A Good Fast
By Caridad Svich
"We note that theater has ceased
to exist for some people,
and for nearly everyone."
-- Salvador Dali
I'm in a place bankrupt of history,
In a place called Slaughter:
A land's gleam --
Buy the poster, the T-shirt, the DVD, the soundtrack, the cell-phone
cover, the CD-Rom, the backpack, the sneakers while you sip a cappuccino,
a double latte, a decaffeinated herbal tea, a Martini, a Cosmopolitan,
a mojito, and a smoothie as you smoke a filtered cigarette, a Dominican
cigar, an ecstasy slim wearing your Nicotine patch and downing your
next dose of Prozac. If speed as in faster, fastest, and faster still
is the way we live now in the age of text messaging, digital cameras,
cyber-gaming, cyber-sex, and good old-fashioned burlesque revived for
a new time then the sheer proliferation of entertainment gambits, opportunities,
and blatant merchandising cash-ins which vie for our attention is indicative
of the seemingly insatiable appetite that has been created over the
last forty-odd years for instant hits of pleasure in American culture
(instant hits which have been mega-co-opted by Japanese youth culture
at a rate of lightning cubed).
The ravenous eye burns through
flesh straight through carcass. Divulge, it says, and indulge everything
you desire. A ceaseless appetite makes the eye keep seeking. Hold one
pose and another. Burn one image and another. Flesh becomes silver spools
cradled by gluttonous hands. The spools turn and spew orbit-less wonders
of earth-bound profanity. Food is crap, life is crap, love is crap.
Everything's damn plastic. You open a cardboard cup of pasta, you eat.
Sustenance is important.
The American audience has not only more options
to choose from for their entertainment buck, but more ways to satisfy
the need for cultural nourishment. The twenty-screen cine-plex is the
standard by which many audience members measure their quality time.
If you can't get tickets to one movie, then go to the next. Discrimination
is low. Maximum experience is the prime. And when satellite TV, cable,
and the net are also on the list of "things to do" the compartment space
for experience grows smaller and smaller as the options expand. The
media, the great monster we all love, keep the news spinning as if there's
no story they haven't buried.
On this stage war is another
dot midst the many wounds bled for our ready gaze. Our theatre is in
the inch by inch diagram we have constructed for the pleasure of endless
confession: the dais we have set forth for the revolving mannequins
to question our privacy. Hah. We call out. And our voices splinter the
One war begins, another is interrupted, and while
sheer hatred increases all over the globe and the effects of nationalism
and tribalism are witnessed from one country to another, political maneuvers
are set in motion by unseen strategists behind the walls of power (strategists
indebted to the global-fueling economies of illegal drugs, oil, and
cheap labour). These maneuvers emerge retooled and reshaped in the blunt-speak
of government officials, puppet kings, and late night TV pundits. Meanwhile,
civil liberties continue to erode, the poor sink lower and lower on
the economic ladder, health care is a luxury afforded by the very few,
and the appetite for consumption grows in exponential degrees as proto-teens
dominate the fashion and music markets, and thirty and forty-somethings
seek greater and greater release for anxieties that they cannot name,
or whose names change every two years according to the next and next
medical study published on the pages of USA TODAY.
This is reality split and
turned inside out for a new century, where the body of murder sits inside
a tabloid celluloid Polaroid strip ready to be worshipped. Trinkets
sold on the late night TV of hope springing ever eternal.
Within the swirl of this culture, American theatre
is a micro-speck, a blip, and at best, for most, a tourist attraction
to be visited once a year at the price of $100-150 dollars a head (which
is what the standard Broadway musical event tends to go for these days).
As a result, this form means less and less to the culture at large,
as tattoo parlors, thrift shops, and computer software supply stores
are crammed one against the other, fighting for deep pockets made slim
by the economy. The fact that theatre is not integrated, as it is in
other countries, into the fabric of culture, into the national or community
discourse - in other words, theatre matters in many parts of the world,
but not in the US - has created a schizoid phenomenon I call the "theatrical
puddle for the eminently theatrical." In this puddle actors, writers,
directors, producers and designers swim with furious fins to stay alive.
One eye looks toward the future, while another at who will jump into
the puddle next and take up whatever space is left to make your voice
heard and/or seen.
