by Gary Brackett
A Girl from the Congo
A Guitar player
Green Terror premiered at Atelier 210 in Brussels April 29, 2010, with the following cast:
The Prisoner and The Desparasido Gary Brackett
A Girl from the Congo Giulia Scarselli
A Woman Erin Downhour
A Guitar player David Copley
Narrators Jean-Pierre Baudson Stéphanie Coppé
Alessandra Valzania Augusto Ciprani Chiara Zompa David Copley Emanuele Macciò
Enoch Wu Erin Downhour Francesca D. Romoli Isadora Pei Giulia Cappilli
Giulia Filippo Giulia Scarselli Jeff Nash Laura Cavicchi Lauretta Tallarini Lila
Baldassarre Maria Ida Barbaresco Mosè Risalit Patrizia Capitanio Paola Simone
Ferrari Valentina Effe Viviane Cammarota
also with (from Belgium)
Edith Van Malder Gaetano Crapanzano Klara Deluze Nathalie Schultz
Stéphanie Coppé Thierry Chatelais
A bare stage, where some of the action transpires. Extending from the stage to the floor
are platforms in three levels. There is no scenery. Below the stage
is a large playing area (aprox. 5 x 12 meters) and the spectators
are seated on three sides of this area. There are also six raised
platforms distributed evenly among the seating.
Prologue: Break on Through to the Other-side
Action: an insane dance.
As the spectators enter they discover a figure in a black hood and
black cape. He stands somewhat precariously on a wooden crate.
He is naked underneath. His arms are extended out by his sides
and he has bare electric wires attached to his fingers. The wires
are however clearly cut and are not attached to anything. Image:
the Desaparecido1 prisoner of Abu Ghraib in Iraq. He can be heard mumbling to himself.
1 Desaparecido (Spanish: Disappeared) because we do not know what become of this prisoner. Unlike
When the public is seated the lights dim except on the Desparasido.
After a moment: very loud rock and roll music (Break on Through to the Other-side by The
Doors). The Desaparecido slowly begins to pulse with the music. He begins an energetic,
insane dance, leaping off his box to move amongst the public and the various platforms.
Sometimes he dances with a spectator or engages in some other interaction. He presents
a litany of gestures: some religious (dervish whirling, for example), others obscene,
sometimes imitating the electric shocks of torture, at times playing the lap-dancer-stripper
on his box. Sometimes he gestures and interacts ritually with this same box. Often he
exposes himself. He is the fool, a clown, a dream image from contemporary culture.
Lights begin to fade: the Desaparecido grabs his box and runs out, exiting through the
back of the house.
Blackout. The music finishes.
Scene 1: In the Beginning
Action: pulpy masses of matter
Music: Closing, by Phillip Glass
As the recorded narrated text begins, on stage a low back light reveals part of the Chorus.
They are all down on the ground. They execute a very slow rise to their feet (6 or more
Narration:2: in the voice of our creator
In the beginning the Earth was an infinite and murky plain, separated from
the sky and from the grey salt sea and smothered in a shadowy twilight. There were
neither Sun nor Moon nor Stars. Yet, far away, lived the Sky-Dwellers: youthfully
indifferent beings, human in form but with the feet of emus, their golden hair
glittering like spiders' webs in the sunset, ageless and un-ageing, having existed for
ever in their green, well-watered Paradise beyond the Western Clouds.
On the surface of the Earth, the only features were certain hollows which
would, one day, be waterholes. There were no animals and no plants, yet clustered
round the waterholes there were pulpy masses of matter: lumps of primordial soup -
soundless, sightless, unbreathing, unawake and unsleeping - each containing the
essence of life, or the possibility of becoming human.
Beneath the Earth's crust, however, the constellations glimmered, the Sun
shone, the Moon waxed and waned, and all the forms of life lay sleeping: the
scarlet of a desert-pea, the iridescence on a butterfly's wing, the twitching white
whiskers of Old Man Kangaroo - dormant as seeds in the desert that must wait for a
On the morning of the First Day, the Sun felt the urge to be born. (That
evening the Stars and Moon would follow.) The Sun burst through the surface,
Nguyễn Văn Lém executed by General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan of the famous photo of the Vietnam war, we
never have known the name of this person or what fate was accorded him. Both pictures are perhaps the
quintessential icon of the failure of both wars.
2 From Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin
flooding the land with golden light, warming the hollows under which each Ancestor
Unlike the Sky-dwellers, these Ancients had never been young. They were lame,
exhausted greybeards with knotted limbs, and they had slept in isolation through
So it was, on this First Morning,
that each drowsing Ancestor felt the
Sun's warmth pressing on his eyelids,
and felt his body giving birth to children.
The Snake Man felt snakes slithering
out of his navel. The Cockatoo Man felt
feathers. The Witchetty Grub Man felt a
wriggling, the Honey-ant a tickling, the
Honeysuckle felt his leaves and flowers
unfurling. The Bandicoot Man felt baby bandicoots seething from under his armpits.
Every one of the 'living things', each at its own separate birthplace, reached up for
the light of day.
In the bottom of their hollows (now filling up with water), the Ancients shifted
one leg, then another leg. They shook their shoulders and flexed their arms. They
heaved their bodies upward through the mud. Their eyelids cracked open. They
saw their children at play in the sunshine.
