Monthly Archives: February 2022
TRAPPED, DRAPED AND BLOW-DRIED
A Play by Gerald Thomas for Lisa Giobbi
Jan 29 – 2o22
(Lisa is on the phone almost as if singing)
I was distraught, I was distraught but what I did love about him was his description of being waterboarded, held in the nude and chained to the ceiling to the point that he began to hallucinate. Imagine ! That image alone is so overpowering that you don’t need all those extras screaming, pleading for this, that and the other. What? You’re billing it as a comedy? I’ve promised my mother…no can’t do that! What about his cracked skull ? What ? People roared with laughter?
*my mother was so horrified she couldn’t stop laughing. They found her between rows on her knees over popcorn and hotdogs screaming at the occasional rats :YOU MUST WATCH THIS! COME! YOU MUST WATCH THIS!) ,.,,and that was the day I decided to go deaf. Yes, there’s a snag, a snail, a glitch, a hitch, a snitch. There is no popcorn in the theater. Unless you happen to be in ZIMBABWE ! There is popcorn everywhere in Zimbabwe and that is where we ended up. I had a boyfriend once, long ago, many moons ago, stars and planets, galaxies too….we used to go to the movies and NEVER ever watch the screen. Always straight down to where the rats fornicated to aspire ….never mind. It was mostly a mouth, a tong tango thing, a making out, the upper lips and the lips down there (always boiling hot) – I am deliberately delaying the objectification.
You’re really saying that it ran a successful run as a comedy?
Not a bad choice exactly, not a good one either but a strange one.
They wanted me to do a Pinter you see? Yes, play the title role up in the air. Yes, exactly while flying, acrobatic style, circus like, you know…in harness,…All those silences in harness. Oh Pinter! All those psychological pauses, those killer stares, those lighting bolt scares filled with 6.000 watts, 5 thousand volts, moments so pregnant you wish you hadn’t been born. And above all those silences up there, in the air. Ha! What a silly idea. Well, if there happened to be the slightest noise in the wings…. then the silences would disappear and I’d just be hanging there with my Pinter play….in mid air… dangling like an idiot.
I’m assuming you are saying something to the effect of “nevertheless, that idea of staging an aerial Pinter was, is indeed marvelous”, Which Pinter, by the way?” You are asking me that, I assume?
(silence of a Pinter play)
I’m deaf by choice you see? It’s more comfortable this way. I don’t get to hear all this crap you and everyone else – (you know what? I’m just going to leave you here talking to yourself while I make myself a nice cup of coffee pretending it’s tea.)
(silence of a Pinter play)
The rub? The director wanted me COMPLETELY STILL – IN MID AIR during those silences! Can you imagine? I’d be in mid flight full speed and then, all of a sudden, with no breaks (I’m not a car, I have no engine goddamn it) he wanted me to come to s screeching HALT and REMAIN THERE IMOBILE hanging there till someone else spoke.
“STAY STILL STAY STILL” he’d scream and scream during rehearsal and I ? I got more and more upset and the more I got upset, the more tangled up I got in my cables. A mess. “YOU ARE RUINING PINTER” he would scream.
“STAY STILL STAY STILL” “STAY STILL STAY STILL” –
“YOU IDIOT” – I replied from my the depth of my guts because I can’t hear. But, honestly, if THESE BLOODLY SILENCES ARE SO IMPORTANT then why not cut all the words out all together and simply keep the silences???? Wouldn’t that be quite a relief? Hey? Come in ladies and gentlemen and pay $ 200 for 3 hours of silence. It’s a metaphor, it’s hermetically packed sealed so as to guarantee the increase of your sadomasochistic fetishes, you kinky shyster boys!
Yeah, so…. Up there…..in harness, in mid-air, performing Pinter I became deaf.
Coffee anyone ? Oh good. Milk and sugar ? No? Black? Ok !
