Friday, May 11, 2007

"Put that in your blog and smoke it"

This posting's title is courtesy of Layna Fisher, Tuzia in our remount of Commedia dell'Artemisia. We are about 2/3 of the way done restaging the rewrites (with a recast ensemble) and I am having the time of my life working on this (and I hope the rest of the creative team is too). I spend most of each rehearsal laughing mine arse off, yet somehow we're right on schedule. I'm more than a little bit sad that we're only going to have three chances to share this.

Back when we first tossed up the possibility of remounting this show, I asked Emily (resident dramaturg) if it was an "immature" work. Not "immature" as in poop jokes and rubber chickens (alas, we haven't found a way to work either of these into Stolen Chair's ouevre), but "immature" insofar as it was something we developed before all of the growth that the company had in 2005 and 2006 (which was, in a sense, first catalyzed by the Stampede Festival performance of Commedia dell'Artemisia).

As we've rehearsed it over the past month, I've rediscovered a certain sharpness in it that really hasn't been in any of our pieces since. While I've blown out my vocal chords debating the "meaning" of most of our pieces, these meta-conversations about Commedia seem so much more loaded. Perhaps because this is one of the few projects on which we've worked that actually has the potential to raise controversy and ruffle the feathers of even the most liberal of audiences. It's a comedy about rape, a raucous and ribald farce about sexual violation, with a little torture thrown in for good measure (Hey, Kiran, you should make sure to work in some of the 24-backlash popularization of torture stuff into the last scene, huh?). And the rape we're satirizing is the actual historical forceful defloration of the Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi. Delicate stuff, and we're not exactly "tip-toeing on egg shells" around it. We are trying, however, to be even more faithful to the story's original details, perhaps only because the truth, in this case, is far sicker (and, truth be told, far more comical) than any fiction we could invent.

Ultimately, the piece is a diatribe against those who attempt to universalize the subjectivity of human experience: those who look at Artemisia's "rape" and process it with the same context that it would have in our contemporary society, those who actually believe there is any throughline in the history of marriage (one besides the historical subjugation of women, of course), those who believe that great art has always been driven by personal demons, those who eschew responsibility for their ideologies by hiding behind a wall of tradition that is as variable as the Billboard music chart.

Diatribes aside, it also has more slapstick than any piece I've ever had the pleasure of directing. Prat falls, slaps, and kicks in the groin galore. Who could ask for anything more? (Hey, that was almost a couplet! Watch out, Kiran!)

There are only two NYC performances (and each house size is only about 50!) so buy your tickets now, and don't forget to support the rest of our friends at the Pretentious festival!!!

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