Doña Rosita background Lubbock, TX & Provincetown, MA

“Fascinated by the rituals of the Church, Federico soon began to imitate them in his own way….

One of his favorite games was ‘saying Mass’ …In the back yard of the house there was a low wall on which the child placed a statue of the Virgin and some roses cut from the garden. Servants. family, friends—they were all made to sit down in front of the wall while Federico, wrapped in an odd assortment of garments culled from the attic, would ‘say Mass’ with enormous conviction. Before he began he imposed a sole condition: that it was the obligation of the congregation to weep during the sermon .”

from Ian Gibson’s Federeco Garcia Lorca: A Life.

A letter from Garcia to Lorca to Adriano Del Valle y Rossi, May, 1918] [DK note: he was 20. This is how he dates the letter: “May today in
time and October above my head”]

…. in the depths of my being there is a powerful desire to be a little
child. very humble and very retiring. Ahead I see many problems. many
eyes which will imprison me, many difficulties in the battle between
heart and head, and my emotional flowering wants to take possession of
its sunlit garden and I make an effort to enjoy playing with the dolls
and toys of my childhood, and sometimes I lie on my back on the floor
and play comadricas with my baby sister (I adore her)*

[comadricas is a game of imitating the neighbors’ gossip] Below, Lorca at 16 with his sister Isabella

I was loved, happiness was not far away, and seemed to be almost touching me; I went on living in careless ease without trying to understand myself, not knowing what I expected or what I wanted from life, and time went on and on. . . . People passed by me with their love, bright days and warm nights flashed by, the nightingales sang, the hay smelt fragrant, and all this, sweet and overwhelming in remembrance, passed with me as with everyone rapidly, leaving no trace, was not prized, and vanished like mist. . . . Where is it all?  My father is dead, I have grown older; everything that delighted me, caressed me, gave me hope — the patter of the rain, the rolling of the thunder, thoughts of happiness, talk of love — all that has become nothing but a memory, and I see before me a flat desert distance; on the plain not one living soul, and out there on the horizon it is dark and terrible. . . .     [from “A Lady’s Story” by Chekhov]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hay solo tu Mirada para tanto vacio,
solo tu claridad pare no seguir siendo,
solo tu amor para cerrar la sombra                          

 [ Cien sonetos de amor (XC) by Pablo Neruda] [Ay! There is only your face to fill up the vacancy,
Only your clarity pressing back on the whole of my non-being,
Only your love, where the dark of the world closes in]

Three Tall Women Hong Kong 2014

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三個高女人 Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning meditation on aging and identity at the Hong Kong Repertory Theater. Performed in Cantonese.

FROM THE PRESS RELEASE:

What do you think, sitting in the audience? Does a brash 26 year old know what life is? Does a self-possessed 52 year-old? Does a failing 92 year-old?

What do you feel, watching in the audience? Is life something to laugh about? To cry about? To cry about while laughing?

Is a son who runs away from home and comes back to be forgiven?
There are as many answers to these questions as there are people in the audience: sitting, watching, listening, thinking, feeling.

This Pulitzer award-winning modern classic, by renowned American playwright Edward Albee, lifts up three tall women – and their audience – on a journey of life and death. Following his distinctive The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, veteran director David Kaplan (大衞•卡柏倫) from the U.S. is invited to return to direct the current production.

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The photo below was taken in performance. The room rose and rotated: the floor became the wall, so that the audience  might consider the comatose body floating in consciousness.

 

To see more photographs from the production

The Day on Which a Man Dies 6 FAQs

1) What is the provenance of the text?

In the UCLA library there is a folder, deposited in 1970, with unnumbered pages, marked in Tennessee Williams’ handwriting “The Day on Which a Man Dies, an Occidental Noh play dedicated to Yukio Mishima. Finished 1960.” The American scholar Allean Hale, her interest piqued by a throwaway comment Williams made in an interview that he had written a Noh play, tracked down the text and first wrote about it in 1991. A later version of the text — dated 1971 with significant differences — was circulated by Williams’ agents in the ’70s and performed in 2001 at the White Barn Theater in Connecticut. The 2007 Chicago production of The Day on Which a Man Dies is the world premiere of the original UCLA text, edited by Annette Saddik, which will be published by New Directions in the spring of 2008.