(she walks across a wide room to a coffee machine)
Oh, it’s neither. It’s a strange equipment I’m not really familiar with. Never mind, I’ll head back OH! How strange ! I must have left another person talking (Lisa picks up another live phone) “Hello? Anyone there? Which Pinter, I’m assuming you are asking ?” Are you? You are asking me that, I assume? The full collection of plays!!!! All of them, all of it, from Homecoming to…whatever, all in the air. Terrible connection. I must go. Sorry.
I hated it so much. I hated it so bloody much….all those silences… they made me deaf. Partially deaf. I felt alright. I took that deafness as a sign. I took it seriously. I study my roles, I am a method actor. If I need to be buried in a deep grave to “feel” death, so be it. If I need to feel what torture was, then please: RIP my skin off and fry me alive, pour vinegar over me if all that renders me one damn scene and a golden statue in the end. And a red carpet photo. And that hand imprinted into the sidewalk. And the autographs and the free meals.
But then I decided to go FULL deaf. I invested in it. It put me in a special category. I checked with the Union beforehand.
(Lisa goes back to the original place, picks up the phone) “Hello? Have I spoken to you before? I’m assuming you’re saying yes but I can’t hear you so, because you see…I’m deaf by choice. Ah, the coffee machine at last. Oh. It’s not coffee. It’s tea. Not tea, it’s a pill dispenser… let’s see….what pill? What color? What taste?
(swallows one, two, three)
(to the audience)
This is fun
(Comes close to the audience)
No, it’s not.
I’m legally blind. Blind and deaf. I don’t know if you can hear me or see me. I’m insensitive to the touch. All I have is….
It all began when they attempted to arrest God. Nothing to do with Pinter. Pinter was just a night gig. Any other job would have raised a red flag. But even that one did. It raised a red flag. Well, yeah. That was it.
I tolerated pretty much everything till now. Voter Freud, this damn CLAMStitution of ours, CUMvernment …It’s OBVIOUS! We’ve become slaves.
THAT DAY….THE DAY… day I found out that they were out to capture God…. I lost it.
And this is who I am. I quickly developed this ability to think inside the box. Literally.
I was diagnosed with early autism last year. When lockdown brought life to a crashing halt, I decided to expound on my diagnosis and so…. I became this box. I felt the headline….how interesting:
“God is saved by impaired woman in the air in a box within a black box doing a half Pinter play in braille and sign language hidden from the audience”
Yes, have no fear. Lie. I’m filled with them fears. They plunge into frequent “crippling” crises but they can also manifest themselves as constructive outbursts or meltdowns – yes, meltdowns I said and how is that possibly constructive are you asking I’m assuming? …or silent withdrawals… shutdowns (Lisa laughs nervously) and then I discovered that they can all be exacerbated by “masking” – changing your instinctive behaviors to appear “normal” (laughs nervously again) It’s taken me all year to “start to unlearn these bad habits”. What bad habits? Flying, for instance. Flying and doing the full collection of Pinter plays. Why? Because it gets you nowhere. It achieves nothing, Method that I am, in the air you have to have 3 times the weight. Method, Pinter and silences… well that is a riddle for NASA or Besos or Musk… Disney maybe Netflix.
But in spite of everything I am and I am not: God, anger, fear, deafness, madness, blindness, Pinter…. I do wear high heals. Very high.
I wasn’t born yesterday. I did have a life. I know what fun is. I know what coffee is. And tea. I’m not STUPID. I had my dates, my lovers, male and female but one day….one day I fell in love with a forklift. That is when I felt all my expectations being raised, encouraged, deposited. The operator of that forklift was a very special man in my life. He understood me. He knew how to treat me with respect. He saw me as a human and not just as a box. After placing me between boxes of tulips for export he once said to me: “Madam, I have nothing but respect for you. I studied acting once. I know what it is like to do a Pinter play, especially hard with the silences. I wish you good luck mam.” And left in tears.
I was moved. This was the only time in my life I ever felt something good.
You may be laughing. Laugh all you want.
