and Nowadays, along with Mischeif, are not at all unlike the "bad" characters we still see in movies today. I was also surprised, given the religious attachments of Moral Plays, at the vulgarity of their actions. They were no less crude than some of Shakespeare's base characters, with no lack of penis jokes. The other thing that sort of stood out was the shock factor of these characters; almost like pre-Artaud shock. I don't know a lot about his influence, but for some reason reading this I thought of him.