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SCREAM: August 2006

 Lessons from Andrea Dworkin are lost on Donnie Sicko:
charlatan of theatre

So Donnie is irate with having to expose himself and his emotions! He feels somehow exploited at having to actually do what an artist does and be vulnerable and open to attack and to the contradictions within his own psyche compounded by the whims and iron grip of his mother's domination of him. Poor Donnie! It seems he is more at home with amateur presentations of musicals like Lilac Time than the cut and thrust world of art and theatre where it is expected that the artist or practitioner isn't stoned or high on speed during a rehearsal and where it is mandatory to be in charge of one's own performance.

 I am sorry for Donnie! His sentimentality and fixatedness on his world of delusions has prompted me to write this. I mean, let's face it! The guy hasn't even learnt the first principle of working in the industry: "Don't pay out your colleagues. Don't run down your previous boss or fellow actors and director even if you are pissed or stoned or high on ice." Donnie not only is frightened of the medium he has chosen to haunt, but he has also chosen to soil his nest. Unfortunately for him, his neurotic shadow companion is dominating his creativity and real talent. Like in some horror movie Donnie's shadow friend is fucking his psyche and breeding hybrid monsters that can only destroy him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


But how many Donnies are there in the fringe world of theatre and the arts?

I remember a guy who did a workshop on Grotowsky in 1978 and decided it was all about "hate your audience". "Attack the bourgeoisie. Treat them as scum! Make them cringe!" Sure the guy would never make it to an Acting School or University (hopefully!). But he was considered "sincere" in the alternative circuit in the late seventies. Times have changed. The contemporary alternative type isn't interested in Grotowsky. It's paradoxically concerned with hype, speed, ice and an eery conformity shaped by one's own guilt.

But ice is nice. How nice theatre has become! NICE! What a great word: NICE. If you saw the Tropfest films on offer in 2006 you will understand NICE. The cool guys have engineered NICE to mean innovative and cool in an icy kind of way. Bland and NICE! Artaud's spirit was dead by the end of the seventies. Sixties even! Even his ghost was laid to rest. Didn't we know that?

Last year Andrea Dworkin died. The significance of this went mostly unnoticed by the quasi feminists involved in arts activity. One senses that Naomi Wolf's obvious attractiveness has become the image that supplants the intellectual rigour and uncompromising mind that was one of the most original Feminist thinkers of the past century, Andrea Dworkin. While Dworkin annoyed and pricked the minds of so many people (mine included) over the past forty years, she framed a way of seeing the world and its activities that so few others have ever done. People like Antonin Artaud (the French Theatre / Film writer) and Dworkin are to be so valued in cultural activity because of this potential for shattering the image making orthodoxies of more favoured and influential sons and daughters of humanity.

But it's not that she was necessarily right in what she concluded. Who among us can claim to be right? The suicide bomber is one! Such people not only cast the first stones but detonate the first bombs. Andrea Dworkin spoke up loud and clear. She stood up while others cowed and hid behind political correctness and platitudes. Most writers and thinkers simply joined the streams fed by tributaries of intellectual abstractions and self serving sentiment. And I am talking of most feminist writers here. Many of whom don't even acknowledge Dworkin's massive contribution.

She made many arguments. Her discussion on pornography was particularly interesting and provocative. Her conclusion that porn would create monsters in men making them ravaging rapist beasts and abusive of women is reflected in conservative rhetoric on the subject. Perhaps on this issue, Naomi Wolf's feminist view of porn as desensitizing people and abstracting them from the real into a fictional void is closer to reality. Maybe! But whatever conclusion is closer to the real experience of people, it was Dworkin who set up the parameters for the discussion.

Andrea Dworkin should be remembered by anyone who cherishes the life force of personal integrity and willingness to recognize and follow one's own personal direction; whether male or female!

In some ways this is a model attitude for artists working in theatre. Working in the moment of contact with colleagues and audiences is deceptively difficult. The urge and tendency can be to merge with the thoughts and attitudes of those around. Theatre has been a radical art form on only a few moments in history. And those moments seem to have passed. So the model of Dworkin, whether one agrees or disagrees with many of her arguments, is a lesson for anyone motivated for engagement with the universe through art and performance.

But this becomes problematic for the kind of mind raised on fanciful fairy tales derived from unquestioning religion or from a lack of rigour in our education system that gives rise to narcissistic thinking so valued and rewarded by the advocates of misframed and misunderstood postmodernism. My friend Donnie sees no contradiction between being captive to the religious guilt tripping of his upbringing or from the captivity by mind altering drugs.

Pandering to ego and to a finely tuned narcissism has left a lot of flotsam on the theatrical waters. Would-be theatre directors believe theatre is about choosing hip subject matter and then moving people around the stage without bumping into the furniture. And if one is really cool then kick it up the audience. But never look through the mirror of one's own egoism. Struggle to resist such confrontation at all costs. Attack anyone and anything that poses a threat to the comfort of one's own psychological blanket concealing the foetal soul.

But within theatre is the necessity to recognize one's own constrictions and constructions in order to step into the framework of another person and portray a character or role or social construct.

Donnie's one attempt at this in the last two years left him frightened and shaken. In his mind no one should be "forced" to endure this. Endure the face in the mirror staring back at you with accusing eyes; and not the narcissistic image of one's delusions! Endure the scolding of a mother disparaging of a son's challenging of accepted stereotypes! Donnie felt exploited and used. He slid quickly back to the sludge of ego-stroking exhibitionist amateurism tinged with a bit of undergraduate pretence of extremism where his conceits were valued. And how important one can feel doing work exposing the corruptions way over there; in the past; galaxies away; where we don't have to expose anything of ourselves! How important is the charlatan theatre practitioner constantly hiding behind the mask of egoism and vanity!

But why place any eulogizing over the death of Andrea Dworkin in the same article with a petty and vengeful rage against some lowly incompetent practitioner of theatre?

It is because our Donnie Sicko is not unique. Unfortunately such figures dominate and sometimes paralyze the expression of a movement in art and social thinking. I have seen the attacks on Dworkin and her beliefs and intellect. And they remind me so much of the kind of attacks mounted by the neurotic likes and equivalents of Donnie Sicko.

Our theatre demands more than egoistic pedants articulating the English rep brandname on our own endeavours. It requires a kind of rigorous attack that is outside the paradigm of drug induced hype and conservative reductio ad broadest common denominator epitomized by rubbishy advice to theatre artists that nothing more is necessary than to: "Be seen. Be heard. And don't bump into the furniture."

And let's not be phased by the theatrical charlatan pedant who wonders what Andrea Dworkin has to do with this argument!

 

Shadow Friend
August 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

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