Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Final Solution: Something Happened

rehearsal of 2012 production of Ivo van Hove's Roman Tragedies
Back in 2012 theatergoers were allowed on stage during Ivo van Hove's production of the Roman Tragedies at BAM. You could be a supernumerary in the crowd as Caesar famously intones “Et tu, Brute?” Usually the audience perceives Caesar's murder with several degrees of separation. The willing suspension of disbelief is actually held in abeyance by skepticism. Back during the performances of Roman Tragedies, the disbelief was more than willingly suspended as one found oneself adopting the role as a spectator in history. Actually, if you’re in Rome today, you can visit the very spot where Caesar met his end, the Largo di Torre Argentina. You'll get closer to an event that occurred millennia ago, then to the version of history unfolding in a 24 hour cable news cycle. Unending translation of happenstance creates a high level of distance and consequentially unreality. It’s not so much fake as filtered news or simply phenomena. Due to social media there’s a lot of chatter. You may have the illusion of having some breathing space but you might as well be watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve--on TV. It’s rare that you ever nakedly come into contact with literally anything. "Art is a lie that makes us realize truth," said Picasso. What BAM offered back in 2012 was something close to the experience of seeing history actually unfold. Remember a Joseph Heller novel called Something Happened or the 50s CBS series, You Are There?

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