I used to…A T T A C K (laughs nervously) my fear of being attacked made me into an attacker. See? Even while up there, at highest height, close to a pipe and the lights, I used to insult the crew in the hopes that they’d let go of the ropes and I’d come crashing down and my paralyses would then be complete. One hundred percent incapable.
Please listen to me.
Please listen to me.
Think of what it must be like. Just think. When you’re invisible…it’s almost like the tire of a truck rolling over your head and not even noticing it. You’re not as much as a bump on the road or a hole for that matter, your scream can’t be heard, your blood can’t be seen…. Think about it. That is who I am. An Installation created with your patronage, your funds because you think that modern art is “fun”. Well, here it is. Here I am.
I’m NOT deaf by choice you see? It’s more uncomfortable this way. This is what used to be written about me….
LOUD SPEAKERS ON THE FLOOR ABOVE ARE LOUD AND ONE HEARS
“She usually starts to feel woozy. Before she has time to process, it’s lights out and that’s just the first in a series of nasty surprises. The believable meet-cute first act takes place entirely, audaciously, before the opening credits, a sweet 30-minute romcom that quickly switches up to reveal something sour, like biting into a succulent peach that’s rotten on the inside. It would be a spoiler, I believe, to detail exactly what the big reveal is although Installation has given us ample warning signs. BEWARE !!!
I heard that!
I heard that because I was programed to hear that.
(A voice) SILENCE ! SILENCE ! SHUT UP.
I don’t show it but I tremble with fear. And so do you. And so do we all. I’m just like you. How I came to be? Long story. I’m just like you. Human. No difference. No genetic anything. Just like you. But it all came to a head one day. It all came to a head on day when I realized I couldn’t find my way home. I didn’t know where home was. I looked around – tried to be discreet. I didn’t want to call attention to myself. I had been looking at a statue of Danton in the middle of Boulevard Saint Germain. But I wasn’t in Paris. I hadn’t flown in years. Yet, to my right… no can’t be. Can’t be.
“I need to regain my senses” I thought. “I need to snap back, wake up. This is horrible”. Yet, it continued. Out of the corner of my right eye could see Trafalgar Square, the Strand, Charing Cross Road. I was actually almost standing under Admiral Nelson’s Column…except…never mind. Danton, yes. I took a few steps and started to remember my outrage, my explosive outrage which brought me to this point.
I cried then just as I’m crying now. I am not. I can’t. I’m speaking fast. It’s E-motion-less. And that is terrible. My black box. That is where I want to be. I want to be where my Pinter play takes me, where my emotional recall takes me, where the monarchic and oligarchic traditions of horse riding and slavery take me because IT IS SO IN RUSSIA, my identity and yours…we were forged in “STAY STILL STAY STILL” Russia, we all come from there because we are stupid enough when we are “forced to believe” whatever truth we’re forced to believe. “Coffee anyone?”.
“STAY STILL STAY STILL” … that horrible sound still rings in my ears incessantly and makes me lose my balance. Yes, he is from the Romanov family. Can’t you tell by the way he orders blood soup for lunch ?
Ah… all those psychological pauses, those killer stares, those lightning bolt scares filled with 6.000 watts, 5 thousand volts, moments so pregnant you wish you hadn’t been born. And then the long walk back home, the other kids passing by, each one of them sitting in their mother’s Oldsmobiles or Pontiacs while the soles of my shoes practically melted into my feet.
I didn’t know the term pedophelia then. Not until much later. But not that much later. Of course they didn’t introduce themselves that way “hello, I’m a pedophile!” and I want to fuck you and then kill you. No. Never. …. (gesture of exhaustion, lost cause, giving up)
But you know all that. Everyone knows all that. It’s just like everything else: everyone knows WHAT IS WRONG with the fucking system, all systems. Yet, we do nothing. We allow them to continue!
