SchechnerPt2 - 474 Fig. 5. The maharaja of Ban.- dras’s...

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Unformatted text preview: 474 Fig. 5. The maharaja of Ban.- dras’s Dasahara day pcheS_ sion, from the fort, Ramiila t Ramnagar, 1981. Photo credi Richard Schechner. Fig. 6. Louis A Zulu, Mardi G 11949. Courtesy Hogan Jazz AI .sity Library. Pl the anticarnh a few poor at rades enacte- blacks. On Iv most prestigi parades had with notable chased on the 19405 (fig. 6), popular cult]; olent ambiva. leans’ society Shaka (not tc age, African, King Zulu ar krewemlong grass skirts, a were circled show perform ' cial "blacknet If Mard: Bakhtin, and Victor Turner. By the mid—nineteenth century Mardi Gras h already become what it is today—~a mix of fun, sex, commerciai exploit. tion, and hype. As in classic carnivals, inversion of social roies was the _ order of the day. Whites dressed as African Americans and blacks as whites. And, whatever New Orleans offered by way of sex and fun, the was more of it during Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras remains charged with lud double negatives. Socially prominent people pretending to be kings; _ queens, and mythic personages ride on glittering but crummy floats thro ing fake jewelry to crowds of "ordinaries" scrambling for souvenirs (and. - spending like crazy). The Lords of Misrule are not poor people empowered ' f for a day but, rather, the representatives of the ruling class pretending to _ even greater power and authority Those in power cannot tolerate evens " temporary surrender of their power. Far from giving the poor or oppressed - free play, or permitting a charivari-like criticism of established norm5_,_..:._ Mardi Gras privileges the already privileged. Even today the majority of New Orleans African Americans are very .- poor, and de facto segregation is wideiy practiced. in Mardi Gras blacks -. cannot attend white balls (except as servants or sex chattel) or ride 0 white floats; they walk beside the floats carrying "fiambeaux” as Slaves _ _ _. did before emancipation. There used to be a critique of official culture in -. " Dowered iding to a even-1a Ipressedi- Fig. 6. Louis Armstrong as King Zulu, Mardl Gras Day, New Orleans, 949. Courtesy of William Ransom ' gain iazz Archive, Tulane Univer~ the anticarnivai carnival of King Zulu’s parade, first organized in 1910 by a few poor and middle—Class blacks. Zulu was a parody of the white pa- rades enacted by blacks who parodied white racist attitudes toward blacks. On Mardi Gras day King Zulu followed the final, biggest, and most prestigious white parade, that of Rex, King of Carnival. While white parades had defined routes passing in front of reviewing stands loaded with notables, the Zulus meandered through black neighborhoods or chased on the heels of Rex. Looking at King Zulu’s parade as it was in the 19403 (fig. 6), one can see how it functioned in the Bakhtinian sense—*as pOpular culture playing out and mocking race relations, expressing the vi- oient ambivalence with which blacks performed their "place" in New Or» - leans’ society. Even the name Zuluwin a New Orleans not familiar with (not to mention Butheiezi)——carried a racist double message: sav- age, African, foreign, and dangerous; yet silly, ridiculous, and primitive. ' King Zulu and his court were dressed in "the traditional costume of the ' kl‘eWe—long black underwear that covered them to wrists and ankies, . grass skirts, and wooly wigs. Faces were blackened and eyes and mouths ' Were circled with white.”15 The blackface was like what black minstrel . Show performers were required to Wear: a theatrical reinforcing of the so— cial “blackness” or “negritude” of African Americans. If Mardi Gras’ white elite displaced their identities upwards toward CRITICAL THEORY AND PERFORMANCE 476 royalty, myth, and godhead, whiter than white, 7 both royal and primitive and blacker than black. King Zulu’s court ciuded a garisth over-dressed "Big Shot of Africa” and a "royall l doctor” with “a horned headdress and a golden ring in his nose, c51er " a spiked mace.” Zulu himself "wore a gold paper crown, danglin " rings, and strings of gleaming beads about his neck. His mantle w .da-r blue velvet trimmed in gold and edged with white rabbit fur. He ca " a jeweled scepter, with which he now and then threatened the smallsp boy who kept pulling at his mantle. He also wore a leopard-skin vest More than a little hostility marked the shenanigans of the Zulus. A into the midugéos, when I last saw Mardi Gras, the Zulus acted on {11 feelings of many New Orleans African Americans regarding race relatio' in “the city that care forgot.” King Zulu and his c0urt did not toss bauble they hurled coconuts like cannonbalis at white spectators. ' Today’s Zulus are much different from their predecessors. With least the appearance of improved race relations, King Zulu has been int grated into official Mardi Gras (though still regarded by many as a para Zulu’s floats are fancier than. before, sometimes borrowed from oneo th white parades; the costumes are more