The mud fell from their thighs, like placenta from a baby. Then, like the
baby's first cry, each Ancestor opened his mouth and called out, 'I AM!' 'I am -
Snake... Cockatoo... Honeyant... Honeysuckle... And this first 'I am!', this primordial
act of naming, was held, then and forever after, as the most secret and sacred
couplet of the Ancestor's song.
Each of the Ancients (now basking in the sunlight) put his left foot forward
and called out a second name. He put his right foot forward and called out a third
name. He named the waterhole, the reed-beds, the gum trees - calling to right and
left, calling all things into being and weaving their names into verses.
The Ancients sang their way all over the world. They sang the rivers and
ranges, salt-pans and sand dunes. They hunted, ate, made love, danced, killed:
wherever their tracks led they left a trail of music.
Music changes to Australian didgeridoo with voices.
They wrapped the whole world in a web of song; and at last, when the Earth
was sung, they felt tired. Again in their limbs they felt the frozen immobility of Ages.
Some sank into the ground where they stood. Some crawled into caves. Some
crept away to their 'Eternal Homes', to the ancestral waterholes that bore them.
All of them went 'back in'.
Eventually the Chorus is on its feet, standing and squared off frontally toward the public.
They are all naked but have black hoods covering their heads and faces.
Slow fade to Blackout.
Scene 2: William Blake's Tableus
Action: when the morning stars sang together 3
From the back of the house, in the dark, is heard a rhythmic clapping of hands.
Music: loud didgeridoo with voices, but more rhythmical than before.
Lights fade up slowly on stage, in the house and platforms and the playing area.
The Chorus, on stage, is as before but they are now dressed in their black hoodies4.
With the chorus, downstage center, is the Prisoner. He is sitting precariously on the top of
a ladder, apparently his wrists tied behind him, ankles and knees together. He is naked
except for a black hood over his head and face.
The rest of the Chorus enters from the back of the house, also in black hoodies. They
march to the rhythm of their clapping hands. As they enter they divide and move to the
various platforms, the playing area and the platforms below the stage. They move into
groups or alone and execute a series of tableaus taken form the paintings and drawings of
William Blake. Each group or individual has 2 freezes with two distinct emotional states,
the players moving in slow motion between these two tableaus. Three figures however
move about in the playing area: Cain, the Devil and Nebukadnezar.
As the last tableaus are formed the clapping ceases and music fades.
Music up: In a landscape, by John Cage
Text: Haikus5, spoken individually or in voices:
After a long pause:
How do I get out?
bullets […] in the park
shout their anger
Children’s eyes cold
the wind of silence burns
light spring breeze caresses my brain
The illusion of having access
small «1» and «0» everywhere
Facebook - my best friend
Night- a bird lost
a woman in the sky
she smiles- I’m dying
Press a button
click click I love you click click
3 Title of a Blake drawing.
4 Sweatshirts: like the Black Block, as in Seattle, or that hip-hop culture might wear.
5 These haikus (Japanese form of poetry) are the fruit of workshops of the development period of Green
Terror. They were written collectively in groups of three persons. The themes, proposed by Gary Brackett
who also edited the poems, were: My Alienation; How Technology Fucked Me; and The Remedy, or
Take the moon down
pull up your socks
oh pray atomic desperation
Knocking on the next door
butterfly, dark honey, caress
Hairs in the bed - nectar of love
Scena 3: Introduction of the Protagonist
Action: the coming insurrection
Music up: Requiem For A Dream, by Arvo Part - Lux Aeterna
A narration begins: a female voice, harsh and cold delivers her speech of indoctrination.
All of the Chorus, as the lights begin to fade and the narration begins, moves slowly and
concentratedly toward the back of the house and exit.
Left alone on stage, still on the ladder, naked and hooded, is the Prisoner. During the
following speech he is lit with a hard, white light. At times he seems to look accusingly
toward different sections of the public. Other times he seems to be struggling to stay
awake, or indeed falling asleep, only to wake up with a jerking movement. Occasionally he
seems to be exercising his muscles...or is he trying to break the ties that bind him?
From whatever angle you approach it, the present offers no way out.
Everyone agrees that things can only get worse. “The future has no future” is the
wisdom of an age that, for all its appearance of perfect normalcy, has reached the
level of consciousness of the first punks.
There will be no social solution to the present situation. The social feeling
has already evaporated too much for that. The impasse of the present, everywhere
in evidence, is everywhere denied. There will be no end of psychologists,
sociologists, and literary hacks applying themselves to the case, each with a
specialized jargon from which the conclusions are especially absent. It’s enough to
listen to the songs of the times – the asinine “alt-folk” where the petty bourgeoisie
dissects the state of its soul, next to declarations of war from Mafia K’1 Fry 8 – to
6 This onomatopea is an enthusiastic affirmation, or negation, of 'the here and now', a refrain/motif used
throughout the play.
7 A 'cut-up' from The Coming Insurrection, by The Invisible Committee.
8 French Hip-Hop group
know that a certain coexistence will end soon, that a decision is near.
To call this population of strangers in the midst of which we live “society” is
such an usurpation that even sociologists dream of renouncing a concept that was,
for a century, their bread and butter. Now they prefer the metaphor of a network to
describe the connection of cybernetic solitudes, the intermeshing of weak
interactions under names like “colleague,” “contact,” “buddy,” “acquaintance,” or
“date.” Such networks sometimes condense into a milieu, where nothing is shared
but codes, and where nothing is played out except the incessant recomposition of
In reality, the decomposition of all social forms is a blessing.
