Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Political Stage

Reading The Political Stage by Malcolm Goldstein and already familiar names and titles jump out at me. Can You Hear Their Voices? is right there. The Communists among us despised it ... and for reasons which were part of an intermittent discussion I was having with Leah this weekend, wandering among the parading gayboys and girls of the Village.

Where you sit, as they say, depends on where you stand. The young person sees so much to do, making them anxious, impatient. Yearning for change, for that golden age on the distant horizon. Possibly angry, leaning towards hopelessness.

An older person looks at things and is relieved that things are as good as they are, has lived through progress in action, seen it made through incremental steps, and have hope for the future through such progress.

For example, today we watch helplessly as the Gulf of Mexico is polluted for generations ... but isn’t gay marriage a certainty within the next ten years? Are we not celebrating the World Cup in South Africa, of all places?

The next age is for bitterness or benign passive acceptance (and bitterness.)

The radical drama Melissa and I witnessed on Saturday night portrayed not some imaginary, future calamity, but a representation of the honest truth of that moment in time. People were starving, desperate. It might turn a person to collective farming.

And that is what offended the far Left. Communism shouldn’t be the last resort if Capitalism fails to work. Capitalism, they will tell you, fails to work, period. Communism is the only choice, not merely the choice for pathetic, desperate loser people.

Theater Arts Monthly, November, 1938
“The Technique of the Living Newspaper” by Arthur Arent

I wish I could have spent more time in the performing arts library at Lincoln Center. There are plays by Arent I can read which I can’t find anywhere else. Later. Soon. If necessary. This article was a helpful description of the Living Newspaper process, or at least his defense of his version of it.

Arent claims that while there is now (then) copious evidence of staging current events as reported through newspapers as drama in many world communities prior to its foothold as part of the Federal Theatre Project, he was unaware of all of them. He’d thought they’d made the idea up.

"The first thing to consider is not style, which is the manner of doing a thing, but content, which is the thing itself."

The Living Newspaper should be the dramatization of a problem, not of an event. They represented a series of events, bearing on one issue. They may begin with dry record (dramatized Congressional hearings) but then move to the ‘human element’.

I learned through this article that a number of the elements created by the Peculiar Works Project for Can You Hear Their Voices? were either authentic - as in the case of the live music playing between scenes - or offering modern examples of what they wanted to do, had they had the technology. Arent reports they wanted a teletype across the proscenium to provide factual information, but found that too distracting. Our modern audiences wouldn’t, surely, we eat that shit up, and the PWP featured text rolling as part of the videos they showed between scenes - which was something they did back in the day with still photos, between the acts to set the scene, and as the backdrop for the scene itself, keeping the set simple.

As for the ticker captions, instead they incorporated the character of the “Loud Speaker” who (in addition to speaking loud) would act as a narrator for the production, even interacting with the characters.

Arent was proud of productions like Ethiopia and Triple-A Plowed Under. One elements of these works include taking verbatim quotations from the newspaper, and dramatizing them but breaking them up into scenes where the person speaking after the fact is commenting on what they are doing, as they are doing.

For example, a woman sentence for the murder of her infant child because she couldn’t bear to see it starve made a long statement during her trial, reported in the paper, which was spoken in part by the actress playing her as she contemplated the act, performed the act, was grilled by the police officer and then in the trial. Dialogue was created for the police and lawyer, usually in the form of questions which she answers with her statements.

Injunction Granted! (which has been criticized elsewhere) was not a favorite of Arents (he didn’t write it) and uses it as an example of how not to create a Living Newspaper. The “montage” style of writing, where the action jumps back and forth repeated to numerous different places in space and time confuses the office, and is repetitious. The style he prefers builds from scene to scene, until there is an explosion of action.

Hmn. Just looked at the edge of The Political Stage. It’s from the library of Dorothy and Reuben.

No comments:

Post a Comment