dignified, the blackface much es common. More of the black community’s elite is involved. Tellingly, tn conuts are now handed out rather than pitched. As Zulu became less eff sive, it also lost its double-edged bite. Previously, many African Amer disparaged the Zulus, feeiing "they satirize their own race and do no to uplift it, and many critical Negroes are embarrassed by their an Nowadays, the Zuius are ”whiter,” more peacefui, co~opted, and strip of their parodic ciarity. Instead of introducing an anticarnivai into carnrv the Zuius now participate in the elite masquerade. An "invented tradition” not at ail shy about its consumerist obseSsi is Daytona Beach Spring Break Weekend.18 Occurring at the cusp be winter and spring, taking over a strip of Daytona Beach where the 1' H gular motels meet an undulating beach and ocean, encouraging drinkin carousing, sex, and public dispiay, spring break has the narrative shape carnival. In 1963, when sixty-five thousand students first descend Daytona, the event inaugurated its reputation for excess. Sex, booze, sun brings them south, but the narrative action of spring break is to 90' pete and consume. Taking 1989 as an example—when four hund thousand made the Daytona trip—contests included Twentieth Cent I Fox’s “best buns," Budweiser’s "best male body,” DeKuyper Schnapps “DeKuypers DeBody Delight,” Hawaiian Tropic's "Miss Hawaii Tropic,” Piayboy Ujena’s "summerwear bikini," and Caribe Suntan b0 tion’s “wet Tushirt,” to name just some. Sex, excess, violence, and com 9 tition are linked. ' '1 All events are sponsored by brand products. "Dozens of bannerSfQ Caribe suntan lotion, Roffier hair products and other products are six from the balconies, a two—story inflatable Simpatico beer bottle sits near}- the pool, a giant inflatable Spuds MacKenzie {Budweiser beer mascot]- watches over outdoor beer kegs, and hot balloons emblazoned with My Worth own "'tiating a: 021311111813. Ire not allo guare, Wa; have are t essages. . In "dii here COHGI INVASIONS FRIENDLY AND UNFRIENDLY oath Sundance’ [car] and ’Karate Kid tl' [movie] are anchored every— here.” “in a half-mile stretch along the beach are volleyball games spon- Ored by Pontiac, Diet Pepsi, Coppertone, Coors Light, and Plymouth. The skies drone with airpianes pulling ads, and the beach—on which cars re allowed—is a parade of mobiie billboards.” An adman told a reporter hat the idea is to “blanket the hotei-bar complex” (like B~5zs blanket Ombing Vietnam or Iraq?) Joanne Lipinan, a company executive, said, we’re not down here for sales, we’re down here for image.”19 According to this executive, college-age youths are "brand con- ;scious but not yet brand loyal.” Spring break is the time to excite them, Inebriate them, and burn brand names into their minds. The banners in .Tjananmen Square in 1989 and the costumes of King Zulu and his court n the 19405 were made by participants. But in Daytona whatever is on display is made elsewhere by others. The students are there only to re- ._;_ceive, cattie to be branded. But do the kids listen? One student told Lip- _-man, "You don’t even notice it because it’s everywhere you look.” The "sponsors think otherwise To them. it doesn’t matter if a student remem— Ibers which brand. The important thing is to learn that the only things worth owning are brand products. Spring break is a capitalist carnival -' initiating and training young upscale Americans in their lifelong roles as onsumers. The scenography of spring break serves its capitalist carni- _ a1 functions well. The Daytona police make sure that the revels are con~ lined to beachfront motels, the streets immediately adjoining them, and Cthe beach itself. Spring break is squeezed into "the strip”~—a long nar— row space, a kind of static parade, easy to police and control. Crowds are not allowed to mass in big circular groups as they did in Tiananmen '_ quare, Washington, Leipzig, or Berlin. The beach itself and the airspace '- above are treated as billboards saturating the youths with brand name 3: messages. _ In “direct theater” large public spaces are transformed into theaters . where collective reflexivity is performed, fecund and spectacular excesses displayed. Parades, mass gatherings, street theater, sex, and partying— '-'everything is exaggerated, ritualized, done for show. Masquerading en— ' courages experimenting with behavior and identity slippage. Rulers or ruling ideas are either exalted, as at Mardi Gras, spring break, and Ramlila; chailenged, as in Washington in 1970 and China in 1989; or overthrown, as ' in Eastern Europe. Ramlila is complex. Worshipped as gods, the boys are . also ordinary people, while the maharaja who witnesses and authorizes their sacred performance is a former king, who, for the month of the festi- val, acts out a recollected royalty. Official culture wants its festivals to be entertaining. Mardi Gras and spring break are dizzying, drunk, disorderly, and mystifying—mystifying because they present officiai authorities as fairy-tale royalty, buffoons, clowns, laughing dispensers of free