Thirty years of “crisis,” mass unemployment and flagging growth, and they
still want us to believe in the economy. Thirty years punctuated, it is true, by
delusionary interludes: the interlude of 1981-83, when we were deluded into
thinking a government of the left might make people better off; the “easy money”
interlude of 1986-89, when we were all supposed to be playing the market and
getting rich; the internet interlude of 1998-2001, when everyone was going to get a
virtual career through being well-connected. But here we are, we’ve drained our
supply of delusions, we’ve hit rock bottom and are totally broke, or buried in debt.
We have to see that the economy is not “in” crisis, the economy is itself the
crisis. It’s not that there’s not enough work, it’s that there is too much of it. All things
considered, it’s not the crisis that depresses us, it’s growth. We must admit that the
litany of stock market prices moves us about as much as a Latin mass.
Ecology is the discovery of the decade. For the last thirty years we’ve left it
up to the environmentalists, joking about it on Sunday so that we can act concerned
again on Monday. And now it’s caught up to us, invading the airwaves like a hit
song in summertime, because it’s 68 degrees in December.
One quarter of the fish species have disappeared from the ocean. The rest
won’t last much longer.
Bird flu alert: we are given assurances that hundreds of thousands of
migrating birds will be shot from the sky.
Mercury levels in human breast milk are ten times higher than the legal level
for cows. And these lips which swell up after I bite the apple – but it came from the
There is no “environmental catastrophe.” The catastrophe is the environment
itself. The environment is what’s left to man after he’s lost everything. Those who
live in a neighborhood, a street, a valley, a war zone, a workshop – they don’t have
an “environment;” they move through a world peopled by presences, dangers,
friends, enemies, moments of life and death, all kinds of beings. And there’s no one
but us to witness our own annihilation, as if it were just a simple change of scenery,
to get indignant about the latest progress of the disaster, to patiently compile its
What presents itself everywhere as an ecological catastrophe has never
stopped being, above all, the manifestation of a disastrous relationship to the world.
Environmentalism’s present paradox is that under the pretext of saving the planet
from desolation it merely saves the causes of its desolation.
The normal functioning of the world usually serves to hide our state of truly
catastrophic dispossession. What is called “catastrophe” is no more than the forced
suspension of this state, one of those rare moments when we regain some sort of
presence in the world. Let the petroleum reserves run out earlier than expected; let
the international flows that regulate the tempo of the metropolis be interrupted, let
us suffer some great social disruption and some great “return to savagery of the
population,” a “planetary threat,” the “end of civilization!” Either way, any loss of
control would be preferable to all the crisis management scenarios they envision.
What makes the crisis desirable is that in the crisis the environment ceases
to be the environment. We are forced to reestablish contact, albeit a potentially fatal
one, with what’s there, to rediscover the rhythms of reality.
The only realistic option we can see is to “break the bank” as soon as
possible and, in the meantime, take advantage of every collapse in the system to
increase our own strength.
We are not depressed; we’re on strike. For those who refuse to manage
themselves, “depression” is not a state but a passage, a
bowing out, a sidestep towards a political disaffiliation. From
then on medication and the police are the only possible
forms of conciliation. This is why the present society doesn’t
hesitate to impose Ritalin on its over-active children, or to
strap people into life-long dependence on pharmaceuticals,
and why it claims to be able to detect “behavioral disorders”
at age three. Because everywhere the hypothesis of the self
is beginning to crack.
Scena 4: a Rant
Action: confession, or an accusation?
Lights the same as before.
Let's try this for YouTube: fuck you!
Look mom! Sandy, are you there? Can you see me too?
You guys think this is some kind of joke? I'm a white man. White! I'm not some
fucking Arab in Abu Ghraib. That's the joke – I get it. You take a white man and put
him here - that's your idea of fun.
Well...they want me to make again every fucking day around this time my
You see I've been kidnapped. I'm supposed to say that. By – I don't even know the
group- I'm not supposed to know – these sort of eco-terrorists, green terrorists,
Why am I here? Because: I gave a lecture. You see, I am a scientist, a sociologist.
So...I said, to these kids who were evidently hidden in the audience, when asked
about the Market, I said: well listen. War, yes. Prostitution, yes. Arms, yes. Drugs.
9 This monologue is improvised by the actor. This text is taken from the April 30, 2010 performance.
These are the big motors of the economy, of actual goods. The Market determines
everything. Even War, and also the Atomic Bomb, yes.
And so I said: to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs. This is the story of
MAN: History! Evolution! And so the Market has evolved technology to take us ever
further out of Nature. We break eggs and make omelets all over the place. What do
we think we are? Nature?
Have you heard this fucking text of theirs? Nice text. Yeah, very nice.
But it's like this: we ARE technological. We went into a cave. We got out of the rain,
HELLO? We made a coat, of fur. We are not Nature. This body is just a temporary
passage. We are leaving it. We are moving on. The Story. History. Evolution.
Technology. Who knows where we can go?
