Sunday, May 07, 2006

THEATER: Can theater offer us a better political performance?

"Could our political life benefit from allowing hatred to speak openly once again? Unlike theater, politics is a show that's on 24-7, and a politics dense with bigotry makes for an uncivilized and exhausting world for those who are bigotry's targets." Royal Shakespeare Company's Prioress's Tale from Chaucer presents anti-Semitism; Wooster Group's Emperor Jones presents racism (Washington Post)

Chaucer's Slurring Words RSC Offers Blunt Talk About Voicing Now-Taboo Hatreds
By Philip Kennicott Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, May 7, 2006 ....The exciting thing about seeing the Prioress's tale or "The Emperor Jones" done in such straightforward fashion is that we can understand the psychology behind bigory -- and in the case of the Prioress, why some people found bigotry so attractive. And once you understand the psychology, it becomes just another entry in the catalogue of things that people used to think and say; it ceases (after the initial shock) to be obscene, and it feels, in the end, very old-fashioned.
Perhaps, then, we might try adjusting our response to ugly slurs in a way that mimics these theater pieces: Be curious rather than offended. Thus the words lose the power of obscenity, and the psychology of those who use them is laid bare. In the long run, they may end up with the status of most words one finds in Chaucer: relegated by dictionary-makers to "archaic."...

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