“Hello? Can you hear me? I’m assuming you can. I have EBDD (Extreme Bone Distress Disorder) and am in tremendous pain) BUT I can talk….important, very important: have you had your coffee today? Now, how can I be of help? Oh, yes, you must be the stagehand, yes? I’m assuming you are. Can you pull? How much weight ? In how much time? I’m assuming you’re saying “mam, I can do 42 feet in about 5 seconds. But can be faster…can be faster depending on your weight mam.
TRAPPED. Always. By everyone. Even by the kissing boy on the floor of the movie theater – he trapped me because of, well, he broke my dreams, shattered them by sawing off my hand when he refused to hold mine one day while crossing 2nd Avenue…..He was trapped too. In a different way. Now I understand why, although he doesn’t.
I just couldn’t see it. It came in all shapes and forms – and was determined to keep me boxed in, in a corner…. Tamed… Had I been a threat back then as a child? In the early days? Was I a part of a Pinter play, an XXX rated Pinter play without knowing it? Have I always been an “entertainer”?
“Coffee?” Coke? He was the one on coke and I was the one flying higher and higher. The more blow, the bigger the distance. I took that blow to mean wind. It’s different today. Today we cry laughing and vice versa. I don’t know the real meaning of this inversion. But I do know we’ve moved on.
(a voice) DO NOT BE REDUNDANT. SILLY
See? It’s not about me and yet, it is about me. It certainly is about someone. Or else, why all those psychological pauses, angry male voices, those killer stares, those lightning bolt scares filled with 6.000 watts, 5 thousand volts, moments so pregnant you wish you hadn’t been born.
“Dad, what are you making for dinner?”
“Chicken shit soup, just like yesterday and the day before and every day”.
“At home, all we eat is chicken shit. We have one occasional egg from the same chicken”. I had to say it with a smile on my face and with pride and override the super loud chuckle of the entire classroom. I felt, for the first time, that tragedy and comedy were basically the same thing, And instead of crying out my sorrows that day, I enjoyed their laughter – and laughed with them.
Have I always been an entertainer?
it into her little chant there. It just never fit. Too many “o”s I guess and the ending with an X is kind of weird. I agree. “Keep it clean and tidy and don’t forget your Pine-Sol and that POWERFUL Germ killer Lysol, oh…Dawn” she loooooved that white man with white hair and moustache Mr Clean, oh it was such a lovely world we had before Clorox invaded and destroyed it all. What to you is Christmas, to us was Ajax day. We had an Ajax tree. And what to you is Thanksgiving to us was Febrezeday. We spent the day spraying. Spraying everything from the entire house, the garden and even the turkey. It used to be such a lovely day. Before dinner, every night, my parents would hold hands and, instead of saying a prayer would repeat the following refrain: “The hardest part about cleaning is finding the right — well, best — products to get the job done. Because, let’s face it, a pesky wine stain isn’t going to remove itself. Whether you’re dealing with stubborn soap scum, hard-to-clean streaks, or burned-on spills, these cleaning products selected by the Good Housekeeping Cleaning Lab will make everything in your house — clothes, countertops, and carpets, included — look just like new. Right this way to a cleaner, mess-free home…”
How do I measure my own survival rate?
“Keep it clean and tidy” my mother used to hum all day but boy, when Clorox appeared on the market, she had a real problem fitting
Clorox never made it till they died. That’s the kind of family I come from. And I come from a swing state. Thus…..
In all seriousness. I didn’t choose to levitate. Sounds cliché I know but… it chose me. And here I hang. But the truth about me, my life, who I am, where I’m headed to, who we all are, what this is all about and all the Greek Eugene O’Neil questions came to me like a bolt at the corner of Bleecker Street and La Guardia Place while watching the traffic lights flashing: “WALK / DON’T WALK” “WALK / DON’T WALK”
I took one step forward and one backward, one forward and one backward. I kept doing that for a good one hour (I guess) till a crowd gathered around me and called it a performance piece. Others debated. Called it a live-spontaneous installation. Years later… I see Michael Jackson doing the same thing. I remember him being in the crowd.