These kids they want to be OUTSIDE of History. They want to destroy History. They
want to destroy the human project. Those Black Bloc punks in Seattle. Those brats
in Greece burning banks. Killing with their Molotov Cocktails! They're such cry-
But Capitalism, the Market, Socialism, Communism. It doesn't fucking matter. It's
moving forward with the Market. The world is what it is and it is PERFECT. Even
your lovely new age fad Yoga says the same thing.
And so I asked them: what do you DO? What can you propose to replace the
Market? Nothing. They don't have any alternatives.
Right? Right. Look, here is something new for today's session. Check this out: we
are moving forward: toward two species. YES! Two human species. One we will live
two hundred, three hundred, four hundred years old. What do you think Avatar 10
was about? We will be able to transfer ourselves to some other place, some other
body. Better yet, a machine, a computer. That's immortality. Living in pure IDEAS –
pure Thought – Rational - Science – Ideas! Fuck this body! It's just full of shit.
Literally. And fuck Feeling. And Emotions.
We will be pure Thought. Imagine.
And yes: the other species. Those who can not buy our medicine - those who can
not buy our new genes - Those who can not buy the technology...will be left behind.
The great human divide. Division: the poor. They will die. Because they won't be
able to buy it.
So: it is the new Anthropology of Man. Those of us who will develop, and live, who
knows, forever. And those who will die.
And this, is, yes - breaking some eggs.
And you will break eggs too. You will break GREEN eggs. You will buy your GREEN
vegetables. You will buy your GREEN Smart cars. You will buy your GREEN
houses. And the Market will tell you what to buy. And the Market will do it. It will help
you. We will be GREEN. We can solve all of this. Global warming - no problem.
Technology can solve that one too. The Market can do everything.
I am not apologizing for the Market. I'm just a scientist. I tell you what it IS. What it
does. What it's doing. Where it's going.
And that's why I'm here. Because for THEM, these idiots, I'm some sort of
representative, of...what? I teach your students. I teach your children. I teach YOU.
10 2009 American science fiction film. Human hybrid bodies called avatars are operated via mental link by
genetically matching humans. In the plot, human consciousness eventually passes from one body to
So...you go buy your GREEN stuff. You separate your garbage. You buy your
GREEN cars and we will buy GREEN eggs and we will make GREEN omelets and
we will move FORWARD into the Future.
Who knows where we can go?
But not with these kids. They're losers!
Scene 5: There is a Crisis in New Orleans
Action: why are you just sitting there?
This scene, and also Scene 9 below, are the fruits of Collective Creation: a process more
important and relevant for the people than any actual play.11 These two scenes are
adapted and developed through collaborations between workshop participants and
company members. Texts and stagings are collectively produced. There are however
forms and several citations which attempt to unify the images and themes presented by
the various configurations of participants. These forms include Rituals, Visiones and
In various moments the stagings involve the Prisoner as witness, confidant, accuser and
Some resources: TAZ13, by Hakim Bey and The Coming Insurrection, by The Invisible
A scene note:
I come as a victorious Dionysius, who will turn the world into a holiday. Not that I
have much time...!14
Outline of the scene from the production in Brussels:
1. Chaos: the Hurricane Katrina
2. The forces of order attempt to combat the chaos
3. The people are gathered together only to be abandoned.
Music: A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, by Bob Dylan
11 Paraphrase of Julian Beck from his The Life of the Theatre. The actual quote: Collective creation is an
example of Anarcho-Communist-Autogestive Process which is of more value to the people than a play.
Collective creation as secret weapon of the people.
12 From Paradise Now of The Living Theatre. Rituals are ceremonies, physical-spiritual processes that
culminate in a 'flash-out' and generally involve only the actors. Visions are scenes based upon archetypal
images (dreams, myths, symbols, media icons) directed toward the cerebral capacities of the spectator.
The rituals and visions amalgamate into an Action: proposed by the actors and played by them and the
spectators. Free theater; theater of participation.
13 Temporary Autonomous Zone
New Orleans, a few days after
Hurricane Katrina. In this
apocalyptic atmosphere, here
and there, life is reorganizing
itself. In the face of the inaction
of the public authorities, who
were too busy cleaning up the
tourist areas of the French
Quarter and protecting shops to
help the poorer city dwellers,
forgotten forms are reborn. In spite of occasionally strong-armed attempts to
evacuate the area, in spite of white supremacist lynch mobs, a lot of people
refused to leave the terrain.
4. Mutual Aid: the people organize themselves. Tableau: Géricault's Raft of the
Self-organization came back to the fore: popular kitchens, supplies, street medicine,
illegal takeovers, the construction of emergency housing, all this practical
knowledge accumulated here and there in the course of a life, has now found a
space where it can be deployed. Far from the uniforms and sirens.
5. Reaction and repression
6. Non-violent resistance
New Orleans (from an Exquisite Corpse16)
We'll eat mud from mud
tomorrow already today and after also.
Directionless and speechless, I drink the space.
It's taste is sweet like ten million little victories.
The enchained saints go marching on
one by one down the line.
With water on the throat
that does not quench
letting go the smell of fear
it is possible that you will re-find your instinct.
Like a virgin history, old like the sunrise.
Fireflies are disappearing like our kin
drinking gasoline with a smile.
The raft of Géricault in the tombs singing blues
burning souls in the rubble
15 From The Coming Insurrection
16 Collective method of writing poems from the French Dadaists/Surrealists.
the light will shatter the night.