There's no time anymore, not
to waste. After you've been tranced-out raved up pumped down blissed
out broken by every beat and kicked in the solar like an avalanche,
there's no sense thinking how it all done end: somehow, some other you
got be in this half-bit state. Talking bout mean time.
Competition has always been fierce in the arts,
as it is in other businesses (and yes, for all high-minded purposes,
at the end of the day, theatre is among many other things, a business,
while also being for some of us a life, a religion, a creed, a way station,
and the best pleasure principle we can name) yet the very shallowness
of the puddle has made competition even fiercer. There are fewer and
fewer venues where new work is produced, because the empires of profit
are governed by the economics of security rather than risk. The comfort
of staging the familiar, be it a revival of an old play or musical,
or a new work written in a familiar popular form, maintains the theatrical
status quo. A large pool of artists, thus, vie for the same five or
six slots open to new plays during the theatre season. In addition,
amongst this large pool of talented dramatists (and the US has one of
the deepest, strongest talent pools around), there are those who see
their time in the theatre as no more than a stepping stone to work in
the true communicative mediums of our culture: film and television.
If theatre mattered at one time in US society
(the era of vaudeville and burlesque; the age of melodrama and birth
of naturalism; and during the 1940s and 1950s when television ironically
brought theatre excerpts courtesy of variety shows into millions of
homes that had never seen a scene from Death of a Salesman,
or heard a song from Annie Get your Gun), that time is long
The early symbiotic relationship between the
new baby form television and live theatre created a strong interest
in the US for live performance. There was genuine excitement among tele-viewers
for who would be on the next Ed Sullivan Show, Milton Berle show, Red
Skelton show, and Steve Allen show. Audiences were eager to see Julie
Andrews in My Fair Lady, and Marlon Brando in A Streetcar
Named Desire. In turn, these performers began to move into film.
As the television variety show came to an end, and rock n'roll and the
Vietnam war shifted audiences' musical tastes and socio-political concerns,
Hair was among the last of the Broadway shows to be showcased
on network airwaves (the televised annual Tony Awards notwithstanding).
The 1960s was a time of revolution in the US
and theatre was indeed part of it. Experimentation with form and content,
the breaking down of barriers between performer and audience, the work
of Grotowski, and the revived interest in the spiritual polemics of
Antonin Artaud signaled clearly through the flames of culture. Plays
moved out of the literary canon and into the performance space. Artists
wanted to do away with the shelf-life antiquity of the printed word
in favor of live, raw, in your face, in your space work. Plays and texts
were ephemeral, as ephemeral as the act of performance itself.
Subsequently, it is hard to trace a continuum
of work, to document and notate material created in the last fifty years,
and let alone try to connect the dots in the university system where
contemporary theatre still means to the average student the works of
Beckett, Pinter, and maybe Mamet. In fact, with the rare exception of
Tony Kushner's Angels in America, and Eve Ensler's The
Vagina Monologues, most American theatre students' view of contemporary
work (at the undergraduate and sometimes graduate level) jumps from
Harold Pinter to David Mamet (not an unlikely jump, since Mamet owes
a significant debt to Pinter as a dramatist) but this means that the
work by other artists -- Maria Irene Fornes's clear-eyed ballads, Caryl
Churchill's polyphonic dreams, The Wooster Group's acid visions, John
Jesurun's poetic meditations, Erik Ehn's spiritual epiphanies and Sarah
Kane's pulsating elegies for humanity -- has been left not only on the
margins, but in the basement. Adventurous professors go into the basement
every once a while, just like Bob Dylan did before he went electric,
and expose students to works by these artists and others, and suddenly
missing links in form, theatrical grammar, and design are filled.
This is a distant planet,
and we're all in pup tents by ourselves living on cool, fast pop full
of sugar, munching on Zero Bars, depending on our collective short-term
amnesia while we thrive on extremes. Only an inborn sense can tell you
this is woe-ness. All we can hope for is an act of retrieval.
Students are the future. They are the present
and future audience. Now that the subscriber model of the not-for-profit
"commercial" theatre is waning and the subscriber audience's median
age is sixty, theatres are scrambling to find the new audience, the
audience that was not cultivated or encouraged to see theatre in the
last forty-odd years. We have a profound deficit, as it were, of audiences
educated to the theatrical experience, and interested in seeing theatre
as a natural and necessary part of cultural life. The dependence on
the subscriber (and God bless the subscribers because for the most part
they are the audience that grew up going to the theatre, and thus are
some of our most educated audiences around) has left the not-for-profits
in a bind. Meanwhile junk culture has overrun our society, and theatre
means less and less to the average Joe walking down the street and has
created an insular and incestuous artist subculture where artists make
work for other artists, go to see each other's shows, and talk to each
other about each other's work.