To me, I had FINALLY BROKEN FREE from all the commands given to me “get out of the way, CLIMB DOWN FROM THAT TREE, turn off the lights, run to the store, don’t say that in front of people, you’re not tall enough, not dark enough, not muscular enough, not this not that….I had FINALLY BROKEN FREE from the question to be or not to be, to stick a knife into you or not, to run away from you as far as I can or not, to smack you as hard as I can or not, to stick my nose into a mountain of heroin or not AND WHY? Because a live and spontaneous installation can also hide her emotions so damn well.
So I became airborne. You’re not following. Which is just as well because we only have one harness.
(Lisa looks at this ginormous knot that has formed over her head and that virtually makes it impossible for her to ever free herself from the harness)
So, what connected Freud to cocaine other than that bitter taste which resembled life, resembled death and everything putrid ? Was he really seeking the truth? The truth in the 1st person or in the 3rd ? or, even, perhaps the truth of a runaway character?
My truth is (as far as I can tell) is that I have fallen in love with my rebellious runaway characters and I’ve tended to reject the obedient, somewhat predictable ones. You came here tonight because you seemed attracted by a half promise, something of an improvement to your lives, using mine… my horrid example as a basis… a basis of all that isn’t; a human that wasn’t meant to be but kept on trying their best anyway, a basis of all possible misconceived notions..ah…concepts, something which lurked behind – miles behind those who received the awards, the Nobels, all awards, all those medals, accolades, gold over platinum, platinum over diamonds – and all they ever really did was…. Well, they wrote about those
who gave them the awards, who distributed the accolades and, in between one and the other, he would write in those silences…..
…..those silences I so naively thought I could represent because they so well represented me. It did not turn out that way. Michelle Obama whispered in my ear “honey, it did not turn out that way”. Eric Burdon – founder and lead singer of The Animals who enabled Hendrix’s entry into the London scene whispered in my ear “it did not turn out that way”.
The ONLY mission I was ever given, I screwed up: to come to a complete stop during the silences of those plays by Pinter. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Others did, not sure how. Fact is, in intimate terms, I didn’t pass the audition.
“And now?” you’re asking? I assume. Yes, that is the question. This place is called “CROSSROADS”, as in Clapton and Jack Bruce’s. Crossroads. There is only one rule of law here and that is: don’t get stuck here. Flee.
IF IT IS THE LAST THING I DO ON THIS EARTH !
SIR, SIR??? YES, YOU!!!! Look at me please. Please pay attention while I stay completely still during Pinter’s next silence.
(Lights fade slowly and Lisa is shown hanging and yet, not even when dead, completely still)
ARNALDO JABOR RIP
Tremulo ainda da estreia de Quatro Vezes Beckett em 1985 e da morte de Julian Beck, toca o telefone aqui em Nova York. “Oi, aqui é o Arnaldo Jabor…quem me deu o teu numero…” Antes que ele pudesse completar a frase eu interrompi aos berros “Oi Jabor, que prazer!”. “Pois é, estou aqui por uns dias e queria te conhecer e conversar sobre Beckett e….”. Dia seguinte, estávamos sentados devorando um bife com espinafre (Glorinha Kalil contando calorias por ele, sempre de regime).
Nunca mais nos separamos. A ultima conversa foi em Julho do ano passado. “Voce precisa fazer uma exposição desse seus desenhos rapaz! Eu não paro de olhar esse teu livro. Vou ligar pra Raquel (Arnaud) pra ver no que dá”. Jabor sempre foi uma das pessoas mais cultas que já conheci. Seus ensaios sobre Beckett – escritos em meados dos anos 60 são brilhantes. Suas resenhas para a radio CBN sobre os meus espetáculos Circo de Rins e Figados – onde ele salienta a frase “Nada Prova Nada”, repetida ad nauseam por Marco Nanini, passou a ter outra conotação a partir da leitura dele. A mesma coisa aconteceu com a leitura que fez de Diluvio, meu ultimo espetáculo em São Paulo em 2017. Mesma coisa: “É o fim do mundo, com uma única brecha de salvação”.
