Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hedwig And The Angry Inch, pt. 1

There's a post about Rock 'N' Roll brewin' and a brewin', but while I try and sort those thoughts out, a quick sidetrack on ATC's Hedwig And The Angry Inch (more thoughts on which will join Rock 'N' Roll).

ATC's production of Hedwig ends with Nick Garrison, who has been slowly self-destructing in the lead role all evening, stage-cutting his chest with a broken bottle. The effect isn't achieved terribly well, but even so, I couldn't help thinking how unusually distracting it was. Unless it plays a vital part in the show, poorly done stage violence usually gets little more than a shrug from me, but this couple of seconds continued to stand out long after the show was over.

It got to rolling around in my head and I came to realize that one difference between this and typical stage violence is that this is an act that is familiar purely because it is performative -- because other artists, musicians in this case, actually have mutilated their bodies on stage. Rather than a stage fight, in which performers attempt to provide a realistic representation of an act uncreatable on stage, what we have here is a performer, on stage, attempting to provide a realistic representation of an act that dozens of performers have actually created on stage.

And it's not that I want to say I felt cheated, or that I think the only way this moment could work is with actual self-mutilation, or that actual violence on stage is at any point in time necessary. And yet, those of you who know me quite well know that I firmly believe that actual violence on stage can be used to great effect, that it's not a taboo, that there is at certain times and in certain performers a level of necessity so driven that the corporeal bounds are no more off limit than any others. And that I am fascinated by these performers, from the theatrics of Marilyn Manson and the disregard of G.G. Allin to the more intellectually and spiritually driven work of the Vienna Aktionists and Marina Abramovic.

It's half a fascination in what drives these artists and how far they can be driven, but it's also half a recognition that there are certain synapses that I share with them. Anyone who has had a chance to meet DADA [g]nimbus has seen those synapses firing on a very innocent level. I was discussing acting technique with a friend the other day, very intently discussing actually, and every point I made either came back to instinct and physicality or saw me contorting my body in an attempt to get the proper words out. I'm an actor that is familiar with that fucked up state of performance where character and performer are indiscernable from the inside as well as the out. And so, to a degree, I do understand what drives these artists. Would I cut myself with a broken bottle on stage? Well, umm.... no. (After all, my mom reads this blog, and she has a hard enough time seeing me on the receiving end of stage violence.) But the knowledge that certain artists would and not think twice about it makes me cringe horrendously at an obviously false portrayal. You can argue art imitating life and life imitating art all you want, but I'll tell you one thing: when art imitates art, all you get is a second-hand copy.



Don Hall said...

Tell your Mom I'll cut you with a bottle.

Ed said...

Hmm. Has the show changed since I saw it or am I just criminally inattentive. I don't remember the self cutting. What I do remember that I thought was an awesome moment of stagecraft is the blood pack during "Angry Inch" that he used while narrating to make it look like blood was gushing out from between his legs. It actually forced an "ohmygod" out of me.

Paul Rekk said...

Hey Mom, it's okay! Don's gonna cut me instead!


Mayhaps it was just an ad lib, there were certainly others that night, but then again, it sure seemed like a prop bottle. I did enjoy the Angry Inch blood pack, even if I felt remarkably unriled by Garrison's punk impression, but I think that counts more as stagecraft within the show as well as the world of the show as well as the world outside the show.

Meta. Now I'm gonna sit down.

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