Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Other Thoughts on Contextualizing

Garret Eisler at the Playgoer has some follow up thoughts about the presentation of My Name is Rachel Corrie.

In short, "context" is fine. But context should never be
cover.Besides--thinking about this again reminds me of what pretty much the only exciting thing was about
watching
My Name is Rachel Corrie Off-Broadway a year and a half ago: the experience of
being in an audience that has to deal with controversial, unpopular statements spoken from the stage, unopposed.


(...)

So by running for cover behind as many "diverse views" as possible, we deprive the theatre of that special frisson that can only come from confronting the unpleasant. Even if it is "wrong." Think of that ending from Wallace Shawn's Aunt Dan and Lemon, for instance, where the heroine leaves us with an atrocious monologue justifying Kissingerian ethics on warcrimes, assassination, and such. Now imagine someone coming out after the show having to explain to you, "Now boys and girls, that was just a play. We don't really think that."


His post is then expanded on by Nick at Rat Sass, who points out that Wallace Shawn did, in fact, do just that. After seeing how the audience was reacting, Shawn wrote a type of program insert note to be handed out at the play, the title of it: "Notes in Justification of Putting the Audience Through a Difficult Night at the Theater,"

Nick points out:

The politics of reception are complicated. Both playwright (Wallace,)Shawn and artistic director Nicola were similarly attempting to manipulate audience reception. Nicola’s action like Shawn’s should be labeled production dramaturgy, or perhaps even public relations, but not censorship. To do so trivializes the fact that real and dangerous forces of censorship do exist in the world.

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