Who will help us on this raft?
Lost in the dark river
water - too much, too little?
Katrina do you have something against me?
At the end of the scene the Chorus and some spectators are congregated below the
stage, resisting the police repression.
Scene 6: The Congo
Action: rape, or empathy training for men?
Dim lights come up in the house and playing area. Lights up harsh on the Prisoner as
The female actors move to place hands on the male actors and roughly move them to
various points in the playing area and platforms. They are laid out and held 'spread-eagle'
on the ground.
An actress steps onto the stage, just at the feet of the Prisoner's ladder. She is naked and
has a black hood over her face and head. She speaks directly to the Prisoner. He is in a
type of 'asana' (yoga) position, his arms straight with his hands on his knees. He listens
with much attention.
The actors enact the following narrative in a stylized, biomechanical17 way.
Girl from the Congo 18:
I am from the Congo. My parents disappeared in the fighting when I had just
turned fourteen - perhaps they were massacred, but their bodies never turned up so
I moved in with my uncle.
A few months later, the extremist Hutu militia invaded our home. I remember
that it was the day of my very first menstrual period - the only one I have ever had.
First, they tied up my uncle. They cut off his hands, gouged out his eyes, cut
off his feet, cut off his sex organs, and left him like that. He was still alive.
His wife and his son were also there. Then they took all of us into the forest.
That militia is known for kidnapping people and enslaving them for months, even
years. Men are turned into porters, and girls into sex slaves.
Me and the others were regularly tied spread-eagle and gang-raped, and I
soon became pregnant. The rapes continued, sometimes with sticks that tore apart
my insides and left me dribbling wastes constantly. Somehow the fetus survived,
but my pelvis was too immature to deliver the baby.
One of the people the militia had kidnapped was a doctor who was forced to
treat the soldiers. The doctor, seeing that I was close to dying in obstructed
childbirth, cut me open with an old knife, without anesthetic, and removed the
17 Stylized movement created by Meyerhold and later adapted and developed by The Living Theatre
18 Adapted from a series of articles by Nicholas D. Kristof
stillborn baby. I was delirious - almost dead, so the militia dumped me beside the
I was completely destroyed inside.
The doctor operated on me nine times over three years to repair the fistulas
that were causing me to leak wastes. Finally he succeeded, and I returned to my
village to live with my grandmother.
He told me to stay away from men for three months, to give my body time to
heal. But three days after I returned to the village, the militia came again and raped
me again. The fistula reopened.
I hid naked in the forest. I was stinking because my internal injuries had
reopened; I finally managed to escape and eventually found my way back to the
hospital. The doctor started a second round of surgeries but there is so little tissue
left that it is not clear if I can ever be continent again.
We need an effort to monitor the minerals trade from the Congo so that
warlords can no longer buy guns by exporting gold, tin or coltan.
She turns to face the public.
Unless we see some help here, this war - fueled by profits from mineral
exports - will continue indefinitely.
So far here in eastern Congo the war has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust
but also has claimed more lives. One study put the death toll here at 5.4 million as
of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a
dozen years, at 6.9 million.
So if someone doesn’t act now, when will they? When the toll reaches 10
million deaths? When I will be kidnapped and raped for a third time?
Scene 7: Getting Rid of the Corpse
Action: dressing for a funeral
During the blackout is heard again the female voice as before, accompanied by Australian
The first global slaughter, which from 1914 to 1918 did away with a large
portion of the urban and rural proletariat, was waged in the name of freedom,
democracy, and civilization. For the past five years, the so-called “war on terror”
with its special operations and targeted assassinations has been pursued in the
name of these same values. Yet the resemblance stops there: at the level of
appearances. The value of civilization is no longer so obvious that it can brought to
the natives without further ado. Freedom is no longer a name scrawled on walls, for
today it is always followed, as if by its shadow, with the word “security.” And it is well
known that democracy can be dissolved in pure and simple “emergency” edicts –
for example, in the official reinstitution of torture in the US, or in France’s Perben 2
19 Cut -up from The Coming Insurrection.
In a single century, freedom, democracy and civilization have reverted to the
state of hypotheses. Our leaders’ work from here on out will consist in shaping the
material and moral as well as symbolic and social conditions in which these
hypotheses can be more or less validated, in configuring spaces where they can
seem to function. All means to these ends are acceptable, even the least
democratic, the least civilized, the most repressive. This is a century in which
democracy regularly presided over the birth of fascist regimes, civilization
constantly rhymed – to the tune of Wagner or Iron Maiden – with extermination, and
in which, one day in 1929, freedom- showed its two faces: a banker throwing
himself from a window and a family of workers dying of hunger. Since then – let’s
say, since 1945 – it’s taken for granted that manipulating the masses, secret service
operations, the restriction of public liberties, and the complete sovereignty of a wide
array of police forces were appropriate ways to ensure democracy, freedom and
The Prisoner appears downstage center. The ladder is gone. He is being dressed in what
seems to be a funeral suit by two female members of the Chorus with black hoods
concealing their faces. His head and face are still covered by a black hood.
Once he is dressed they exit and he stands immobile, downstage center.
