Friday, September 21, 2012

Talk Back with Erik Ehn and Forrest Gander

Last night saw the emergence of Yermedea in Leeds Theatre at Brown University in front of a focused and intent audience who kept holding their breath as the performance continued. There was deep moment of silence before the applause commenced, and many were visibly moved and thus stayed in the theatre for the talk back with playwright Erik Ehn and poet Forrest Gander.
Erik first thanked the company and the entire creative team for an "impeccable production" before situating the play within the Soulographie context. He explained that Yermedea is embedded between the plays Diamond Dick and Maria Kitizo, which are much more straight forward in terms of narrative and presenting a timeline. Yermedea in a way steps out of time entirely and is concerned with notion of waiting - the play itself is waiting.
Forrest Gander remarked that the play is very much concerned with not situating itself culturally and thus focuses in on the inward modes of experience, while he also felt that a sense of salvation in the play is most strongly produced in the emergence of community, especially though the female characters in the play.
Erik then told about his experiences in El Salvador, the place that served as immediate inspiration for Yermedea, and how his practice of theatre there was shaped by the (personal) history of the actors, who were dramatically "always Yerma or Medea, all the time", in that the hunger for life and life at the brink informed every theatrical endeavor. According to Forrest Gander, this merging of identities, including the ones of perpetrators and victims, as was especially shown by the male actors of the production, also speak of a specific ethics of seeing oneself in others.
Telling about his experiences in Africa, Erik spoke the "cataclysm of misery in close quarters without defense" that brought him to the question of how to hold on to language when all there is is misery: "How are you able to pray when language itself is traumatized?" As Forrest then remarked, the characters of the play seem to only exist in this language, which is why the use of puppets was such a wonderful idea. Erik concurred, saying that puppets carry their souls on the outside always, giving way to this language. Regarding his development of the language, Erik stressed that to write "dialogue seems pornographic in addressing this kind of problem". The play as that remains inscrutable because the themes of war and genocide are inexpressible, an issue that he could not simply fix by trying to be realistic. Forrest Gander found that in this the play also keeps us from being fluent, it keeps us being foreign and thus demands a particular attention from the audience.
Erik then concluded by saying that one his late friends had always described Erik's plays as being "like translations from a language no one has ever spoken." In that sense, he understands his writing as such to be of little relevance: eventually, the play, the production, and the audience are instances to reach through to get to something true beyond text. Thus, it is about a striving to create a space for those who usually have no space in our thoughts.

Read a review from the Brown Daily Herald here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...