2)Is this a version of the 1968 play titled A Bar in a Tokyo Hotel ?Speculation that The Day on Which a Man Dies is an early draft of “Bar” or a re-write of “Bar” is not supported by either text, nor by drafts of either text. Confusion exists because the earlier “Day” text was unavailable for comparison. Though some of the “Day” roles — painter and lover — are reconfigured in “Bar” there is not one line of dialog in common and the action onstage is quite different. Most of “Day” takes place inside two adjoining hotel rooms in Tokyo. A small scene in “Day” presents the painter’s lover alone in a bar on the Ginza, pointedly not a hotel, and pointedly not in the company of anyone other than the audience. The biggest diffrence is that “Bar” is traditional fourth wall realism, “Day” is a Noh play.

3) What does it mean the play is subtitled “An Occidental Noh Play”
Noh theater is a 14th century Japanese theater form combining dance, music, story-telling and enactment. “Day” uses a similar combination onstage. If Western comedy intends to makes audiences laugh, and Western tragedy intends to make audiences cry, the intent of Noh is make audiences feel “yugen” – “still beauty.” Williams’ knowledge of Noh came from his friendship with Yukio Mishima, who wrote a series of Modern Noh Plays, five of them published in English in 1957. In 1958, Williams’ publisher, New Directions, published The Classic Noh Theatre of Japan by Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenollosa. Williams probably read this — at least he follows the “Noh” spelling rather than “No.”

4) How is it that the text is dedicated to Yukio Mishima?
Mishima, the Japanese homoerotic post WWII novelist, was a personal friend of Williams. The two met casually on the street in Manhattan in 1957, then formally at the offices of New Directions two days later. Williams visited Japan as Mishima’s guest in 1959, then again in 1969. Mishima committed hara-kiri in 1970 at the age of 45.

5) What is the source of the theatrical imagery in the play?
Williams seems to have been aware of the Japanese art movement called Gutai. Crucial stage directions in The Day on Which a Man Diesappropriate aspects of Gutai performance art: in particular the death of the painter and the eccentric means by which paintings are created onstage. See below for still photographs and YouTube clips. The Gutai were inspired by Jackson Pollock, whose friendship with Williams dates to 1940 Provincetown.

6) Where is this text in the timeline of Williams’ work and life?
As The Day on Which a Man Dies was being written between 1957 and 1959, Williams was working on other plays — Sweet Bird of Youth, The Night of the Iguana (with which “Day” shares a speech), the comedyPeriod of Adjustment — and the films of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) andThe Fugitive Kind (1959). After the critically reviled experiments of Camino Real in 1953, the playwright had gone on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1956. In 1957 Williams was 46, and in the 11th year of his relationship with Frank Merlo. Jackson Pollack had died the year before. Significantly, Williams began to see a psychiatrist in 1957.

Asphodel notes

4 The Mirror of Long AgoThe flower called asphodel is waxy and pale. The leaves are gray. It was named by the ancient Greeks, and grew, so the Iliad has it,  in the meadow of the underworld where dead souls linger.  Asphodel is also the name of an ante-bellum plantation house near Jackson, Louisiana, built in the 1820s and set on fire during the Civil War. What survived turned to ruins presided over by a pair of sisters, the Misses Smith, who lived at Asphodel without ever leaving it for forty years. When Eudora Welty set a story in ruins called Asphodel she was thinking of all these asphodels and more. She was thinking of the ruins of Windsor, the name given to a field where twenty-two Corinthian columns stand forty feet tall a ninety- minute drive northeast from where Welty lived in Jackson, Mississippi.

