SchechnerPt1 - Invasions Friendly and Unfriendl The...

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Unformatted text preview: Invasions Friendly and Unfriendl The Dramaturgy of Direct Theate Richard Schecimer y: 1-1 . . . old authority and truth pretend to be absolute, to l tratemporal importance. Therefore, tl - gloomin serious. . . .And thus these their role still serio for a long time. rave an ex- ieir representatives . . . are personages come to the end of us, although their spectators have been laughing ——Mil<hail Bakhtin, Rnbelais and His World ; .- The role of the revolutionary is to create the olutionary frame of reference. The power to control. . . . The goal of theatrei to overcome fear by taking by living our fantasies. atre which creates a rev~ define is the power to s to get as many people as possible action. We create reality wherever we go . “Jerry Rubin, Do It! What is the relation between "the authorities” and "the people occupy public streets, squares, plazas, and buildi encourage giddy, drunken, sexy feelings and behavior, action of taking spaces, of cidental that official displa people” Whe th‘ rigs? Do carruyal Festivals and carnivals belong to comic theater, comic in desire,'-eve if sometimes tragic in outcome. When peOple go into the streets en In S. they are celebrating life’s fertility. They eat, drink, make theater, '_ ' ach other’s c wave banners, INVASIONS F F ' . *rlendlY- prisings (as in China) or the Fheater New Year (as in Eastern Eu- in the streets is aIWays to flirt with the 'istmas season and the approach of the e), To allow people to assemble alesque. This is because both revolu- GH and carnival propose a free space to satisfy desires, especially sexual drunken desires, a new time to enact social relations more freely. Ple make, costume, and act in ways that are "not me” and almost al— >solute, to have an ex- Dresentatives . . . are [ages come to the end of- tors have been laughing-Q . Rabclais and as World - ned moment—when the chur ch bells g in Ash Wednesday when school begins again after spring break, me.Wh.1Ch creates & IGV’ when a new government IS firmly in power—the iiminal period ends and define 13 the power to mdividuals are inserted or reinser my People as possible- , ted into their (sometimes new, some~ times old, but always defined) places in society. René Girard argues that “the fundamental purpose of the festival is 0 set the stage for a sacrificial act that marks at once the climax and the ermination of the festivities." Festive sacrifice is necessary to inoculate ociety against "falling into interminable violence.” Roger Caillois goes 'rther: “In its pure form, the festival must be defined as the paroxysm of reality wherever We go ' “Jerry Rubin, Do It! - nd "the people” when; but also from an economic pomt of View. "1 [d bulldlngsr? D0 Gal” leans on the Pacific coast in the late nine- ehawor/ 01' does ’fh es of what Caillois was talking about The ike people giddy? Is? angles, countable €01,101“ viewing stand, wh full of shifting between large-s iat unofficial gather displays are so oft- ere is a long history of 1.1110 Well as using) locales not archite ' , personal, ritualistic, and political. And, public squares of Renais- - deaths or funerals: RIENDLY AND UNFRIENDLY 463 iig. 1. Tiananmen S 1989. The Gate of H with Mao’s portr ground. Photo: AP/ Wide W0 qual‘e, May : eavenly Pe ait in the back: rid.- distinct liminoid / celebratory / political / theatric own dramaturgy, mise-enecéne, role enactments, and reception. This theater is ritual because it is e produce real effects by means of symbolic causes. T he democracy movement focused in B May and June 1989 is a rich example of Square’s one hundred acres can hold hundreds of thousa is the symboi of official power, as Red Square had been in the forms ' viet Union or the White House or Capitol is of the United States. Befor t triumph of the Communists in 1949, Tiananmen Square was much smalle- The focus of power was on Tiananmen Gate, the Gate of Heavenly Pea the southern entrance to the Forbidden City (fig. 1). "Until China’s last dy nasty fell in 1912, it was through this gate that the main axis of the peror’s power was believed to run, as he sat in his throne hall, fa south, the force of his presence radiating out across the courtyards: passing through the gate, and so to the great reaches of the countryside yond. . . . During the Cultural Revolution of 1966 [to 1976] the gate, (1.0 inated now by an immense colored - ‘ ' ' eijing’s Tiananmen Squa'r these