Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Truth or Truthiness

George Hunka of Superfluities has a great post on truth and drama.

He uses the Frey affair as a starting point, but asks larger questions about the idea of presenting truth in drama.

This got me to thinking a little more about a performance I had recently seen.

Jose Rivera once said that we should try to write from every other part of our body before we write from the head.

We all have many selves, each with its own personality and deeply held passions. I have a self for work, a self for my friends, a self for family. If asked, I would probably say that my truest self is the self I am with my wife. However, as soon as say "truest" I have to ask myself if I can really be objective enough to say that.

Intriguing drama seems, (to me,) to come from a dramatist who is willing to engage those many selves and allow them their passions and personalities.

I was in D.C. this last weekend and caught a friend in a one act festival the Madcap Players were performing. One of the pieces, First Day of School, made me think of these questions of truth and drama. It consisted of a thirty-something married couple wheeling, colliding and tearing about the stage with their twin children. The dialogue consisted of seemingly random sentences and revelations, which you were never sure if they were the parents speaking through the children or the children speaking through the parents. At one point, the Father blurts out, "I am planning on using the next terrorist attack to dissappear and start a new life." The wife says to the daughter, "You are a constant reminder of the fact that I will get older and pass on." The husband and wife periodically collide together, have rough lovemaking, and then drag the children violently about the stage.

You may be thinking that you have seen this experiment many times. But what made this different was the way the playwright and the actors willingly engaged with the many selves of marriage. Rather than start with a thesis of "marriage with children is hell," or a thesis of "marriage is a blessing, but hard work," the creators let the many selves engage each other. And, (this is the most important point,) they SHOWED how those selves interact. They didn't tell us how they interact.

Thinking about this, I remember that Krapp's Last Tape was one of the most brilliant examples of SHOWING the many selves of man interacting. Like some sort of exponential fun-house mirror, Beckett was able to show the many selves of a man at different stages in his life.

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