This incestuousness has encouraged a cottage
industry of confessional theatre driven by the monologue form, where
performers either tell their own stories to varying degrees of success
depending on their talents as dramatists and actors, or tell fictionalized
stories of the rich and famous, since celebrity culture is so dominant
a force that an audience can be somewhat instantly generated if a performer
is playing a recognizable figure from tabloid or literary or fashion
history (and sometimes all three!). These figures represented are usually
modern celebrities which means they are figures drawn from the well
of trauma and recovery. If reality TV and pseudo reality theatre do
anything, it is to heighten our culture's fascination with not talent,
skill, art or virtuosity, but with psychological trauma, drug addiction,
and the rehabilitation of the psyche.
I live in the shadow space
of your darkening eye, which magnifies what it most sees fit but is
not fit to be seen. And you take all the crap I give you and turn it
into bite-size samples of damn wisdom I don't even have time to swallow.
Confessional drama, both of the solo variety
and the multi-character kind, has dominated the US stage since the 1980s,
although its seeds can be found in the realistic dramas and musicals
of the 1940s and 1950s. The increasingly private nature of theatrical
work, despite its ambition and potential scope has stopped work from
actually speaking to the culture in which it is being made. Is it any
wonder that even some of the most passionate theatre artists have stopped
connecting successfully to their audience?
The disillusionment of the avant-garde and the
high cost of making theatre both in the not-for-profit and commercial
arenas have caused a quiet retreat among the artistic community. Many
of the US's most talented artists do their work abroad. Witness the
case of opera and theatre director Peter Sellars, who actually started
out making theatre in the US, but has ended up doing one-off stands
in this country with varying degrees of critical success or audience
interest over the last twenty years. His staging of The Children
of Herakles at American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
is an example of his rare theatrical forays in US established theatre.
Media artist John Jesurun, whose groundbreaking plays with film and
video were initially on the cusp of experimentation in the late 1960s
and early 1970s, continues to create spiritually rich, imaginatively
designed work that is seen in Japan, Mexico, Germany and France more
often than it is in the US. Linguistic dynamo Mac Wellman, whose influence
hovers strongly over the work of celebrated dramatist Suzan Lori-Parks
and many others has an energetic, playful, obsessive interest in fragmented
Americana-scapes, and builds his texts around the eternal political
question, "how is it that we got here?" Yet Wellman's work, even when
rarely presented in more high-profile houses is summarily set aside
as work by a theatrical eccentric. And while to some extent this is
true, so was it also true of eccentrics like Gertrude Stein, John Dos
Passos, and Walt Whitman, artists who found in the field of literature
a more amenable home and critical reception for their visions.
When master artists are dismissed, ignored, or
forgotten, what happens to those of us who are following in their footsteps,
who are inspired (almost as an act of social rebellion) to continue
to make theatre?
The world is thin. It evaporates
in my hands. Rules are imposed and then taken away. What has happened
is gone and we don't even remember it. We live now, right now, and future
tense is just out of sight. Flatlands, lowlands, prairies, plains…I'd
damn look to set down, but got no-where to set down.
The roads available for work are few yet remarkably
varied. The university remains the safe haven for many artists working
with radical form and content. Self production is another way artists
are making their work seen. Keeping costs low and materials cheap, many
of the self-produced theatre-makers and ensembles around the US are
looking at European models to create a new way of subverting the established
paths available to artists. Dah Theater of Yugoslavia is an eleven-year-old
ensemble that has been touring their highly political, personal work
over the years. Their interest in international exchange and in training
younger artists has made them one of the most inspiring ensembles to
have hit US shores. Dah has become one of the model companies for fledgling
ensembles based in Chicago, Austin, Seattle and New Orleans.
Tired of waiting for established theatres to
present their work and of waiting for the theatrical machine to change,
young US artists are creating companies and putting on their work in
alternative venues, and are finding committed and passionate audiences.
