Racine uses classics to teach in modernity

February 5, 2008

“The passions are portrayed merely in order to show the aberrations to which they give rise; and vice is painted throughout in colours which bring out its hideousness and hatefulness. That is really the objective which everyone working for the public should have in mind. And it is what the tragedians of early times aimed at above all else. Their theatre was a school in which virtue was taught not less well than in the schools of the philosophers. Hence it was that Aristotle was prepared to lay down rules for drama; and Socrates, the wisest of philosophers, did not disdain to lend a hand to the composition of Euripides’ tragedies. It would be greatly to be desired that modern writings were as sound and full of useful precepts as the works of these poets. This might perhaps provide a means of reconciling to tragedy a host of people famous for their piety and their doctrine who have recently condemned it and who would no doubt pass a more favourable judgement on it if writers were as keen to edify their spectators as to amuse them, thereby complying with the real purpose of tragedy.”

-Racine’s Preface to Phaedra (translated by John Cairncross, Penguin Group, London, 2004.)

As artists of the contemporary world, do you feel compelled to teach?


What would you be?

January 23, 2008

As one of my favorite questions for getting a little insight into a personality, and I do mean just a little.

Pirate or Cowboy?

Post #50, a scene without answer

December 25, 2007

Well here has come my fiftieth post. And that is all there is to that now is there.


So what more to the score must now be added, well that is where we are at hand.


This blog promotes the discussion, appreciation, critical analysis, and in general culture and communication of art and the world it lives in, namely this world.


So for this fiftieth post I say happy holidays and a wonderful new year.


For myself I want to thank those that have engaged in my discussions and present this:


A scene without answers:

ACT ONE A simple conference room with three tables set up in a box like formation, the missing side of the box is the side closest to the audience. Each table has two chairs on the outer side all with filled. Behind the table to the back, parallel with the audience, on the wall lies a reproduction of Frank Stella’s The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II. On either side of the painting are two large windows both open with the curtains tied back. The view from the windows is that of a clear blue sky, the room is a few floors up and its view is not blocked by any other buildings.. The rest of the room has a simple design, reflecting its sole purpose as a place for conference and discussion. There is a table off to one side fitted with coffee and refinements while each table has a pitcher of water and glasses. The room is lit from over head resembling simple yet formal lighting.             Behind the back table sits F. STELLA and N. M. C., they are talking and shuffling through papers. F. STELLA is an older man, but clearly not an old man who has found a casual formal dress which, he thinks, makes him look like a chic urbanite. N. M. C. is clearly an older man with an air of importance. He has decided for this preliminary meeting to wear the traditional judge outfit, even though it is not necessary. It is in his opinion that those in attendance must show him that respect, for him the clothes help achieve that. Sitting behind the table to stage-right is MATHIAS and UNDERSTUDY AS MATHIAS REPRESENTATION, MATHIAS REPRESENTATION is very much engaged in his conversation with MATHIAS who seems to be much less interested and keeps staring off stage. MATHIAS appears to be a middle-aged not in his prime anymore though. He is wearing a somewhat beat up suit, it’s the only formal outfit he has. MATHIAS REPRESENTATION is of younger appearance and is dressed in a newly purchased formal outfit, very proud of it.  Behind the table across from them sits MEMORY and UNDERSTUDY AS MEMORY REPRESENTATION. Both of them are not in any kind of discussion but are staring rather angrily at MATHIAS. MEMORY, like MATHIAS is just coming out of the prime of her life, the most formal outfit she has is her “Sunday best” for church, which is what she has on now. Her representation, like MATHIAS’S is wearing a newly bought formal suit; it appears as if the two representations have a little bit of a competition going on. Lastly, behind the window to stage-right is NAIRD-NOM standing on scaffolding cleaning the window. NAIRD-NOM is in full uniform for the job and appears to be an older man who has found the one job that doesn’t have a retirement age.             Directorial note: If the dialog of this act is to be changed by the direct it must still follow the production constraint designed by the playwright, every line must be a question. 

            MEMORY (to MATHIAS). What is it you’re looking at…my dear?

