Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Weimar Toolkit #2 and Questions

Toolkit additions:

  • German vocal inflections without German accents
  • A text filled with overly-compounded English words
  • A nightclub for children, run by children, fighting over who gets to be MC
  • Oversized and distressed formal wear
  • Muddy faces
  • Adult performers playing children playing adults (and children), "age" drag
  • Child soldiers fighting in World War I, child prostitutes in Weimar brothels
  • How children would perform soldiers, profiteers, prostitutes, cocaine addicts etc
  • Childhood obsessive and worshipful crushes on older children/adults of same-gender
  • Playing house before "house" was 1950s American suburbia
  • A game of "doktor" which is played as naughtily as young children actually play it
  • Schedules, Emily's story of the kid would attempt, in vain, to make appointments to play with an overscheduled imaginary friend

New questions that have come up:

  • How much do we want to draw from the sociohistorical context of Weimar, and how much do we solely want to borrow from its performance styles as a lens to view another sociohistorical context?
  • And what, precisely, are the Weimar performance styles? The "vice" of the aesthetic seems natural to grasp, but where are the techniques for us to emulate? Do we go to Reinhardt? To Piscator? To Brecht? To Marlene Dietrich and Conrad Veidt?
  • Where do we find our text style? Do we look to the playwrights of the day, impose another period's playwrights voice on that context, or look beyond theatrical writing?
  • If we want to use grotesque, how can we move past the whores of Les Mis to find our own grotesque as specific as George Grosz's? How can the grotesque be used as a visual indictment of how adults process young children?

Okay. To bed. Chairs, comment away!

2 comments:

Alexia said...

Your first question is interesting, Jon. I mean that genuinely. Because how do we borrow from a "performance style" from an era which I feel like is in many ways marked by its resistance to adopting any kind of unifying performance style? What is Weimar performance beyond the sex and cocaine? Even if I can answer that in more reading, I think I am still interested in viewing it through its sociohistorical context rather than a contemporary one. For I think we are ultimately trying to do something different than what Earl Dax and Julie are trying to do with Weimar New York. Yeah? Still pushing through the rest of your questions. Can only say that I don't think Brecht is our guy on this project. One day he will be, but if we are striving in any way to create our own brand of "total theatre" Brecht will be anathema for that. I'd be curious to hear Kiran way in on the playwright question. And I think it might be incredibly useful to comp or perhaps do some "dropping in" with various art pieces to see which speak to us as starting places for characters the most. Perhaps that will help us answer some of the other questions?

David said...

A play worth reading in this discovery process is Jose Triana's The Night of the
Assassins (La Noche de los Asesinos). it deals heartily with the
bullet items:

# Adult performers playing children playing adults (and children), "age" drag
# How children would perform soldiers, profiteers, prostitutes,
cocaine addicts etc
# Childhood obsessive and worshipful crushes on older children/adults
of same-gender
# Playing house before "house" was 1950s American suburbia

I'd strongly recommend reading it in its entirety (each act has
different conventions and lenses)


as for ":How much do we want to draw from the sociohistorical context
of Weimar, and how much do we solely want to borrow from its
performance styles as a lens to view another sociohistorical context?"
I'll post a thought I mentioned to Aviva outside the met showing.
Not sure if this is actually useful but it just popped up in my head,
probably because the oversized eyes in many of the portraits, as well
as the dehumanizing effect of placing lenses (spectacles, monacles,
etc) over the eyes, reminded me of the Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckelberg over
the valley of the ashes in the Great Gatsby. It is interesting to
compare and contrast the manner in which the weimar artists we have
been considering filtered the post war world of europe with how
american artists and writers like fitzgerald did it. fitzgerald's
jazz age novels depict the grotesquery of the upper crust and
downtrodden in a world of opulence and dust, where the veneer of
beauty is allowed to gild the sickness. We may still be left with a
bad taste in our mouth by the actions of those characters or the state
of the victims, but somehow in the end the grandeur is not lost and
the escapist qualities remain intact. Not so for the weimar work,
which is anything but escapist. It pulls us even farther into the
ugliness of the time.

Ok, so Fitzgerald vs. Grosz, discuss!