Rude Mechs in Austin is one such company. Creating texts from within
or commissioning work, artistic director Shawn Sides and her cohorts
have not only created a loyal following for their work but with the
success of their adaptation of Greil Marcus's history of punk, Lipstick
Traces, which traveled to New York, and later had a national tour,
and will now play internationally, they found themselves positioned
as one of the most exciting companies in the US in a long while. Texas,
in fact, with its wide open spaces and unmistakable twang has yielded
other companies. Austin has been a hotbed of the roots and alternative
music scene for quite some time. Capitalizing on this, Rude Mechs and
Salvage Vanguard have made it a point to create work or produce already-existing
work that incorporates music in a novel or profound manner.
New music, new opera and the spoken word movement
in poetry have also impacted artists making texts rooted in hip-hop,
and electronica. The galvanizing effect that music can have on an audience
and the jump-cut manner in which you can tell a story through music,
though not necessarily following the now classic US musical theatre
tradition, is making artists create a wide range of hybrid forms in
pubs, clubs, bars, and galleries. Mixing cabaret, and poetry, ambient
sound, and fractured personas, these new pieces owe a debt to the early
In the commercial theatrical world, John Cameron
Mitchell's playful rock cabaret deconstruction of Plato's Symposium,
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, capitalized on a post-AIDS gay subculture
sensibility that was rooted in a mini-glam rock revival in the club
circuit. MTV took an early lead on the televised musical by producing
a hip-hop version of Bizet's Carmen. Baz Luhrmann's Moulin
Rouge (and now his pop staging of La Bohème on Broadway)
and Todd Haynes's Velvet Goldmine worked at different but equally
inventive ends of the visual spectrum in film to create a new form that
paid homage to the classic American musical and its ingrained tropes
while also pushing at the form to create what has already been deemed
a new media hybrid. These more commercial ventures do not exist without
their burgeoning counterparts and forerunners in US alternative theatre.
Mixed media artists The Wooster Group and Mabou
Mines have been exploring alternative, unique models for performance
for the last thirty-odd years. Marianne Weems and her company The Builders
Association have been working with new technology, dramatic presentation,
and collaborations with architects and musicians to international acclaim.
Richard Foreman continues to make work at a regular rate despite changing
trends, fashion and economics. Anne Bogart and the SITI Company have
profoundly impacted actor training in the US. In Britain, young companies
like Frantic Assembly, Station House Opera, and Peepolykus are re-invigorating
young audiences with their highly physical, generally non-narrative,
music-driven work, inspired by the active presence of Sheffield's Forced
Entertainment and the magical work of Improbable Theatre. Through producing
company Cultural Industry, Improbable had a world-wide box-office success
with their dark (and somewhat improvisational) musical adaptation of
But what about artists who are not part of a
company? Playwrights, for example, tend to work alone. The work begins
in a room, on a screen, in a notebook and slowly filters its way out
toward a shape that can be called a text suitable for performance. With
American theatrical taste still stuck in the grooves of realism, playwrights
have had a tough time of it in the US if their interest goes against
the dominant theatrical mode of representation. We live in a culture
that is constantly articulating. But the origin of art is the gap between
consciousness and the difficulty -- indeed, the impossibility -- of
fully articulating consciousness. How to develop or sustain consciousness
and silence without over-articulating in a culture that rewards verbal
What do I got to owe you,
eh?Bastard children of loose-lipped America, loose-hipped wanderers
with acid leaves?I am the bastard prince born of a bastard king out
of the belly of nothing but a stack of old records and mutable beliefs.
Call me as named. Expect nothing of me.
Critics and producers have cottoned to the notion
that a play exists first as an issue to be marketed to an audience that
may wish to discuss it at some length after the show. Only later do
they recognize that a play must happen which can contain this issue.
It is as if to say that Ibsen's Ghosts is only a play about syphilis,
and that Shakespeare's King Lear is only a play about real estate. As
ludicrous as this may sound, it is not far from how plays are described
to audiences and (more destructively) developed in the other US cottage
theatrical industry which is defined as "development." Good intentions
abound as plays are funneled through a development machine that has
pockets in different parts of the country.