Welty went to picnics at the ruins of Windsor. She photographed herself there as a shadow on the road leading up to the columns. In Welty’s story, there are six columns, not twenty-two and they’re Doric, not Corinthian, that is to say they’re capped simply with a circle and a square, rather than with the curling acanthus leaves that top Corinthian columns.

Welty simplified the ruin, reduced it to its essence: a dream of the ancient past that lingers in the present, in her own words “a tender dream and an unconscious celebration.”  Her plot, a displacement of an ancient Greek myth, shares that dream and celebration. The virgin Persephone brought against her will to the underworld to reign over the dead – the ancient Greeks pictured Persephone crowned with asphodels –  shadows the story of the imperious Miss Sabina  told by three Mississippi spinsters with Greek names: Cora, the Greek word for maiden; Phoebe, which means shining and pure; and Irene, which means in Greek, peace.

Welty’s Asphodel, like the ruins of Windsor, sits just off the Natchez Trace, the old Indian trail, now a highway that runs from Nashville to the Mississippi river town famous for good times. The eight short stories in Welty’s 1943 collection The Wide Net, which included “Asphodel,” are all set along the Trace, as was her first novel, The Robber Bridegroom, written in 1942. In 1944 Harper’s Bazaar published an essay by Welty titled “Some Notes on River Country” revealing the root of her flower: her explorations of the Trace on foot, by car, and in books, through history and legend, superstition and fact, past vine-covered tree-trunks, flower-filled meadows, fishing villages and ghost towns and towering columns.

This had been the territory of the Natchez Indians. By 1736, according to historians, the Natchez were extinct: conquered by the Choctaw. From admiring Frenchmen we know the Natchez women were strong and powerful and proud.  If we choose to we can think that Miss Sabina, or Persephone, might fit in among them. If we choose we can see the shadows of the Natchez women mingled with the shadows of Miss Sabina and Persephone, like a photograph of multiple exposures.

In the stage adaptation titled “Asphodel (Some Notes on River Country)” all the words are Welty’s. The story is framed by the essay as if it was divided up between the Asphodel spinsters. The music composed to accompany the story is by Paul Hacker, a Choctaw/Cherokee native Oklahoman.  For a Choctaw, the songs of the Natchez are as ghostly as Greek ruins in Mississippi, the same sort of  “a tender dream.”

Behind the performers are projections of  a dozen photos by Louisiana’s Clarence John Laughlin. Born in 1905, he died in 1985. The titles Laughlin gave these twelve photographs form a parallel story in the order that they are displayed:  “Toppled Glory,” “The First Appearance of the Fire Demon,” “The Enigma,” “The Mirror of Long Ago,” “ The Mistreated Nymph,” “ Temple to a Misplaced Past,” “The Mourning Oaks,” “Arboreal Skeleton,” “Deathly Forest,” and “Elegy for the Old South.” That last is a collage of images assembled by Laughlin onto “Toppled Glory.” The subjects are mostly the details of ruined plantations from Laughlin’s book Ghosts Along the Mississippi, first published in 1948. “The Mistreated Nymph” is on a building in Chicago. The photograph titled “The Mirror of Long Ago” is a fantasia of images from Parlange Plantation in southeastern Louisiana. According to the Historic New Orleans Collection, which holds ten thousand Laughlin photographs: “Parlange Plantation was founded by the Marquis Vincent deTernant, fleeing the Revolution in France. This is a composite print from two negatives of the interior of the house, showing Julie de Ternant, the tragic granddaughter of the old Marquis, who is said to have gone mad on her wedding night.”

Laughlin had no intent to illustrate Welty’s fiction, and she was certainly not dramatizing his silver gelatin prints. His photos and her story run parallel to each other because Welty and Laughlin walked through the same landscape. Each of them took pictures at the ruins of Windsor. Their visions diverge. In Laughlin’s photograph the vine-smothered tops of the columns seem to reach up and dissolve into clouds. We are led by Laughlin to think of disintegration and, ultimately, the mystery of death and his photograph’s title “The Enigma.” Welty’s photograph of Windsor includes a path, and a person. She has given the towering ruins a human scale and found a way to approach them – and to subtly include herself. Asphodel, the title of her story, is associated with death, yet Welty looked at ruins and imagined, for our consideration, life.