exchanges. Tianan‘ en lit in the back I .3 / Wide World Fig. 2_ The "Goddess of Democracy 5nd Freedom” in Tiananmen Square, May 30, 1989. Photo: AP/ Wide million or more strong/’3 Clearly, the creation of Tiananmen Square was Intended to refocus ceremonial~—that is, theatrical—wpower from behind the Forbidden City's walls to the big open space, a more fitting symbol of what the new order promised. The image of Mao, the new emperor, was mounted in front, gazing out over the square and from there to all of China. Power was no longer to radiate from secret forbidden places but to e displayed for alt people to see and share. The nation itself was renamed the People's Republic of China. And what the students who came to iananmen Square in 1989 demanded, more than anything, was what they ailed “transparency”——an openness in government operations correspon— ing to the open square that symbolized the new China. There were precedents for such actions in the dramatic May Fourth movement at 1919 and in the more recent democracy movements of 1978 nd 1986. Joseph Esherick and Jeffrey Wasserstrom argue strongly that the 989 democracy movement was politicai theater: Even when improvising, protesters worked from familiar “scripts” Which gave a common sense of how to behave during a given ac— tion, where and when to march, how to express their demands, and so forth. Some of these scripts originated in the distant past, emerg— ing out of traditions of remonstrance and petition stretching back CRITICAL THEORY AND PERFORMANCE 466 miiiennia. More were deriv the steady stream of studei place since 1919.4 ed (consciously or unconsciole fl; “(t—led mass movements that hair ay because fortune 1 April 15, close to the Beijing on May 15, dents atso wanted t nese officials want trot, the students pretending th ring. Official Within the overall dram ticular molecules of theate '. - frontation with Premier Li Peng put on W! describe as “one of the best acts.” Wuer ” [on hunger strike}. . . . 1989 demonstrations were Wuer Kaixi in his May rat Esherick and Wass And, of course, made her appearance (fig. 2)—~a multivocal figure resem Liberty, a Bread & Puppet Theatre effigy, {and} the giant st: . . . the sixties. onsciously) _ _ ; that have take :hered in Tianan 7 around Beijf 3 'ations were par his May 18 con aospital paj :pting him a [fly pulled on :e a point. E3" dience,itw ieeting the-n Party secr. _ ll) and anagno came too t this distinc elation betW if entertaiIlI-I»n :1 process in INVASIONS FRIENDLY AND UNFRIENDLY gid ritual and rebellious theater but between two groups of authors (or authorities), each of whom desired to compOSe the script of China’s future and each of whom drew on both theater and ritual. ' The students took Tiananmen Square, the center stage and ritual focus of ; Chinese history, thereby upstaging official culture. When Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng, and the generals of the People’s Liberation Army felt their author- . ify slipping, they radically shifted the basis of the confrontation from the— I-ater and ritual to military force. But, there were moments of high theater, such as when an unarmed man, :. fate since unknown, stood his ground in front of a column of tanks. of their demonstrations and the seri- , - dents acted up a carnival. Their mood of fun, comradeship, irony, and subversion enraged and frightened China’s officialdom. Students camped out willy~nilly, they sang and danced, they spoke from impromptu "soapboxes,” and they granted in- terviews to the world press. They unfurled sarcastic, disrespectful ban- Hers, including one depicting hated Premier Li Peng as a pig—snouted Nazi officer. Even the hunger strike, in which thousands participated, had the feel of melodrama. The Chinese government called this behavior ” of its uscs implies dissipation and ership feared that the virus of luau would 'I spread: Tiananmen Square is a very bright stage visible all over China. From the overnment’s oint of view, 1mm acted out in Tiananmen S uare g P 9 gold not be ignored any more than the Nixon administration could, nine- From the mid-19603, protests against the Vietnam War and in favor ' of what University of California activists in Berkeley called ” an. By “theater” Rubin and Hoffman clearly meant a lot more than or- thodox drama or even “guerrilla theater.” According to Hoffman, Drama is anything you can get away with. . . . Guerrilla theater is only _ transitional ste ~actors.” Or, as Rubin e guerrillas attacking the shrines of _ . . . The street is the stage. You