Monday, April 19, 2010

Sex and Power in life and theater

I'm directing another play. A great joy for me. I love doing this work better than anything in the world. When I am there- acting, writing, directing, I feel very strongly that this is my purpose. Sometimes it seems to me a very frivolous purpose but other times a very meaningful place to be. If I do this right, I will touch people and change them the way I have been touched and changed. I cannot describe fully the exhiliartion I feel when I create.
Art for me is about realization and moments of inspiration.
I'm particularly enjoying this play that I'm directing because there are some really meaty themes to be explored- it's about a bi-racial man in New York who has the power to heal people. He's a reluctant healer (the best kind, if you ask me)seeking not to sell himself or his gift but has hidden from it his entire life.
I have done some things in directing this play which I think I'm going to incorporate into rehearsal from now on. After our first full read through, I scheduled a rehearsal where all we did was talk about the characters and explore their relationship to the world, who they were, where they have been, what each actors feeling was about each individual character.
I went around in a circle and each person has a chance to say who his/her character was, why he/she was there, why he/she was important to the story, and what he/she brought into the room with him/her.
I expected this to be helpful to the cast but it was more than that, it was kind of transformative for me. I realized that I was going to be able to bring out deep, rich characters and I was so happy about the way this turned out. Each actor really jumped into the exploration and was completely present in their character. I loved the conversation. Everyone was welcome in this discussion and the actors gave valuable insight to one another.
One of the characters in this play is a battered wife. Another is a black woman who married a white Polish man in the sixties. They are very different women but both have a rich and complex relationship with sex and power.
I have thought deeply about this from time to time. I have not disclosed my own past as a battered wife to the cast because there's no purpose to that disclosure- I'm not hiding it at all but I have not found it to be relevant. In addition to the fact that this character is completely different from me. I feel nearly no kinship with her except for this one thing in common.
We also have this delightful drag queen in this play, what a fabulous character she is. Someone in the cast noted that a lot of times men become drag queens because they feel more powerful as women.
The women and I exchanged a look with one another when he said that. What? Really? Give up your masculinity to seek power?
Then I realized of course, sex is incredibly powerful. Of course it is. Lots of times, drag queens have been ineffectual or not that attractive men. Makeup and hair and accessories often make them beautiful, lavish peacocks... I said that right, not peahens.
Sex is our female celebrated power. Look at Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn- changed the religion of an entire country. Attraction is a powerful, inarticulate, irrational thing. Men have this, too but we have cultivated generations of women to use it to gain power.
Whenever I would have a boss who dominated me excessively, the kind you hate who is mean and unfair and cruel, I would inevitably dream I seduced him and had wild sex with him. This was usually with a man I despised who I was not attracted to in any way, but sex was the way I could subconsciously control him in my head. I wonder how much of this is evolutionary.
The dreams stopped when I realized what was happening.
This has been a fascinating journey so far. And we are just at the beginning of rehearsal process. I love how I learn something new and fresh from each time I do this.

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