Monday, December 22, 2008

King Lear and the Dancing Girl

Friday night, ice storm raging through the city, I went out to see a production of O'Neil's Touch of the Poet. It was a showcase production on 14th Street with Daniel J. Travanti in the titular role. It is said that many have attempted Con Melody and none have succeeded. It may be true, according to Times critic, that he is kin to King Lear, in the breadth and pathos of his character. I could see this. It is a considerable range; he is madman, he is fool, and he is human. The task made all the more difficult because O'Neil's language, like Shakespeare's, is intensely poetic. Dense. Rich. A mouthful. And it seems like actors choose either to serve the language or serve the character. It is rare to see both in operation at once.

And on this icy Friday evening, the lead actor chose the character. The language was lost. But Con was still alive because of the kinetic energy the actor exuded. But the woman who played the society matron held the language in her mouth like silk, played to the audience, in a pool of light, downstage. I understood every syllable. And it was golden. Afterwards, I trudged through the slush with a friend down 1st Avenue, found an Italian restaurant, had pizza and two glasses of wine. I actually found a cab. It was a great night even in the dead of winter.

I've finished The Dancing Girl. I admit that I have channeled Nabokov's Humboldt and Angela Carter. I think it is an interesting combination. I am trying to find a space between mythology and pornography. I have it in my head that I can find the female narrative in this space. It's tied into the intersection of sex and identity. Here is the question: what is the woman's story if it is told without the lens of a male dominated culture? Some (women) have argued that this would require an entirely different language. I think we can just grab it (language) and wrestle it to the ground. I think we can rewrite myths. I think we can play in the same playground. Myth and fairy tale, archetypes and tropes are a lot more malleable than we think. I think the Dancing Girl can take on Jason and the Golden Fleece any day. For sure, she can kick Con Melody's ass.

I have written a whole series of stories based on this theory. I don't like to label it "erotica" unless we can expand the definition of it. I used to think that I could make up words. When I was in my 20's, I wrote poetry, and sometimes people would say, "That's a made up word." And I thought, so what? Why can't I make up words? I was always on the fast track to feminism even before I knew the word existed. Why can't there be an intersection between mythology and pornography? Why can't we remake this in our own image--- since we have been created in this image by the voices of a male culture? And I love men, even Con Melody and certainly King Lear. I am not advocating that we throw the baby out with the bathwater. No. Not at all. All things can peacefully co-exist.

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