are the star of the show and everything you were once taught is up for grabs.” The Yippies, which Hoffman and Rubin helped to form, emphasized more than the Chinese the Bakhtinian/Rabelaisian mode? In October 1967, a massive demon- in Chicago. The g disruptive to the convention ording to an ad in the spring 467 CRITICAL THE 468 ORY AND PERFORMANCE 1968 TDR, the festival Would feature "guerrilla theatre, a tion, and happenings.” All who participated would be mock C'ofi h "costumes, paint, and props.” Of course, what happene provided. " ' . d in Chie'a' Grant Park was instead a “police riot.” . The violent, the political, the carnivalesque, and the linked again in M was called for Saturday, a protest ag visited the students, attempting to in some students taunted him with she raising garbage can lids with his face tions began with speeches remindin of their assembling in the nation’s capital. But soon, warme and more tuned in to Woodstock Nation than “verbalism,” stripped in the hot sun, smoked dope, made out, and jump . the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool (fig. 3). The frolicmwith its :eha acteristic whirling choreography, the dispersal of orderly tank intense and volatile small groups, the show of p in public places—msubv ake peace with them. As uts of "Fuck Nixon! Tr embOSSed on them. The g the activists of the conti in and the North Atlanti- . Existing for only twenty—eig all lacked architectural grace o 01' aid Reagan W mist-bashing speeches S jg. 3. Swimming in the Lincoln Memorial Re fleeting Poolr Washington, D.C., May 9, 1970. Photo credit: Fred W. McDarrah. oped nake prisings crushed by Soviet armies or the clear threat of Soviet interven- ——~with its e on. When in the mid-19805 Gorbachev began restructuring the USSR, ranks int ‘ but the actual license for radical easures sat fi" _' ' ' nonument t day fel . - " positiori by events. igie mass _ of 1989—mshortly after the brutai .d-197o int rushing of the democracy movement in China—when Hungary opened driven r__o meant that people who wanted to leave terns do y out—wand many thou» ands took it at rates unequaled since the building of the wall :urope a Throughout September and October the East German govern- )1 th Atla Intent-“led by one of those who authorized buil seven-year—oid Erich Honecker——shilly— :l grace rem Clearly, the GDR lacked the means to ste ding the wall, seventy- shallied regarding the exodus. m the outgoing tide. Meanwhile, 1me an the festival that always accompanies a "revolution from below” had as that r figun. "A carnival atmosphere greeted the first large convoy of jubilant and Wen aSt Germans to arrive today in this city [Passau, West Germany] on the g, glidin Danube in southeastern Bavaria,” reported the New York Times. "Hun- * capture . i and at i Reagan . . A similar welcome was given to speeche s set up by the West German Red . toss in nearby towns.” As if following a Bakhtinian script, headlines in .the (201163}? B New York Times proclaimed: “Exodus Galts East Berlin: Nation’s Sov- ystem W35 rE‘igmty Seems to Be Mocked. "8 But the climax was not yet reached; the been; of Berlin were still relatively quiet and empty. Then, as in China earlier in 1989, an important date sparked street CRITICAL THEORY AND PERFORMANCE 470 protests. Friday, October 6, was the GDR’s fortieth ily, one could expect a rectangular parade of milit ware in front of and below rigidly saluting gener mounted on a viewing stand. As in China that May, globehhoppm bachev was scheduled to make an appearance, and, as in China, the cial celebration turned sour. "Honecker faces the birthday par-rye: York TiIF‘IGS continued, “humiliated, derided, and threatened.” Gd was seized on by both sides, soon becoming a contradictory I“ dressing "an elite congregation gathered in the glittering Palace of public. . . [he] assailed demands that Moscow dismantle the Be ' ' while earlier many Berliners hailed him with shouts of “Gorb a known code for the reforms they were demanding government.‘J On October 9 more than fifty thousand demonstra Leipzig. On October 18 Honecker was replaced by his "protégé, two-year~old Egon Krenz, a man who had just paid a pr ' ' Peng and Deng Xiaoping. The East German people replied with more demonstrations. In :Dr'e den on October 19, fifty thousand staged a silent candlelight march next day several thousand took to the streets of Berlin. P ' openly disrespectful of Krenz. Asked about the new leader, nort. “After hE'We to China to congratulate them for the blood they spilled? Aft ' rigged our last election? After being the boss of State Security?