Today the West is the GI who dashes into Fallujah on an M1 Abrams tank,
listening to heavy metal at top volume. It’s the tourist lost on the Mongolian plains,
mocked by all, who clutches his credit card as his only lifeline. It’s the CEO who
swears by the game Go. It’s the young girl who chases happiness in clothes, guys,
and moisturizing creams. It’s the Swiss human rights activist who travels to the four
corners of the earth to show solidarity with all the world’s rebels – provided they’ve
been defeated. It’s the Spaniard who couldn’t care less about political freedom once
he’s been granted sexual freedom. It’s the art lover who wants us to be awestruck
before the “modern genius” of a century of artists, from surrealism to Viennese
actionism, all competing to see who could best spit in the face of civilization. It’s the
cyberneticist who’s found a realistic theory of consciousness in Buddhism and the
quantum physicist who’s hoping that dabbling in Hindu metaphysics will inspire new
The fragmented individual survives as a form thanks to the “spiritual”
technologies of counseling. Patriarchy survives by attributing to women all the worst
attributes of men: willfulness, self-control, insensitivity. A disintegrated society
survives by propagating an epidemic of sociability and entertainment. So it goes
with all the great, outmoded fictions of the West maintaining themselves through
artifices that contradict these fictions point by point.
There is no “clash of civilizations.” There is a clinically dead civilization kept
alive by all sorts of life-support machines that spread a peculiar plague into the
planet’s atmosphere. At this juncture, any strictly social contestation that refuses to
see that what we’re faced with is not the crisis of a society but the extinction of a
So we have a corpse on our backs, but we won’t be able to rid ourselves of it
just like that. Nothing is to be expected from the end of civilization, from its clinical
death. In and of itself, it can only be of interest to historians. It’s a fact, and it must
be translated into a decision.
The Prisoner moves tentatively, as if blind, down the levels of platforms.
Facts can be conjured away, but decision is political: to decide on the death of
civilization, then to work out how it will happen. Only a decisive decision will rid us
of the corpse.
Scene 8: Vision of the Succubus 20
Action: a ruse, or a shamanistic initiation?
Lights up. There is a long, narrow table in the
playing area. The Prisoner is lying on it, arms
crossed over his chest. The Chorus sits in a
large circle around the table. They have the
hoods of their sweatshirts up and their faces
are covered also with black hoods.
The Woman, appearing from downstage
center, moves down the platforms. She carries
a small, naked babydoll and places it on the
Were there last agonies? Were you in terror, did you know? Could you feel the
hard hand of death that claimed you? And who is this fool standing over your
bones, choked with bitterness? And what could a child know of the darkness of
God's plan? Or how is the flesh so delicate it is hardly more than a dream?
Why then this loneliness? To make your heart more desolate. The specter of things
sings in its own ashes.
Prisoner (sitting up):
I opened my mouth. She pushed the spoon in and emptied its contents down my
throat. I swallowed. She sat back to watch.
Find the bone that will not burn.
Scorpion dust, frog-powder in pigs-milk.
You'll shit through the eye of a needle from thirty steps.
What do I do?
20 All of the text of this scene is adapted from Suttree, by Cormac McCarthy.
You don't do nothin'. You will be told.
I don't feel good.
Don't you puke.
I think I might.
I needed to lie down. She took my wrist in her spider's hand and turned her eyes on
me. Pieces of a dream rolled down the back of my brain.
She watched me as if I were a thing in a glass jar.
Can I go home now?
It don't make no difference where you go.
I tried to get up but then became uncertain if I should walk about. There seemed no
purpose to it. I laid back down. Then I seemed to be in another room...to be
She was whispering something to herself silently...like a prayer but it wasn't a
What is this stuff?
She turned her face in profile, an old, black, androgynous figure.
I felt empty inside and there seemed to be a cool wind moving through my body like
a wind in a street. A door closed on all that I had been.
Look at me!
Hush boy. I don't need to look at you.
Prisoner (getting up off the table):
Suddenly I realized that the scene was past and I was looking at its disappearing
reality like a watcher from another room. Then I was watching the watcher.
Blackout. Then lights up. The babydoll appears on the table, naked and also with a black
I could feel my hands on my thighs but I could not determine where I was. Then I
was somewhere else.
I began to move...turning in a vast brown circle and I was moving outward and then
back again. Every few minutes I would pass the place where I had been.
Then I felt hands laying on me again. A cold and wet fear froze my heart. I did not
know if my eyes saw or not. They saw the same opened or closed.
Reaching out my hand it seemed to sink in nameless mucous. I lay like a fly in a
He lays down on the table.
Both the Prisoner and Woman speaking. She is now naked and enacts the scene with
Dust fell from her eyes. From her fallen rags of clothes a dried, black and hairless
figure rose...her black and shriveled leather breasts like an empty purse hanging,
her thin ribs, like razors, where hung a heart even darker.
None so ready as she.
Her long and flat nipples swung above me. Black and loose skin of her neck, her
death-sick mouth upon me.
I stretched my neck to breath. Dead odor of aged female flesh, lifeless and arid.
Dry withered nothing lips of her sex hung from the outside of her torn dirty drawers.
Her thighs spread with a sound of cracking ligaments, dry bones breaking in their
Like a kiss her cunt opened, like a mouth seeking completion.
I shook bonelessly in the grip of a horrible black succubus.
My spine was sucked from my flesh and fell clattering to the floor.