            MATHIAS (without turning to face her). What does it matter to you?

            F. STELLA (to everyone). Do you guys want to finish this or not?

            N. M. C. (after checking his watch). Are you all aware of the time? Can we move onto custody of the children?

            MATHIAS REPRESENTATION. Do you really think we can resolve that question today?

            MEMORY REPRESENTATION. And why do you think we can’t?

            MATHIAS REP (now annoyed with the question). Can we leave the children for tomorrow’s meeting? Don’t you think we’ve argued enough today?

            MEMORY. Why are you so keen on postponing this discussion? Judge, isn’t it obvious that I should have custody of the children? Did he, (points to MATHIAS) not demonstrate through his actions a lack of responsibility?

            MATHIAS (focusing back onto the argument). Are you suggesting that this one incident is enough to ignore the years of service I have given our children?

            MEMORY. What service?

            MATHIAS. How can you say that?

            F. STELLA (to MEMORY). Is there a way we can work around absolute custody of the children? Judge (turns to face N. M. C.) don’t you think that custody is too serious of an issue for this preliminary conference?

            N. M. C. (with a pondering expression). Is it possible for us to discuss the incident in its entirety today?

            MATHIAS (a little puzzled). You want me to tell you the story of my transgressions?

            N. M. C. Don’t you think it will help your case in my eyes if we all can get the incident in question out into the open?

            MATHIAS. And what relevance does my story have with the division of assists?

            MEMORY (very annoyed with MATHIAS’s attitude). You think it has no relevance?

            MATHIAS. What relevance does it have?

            MEMORY REP. You tell us?

            N. M. C. (to MEMORY REP). But on the other hand, don’t you think his account of it will be bias?

            MEMORY REP. Is there another account of the incident? (To MEMORY). Wasn’t your late uncle with Mathias when it happened? What’s his name again? Edouard?

            MEMORY. Are you sure it’s not R. G.?

            MATHIAS. What does he have to do with this?

            F. STELLA. Was he here with you during the time of your affair?

            MATHIAS. And if he was?

            F. STELLA. Shouldn’t his account of what happened be inspected?

            N. M. C. Do we have a home or mailing address for the fellow?

            MEMORY. Judge, you didn’t hear that he died last year?

            N. M. C. Did he really? How will we ever move forward without him? Do you have access to any of his records?

            MEMORY REP (proudly). Aren’t his personal journals on file at the Museum?

            MEMORY (a little surprised). Are they?

            N. M. C. (impatiently). Mr. Stella can you get us a copy of his journal?

            F. STELLA (Standing up). Can you handle them without me?

            N. M. C. (chuckling). Can you hurry?

 (F. STELLA stands, takes one last look at the group of people all with frustrated expressions, he exists stage-right and on his way out waves to the window washer who waves back, excitedly.) 

N. M. C. (annoyed as he turns back to face the group). Okay everyone, can we try at least to get through some more of these proceedings while we wait for the journal?

MATHIAS REP (with an air of procedure). Shall we move to the marital assists then?

N. M. C. (looking to the rest of the group). Are there any objections?

MATHIAS REP (very pretentiously). Now MEMORY, did you work during the marriage?

MEMORY (annoyed at the question). Don’t you know the answer?

MATHIAS REP. Can you give it for the record?

MEMORY REP (very annoyed). Why do we have to get into this? Wasn’t her job to take care of the children? Do you not think that that is a full time job in itself? How can you accuse my client of not doing her part?

MATHIAS REP (Proudly). Should we take that as a no?

MEMORY (frustrated but calm). What do you think?

MATHIAS REP. Does that not entitled my client to 100% of the assists acquired during the marriage?

MEMORY. Do you think that without me he would have the same amount of assists?

N. M. C. Shall we leave the question of assists for when we have a marriage counselor again?

MATHIAS REP. And what, then, does the judge want to work out now?

N. M. C. (thinking to himself). Where are we in regards to the frequent flyer miles?

MATHIAS REP. Aren’t we nowhere?

MEMORY REP. Didn’t we decide that my client should have the miles?

