This is the wall where we taped up all of our brainstorming and other things we’ve generated. If we were to put this wall in MoMA, I would call the installation, “This is where the Unabomber lives.”
Anyway, I was going to summarize what we did on Tuesday, but instead I’m going to paste the electronic texts and Gchat conversations I had about it. My English teacher always said, “Show, don’t tell.” So here I am, showing you the elephant in the room, how much we love America, and how we are talking about things when we don’t know how to talk about them.
Sarah is our dramaturg/associate producer. I always turn to her when I want big words and interesting questions, so I G-chatted with her about Tuesday’s workshop. She is very helpful, and can Google like a motherfucker.
me: Yoo hoo hello. Soooo, I’m having some trouble summarizing what we did last night for the blog.
Sarah: Hm. Yes.
Well—where did we start?
like, even before what we did last night
me: Well, the last we left off was the monuments exercise
I explained that
me: but I didn’t say anything about the new lists
Sarah: but like way before this workshop the giant elephant in the room / on stage is how the hell we figure out what our portrayal of native americans is gonna look like
or, if we do it at all
or, how we make the play not about that
because there’s a really interesting history of portrayal of race on the american stage, but that might be a different play
me: right, and how we don’t wnat ot be so sensitive that it’s offensive in the other direction
like Disney’s Pocahontas
and the stuff we’ve been wrestling with in this process is so much more than that!
like, what is a museum?
what is history?
who tells a story and why?
why is america so interesting?
me: right, but we can’t ignore elephant either
Sarah: so I think last night we started a kind of taxonomy of ways we relate to The American Indian
and then kind of divorced those stereotypes / assumptions / tropes / caricatures from the really loaded politics of it
or tried to?
is that even possible?
me: I don’t know. It might not be. I’m having a similar conversation with Michael over text right now
Sarah: oh whoops he texted me an hour ago and i just noticed
me: I wish we were in Hawaii. People just make fun of each other’s race’s and no one’s sensitive
Although no one makes fun of Hawaiians. Because Pele will get you, and it’s not nice.
Sarah: well, so the proper terror is instilled
Sarah: it’s a status thing…
there aren’t reservations in HI are there?
me: no, there’s Hawaiian Homes lands, which are only for Hawaiian people to build homes
but it’s not like a segregated area with it’s own government
me: there’s not really enough space in Hawaii to have reservations
me: also, by that time, America had already taken up all the land everywhere
Sarah: i mean also since it’s so small it’s just a more pervasive part of the culture right?
Sarah: WHY CAN’T WE ALL BE LIKE HAWAII???
me: I KNOW.
Like how we were saying that most of us didn’t have a personal relatonship to Native Americans
it was all from movies and child’s play, that’s not true in hawaii
though i’m sure if we were making this play in new mexico it would be a different story
me: oh yes, that’s true.
Sarah: new york is kind of startlingly provincial sometimes
me: And America is so fucked up. I love America.
Really though, I think the white elephant is that we always make fun of our subject matter, but we’re usually making fun of the way the audience might expect to see the subject matter, but it’s hard to show people that really we are making fun of them, not what they’re seeing on stage.
it’s a fine line between making fun of people’s expectations about how indians are portrayed and making fun of indians
in other words
but then also, i do think we’ve found another bigger subject
which is about how fucked up america is and how we love it
and our way into that somehow is telling this story
and in telling this story we deal with the inciting incident in the whole terrible tragedy of native american - european relations in this country
by virtue of the way we work, we tell stories but we also are kind of obsessed with HOW they are told
so we have to deal with how that tragedy has been told for the last 400 years
(i.e., not as a tragedy…)
(also, in really horrible insensitive ways…)
and we take that and shape it in a way that is meaningful and revelatory to us
and hopefully to our audiences, who will be hopelessly implicated in the event
whatever it turns out to be
me: MUAHAHAHAHAHAH. SUCKERS! Thank you and goodnight!
Sarah: / / / / / bow and curtsy, bow and curtsy / / / /
is that how you spell curtsy?
what a weird word
me: I think that’s right.
I dunno, does that help?
I think it helped me a little bit
me: Yes it helped. I basically arrived at the same conclusion with Michael over text. America is fucked up. We love it. And I want everyone to love America when they leave the play. I LOVE YOU AMERICA!!! Big sloppy smooches you batshit son of a bitch!
Sarah: Now shape up and be all we know you can be!
and get to the gym every once in a while, ya fat slob
go go go
me: AMERICA FOR THE WIN!!!
Sarah: the end.
me: Well, thank you Sarah. Your big words and thoughtful conversations are a comfort, as always.
Sarah: it’s why i’m here!
me: Dramaturg for the win!
ok, back to my day job! Wheee!
Sarah: me too!
me: Ok byyyeeeeeeeee.
Sarah: thx for writing this up!
me: cut, paste, blog, done!
MEANWHILE…I was having this conversation with Michael over text. But first, another sunset picture from the rooftop of the Bushwick Starr:
ML: america’s dirty little secret. donya as pocahontas. bound. gagged. kept in the shower of the upstairs bathroom. the third mrs karbunkle guides you over with a finger wave. glint in her eye imploring you to look. shhh! she says. shhh! nothing to see here, with a wink.
LVH: Ewwwww that is so creepy
ML: its the silencing of the native american voice. i feel like we r always having to watch ourselves. cant tell if that is good or not.
LvH: Oh! I thought it was like a horror movie & we were going to do something bad to poor Poca. I mean, my instinct is to be really racist because I think racism is hilarious, but at the same time I don’t want to make a play that’s about being really racist. Like I don’t want the only thing people remember about our show to be that it was funny racist. I want them to come out of it loving America.
ML: but is that forcing ourselves to work toward an end goal? loving america? america IS racist and fucked up
LvH: I know. I love it for those things. Like [REDACTED] loves her crack head ex boyfriend for being a fucked up crackhead because he’s so fascinating. This text coversation goes perfectly with the gchat I’m having with Sarah
ML: Add it in!
LvH: Yeah!!! But I will edit out [REDACTED]’s name
ML: i just feel like i need to walk on eggshells and sometimes i just need to go all out first before i pull back. america is dirty and secretive and complicated
LvH: I know what you mean. I’m feeling the need to act out so I can know I made the wrong choice & then find the more interesting choice
ML: exactly. and i feel like i need to be so cautious
LvH: Well we should talk about that. Like with the group. And then we can be like, uh, Michael & I are going to step out into the roof & be really racist. Just to get it out of our systems.
ML: and incluide all this in gchat. so meta!
…and then we continued over Gchat. And I had some bad ideas. And we loved America more:
me: to continue….
the expected thing to do would be to make something ironic about native americans, or be really sensitive, or try to be really authentic like New World Colin Farrell authentic.
the unexpected thing to do would be to ask a native american theater group what is the most offensive way they could imagine this story being told
and then do like half of it
or like pause the show and be like, and now we have real native americans here to tell their own story
and then be like, ok thank you for coming
tiger lily does her dance
Michael: it’s not really so much about audience expectations i care about
if anything we’ve learned these past few days, it’s about how “personal” everyone’s perceptions of american history are
and how it’s all about how these personal stories get told
and how fucked up and dirty and messy and complicated and dark they are
so less about catering to an audience perception or expectation, i think it’s really good that we are exploring our own fucked up attitudes towards this material
wanting it to be easy
or wanting to run away from it
not being forced to be responsible
not get bogged down in being pc
not taking the easy offensive way out
and how does all of that get processed by each of us individually? and filtered? and what does that then generate?
me: and then does it get simplified and made into a myth
Michael: i don’t know if we need to simplify
i think the act of making this into a 90 minute piece of theater is simplifying enough
or at least constraining enough
me: no we don’t, I was just thinking about the way other myths get simplfied
Michael: i think they are being simplified by the way that we are perceiving them
or if not simplified, as least reduced to the essence
then those get layered to create something fraught with complications
me: mmm hmm
Michael: is that a good mm hmm? or a “not really sure what you’re talking about” mm hmm
me: that’s a “interesting” mm hmm
Michael: i mean fuck the story. if we call it pocahontas, then it’s about pocahontas even if there is no pocahontas, just us struggling with the idea of pocahontas
me: i get what you’re saying
Michael: pocahontas is the elephant in the room
me: like what if we fuck the story, fuck pocahontas, fuck john smith and then otehr things happen
Michael: or more exactly, the chick in the shower
peeling ears of corn
so then are we just making up our own story?
Michael: I have no idea.
a scene for our showing has just been written
i now need to go pay bills and write a contract
me: i need to go help the people exercise
Michael: we are doing good things
good american things
we should be proud
me: I am very proud of our american things
Michael: I AM ERICA!
me: I AM ERICA!*
So, that’s what that is, very transparently. In sum, we are considering the elephant in the room, and we love, love, love America. Here is another beautiful picture of a beautiful American sunset. AMERICA!
Laura von Holt, Associate Artistic Director
*You may remember this sentence from previous blog posts. Somehow in one of the exercises, “America” became “My name is Erica,” and now when I say things like “I AM ERICA!” I am filled with a great sense of national pride. OMFG, I can’t stop loving America.