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peare. But instead of Shakespeare, this production dished up three helpings of performance theatre, performance that self-consciously celebrated itself. Play's the thing, not the play. Rags and tatters of pop art performance styles dissociated from their original context and totally alien to Shakespeare's text flashed past our glazed eyes in manic profusion: Evita, Jaws, West Side Story, Gone With the Wind, Duke Ellington, Johnny Rotten, Howdy Doody, Post-New Wave Punk, the Muppets, Mayor Jan Byrne. Performance quotes to the right. Performance quotes to the left. The aesthetic behind this mosaic is that a kaleidoscope of dissociated bits and pieces would emphasize the sheer joy of performance for performance's sake, the sheer pleasure of theatricality for theatricality's sake. Not the slightest effort was made to create a character who might possibly have uttered one of Shakespeare's speech acts. The underlying juvenile philistinism usurps the author by a series of whirligigs. Evasion, no matter how energetically determined, is still evasion , and that typifies most recent "serious" attempts in America to "perform " classic texts by our leading "avant-garde" directors. We have reached a crisis in knowing exactly how to approach the great dramatic heritage of the past. If classic texts are to continue to live on the stage, we need directors and actors of vision and understanding who can transcend the current theatrical schizophrenia that simulatneously reveres and disdains the past. HAJJ Written and directed by Lee Breuer Public Theater/Mabou Mines (New York) EGYPTOLOGY: MY HEAD WAS A SLEDGEHAMMER Written and directed by Richard Foreman Public Theater /0-H Theatre (New York) Gerald Rabkin DIFFICULT JOURNEYS "I look at the screen and I am the screen. I'm not me. I don't know who I am." -Angel City, Sam Shepard The photograph is the advent of myself as other: a cunning disassociation of consciousness from identity. -Camera Obscura, Roland Barthes 55 "Your face appears in other faces, eyes swim up in other eyes.... My vision is a debtor's prison." -Haj, Lee Breuer, Ruth Maleczech "I'm getting back at you for the bad way you treated me in the past." "That wasn't me." "You think it was the man in the photograph?" -Egyptology, Richard Foreman In one respect, contemporary theatre experiment-united in opposition to psychological realism and linear narrative-has moved in polar directions: one strain, epitomized by Grotowski's "poor theatre," has striven to divest theatre of all that obscures the crucial confrontation between the selfsacrificing actor and the receptive spectator. To this end, theatre sheds the cosmetic veneer of lighting, makeup, scenography, in order to forge new myths out of what is indivisibly its own: the human presence. Grotowski rejects "hybrid spectacles" which, under the false aesthetic of total theatre, embrace new technology. No, he asserts, poverty in the theatre is demanded because "no matter how much theatre expands and exploits its mechanical resources, it will remain technologically inferior to film and television." And yet since the days of Meyerhold and Piscator there has been a strain of theatre experiment-perhaps the dominant stain-which has not feared technology's hybrid embrace. Indeed, it has welcomed it far more enthusiastically than traditional theatre. The impulse for this embrace-increasingly discernible in American experimental theatre and performance art-has not been mere high-tech worship. That there are indeed signs of this worship in much current mixed-media work is confirmed, for example, by several of the visiting California artists on view at the Performing Garage last spring, who, like many of their movie-making contemporaries, seem to have surrendered to the special effects department. But at their best these "hybrid spectacles" derive from a radically authentic theatre vision that accepts Walter Benjamin's premise that the age of mechanical reproduction in which we live has saturated us with replicable images which have transformed the nature and status of art. Photography and electronic imagery-still or moving-have irrevocably altered our perception of reality and, inevitably, the artistic processes that represent it. Theatre, then, ignores at its peril these changes in human consciousness and in the conventions that frame the human presence in space and time. The inundation of...


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pp. 55-60
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