MATHIAS REP. When did we decide that?

MEMORY REP. Are you accusing me of lying?


MEMORY REP. Judge, aren’t you going to stop these ridiculous outbursts?

N. M. C. (impatient, frustrated, and a little angry). Mathias representation, can we leave the arguing for after the discussion?

MATHIAS REP. You think I am willing to sit back and let this hack of a layer fuck over my client?

N. M. C. Are you seriously going to question my authority here? Now, can we get back on track?

MEMORY REP. Is the judge aware that the question of ownership over the miles was dealt with on a preliminary basis resulting in my client’s ownership of all the miles due to the fact that their origin came from the use of my client when visiting her dying uncle?

MATHIAS REP. Are you aware that it was my client who financed her trips, thus resulting in his ownership of the miles?

MEMORY REP. And are you aware that your client prevented my client from securing employment due to her responsibilities on the home front?


(Around this point MATHIAS will get extremely bored with the proceedings and get up and walk off stage, this will surprise the entire cast on stage as well as the window washer. This will end the current argument.)


N. M. C. (Stunned). Can you believe he just did that?

MATHIAS REP (also stunned). Does he not know that the scene is not over?

MEMORY REP. Is this not a great example of his irresponsibility?

N. M. C. (confused). Are you talking about the actor or the character?

MEMORY REP. Does it matter?

MEMORY (frustrated but confident). Judge, don’t you think we’ve had enough of this? Isn’t it best at this point to push this back just one more day?

N. M. C. (thinking it through). Does the legal representation support this motion? (He eyes both REPRESENTATIVES while asking the question).

MATHIAS REP. Do you think we should resolve the issue of this “Uncle’s journal” first? (MATHIAS REP. makes quotation movement with his hands).

MEMORY REP. How long do you think he will be? Is he really going all the way to the museum?

MATHIAS REP. Isn’t the museum way uptown?

MEMORY. Can we just store the journal here when Mr. Stella returns and examine it tomorrow?

N. M. C. (looking offstage). Are you serious? (Eyes the audience, and then turns back to who ever he is talking to offstage, he is receiving instructions through an earpiece). What should I say though?… But isn’t he supposed to come back tomorrow?… Why aren’t we gona do scene two?

MEMORY (looking offstage as well). We’re not doing scene two?

MATHIAS REP. Do they really want to make these changes?


(As the level of confusion amongst the characters rises, F. STELLA will return from stage-left, opposite side to which he left from. In his hands, he is holding an incredibly old and fragile journal, a very large document that looks to be at least one hundred years old. F. STELLA quickly finds his seat and eyes the other characters to get their attention.)


            F. STELLA (to everyone). Did you all miss me?

            N. M. C. (still confused). Did you find the journal?

            F. STELLA (holding up the old document). What does it look like?

            MEMORY REP. How did you get to the museum and back so fast?

            F. STELLA. What makes you think I went to the museum?

            MATHIAS REP. Isn’t that where you were going to go to get it?

            F. STELLA. Is that where I was supposed to go?

            N. M. C. (more confused than ever). You didn’t find that here did you?

            F. STELLA. Do you think I went all the way to the museum?

            N. M. C. We have a copy of his journal here? Why? How? Since when?

            F. STELLA. Wouldn’t it be best to read it for the purpose of this conference first, before going into how I got it here?

            N. M. C. (again looking at his watch). Shall we read it after a short recess?

            MEMORY REP (to MEMORY). Is that okay with you?

            MEMORY (to MEMORY REP). But we will go over it today, right?

            MATHIAS REP. Can we take a break first though? I mean, don’t you think it is best if we have Mathias here for the reading?

            N. M. C. (to everyone). So meeting back here in about twenty minuets? Does that work for everyone?

 (In silence they all nod and get up. MATHIAS REP, N. M. C., and F. STELLA exit stage-right while MEMORY and MEMORY REP exit stage-left. Upon their exit NAIRD-NOM , who has been quietly washing the one left window this entire time signals off stage-right with his hand and then the lights fade out and the curtain falls. This intermission will be no more than five minuets, just to change the set.)