goods, and benign corporate sponsors Of drunken erotic contests. It's the old “bread and circuses” trick. People have fun. Less so for obligatory mass turnouts such‘ as those that until now have taken place in Moscow's Red Square marking the anniversary of the 477 CRITICAL THEORY AND PERFORMANCE 478 Russian Revolution. For whom are these official displ development of television, the audiences are whomever mass media C-é reach. But there is another audience too. The arrogance of the leaders-100 ing down from reviewing stands is matched by their insecurity (both ac" and imagined). They demand reassurance of their popularity and bility. Each salute given, each tank rolling by as part of neat and obedie- phalanxes, warms the hearts of these teaders, democrats and despotsjghk But when the official leadership is no longer the focus of attefifi no longer in control of the means of producing or COHtrolling public ebrations, when the power to produce public fun paSSes into the hand of ordinary people, events take an unpredictable theatrical turn. Effigje” appear, as do homemade banners and posters; street theater flourish soapbox orators draw cheering crowds. Official leaders are cut dew-ni- size. If they show up, they run the risk of being mocked or chased away Li, Zhou, Nixon, and members of the GDR politburo were. Officiaido'm provides scripted fun contained within ritual frames, while unofficiaife tivity rewrites ritual, dissolving the restrictive frames. The popular carnivai-demonstration is actually a utopian mimesis whose multifocuse idealized, heated, magnified, and transparent cl :' ' evaporates once the show is over. Those involved i1 ‘ _ ical desire too often deceive themseives into believing their utopian s will run forever. It is not only the tanks of Deng Xiaoping that envio and with terrible clarity crush the fun but also the longer process, whensth revolution is successful, of postrevolutionary jockeying for power; decay of festival into "dirty politics” is what the Chinese students new} derground or in exile have learned, a lesson most American radicals-of- 1960s and 1970s never studied. Carnival, more than other forms of theatre can act out a powerful critique of the status quo, but it cannot itself replac the status quo. For the modern world this much was made ciear by Re pierre: the carnival indefinitely in power is the Terror. . ' There are several audiences for direct theater: (1) the participant themselves, (2) journalists, especially television reporters, (3) the : spectatorship television enjoys, and (4) high-level decision makers in . offices or bunkers. These high-level spectators participate in direct thea for fear of missing the worldwide TV audience. The dramaturgy is fur-the news as well as sports, dramas, sitcoms, talk, and game shows—are aw"- ally profit—making entertainments. Television news is not made to be kept and reshown long after the events it records are over. It is a multilaye _ _ throwaway flow of images and words combining on—the-spot action with sophisticated editing and framing procedures to create a narrativized and ritualized product. - Direct theater is raw inateriai for the universally displayed second theater, TV newsawhich includes often improvised responses to the 5.17“ theater. Direct theater is reflexive insofar as it is produced for the cameras ) the first 2 cameras INVASIONS FRIENDLY AND UNFRIENDIDI nd designed to force a response. Events are immediate (being there), me~ iated (taking place on the TV screen), and responsive (reactions to what '. appens on the screen). Used this way, TV is hot, interactive. The millions ref screens function as a coiiective forum (though not a free forum). Criti- __Cisrn of the direct theater is provided not by aestheticians but by "pun» dits” and official spokespersons who summarize and explain. Political di- ._.rect theater is different from the neocarnival direct theater of Mardi Gras 50; spring break. These have been drained of political content, while the adevfor-television (or at least highly “media aware”) direct theater is j'rfiainly political. Or, to put it in a slightly different way, the conservative ifpolitics of Mardi Gras and spring break are hidden. Therefore, there is no '-.”news” coming from them except a feature story buried near the end of a telecast. Or, if the celebration gets out of hand, an account of how the po- lice handled the rioting. Social order must be restored; the causes of the '- f’disturbance" will be “looked into” (so it won’t happen again). On the .‘other hand, the political direct theater of East Europe or China challenges the status quo, wants to overthrow the state. The more political the direct theater, the more it is staged as, or ends in swirls, vortexes of activities moving in spirals and circles with not- _easy«to—locate centers or heads. Multivocal and multifocal, a popular de- constructing of hierarchy, often biasphemous, irreverent, and obscene, I full of small-scale dramas and guerrilla theater, the direct theater plays to . the roving multiple eyes of many cameras simultaneously ingesting im- ' ages. The direct theater is not “about” something so much as it is made ' "of" something. It is actual and symbolic, not referentiai and representa— tional. I-Iunger~stril<ing Chinese camped out in Tiananmen Square, Ger— -__mans climbing on or chipping away at the wail, or young Americans frol- icking in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool are performing more than haked actions. But their symbolic deeds are not imitations played by named characters who exist within copyrighted fictional narratives au~ thored by individuals. Real people~from anonymous players to Wuer . Kaixi, Zhao Ziyang, the East German politburo, Berliners, Abbie Hoff— .man—piay their roles in public and pursue not only Stanislavskian objec— tives and throughwlines of action but also historical dialectics. Teievision produces and reproduces this popular drama, showing _' over and over again specific highly theatrical bits (or bytes), what Brecht _ would call gests, creating both veifi'emdungseflclct and a ritual effect. The layering of contending historifications begins with on-the-spot reporters _ interviewing participants, ordinary people as weil as leaders. Many of these “spontaneous” interviews are setups. The material is then laun- dered through interpretations and editings—“spin controls.” Of course, direct theater, with its iow impact on global politics, such as Mardi Gras 0r Rainliia, doesn’t need much managing. But, for politicai direct theater, participants and viewers alike are told. what’s going on, how to relate to it, and what the future holds. The ultimate layers are hidden from view, taking place in editing rooms and corporate or government offices. TV news gives the impression of—a performance. of—“multivocaiity.” But, 4'79 CRITICAL THEORY AND PERFORMANCE 480 just as aesthetic drama projects many voices deployed as Charact inating from a single voice, the playwright’s, so television mov opposite direction, knitting the many voices of the streets into broadcast. ers ori- es i 'th a unit NOTES 1.. Réne Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gre Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 1 19—20; Roger Cailto Barash, Men and the Sacred (Glencoe, ills Free Press, 1959), 125. 2. Caillois, Men and the Sacred, 123. For such unofficial vin Carlson, Places of Peiforiimnce (Ithaca, NY: Corne and Sally Harrisond’epper, Drawing a Circle in the Square: Street P York’s Washington Square Perk (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1990),- 3. Jonathan D. Spence, The Gate of Heavenly Peace {New York: Viking Peng' 1981.), 17—18. 4. Joseph W. Esherick and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, ” Political Theater in Modern China,” jbarnol ofAsieii Studies 49, no. 4 (1990): 83' 5. lisherick and Wasserstrom, “Acting Out Democracy,” 841. 6. See Victor Turner, The Ritual Process (Chicago: Aldine, 1969), and "Limin' to Liminoid, in Play, Flow, Ritual," in From Ritual to Theatre and Back (New Yo PA], 1982), 20410; and Richard Schechner, "From Ritual to Theatre and Back, motions! Theatre journal 26 (1974}: 455432, and Performance Theory (New York Routledge, 1988). _ 7. Abbie Hoffman, Resolution for the Hell oflt (New York: Dial Books, 1 6 30, 1.83; j'erry Rubin, Do it! (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970), 250. For m" detailed expositions of their views, see these sources and Hoffman, Woodstock tioii (New York: Vintage, 1969); and Steal This Book (New York: P" 1.971). The term Yippie is from the acronym for Youth International Party (YEP) founded by Rubin, Hoffman, and others. YIP nevor was intended as a "sense political party but as a gadfly. Yippy is taken from Hippy, what the dren” of the 1960s, inhabitants of the Haight—Ashbury section of S were called or called themselves. Hippie was soon applied to many of the "tune turn on, drop out" generation of American youth. Hippie is a diminutive of lop ' liep, a word from the world of jazz (or crime) first used in the 19105 by Af can Americans but adopted or adapted by the Beat Generation writers of the 19505 and meaning someone “in the know.” All these _ . ._ lifestyles. The 19803 adaptation Yuppie—«a Young Upwardly MObiie Professional is a parody of the earlier terms, signaling the very Opposite in social status. . T, 8. Ferdinand Protzman, "Thousands Swell Trek to the West by East mans,” New York Titties, September 12, 1989, A1,, A14,- Serge Schmemann, "HXOdl-l Galls East Berlin,” New York Times, September 14, 1989, A14. . 9. Serge Schinemann, “Sour German Birthday," New York Titties, October 1989, A1; "Gorbachev Lends Honecker a Hand,” New York Times, October 7, 19. A5. 10. Henry Kamm, "East Berliners March for Democracy,” New York Times/0 tober 22, 1989, A16. 11. Serge. Schinemann, “Another Big Rally in East Germany” New York Titties,“ October 31, 1.989, A17. \ ' gory (Baltimo is, trans. Meyer Acting Out Democra ...
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SchechnerPt2 - 474 Fig. 5. The maharaja of Ban.- dras’s...

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