Jabor era o ultimo romantico. Acreditava não somente no amor mas na trilogia do amor. Trocavamos “informações secretas” (é como chamávamos essa brincadeira): ele mandava um VHS cru com as cenas que havia editado até aquele momento e me perguntava “e aí? E o Dan Stulbach ? Não está ótimo?” .
Em 1986 ele entrou furioso pela Sala Laura Alvim onde eu ensaiava Quartett de Heiner Mueller com Tonia Carreiro e Sergio Britto. Sentou lá nas ultimas filas. “Oi querido. Vem aqui pra frente”. “Não, não interrompe não, segue ai”. Nervoso, eu sabia que tinha coisa ali.
“Jabor, o que foi?”
“Tá tudo uma merda. Seguinte. Me bota de teu assistente na ópera que você vai fazer”
“Ta doido cara. Como assim? Voce é o Jabor. Jamais será assistente. Enlouqueceu. Eu é que seria o teu assistente!!!”
“Eu não sei mais nada, preciso aprender tudo de novo!”
Até hoje eu não entendi o que aconteceu ali.
Mas nem tudo foi um paraíso. Quando casei com a Fernanda Torres (que ganhou o premio de Cannes com o “Sei que vou te Amar” dele) e montei com a Fernanda mãe e filha o Flash and Crash Days, ele sentou na plateia do teatro Sérgio Cardoso em SP e, orgulhoso disse: “vou estreiar como colunista da Folha abrindo uma matéria com voces. Mas algo deu errado. Não aconteceu. No camarim falamos sobre o Babenco. Algo deu errado.
Certa vez eram três: Babenco, Cacá Diegues e Jabor.
Cacá e eu somos íntimos ate a alma até hoje, Jabor também. Algo deu errado com o Babenco. Não vale a pena explicar.
A imprensa criou um clima de rivalidade entre nós na época em que eu fiz (e ele fez) o Manhattan Connection. Não havia nada disso. Eu não gostava do seu pessimismo nas colunas. Mas falava isso pra ele. E riamos. Choravamos.
Sim, andávamos por essa Nova York e chorávamos.
Em Londres, em 2011, depois de um ensaio meu, andávamos e riamos.
E agora eu vou rir com quem?
E agora eu vou chorar com quem?
Nos ombros de quem ?
NYC Feb 15, 2022
Escrevo no meu diário ainda na década de 70 (está na minha autobiografia) “Li, pintado em um muro de Holborn, Londres: “a arte está morta.” Fui encontrado morto e usando botas, porque não apenas a arte estava morta. Eu também estava. Mas usava um par de Dr. Martens. Toda essa coisa começou alguns anos antes, aqui em Nova York, na Second Avenue com a East 4th Street, no apartamento (transformado em loft improvisado) onde Hélio Oiticica vivia. Ele tinha displays de suas homenagens a Cara de Cavalo (Box Bólide), e — é desnecessário dizer — sua grande coisa na vida era sua declaração “tropicalista”: “seja marginal — seja herói.”Agora, tente converter isso em termos norte-americanos do século XXI. Onde estaríamos? Ou no Brasil, aliás? Onde estaríamos? É claro que é mais fácil começar pelo Brasil. As pessoas encarregadas do governo e a “mentalidade prevalente /mentalidade dominante” no Brasil são canalhas que subscreveram intensamente o sistema da frase de Hélio, profética e clara como cristal. São todos ladrões. Todos eles. Se você odeia Washington, D.C., pense novamente. Tente Brasília. Olhei para aquele muro em Holborn no início dos anos 1970. Nem todos os meus valores mudaram!!! Toco “Hurt” no baixo. Não sei porque me sinto ferido. Tinta spray não é pensamento. Nenhuma tinta jamais é. Nenhuma tinta jamais é. Nenhuma pintura jamais é. É justamente isso que doi. (Gerald Thomas, NYC 2016)