- sparrOWS on the roof wouldn’t believe him/10 ' Ferment was spreading. On October 23 three hundred thousand ma" in Leipzig demanding change, including the legalization of opposr parties and an independent labor movement. Smaller demonstrations place in Berlin, Dresden, Halle, Schwerin, and Magdeburg. not crack skuils, and people grew bolder. Poli streets of East B emergent debates. The big demonstrations grew more thousand again march ' y age and fro every walk of life. . . . with cheers, jeers, and Chan from all sides.”” On November 2 the East German government dr its ban on travel, and thousands crossed into Czechoslov ere streaming from Czechoslovakia c of Germany (FRG), Where, according to la“!!- l INVASIONS FRIENDLY AND UNFRiENDl..Y 471 ‘ey instantly became citizens. Then, on November 9, the East German fivernment opened its borders. ' Once the announcement was made "a tentative trickle of East Gen Hans testing the new regulations quickly turned into a jubilant horde, joined at the border crossings with crowds of flag-waving, cheering est Germans. Thousands of Berliners clainbered across the waii at the randenburg Gate, passing through the historic arch that for so long had een inaccessible to Berliners of either side.”12 The Brandenburg Gate, like gijing’s Tiananmen Gate, is heavily symbolic. Erected in 1888~89 at the "estern end of the Unter den Linden, soon dubbed Germany’s Arc de Tri~ mphe, the gate celebrates the military prowess of Prussia and the unity On November 9, in a flash, the Berlin Wall’s symbolic value was re ersed. What had been avoided or surpassed became the chosen place of lebration. Because it had been such a terrifying barrier, it was now re people acted out how totaliy things had changed. Peopie couldn’t wait to ciimb it, sit on it, pop champagne and dance on it, and chip away uvenir chunks of it (fig. 4). Formeriy murderous East German border guards went out of their way to show how friendly they were. The wall as a media bonanza. Dominating the front page of the November 10 New York Tin-res was a founcolumn photograph of “East Berliners dancing atop the Berlin Wall near the Brandenburg Gate.” The same picture, or gothers very like it, appeared on front pages around the world. Again and again televisiori showed people ciarnbering onto and over the wall. The wall was not “interesting” everywhere along its 103-mile mute. The focus was on the segment in front of the Brandenburg Gate or bifur- cating Potsdainer Piatz, which, before the wall, was the center of Berlin, among the busiest intersections in Europe. Just as Tiananmen Square was the necessary stage for China’s democracy movement, so the wall at these places was where Berliners focused the “unparallelied celebration that swirled through Berlin day and night.” "Cheers, sparkling wine, flowers and appiause greeted the new arrivals. . . . At the Brandenburg Gate . . . hundreds of people chanted, ’Gate open? Gate openi’” A middle-aged _ East German woman broke through a police cordon to give flowers and a “vigorous kiss” to a young West German cop as “the crowd roared.” "A _- festival air seized the entire city. West Berliners lined entry points to greet ' East Berliners with champagne, cheers, and hugs. Many restaurants of- fered the visitors free food. A television station urged West Berliners to call in with offers of theater tickets, beds, dinners, or just guided tours.” The popular Hertha soccer team gave away ten thousand free tickets for its Saturday game. That giddy weekend the West German government _ gave every visitor from the east one hundred marks of “greeting money” Gil‘ W335 for spending in West Berlin’s glittering shops. "in an unprecedented step e polit-I- for a place with the most rigid business hours in Western Europe, West re than Berlin banks will be open on both Saturday and Sunday for East Germans Wishing to pick up cash."13 It was only a matter of time before the East German state collapsed into the arms of the West. Fig. 4. On the Berlin Wall in front of the Brandenberg Gate, November 10, 98 Photo: AP/ Wide World. It could have ended otherwise. Craig R. Whitney reports that ” was a written order from Honecker for a Chinese solution.”14 But it politburo overrode its aging boss. Once events are in the saddle, the 'sp :3 of the reversals is breathtaking. A faltering regime in China s _ asserts itself; a seemingly invincible state in East Germany crumbles dust. Hindsight discloses the “inevitability” of events. But "what f’ haunts all such talk. What if the Chinese leadership had not sent in" army? What if the East Germ control of its military? There these questions. Wh ‘ people sense a weakening official power, they take to the streets Flhe carnival can last only so long; every Mardi Gras meets its Ash Wednesd Whether that Wednesday will see a new order or the return of the old-c. not be knOWn in advance. ' ' China and East Germany in 1989 or the United States in 1970 ar. ex amples of festivals where the outcome was unknown. The excitement such social dramas—mot unlike what grips whole pepulations du some sports matches, especially those like the World Cup, where tea n ' re closely identifiedw—is rooted in the tension between atterns of action, stunning instantaneous surprises, and a pas nber 10, 1989 rts that “there crumbles like tut “what if“: ot sent in the a regime 10 me to answer ;sed or angry '3 streets. Their h Wednesday. )f the old can:- n 1970 are ex: excitement of , itions during " where teamis . sion between?- -s, and a pas- INVASIONS FRIENDLY AND UNFRiENDLY -. signater desired yet uncertain outcome. At the other extreme are festivals where written dramas are enacted. Here the excitement derives from im- '- merslng oneself in a known flow of events. One of these festivals, the ' Ramlila of Ramnagar, India, offers an intriguing variation on the theme of _ the critique of ordinary reality. In most carnivals the revolution is from ' below: the underdog, 01' the top dog disguised as underdog, rules. But in. -Ramliia the critique is from above. For a month Ramnagar is the place where Hindu gods and mythic herbes walk the earth and rule the realm. The epic story telis of Rama’s birth, his boyhood education, his exile, the kidnapping of his wife, Sita (also a god), his war against the demon- .king Ravana, his victory and triumphant return home to his rule as -. India’s ideal king. During Ramlila, Vibhuti Narain Singh is celebrated by :hundreds of thOusands of devoted spectators as the "Maharaja of Ba~ inaras,” representative of Shiva and worshipper of Rama. Never mind that the maharaja was stripped of both princely title and kingdom shortly - after Indian independence in 1947. The maharaja is the principal spectator _ and occasional participant in the reenactment of Rama’s life. Spectator— participants regard Ramlila month as time—out from their daiiy grind. . When the boy actors enact the roles of gods, spectators regard them as di» vine. Inversions abound. Ramlila is a time when rich persons dress simply '_ and eat street food while poor persons dress beyond their means and - enjoy expensive, voluptuous sweets; when the maharaja bows down be— fore the boy actors feeding them with his own hand; when the barely lit- crate farmer playing the demon~king Ravana is honored by all; when slick iawyers and gruff shopkeepers, books in hand, meekiy follow the sacred text word by word. And, of course, the largest inversion of them all: five Brahmin boys become gods. For thirty-one days Ramnagar ("Ramatown") is taken over by Ramlila. The streets, back lanes, and courtyards become theaters. Specta- tors dance themselves into delirium worshipping Rama and Sita. Crowds follow Rama, Sita, and Lakshman into exile; they flood the streets in ma— jestic processions (fig. 5). The characteristic choreography of Ramlila is a procession from one place to another where a scene is performed on a raised stage or within a complex environment of stages, small buildings, and gardens. Spectators take part in the processions, then gather in front of the stages or within the theatrical environments. Moving from one place to another is so important that often one day’s lilfl (performance) will stop near the end of a scene so that, shortly after the next day’s life be— gins, the whole crowd—actors and spectators alike_move off to another iocation several kilometers away. in today’s Ramlila there is little rebel- liousness. Some spectators identify with Ravana, who they regard as heroically resistant to domination by the Brahman caste. Politics were more important at Ramnagar Ramlila’s origins in the nineteenth century, when the performance proclaimed Hindu nationalism against both British and Mogul authorities. New Orleans Mardi Gras descends from European pre—Lenten carni— vals, which are the basis for the theorizing of Emile Durkheim, Mikhail 473 ...
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SchechnerPt1 - Invasions Friendly and Unfriendl The...

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