Our theatres have become museums: interested
in archiving experience instead of living it. Fringe venues, which used
to welcome new writers (and just remember that Shakespeare, Marlowe
and Brecht were all new writers once) are in the process of redefining
themselves, as they too have become high-pressure sites for the birth
of the next hit (witness the Urinetown phenomenon). The re-converted
studio space/ gallery/ coffeehouse/ bar concept is beginning to set
the standard for how theatre performances will live in the next twenty
years. Audiences sit at the bar, bring their drinks into the house,
and watch the show. The atmosphere is loose and joyous, and the point
is that the audience is being welcomed back into the theatre. An effort
is being made to seduce an audience into actually walking into a space,
because the possibility that something thrilling will happen is great.
Startle me. That's all I want
now. Lots and lots of sparks. In every part of my body. Little rushes
of intense feeling. Pure thrills.
The best "theatre" I've seen in the last five
years has been not in the theatre but elsewhere: on the rock concert
stage, in clubs, raves, galleries, fields, aircraft hangers and shopping
malls. Yes, shopping malls. Though architect and curator Rem Koolhaas
is often vilified for his aesthetic commitment to shopping as the new
wave, his Prada boutique in Soho (which replaced the wonderful Guggenheim
Soho museum, another instance of one art space being subsumed by a commercial
space for obvious consumption) is in and of itself a theatrical event.
The audience walks in, is greeted, and admires
the beauty of a floor, a skylight, the design of a building. Buildings
are rock stars these days. See the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and you
understand why it's now not necessarily the art inside the building
that draws the audience but the building itself, the beauty and elegance
of the façade. What is inside has become irrelevant. Lest the irony
not be lost on the consumer, you can do yoga in the morning, have tea
in the afternoon, read the latest bestseller about Life's simple pleasures,
and fill your inside just fine. Or so you think. But what is true is
that American audiences are craving for something more. The speed of
our lives, the anxiety we have become accustomed to day to day (before
and after 9/11) has conditioned us to eternal want because what we are
offered most of the time to enrich our beings as humans on this earth
is junk, great big flashy shiny expedient glorious well-crafted ad-savvy
junk. It is what we have become used to. And like any aspect of culture,
theatre too has become enamored of and used to junk.
Celebrity culture overrides decision-making in
favor of the bottom line. Stars are called up to adorn plays and fill
the empty seats so that the evening out becomes little more than haute
cuisine lite. Audiences walk out of their junk experiences on short
highs, on sugar rushes, as forgetful of what they have seen as of what
they ate at their local diner. I don't say "restaurant" because often
restaurants serve better, more satisfying, more adventurous courses
than our theatre.
Now of course I am skewing the perspective just
a bit. I am fashioning this text on embroidery and exaggeration. But
in a culture filled with overweight children, anorexic teenagers, and
caffeine-addled adults, it is not improbable to suggest that there is
a deep vacuum at the center of how we live and why.
I am reminded of a story told to me by a young
Asian British playwright who described the experience of witnessing
a reputable actor who also happens to be steeped in the griot tradition
act in a play. Now the production itself was fine enough, but what she
was most impressed by was the direct act of communication that was occurring
between performer and audience, between the story being told and the
act of listening to the story. In griot, the storyteller is the messenger,
and the audience is waiting for the message to be delivered. There is
a promise between the teller and the tale, between the tale and listener,
and the promise is fulfilled in the moment, in the act of telling. A
story is handed down to be told again, to be repeated and absorbed into
Our stories live in the news reports of kidnapped
girls raped and murdered, in the diffused stories of war played out
on our screens, and in the television dramas and comedies that visit
us daily. "Frasier," "Friends," "The Practice," "Everybody Loves Raymond":
the stories of these character-vehicles have become as familiar to us
as the Greek myths were to the audiences watching Sophocles's and Euripides's
plays. But the difference is that "Frasier" doesn't depend on our involvement
as an audience for the story to be told. The plastic mediums are encased
in themselves. They repeat ad infinitum in and out of time. "The Practice"
competes for the same place in the public's imagination as reruns of
"Law and Order," "Saturday Night Live," and the TeleTubbies.
I try my luck in the modern
age and ask myself "Is this it? Like this alone, together? When did
this start? Last night? A quarter of a century ago? Or was there something
pivotal that turned ten years into a different age: a reflecting pool
of extreme desires, of skeevy impulses and moving trucks?