He gets up.
The light died down and then I saw with perfect clarity a parade I'd watched through
the legs of the crowd, the floats, the band with its drum and horns and the
majordomo shaking a baton and dancing and farting like a horse.
I saw what had been so...
how a caravan of dark covered cars moved through the rain on a dark day and how
my twin brother Kenny in short pants and an aviator's hat marched around in a big
room with a high ceiling and a not very nice nurse in a white uniform barked lots of
orders and I knew in that house some soul lay dying.
I saw huge white birds, swans, flying over a house I'd known as a child, enormous
shapes laboring above chimneys like farm animals flying in a dream, apparitions of
such graceful lightness turning on the winter wind with their long necks stretched
seaward, shouldering the thin and bitter air.
And I saw what had been so...
the funeral flowers in the corridor and how a door closed and the candle-flames
trembled and stood righted again and I could smell the flowers and some other
humid sour smell.
I saw a small boy in a schoolyard with a broken arm screaming and how the
children watched like animals.
I saw a jar in a garden with mouse-bones.
Music (live guitar).
I heard organ music somewhere floating up and out from a gramophone and the
slow shuffle of feet over the polished floors and I was lifted in my father's arms to
see how quietly the dead lay.
And I saw what had been...
how that old lady who had sat in the old photograph like a fierce bird lay now cold
and still in her burial dress. A black lacquer coffin there in a windy hall and how the
rain fell from the hats of the men carrying it out.
Then walking through the corridors of the vast funeral hall I saw in a small room
among flowers the sleeping doll, the white bonnet, the lace, the candlelight.
He meets the Woman at the table, both looking over the babydoll. They enact the
And the little girl took the thing from its cradle and held it and rocked it in her arms
and Kenny said you better put that thing up. She took it through the halls singing it a
lullaby, its long burial dress falling behind her to the floor and me following and a
woman saw us pass in the hall and called out softly upon God and someone cried
out: You bring that thing here! And we ran down the hall and the little girl fell with it
and it rolled on the floor and a man came out and took it away and the little girl was
crying and she said: it was just lying in there by itself all alone and I was much
The Prisoner lays down at the edge of the stage.
He lay with his feet together and his arms at his side like a dead king on an altar.
He rocks in the waves, floating like the first germ of life lost on the earth's cooling
seas, formless spot of plasm trapped in a vapor drop and all creation yet to come.
A Guitar player (singing)21:
If you're traveling in the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was the true love of mine.
If you go when the snowflakes storm
21 Girl Of The North Country, by Bob Dylan
When the rivers freeze and summer ends
Please see if she's a coat so warm
To keep her from the howlin' winds.
Slow fade to black.
Scene 922: Post-scarcity Anarchy23
Action: the crisis of desire24, or dream-walking the desert
A scene note:
To learn to live without things. Things fill men with fear. The more things you have,
the more you have to fear. Things have a way of riveting themselves on to the soul
and then telling the soul what to do.25 Solution: no possessions and voluntary
Outline of the scene from the production in Brussels:
1. Ritual of convocation
Foxes have hole, birds of the air have nests
But the Son of Man had no place to lay his head.26
2. Vision of Scarcity
3. Dancing to the Totems of Desire
5. Wings of Desire
Children run naked on moist grass.
Adults buy clothes and walk slowly toward death.
I want to throw your hugh heels in the toilet.
Let's get naked in a strawberry field.
I'm cold, I squash strawberries.
I find myself covered by blood, who's the killer?
A big hole in my ripped stomach
I pick up what i can find and I'm badly patched.
All around hide your emptiness, brother.
We are all the same,
in this desert without emotions
I want to find again the warm peace in me
22 Scene of Collective Creation. See footnote #12.
23 From Post-Scarcity Anarchism by Murray Bookchin
24 Thanks to Carlo Altomare for putting so succinctly this concept of the essential dilema of modern society.
25 Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
26 Attributed to Jesus of Nazareth, The New Testament
27 Exquisite Corpse. Collective method of writing poems from the French Dadaists/Surrealists.
lying on the altar, under righteous water.
I have wings but I am not an angel.
I come to you not from heaven
and now the the skin becomes red
the sun burns and blinds,
I must live amongst wolves
but I'm free to sleep with stars.
Scene 10: The Leap
Action: I am sick, I must die
The Prisoner is seen on his ladder, apparently asleep. Two
men of the Chorus, their faces covered in hoods, approach
and rudely awaken him. They pull him down; he falls toward
the floor. They drag him to the center of the playing area
and place him on the same wooden crate seen in the
prologue. He is still naked and hooded with his arms
The Chorus surrounds him. The women are all seated in
the yoga asana of the Camel, their hips pulsating toward the
Prisoner. The men stand behind the women supporting
them. All are staring at the Prisoner.
The same rhythmic clapping of hands of Scene 2 is again
I'm so tired. You have to help me up, remember?
You know they bring me here everyday. But today I jump. They think that I really
believe that this is some real electric trick. That I fall...and that I will fry. Maybe that's
so - I don't care now.
I just can't take anymore of this. It's been weeks, months...I don't know.
But listen, first, just one thing I want to talk about: this thing about the Congo. OK. I
heard it all, yes. I am guilty...but also you kids...all of you here. Those minerals: we
buy them. They go into our cell phones, our computers, our watches. We're all
involved. But why don't we FEEL that we are responsible? That's my question. We
hear, we know, but we dont feel it. And we don't know what to do.
