The Death of Character: Perspectives on Theater after Modernism

By Elinor Fuchs | Go to book overview

1
The Rise and Tall of the
Character Named Character

IN 1960, the Polish playwright Tadeusz Rozewicz published a short play entitled The Card Index. The play has a Hero and a Chorus of Elders, ironic references to a vanished classical dramaturgy. In that dramatic world, unlike Rosewicz’s and our own, plays proudly bore the names of their protagonists. For Rosewicz’s “Hero” one name is as good as another; he submits to several in the course of the play. From time to time, as the playwright suggests in his stage directions, he may even wander offstage to be replaced by another actor. He is as anonymous as the serial card catalogue that gives the play its title. Yet the Hero is onstage every minute of the play, even if he spends it mostly lying in bed, occupying in his relative absence the very center of attention that heroes of an earlier day commanded by their presence.

In a wry comment on the inaction of this un-hero, the Chorus of Elders declaims mock-heroic verses celebrating Heracles:

He who in childhood cut off Hydra’s head …
Will in his youth the blood of Centaurs shed …1

This parody of the art of a golden, mythic age is matched elsewhere by a parody of formalist modernism, as the Chorus gravely recites the alphabetical catalogue of the title (“Guatemala, goulash, guzzle …” etc.). The Chorus attempts to rouse the Hero to a sense of his symbolic role in the drama.

CHORUS OF ELDERS:
Do something, get a move on, think.
There he lies while time flies.
     (HERO covers his face with the newspaper.
Say something, do something,
Push the action forward,
At least scratch your ear!
     (HERO is silent.)
There is nothing happening
What is the meaning of this?
……………………

-21-

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The Death of Character: Perspectives on Theater after Modernism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Drama and Performance Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I- Modern after Modernism 19
  • 1- The Rise and Fall of the Character Named Character 21
  • 2- Pattern over Character the Modern Mysterium 36
  • 3- Counter-Stagings Ibsen against the Grain 52
  • Part II- Theater after Modernism 67
  • 4- Signaling through the Signs 69
  • 5- Another Version of Pastoral 92
  • 6- When Bad Girls Play Good Theaters 108
  • 7- Theater as Shopping 128
  • 8- Postmodernism and the Scene of Theater 144
  • Reviews and Articles 1979-1993 Reports from an Emerging Culture 159
  • Notes 199
  • Index 218
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