Theatre is about time. The essential nature of
time passing. Like other forms of live performance, it demands the audience's
attention, and the stories are constructed with the knowledge of time
as their measure. Meter, tempo, rhythm, silence are all elements of
theatrical constructions of text and space. But how is an audience who
has been conditioned to receive their stories outside of temporality
and outside of mythology supposed to truly engage and interact with
the plays or events being designed to satisfy their appetite for amusement,
instruction, pleasure, and catharsis?
Consumer culture has eaten away at our audiences
and artists. We are both equally craving something more even as we persist
in taking in, indulging in as much as we can. Because of course cultures
need stories. They are what make order of our chaos, even if momentarily.
That order allows us to think about our lives, reflect upon them and
move on. The substance of Shakespeare's tales, Marlowe's tragedies,
Euripides's ecstasies, Genet's catastrophes, Williams's fantasies, Garcia
Lorca's linguistic and imagistic symphonies, and Strindberg's un-resolved
mysteries of the human heart retain their impact over time, even if
they are cut up, deconstructed, parodied and reduced.
The human body is the message, the human psyche
and consciousness are what theatre examines, probes, nudges, and from
where it tells its stories. The craving is within. The craving doesn't
stop. Because craving is linked to desire, and desire is what drives
our yearning. Hunger does stop. And it is hunger that I propose we defeat.
I propose we stop our junk hunger, our theatrical
fix, by not doing, not making, not having art for a while. By stripping
away and giving ourselves a good fast because I think that is what we
need to move forward. If we fast ourselves of art, of theatre, and truly
examine why it is that we do what we do, why we wish to see stories,
see bodies on stage or in a space reflecting ourselves back to us, outside
of the rush of the contemporary, of the ad campaign, of the lottery
ticket that looms over our heads in the hopes that we will all one day
be millionaires, then I think we will find the necessity for theatre
again in our culture, and make it part of our daily discourse, and not
an aberration, or something to be checked off our cultural list as something
done for the week. Theatre should not be dutiful but rise out of need
and passion and social voice. Theatre is a public voice in the public
forum, and while its ancient, creaky ways will never be truly as mobile
or fluid as the plastic mediums, its very creakiness, crankiness, orneriness,
and stubborn insistence on the human at its center (and this includes
puppets too) gives it its greatest power.
Let us empty our bellies and minds of the soft
porn that has been ruling our lives.
Let us rid ourselves of irony's steely
crutches, and be passionate, and risk feeling.
Drop your guard. Let yourself show. Be exposed.
Be dangerous. Be tender. Let time bend and words loop and spin.
Starve yourself of everything.
Stop all entertainment, turn off all the channels, shut down the airwaves.
Acquaint yourself with silence. Listen for a long while. For hours,
for endless time.
Think about getting old and dying.
Think about not being scared.
Learn in the fasting silence what it is that you really want to say,
have to say or need to say to another human being.
And once you've fasted a good fast, a nourishing fast for society's
Then slowly speak, put words on paper, and make your words count.
Make them light and quick as the wind. Let them
have gravity and grace.
Speak with no words. Speak with your body. Pulse with the light.
Take up animation. See what else you could be.
Embrace myth. Take back the classics. Make new classics.
Be epic, large, unwieldy, frank, sensual, and strange.
Use popular forms to be radical. Stage texts in stores, garages, basements,
churches, clubs, cathedrals, and parks. As we have done for centuries.
Put works in print. Use print as a new stage to make voices heard. Distribute
plays as if they were flyers, put them in people's hands. Make them
natural in their very unnaturalness. Make them secretive, sexy, and
Crave to listen, to witness stories being told.
Reject everything anyone has ever told you about theatre. Follow no
Follow all rules. Make rules.
Make, make, make. After a good fast, and what has come from it,
focus again, yes, on making.
By hand. By tongue. By breath.
breath, ha, release, through the mouth, on the tongue, about to be given
breath holds promise, body human, word found, utterance without word,
breath contains, the whoa wow endless bountiful smallest ha
By just being.
Make senseless acts of beauty.
Share words, stories, gestures, signs, images, moments. Link one story
Pass things on. Be a messenger. Shout like a griot from one village
Watch the village move, sway, ripple in waves from the shout of your
This is the message. Take no prescription. The
dose allowed is zero. Make it count
[An earlier version of this text was presented
at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University
in November 2002, and at New Dramatists in New York City in February