Friday, September 04, 2009

Theatre of Cruelty

The sunken cheeked fellow above is one Antonin Artaud born this day, 1896, in Marseille, France. He had an interesting childhood, after an attack of meningitis that gave him a nervous, irritable disposition for the remainder of his life. If only I had that kind of excuse, I am just irritable. I guess it could be worst, I am not overly nervous. As a teenage he was stabbed in the back by a pimp, similar to the experience suffered by Samuel Beckett. Several trips to a "rest sanatorium" lead to him becoming addicted to laudanum. Perhaps that is what fueled his wonder imagination. It was imagination that he considered dreams, thoughts, and delusions to be no less real that the outside world. Reality, to Artaud, is a consensus, the consensus that the audience agrees to when it enters the theatre and pretends the performance is real. Maybe that is what life is, an agreed upon performance that is just as real as we believe it to be. It some ways that makes a lot of sense reality is just the agreed upon illusion that the masses buy into in order to avoid the more horrible misery underneath. The day to day struggle to get bread, booze, and a bed are "real" enough why not hope that the "dream" of winning the lottery we have when we collapse into that bed isn't just as real? Who knows maybe it is real after all? Maybe somewhere in some alternate universe Sweden did win the World Cup in 1958, and the Vikings are four time Super Bowl champions. Later in life, he obtained a walking stick that he believed was owned by St. Patrick, Jesus, and Lucifer. Talk about having a little to much dope in the system. He spent a majority of his remaining years in a psycho ward at various hospitals, even getting some good, old fashioned electro-shock therapy for his troubles. In January 1948, Artaud was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. He died shortly afterwards on March 4, 1948, alone in the psychiatric clinic, seated at the foot of his bed, allegedly holding his shoe. It was suspected that he died from a lethal dose of the drug chloral. So, for making theatre cruel, and a great deal of fun, and for taking it in a new, exciting direction Antonin Artaud (September 4th, 1896- March 4th, 1948), you are my hero of the day.

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