But wait. Something HAS happened here...to me. I do feel. Is that so easy to say?
And that I was wrong. It's not the brain, the thought or just the idea. It's all of it... to
feel, in the heart, in this body.
But it doesn't matter anymore.
28 This monologue is improvised by the actor. This text is taken from the April 30, 2010 performance.
I have a new game for you boys today.
It's a kind of a prayer. Yeah, funny..the praying sociologist. But this is not for you.
Sandy? Listen: I'm sorry. I know we said that we were going to go out together. That
we would wait for each other...for the end. But this might be my end. But wait: there
is no end. No beginning. It's all, like, now. But what does that mean? I'm so sor- I'll
After all of this time and all these- techniques I've been subjected to- something
happened. I found by chance, at a certain time in the day, that there was this little
bit of light shining into my cell. And I looked and I saw this one, so small, blade of
grass. And I had this..moment...with this blade of grass – I swear – I could FEEL it
growing and that blade of grass was part of me and I was part of it. It was dead, it
was growing, it was just being born - and it was the same for me. It ALL was just
there, me feeling it and Time didn't matter anymore. Believe me that blade of grass
saved me – taught me so much.
And then one day one of the kids came in. His hood was sort of half off. I guess he
thought I was asleep. I opened my eyes and we looked at each other. And I could
feel his pain, his loneliness and how he had on his face, a mask, to keep all that
covered. But he couldn't hide from me. The mask couldn't work anymore. And I saw
that HE saw – that the mask was gone for me...and of course he quickly put his
hood back on. But it was too late.
So Sandy what is all this about? Don't worry. I'm going out. And here I am with my
prayer, feeling my past errors and here, humbly, feeling for this future – right here
below me. But listen: I'm there. We will be there. We are there.
So...I'm going out with one of our favorite poems.
Beauty is but a flower,
which wrinkles will devour,
brightness falls from the air,
Queens have died young and fair,
dust has closed Helen's eye,
I am sick, I must die:
Lord, have mercy on us.29
He leaps from the box and finishes in a death grip.
Scene 11: Song of Childhood
Action: it quivers there still today.
Music: In a Landscape, by John Cage
Chorus30 (spoken in turns):
When the child was a child, it walked with its arms swinging,
wanted the brook to be a river, the river to be a torrent ,
29 From In Time of Pestilence, by Thomas Nashe. 1593
30 Song of Childhood By Peter Handke
and this puddle to be the sea.
When the child was a child, it didn’t know that it was a child,
everything was soulful, and all souls were one.
The Prisoner, over the course of the song, executes a slow rise to his feet.
When the child was a child, it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits, it often sat cross-legged ,
took off running, had a cowlick in its hair ,
and made no faces when photographed.
When the child was a child, it was the time for these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end? Is life under the sun not just a
dream? Is what I see and hear and smell
not just an illusion of a world before the world? Given the facts of evil and people,
does evil really exist? How can it be that I, who I am ,
didn’t exist before I came to be, and that, someday, I, who I am,
will no longer be who I am?
When the child was a child, it choked on spinach, on peas, on rice pudding,
and on steamed cauliflower, and eats all of those now, and not just because it has
When the child was a child, it awoke once in a strange bed,
and now does so again and again. Many people, then, seemed beautiful,
and now only a few do, by sheer luck.
It had visualized a clear image of Paradise, and now can at most guess. It
could not conceive of nothingness, and shudders today at the thought.
When the child was a child, it played with enthusiasm ,
and, now, has just as much excitement as then, but only when it concerns its work.
When the child was a child, it was enough for it to eat an apple, bread,
and so it is even now.
When the child was a child, berries filled its hand as only berries do,
and so it is even now.
Prisoner (on his feet beginning to walk toward the stage):
Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw, and so it is even now.
It had, on every mountaintop, the longing for a higher mountain yet.
And in every city, the longing for an even greater city,
and that is still so. It reached for cherries in topmost branches of trees
with an elation it still has today, has a shyness in front of strangers,
and has that even now. It awaited the first snow ,
And waits that way even now.
When the child was a child, it threw a stick, like a lance, against a tree,
and it quivers there still today.
The Prisoner exits.
Epilogue: Attach Yourself to What is Real: Begin There.
Action: mind, body, emotion and imagination
After the Prisoner exits members of the Chorus each invite the audience into the playing
area. The actor who played the Prisoner returns in black street clothes and together with
the help of the other actors leads the public in the Journey Dance.
1. Exploring in the body the four elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air.
2. We are never still. Exploring movement.
3. Various forms of dancing, interactions and contact are proposed.
4. All sit in the asana "hero pose".
5. Ritual of calling/invocation.
6. Circle dance.
7. Final meditation. Mantra as antidote:
Attach yourself to what you feel to be real. Begin there.
8. The people introduce themselves.
9. Free dancing.
All the artists of Living Theatre Europa
Theater Lab, New York
Loretta Auditorium/New Science
The Living Theatre
Leggere Strutture Factory
Workshop participants of Green Terror: Naples, Bologna, Pescara, Brussels
All the staff and artists of Atelier 210, Brussels
LABORATORIO 7, Napoli
(more to come)