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Production Dramaturgy and the C-Word

By Nick Fracaro at 3:27 pm on Saturday, December 4, 2010

We’ve been having many post-performance discussions of What She Knew with peers and friends concerning the dramaturgy of the script and the production.  Also I’ve been participating in a related very interesting discussion on production dramaturgy at the listserv at LMDA

The script is theory not praxis, relative to the particular elements and context of its production, most especially the ensemble.  One ensemble will realize the dynamics and nuanced relationships within a script vastly different than another.  Neither would necessarily be better or worse — just different.  And then, of course, the particular audience will provide the final and most important “translation” of all the elements.

Here’s an anecdote or hypothetical or metaphor to consider:

The C-Word

The playwright has theorized that an actress will be able to say the word “cunt” without eliciting the negative reactions the utterance of such a laden word evokes in both the actress saying it and the audience hearing it.  By cunt, the playwright means both the female reproductive organ and the female sexual organ.  S/he means the cunt of an erotically transgressive woman who also relishes her fertility and motherhood  — so not merely the vagina, but also the vulva.  (BTW, Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues is a misnomer.  Technically, it should probably be titled The Vulva Monologues as that’s the subject of most of the skits.)

The dramaturg has researched the English lexicon and found that there is no suitable synonym for the word.   (The 17th century “cunny” is softer, but cannot be said without eliciting giggles.)

Coloring BookCUNT COLORING BOOK

So the C-Word must be uttered – numerous times in varying contexts.   Forget any playwright’s theory on how this word could be said and received.  Feminists have had divergent views on the C-Word for decades now, ranging from banning it to embracing/owning it.   The C-Word in England has different connotations than in the US.  Etcetera, etcetera.  It all comes down to the particulars and specifics of the production, foremost with the actress.  Will she be able to navigate “cunt” in such a way as to avoid the visceral reactions?  Probably not, but in this instance the production dramaturgy is solely in the hands of the actor.

Good scripts will often confront a social or cultural stigma in a potentially controversial manner.  The C-Word or N-Word or F-Word are apt metaphors for the dilemma of staging a polemic.  I think “translation” and/or mitigation is the role of production dramaturgy in such cases.  We help the ensemble gauge the degree of disruption they are willing to stage.

Here’s our model “production dramaturg” mitigating the C-Word for his players and audience.

Hamlet:    Lady, shall I lie in your lap? ‘

Ophelia:  No, my lord .

Hamlet:    I mean my head upon your lap?

Ophelia:  Aye, my lord .

Hamlet:    Do you think I meant country matters?

Ophelia:  I think nothing, my lord .

Hamlet:   That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.

Filed under: Dramaturgy,Theatre and Culture1 Comment »

Homer’s Butoh-fu Prologue

By Nick Fracaro at 2:01 pm on Friday, December 3, 2010

I am the story itself

Exhausted flesh

Hung on this walking wandering bone

I recite now not

To you in the presence of my voice

The fourth wall is there

Just behind you the generations just beyond you yet to be

The true audience watches us gather

For the story of this flesh

Blind to its fate

Blind to its origin

Yet the grape seeks to know its vine

As the vine seeks to know its wine

Flesh most divine

Blind drunk in its own mystery

Its story will not die cannot die

Ripened fruit falls to ferment

On the ground beneath above

Branch same as root

Drink from this sacred place of gathering

Would you walk up close to peer

Deep into the blue sky of my eye

Would you hear this story whisper on as I die

Thank you Rainer, Fulya, and Cynthia for the expansive and enlightening discussion after the performance last night about the play, the production, and general dramaturgy of theatre.

Friends and peers, please come see George Hunka’s What She Knew and hang with us afterward if you can for discussion.  Only six performances left!

Filed under: Audience,Personal1 Comment »

Magnificent Opening Night

By Nick Fracaro at 5:28 pm on Thursday, December 2, 2010

To use the adjective of our playwright/director, our most talented actress was luminous last night.

We also received today some kind words and lurid expectations of What She Knew from the impresario extraordinaire himself, Trav S. D., in the current issue of  The Villager.

I am luridly expectant at the prospect of seeing “What She Knew” — playwright and critic George Hunka’s retelling of “Oedipus Rex” from Jocasta’s point of view. In this production, the “First of the Red Hot Mamas” will be played by Gabriele Schafer. Schafer is best known as one half of the company Thieves Theatre, which she ran for many years with her husband Nick Fracaro, and was most notorious for a theatre piece they did in the early 90s in which they lived in a teepee at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge for several months. More recently, I saw Schafer play both Hamlet’s father and mother in a Butoh-influenced version of the Shakespeare play (“Q1: The Bad Hamlet” — produced by New World Theatre). The hair-raising performances I saw makes me to think there couldn’t be a better person to do an “erotically transgressive” one-woman show about Oedipus’s mother. The production is under the rubric of Hunka’s company, Theatre Minima, and will be playing at Manhattan Theatre Source, December 1-11. For more info: www.theatreminima.org.

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