Gas was rationed in Mississippi during World War Two, when Welty was driving to the Natchez Trace. Yet it was essential she go there. Her close friend, John Robinson, was serving overseas in the U.S. Air Force. The news from the front was not encouraging. Her two older brothers were of age to be drafted. At a time of doubt for what might happen next in her life, and what might happen next to her family, to her friends, and to her country, she found relief and hope, even in a ghost town where, as her essay puts it  “A place that ever was lived in is like a fire that never goes out.

”The Mirror of the Past” photograph by Clarence John Laughlin, courtesy of the Historic New Orleans Collection.

Asphodel (with Notes from River Country)

The 92nd St Y

A place that ever was lived in is like a fire that never goes out.
– from Some Notes on River Country by Eudora Welty

March 11 premiere at the  Poetry Center at the 92nd St Y in New York City, adapted from Eudora Welty’s short story “Asphodel” in which three gossips, amidst the ruined Greek columns of a plantation, enjoy a funeral picnic. Original music by Choctaw flute master Paul Hacker. Adapted and directed by  David Kaplan. Still shot at top from the archival recording. (left to right: Brenda Currin, Olympia Dukakis, Estelle Parsons.

June 6, 2015  Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Currin,  and Sybil Child performed Asphodel at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

Notes on the program

Ten Blocks on the Camino Real Paysandú, Uruguay 2012

An outdoor production in the Paysandú marketplace, in 2012.

Above: Pavlo Coll as Kilroy

Raul Rodriguez and his Taller de Teatro de Paysandú, Uruguay are quite special: a small company with a circle of students, led by a Russian-trained director and teacher. In practical terms that means the ensemble has the technique to work with with a combination of intermittent realism and Brecht’s ideas of story-telling, ideal for Williams’ Ten Blocks on the Camino Real – the short first version of the better known Camino Real.

Ten Blocks was designed to be performed outdoors in marketplaces and premiered November 4 at the Biennial International Theater Festival in Paysandú. Posters of the characters hang from a backdrop with credits.

The set before the audience arrives: 7 chairs, 2 tables. The blue furniture is for the Seven Seas Hotel, the pink for the House of the Gypsy, the unpainted furniture seats the Player of the Blue Guitar and lifts up the hotel owner.

The play is performed in the Spanish spoken in Uruguay, which is softened by Portuguese. Doubles lls are pronounced sh as in shadow. The word for rain, lluvia, pronounced yuvia in Mexico is, in Uruguay, called shuvia.

Below: Ilse Olivera as the Gypsy, Pavlo Col as KiloryMany of the props were children’s toys: balls, cards, a toy pistol. Don Quixote was the player of the blue guitar astride his guitar like a horse, wearing a triangular paper hat.

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See also the 2016 production in Ghana which built on these ideas.

The Eccentricities of a Nightingale Hong Kong 2003

Tennessee Williams’ Alma, in love since childhood with the boy next door.

Eccentricites Bobbie with cig and Fai

In an interview given in 1972, Williams said “I think the character I like most is Miss Alma … You see, Alma went through the same thing that I went through – from puritanical shackles to, well, complete profligacy.”

The Hong Kong Repertory Theatre has, for 37 years, presented a varied program of Western classics, modern Asian drama, and historic Asian literature all performed in Cantonese.  The Hong Kong Rep Eccentricities  rehearsed and performed during the SARS epidemic. It was nominated for several awards for acting and design.

“Shine on Harvest Moon” began each performance, one of many period American songs sung in Cantonese. The townspeople first appeared as shadows, in later scenes they projected shadows.