Thursday, March 29, 2012

Back of the Throat

Back of the Throat was definitely the most "risque", if you will, drama that we have studied thus far. The use of profanity, extreme prejudice, and vulgar scenes/language really shock the reader. Although many think there is not a need for profanity in daily talk, film, or literature, I believe this pervasive language really emphasizes the message that the author Yussef El Guindi is trying to convey to the reader.
Yussef wants the audience to experience how ridiculous and out of line the racial prejudice and profiling of Muslim Americans after 9/11 was. The first half of the reading really doesn't make you feel that bad for Khaled, and the language and actions taken against him are not that out of line. Although they are still denying his right to a lawyer, they are not kicking him in the groin (testicles) as they did in the second half of the play. This latter half really exposes the reader to the twisted interrogator Carl. In the first half of the play, it seemed as if Carl was trying to hold Bartlett back, but as the play goes on, Carl says, "There is an imbalance of authority right now, and we need to correct that" (170). From this moment on, Carl becomes a forceful and ruthless interrogator.
Irony is a central motif in this drama. Bartlett and Carl both are complete hypocrites. Carl says, "You bitch and you moan and complain how overrun you are by us, and all the time you can't wait to get here. You'd kill for a visa. That pisses me off. That's hypocrisy. Why not just come clean and own up that you hate everything this country stands for?" (173). This quote is full of irony as Carl is telling Khaled he is a complete hypocrite, and throughout the entire conversation Khaled has been pleading for his rights because that is what he loves about America and what the country stands for. The investigators are too ignorant to realize this and their single-mindedness is really brought out.
By far the most ironic quote of the drama comes towards the end on page 181 when the investigators are leaving and Bartlett says, "And about those evaluation forms: they're no joke. It's your chance to respond. That's what this is all about. At the end of the day, we're fighting to safeguard that right. It sounds counterintuitive. But that's the struggle for freedom for you. It's never as straightforward as you'd like it to be". This comes right after Bartlett has ranted to Khaled about his options which basically all lead to him being guilty. The whole interrogation has involved Bartlett and Karl beating and choking Khaled, ripping down his shorts, taking his belongings, and denying him a lawyer, but they assert they are trying to "safeguard" his rights. Give me a break.
The play ends with a closing dialogue by Asfoor. After all of these terrible things have happened to Khaled, Asfoor speaks this long statement that is somewhat of a soliloquey but directed towards Khaled. I believe he is calling out to Khaled to join the Islamic extremist ranks. Asfoor has already been identified as a terrorist earlier in the drama, and his last few sentences can definitely be interpreted as a recruitment speech for Khaled. "You're stuck, I know you are. You've lost your way. I can feel it. I can help. Most of all...above else, Khaled...I know how to inspire..I know how to inspire". I think and underlying goal of Yussef El Guindi in writing this drama was to show why some Muslims can easily be drawn to the radical extremist ways. After horrible mistreatment by the U.S. government, why would Khaled stay loyal to the country. I would think he would want to do something about it. Ironically, the interrogation to see whether Khaled was a terrorist ultimately could have lead him to become one.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Waiting For Lefty

Waiting for Lefty focuses on the terrible working conditions and wages given to American workers during the 30s and the Great Depression. In particular, the drama focuses on taxi drivers and their desire to strike, and various individual stories and plotlines. If the play were to be revised to be applicable to a current day situation/issue, the Occupy Wall Street movement would be a great fit.
Occupy Wall Street is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future. There have been protests worldwide since the movement began on September 17, 2011. Here is a link to a great video describing the movement.

The audience that the play would be targeting would be the 99% of the entire population that is not the rich 1%. This is similar to Waiting for Lefty in that the drama is trying to influence people worldwide to stand up and strike against their poor working conditions. Odet's drama is clearly inspired by communists like Karl Marx and his "Communist Manifesto". Because of this "red" affiliation and the riots that the play caused after some performances, the drama was banned in many places. If theatre was still the main means of entertainment for the masses, and a drama with Occupy Wall Street's motives shown to the audience, as well as calling upon them to stand up and do something, it is possible that the play could be banned. There could very well be riots in the streets, and innocent wealthy Americans being harrassed, beaten, or killed. Although this is extreme, it could very well happen because the movement's motives are very inspiring and appealing to the masses.

Some of the characters' roles would remain in the new play, and some would have to be changed and added. I believe the scene between Miller and Fayette would involve not a rich man like Fayette trying to bribe Miller to spy on a scientist, but rather be a scene where a rich wall street banker would be trying to bribe a politician into making favorable laws for the banker. If he didn't, the banker, who is the politician's biggest campaign donor, would not give him any money. One of the main focuses of the OWS movement is how the rich can dictate politics and global affairs because they are the largest campaign donors. The setting of the play should definitely be in New York City and/or Washington DC, as the main targets of the OWS movement are Wall Street Financiers and politicians. There would be a large crowd gathered to protest outside of the headquarters of Goldman Sacs.

The scene between Joe and Edna would reflect the relationship between a dedicated Occupy Wall Street protester and his wife. His family is starting to get their possessions claimed, and are finding it hard to make ends meet. The wife is threatening to take the kids and leave him if he doesn't find a way to start getting more income. She is threatening to leave him for an ex boyfriend who is a successful banker on Wall Street, the very enemy that Joe is trying to fight. In the end, Joe gets the movement to compensate him for all his time and hard work. Another scene that would be good would reflect the risky, ignorant moves that Wall Street made to create the greatest financial recession since the Great Depression. This would show a banker knowingly bundling bad mortgages together, and obtaining a good rating for them, and selling them to investors.

The play would end with an intense rally outside of the White House or on Wall Street with a catchy slogan being repeatedly chanted. This would incite the audience to take action and finally accomplish the motives of the movement. Occupy Wall Street would be a perfect fit for an updated version of Odet's Waiting for Lefty.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Elephant Man

The Elephant Man was quite an interesting play that I had not read or seen in my previous academic studies. Seeing it in its film, performance, and text version definitely provided me with a better understanding of the drama. My understanding was especially increased by attending the performance that the TCU theatre put on. The "dream" scene in elephant man was definitely explained better in the performance. When I was reading the text, it was very confusing as to whose dream it was, and what was going on. The play really illuminates the fact that it is Treves's nightmare where he is being put on display and Merrick is lecturing about his normality and the pain he can inflict on others. This definitely forces Treves into a reflection of his life. When the actor who was playing Merrick, after speaking in a somewhat retarded voice all play, is suddenly speaking fluently in a lecture hall setting, it is clear that he is speaking about Treves. I must admit, I was very shocked when the actor started speaking fluently.
The performance also eliminates some of the limitations of simply reading the text. The emotions and expressions of the characters are better understood by the audience. I thought the interactions between Miss Kendall and John were especially entertaining and illuminating. Both actors did a great job. John's expressions after Miss Kendall shook his hand were of so much happiness, shock, and bewilderment. In the text, Merrick just simply says "thank you for coming" to which Mrs. Kendall says, "But it was my pleasure, thank you". This simply does not show his true emotions from the handshake.
The film version of "The Elephant Man" was very entertaining for me personally. I can't believe how young Anthony Hopkins was for this performance, but he truly did a great job as Treves-what a great actor. The only problem with the film, however, was that it did not follow the text that Bernard Pomerance wrote. The whole debacle with Merrick getting stolen, the watchers destroying Merrick's model and completely harassing him, and the opera/musical/play that they all attended was included in the film, but not was not actually in the text.
The live performance allows for the play to be completely based on the text Pomerance wrote. It is not trying to appeal to a giant, national audience as the film is. The directors of the film could have seen the play as having certain limitations in attracting a sufficient film audience. The additional scenes that I mentioned previously are definitely entertaining and emotionally appealing additions that move the audience. The extensive badgering and persecution of John by the visitors led by the night watchman evokes sympathy and sadness for John in the audience. Also, the fact that this led to his previous owner stealing him away, beating him, and locking him in a cage for not being able to provide him with entertainment money adds to this. The opposite emotions are conjured when Treves, John, and the crew go to the theatre production:

Mrs. Kendall dedicates the performance to him and he receives a standing ovation. His conversation with Treves afterwards shows how truly gratifying an experience it was for John, and how content with his life he is. This is the last experience John has before John dies. It is a truly happy ending for the audience.
Another interesting point that the play really illuminated that the film did not include, was John's intelligent rebuttal of his previous owner Ross's business proposition. He says, "You left me to die. Be satisfied Ross. You've had enough. You kept me like an animal in darkness. You come back and want to rob me again. will you not be satisfied? Now I am a man like others, you want me to return?" John has truly become a man and a full-functioning person in society. He is not owned by others and told what to do, but rather can speak for himself and have control over what is best for himself. The film still portrayed him as very weak, when he is dragged off by Ross. In reality, he has overcome his weaknesses.
In conclusion, being exposed the performance, film, and text of " The Elephant Man" was very beneficial to my understanding of the play. There are advantages and disadvantages of all three, but it was beneficial to me as a student to have experienced them all.