Main Entry: thau·ma·turg
Etymology: French, from New Latin thaumaturgus, from Greek thaumatourgos working miracles, from thaumat-, thauma miracle + ergon work — more at Theater, Work
The official blog of the Dramaturgy Department at Baltimore's CENTERSTAGE. For posts related to our current and upcoming shows, click the links to the right. Alternatively, you could begin at the beginning, and explore our posts in chronological order.
It’s eerie. Sitting in my apartment on Calvert Street in Baltimore, I am rereading a play that I directed 10 years ago, laughing at it again, saddened by it anew, finding new nuance or perhaps the same inflections which are subjected to “halzfheimers,” as CENTERSTAGE’s Associate Artistic Director Gavin Witt calls it.
Si Osborn is back with me to remember that which I don’t, and three new folks are there to remind me that it is a fresh discovery to them and that they have new slants to offer that will awaken the play in ways I have not imagined. Jordan Brown, Richard Thieriot, and Barbara Kinglsey now will dig out the truth of Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy. It’s every bit as funny as I remembered it, and now, 10 years later, deeper for the aging perspective I bring to it.
I’ve done several plays more than once in my life. Twelfth Night, Much Ado, Rounding Third, Better Late, and each and every one revealed itself in different ways as new actors slipped into the skin of the characters.
More interesting though is the impact that the Baltimore audience will have on our production. In theatres across the country productions are presented, same text, and same actors, and a play can vary widely in reception and resonance. Baltimore audiences will shape and inform what the play means for them. Any given night different audiences take what they will from the performance and in collaboration with the cast shades of meaning and feeling will emerge for both. This is the particular boon to live theatre, and the thrill for a cast, a director or a playwright.
Mick Dowd is a walking ghost of himself, living with the spirit of his dead wife Oona day and night. Visitors drop by to drink his Poteen, share the news of the tiny town they live in, gossip and petty resentments abound. You know what Irish Alzheimer’s is don’t you? We forget everything but a grudge. And Mick Dowd is the victim of the village’s vicious wagging tongues. To be under the scrutiny of these petty people, would crush anyone’s spirit, not to mention darkening their lives.
And it’s funny! Really funny, and it’s that humor that keeps McDonagh’s plays alive and thriving. I think this is the first McDonagh to visit CENTERSTAGE, and I am honored to share it with you.
-BJ Jones (Artistic Director, Northlight Theater)
I posted this Borges short story awhile back, as Borges is a favorite of McDonagh’s, (playwright of A Skull in Connemara, which starts rehearsals next week) and this story is a favorite of mine. I’m re-posting now in order to put it up against a description of McDonagh, which describes the playwright in a way eerily similar to Borges’ description of his subject.
“McDonagh is the man from nowhere, elsewhere, anywhere and everywhere, displaced without the longing for a place or a position either within a single nationality or canon.” -Lillian Chambers and Eamonn Jordan, The Theatre of Martin McDonagh
“McDonagh is the man from nowhere, elsewhere, anywhere and everywhere, displaced without the longing for a place or a position either within a single nationality or canon.”
-Lillian Chambers and Eamonn Jordan, The Theatre of Martin McDonagh
Everything and Nothing
THERE was no one in him; behind his face (which even through the bad paintings of those times resembles no other) and his words, which were copious, fantastic and stormy, there was only a bit of coldness, a dream dreamt by no one. At first he thought that all people were like him, but the astonishment of a friend to whom he had begun to speak of this emptiness showed him his error and made him feel always that an individual should not differ in outward appearance. Once he thought that in books he would find a cure for his ill and thus he learned the small Latin and less Greek a contemporary would speak of; later he considered that what he sought might well be found in an elemental rite of humanity, and let himself be initiated by Anne Hathaway one long June afternoon. At the age of twenty-odd years he went to London. Instinctively he had already become proficient in the habit of simulating that he was someone, so that others would not discover his condition as no one; in London he found the profession to which he was predestined, that of the actor, who on a stage plays at being another before a gathering of people who play at taking him for that other person. His histrionic tasks brought him a singular satisfaction, perhaps the first he had ever known; but once -the last verse had been acclaimed and the last dead man withdrawn from the stage, the hated flavour of unreality returned to him. He ceased to be Ferrex or Tamberlane and became no one again. Thus hounded, he took to imagining other heroes and other tragic fables. And so, while his flesh fulfilled its destiny as flesh in the taverns and brothels of London, the soul that inhabited him was Caesar, who disregards the augur’s admonition, and Juliet. who abhors the lark, and Macbeth, who converses on the plain with the witches who are also Fates. No one has ever been so many men as this man who like the Egyptian Proteus could exhaust all the guises of reality. At times he would leave a confession hidden away in some corner of his work, certain that it would not be deciphered; Richard affirms that in his person he plays the part of many and Iago claims with curious words ‘I am not what I am’. The fundamental identity of existing, dreaming and acting inspired famous passages of his.
For twenty years he persisted in that controlled hallucination, but one morning he was suddenly gripped by the tedium and the terror of being so many kings who die by the sword and so many suffering lovers who converge, diverge and melodiously expire. That very day he arranged to sell his theatre. Within.. a week he had returned to his native village, where he recovered the trees and rivers of his childhood and did not relate them to the others his muse had celebrated, illustrious with mythological allusions and Latin terms. He had to be ‘someone: he was a retired impresario who had made his fortune and concerned himself with loans, lawsuits and petty usury. It was in this character that he dictated the arid will and testament known to us, from which he deliberately excluded all traces of pathos or literature. His friends from London would visit his retreat and for them he would take up again his role as poet.
History adds that before or after dying he found himself in the presence of God and told Him: ‘I who have been so many men in vain want to be one and myself.’ The voice of the Lord answered from a whirlwind: ‘Neither am I anyone; I have dreamt the world as you dreamt your work, my Shakespeare, and among the forms in my dream are you, who like myself are many and no one.
- Jorge Luis Borges