Saturday, March 1, 2014

CUT reading, Feb 28th 2014 @ Robertson Hall in St Catharines

Thanks to Jason, Kirstin, Karen and Ed for a good public reading of the text last night, and also to Karen F and Hayley & Nick for their work as critics and animators. I'll post Hayley and Nick's reviews in a couple of weeks when they're up.

Karen F had some really useful remarks about the fine balance between allegorization on one hand and moments of psychology on the other in the overall composition of the play. They were useful because they were sensitive and responsive to the reality of the text, but also on a more basic level because they served to remind me what my approach really is. I think I've been feeling gently adrift after the first draft of the Therafields play (Utopia, a Work in Progress), and the way in which I recuperated that story somewhat back into a classical structure that enforced the identitarian nature of the characters as well as a necessarily realistic valence to the aesthetic. Hearing the language coming out of the actors last night, creating the poetic and cosmic resonances in part through the silence and in part through the language, gazes, strong inner actions, I really reminded myself of where the Therafields text needs to go as I build it into a memory play, and yet one where past/present productively intersect in an aesthetic container that always already exceeds and serves to continuously threaten the moments of realism that deposit themselves within it.

Looking forward to more writing and creation on that text before long, and thanks to the public investment from SCCIP that made the work happen, it was very useful for future work.

Here's the program note, in which I work to address issues around identity politics in such a way to relieve the excessively literal-minded spectator of the full responsibility of being a historical witness in the face of a white man writing about these things... That said, these are the ethical questions that continuously concern me obviously: if they didn't I also wouldn't write plays about these kinds of realities.

"When we had a reading of this text a few weeks ago at Jason and Kirstin’s place, part of me, perhaps a part of me that was anticipating your participation at this event this evening, thought to myself: what on earth would possess me to write about these kinds of nasty things? Of course, once on that line of questioning, you can’t help but take the pop-psychology express and ask other similar things of yourself… Another big question that comes up — one informed by my keen interest in the ways in which theatre can re-inscribe dominant and normative ways of looking at historically minoritized individuals or groups — is around the most ethical approaches to representations of gender-based violence. What grounds do we, do I, have for showing gender-based violence? Is there a way in which a play such as CUT simply mobilizes the frisson of the dramatic around these things in a way that adds to the theatrical capital of the piece but doesn’t really do anything for the issue of gender-based violence itself? In other words, do certain aspects of this text simply exploit once more, this time simply by showing/telling? Is a solution within the economy of the text itself that the perpetrators of the violence — in this case Richard and Colin — ‘pay for it’ in the end? And then of course all these same kinds of questions could be asked about ethnicity: what am I saying about ‘foreigners’ in the depiction of Fatima? While on one hand all of this kind of questioning could come across as neurotic, I think it behooves artists to keep these important considerations floating through the space of the work; they can also be useful for helping an audience think through the implications of the habits of their spectating.

What I’m exploring in this text and with these very finely-tuned actors are the ways in which individual choices, neuroses, habits, passions, desires, violences, softnesses, and so forth are run through with broader geopolitical and indeed cosmic questions about justice, intimacy, exchange, life and death. Richard harbours within himself the violence of the entire history of patriarchy and is imploding/exploding as a result. How does he attempt to work out these energies and contradictions? Colin is run through with instrumentalized reason gone mad and is also at a point of collapse and personal end-time apocalypse. What are his lines of flight? And Fatima and Liz? I’d like to think they have a different story. Theirs is possibly a kind of affirmative ‘becoming imperceptible’, Gilles Deleuze’s notion of a broader complex relationality with a world that — even with all that world’s difficulty — may permit them a heightened experience of agency, of power, one occasionally weilded by means of poetry and of love…. 

At any rate, thanks for being here with us tonight. It’s a small gathering, but, we hope, an important one. — David"

Link to neXt CUT page: