February 10, 2014

Text for the Rhubarb! 35 Performances for 35 Years Cabaret


[This text was written for the Rhubarb! 35 Performances for 35 Years Cabaret.]

The year is 1989. I am eighteen years old and for some reason insist that everyone call me Death Waits, insist that this is my name. I have written a short play entitled A Brood of Doves and it has been accepted into Rhubarb! It is the first play I have ever written. I am assigned a director. She comes from Israel. I was raised Jewish but don’t self-identify as a Jew. It is only much later that I learn that Jewish artists have a history of taking on new names to conceal their Jewish origins and wonder if this has anything to do with the reason I changed my name to Death Waits. In my Jewish upbringing there was no mention of Palestine, therefore at age eighteen I have never heard of Palestine and am not yet politicized around the topic of Israel. The director I’m assigned comes from Israel. A Brood of Doves is heavily influenced by my juvenile reading of Foucault. It features two men, two women and a gun. They take turns pointing the gun at each other while discussing power. I have not looked at this text in a very long time and am sure I would be mortified if, for some reason, I were forced to read it today. The way the director directs my text makes it seem misogynist, as if the men were continuously abusing the women. This was definitely not my intention. It is a minor scandal. Some people feel my text and intentions were misogynist. I am traumatized by the experience and, in some sense, remain traumatized by it to this day. It was my first experience making theatre. The lesson I took from it is that the director has the power. A Brood of Doves was meant to be a meditation on the discursive nature of power. The lesson I took from it was: if you were to take a single text, and five different directors, they could make the same text say five different things. That was the moment I decided I would be the only one to ever direct my own work. I have only strayed from this policy a few times in my life, but every time I have done so I have found the experience incredibly painful. The decision to be the only one who is allowed to direct my own texts eventually led me to abandon playwriting altogether, to search for a new kind of theatre based on collaboration instead of on writing. If I didn’t want someone else to direct my words, I also didn’t want to put words in anyone else’s mouth. It seemed more ethical to me if performers said and did things they could take full responsibility for. In this sense the negative experience of A Brood of Doves set me on the artistic path I am still on to this day. This path had a painful origin, which is perhaps the reason it has mainly been painful. Or perhaps the reason lies elsewhere.


No comments: