Strange Goings-on in the Text of THE LEADER
Some astute members of our audiences may have noticed that there seemed to be references to scenes throughout the show that were mentioned in Eugene Ionesco’s play, “The Leader,” which we presented at the beginning of the evening. Those audience members may have been onto something.
I’m not going to try to claim that we put them all in there on purpose, although one of our stated goals at the beginning was to try to tie the show together and somehow link the various short plays and bits. I think that certain words and images stick in the mind, however – that is a huge part of what absurdist theatre is all about – and some words and phrases may have slipped their way into our subconscious minds as we created the show. It’s fun to think about, anyway.
Only one of the short plays existed prior to our devising – Chuck Keith’s “Cult Layoff.” I don’t claim any connection and there really couldn’t have been any in that one. There are only two verbal pieces that don’t seem to show a connection with “The Leader” – “Democratist’s Dilemma” and “Down With The Ship” – although it may be interesting to note that these plays deal with the absence of a leader, whereas the others all very much include a leader figure of some sort.
Here is a list I made reviewing Ionesco’s play. I’ve got each reference listed and then a short description of where I see a possible connection:
- Stage Directions: “The ANNOUNCER and THE TWO ADMIRERS leave, crying: ‘Leader! Leeeeader! Lee-ee-eader!’ (This last ‘ Lee-ee-eader!’ echoes in the wings like a bleating cry) – “Sheeple” (a short bit involving sheep-people who baa and make other sounds)
- Announcer: “He’s bending. He’s unbending” – bending and bowing is an image that recurs throughout the show, such as in the opening lazzo (with the slides of world leaders and Bob Dylan’s “Times They Are A-Changing,” “Anatomy of a Leader,” and “Two Rulers” (“…to Our subjects the Crown must bend.”)
- Announcer: “They’re shaking his hand,” and “The leader is smiling.” – “Anatomy of a Leader” (scientists lecture on the handshake of a leader as well as his confident smile)
- Announcer: “He’s dancing…” – Clown Strip-tease (Yep, that happened. A male clown danced each night for a female member of the audience to Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man”)
- Announcer: “He’s mounting the stool! He’s climbing piggy-back…” & “He’s mounting the stool. No. He’s getting down.” – Mountain Climbing (two transition bits included a team of mountain climbers who first appeared to be going in a circle with no obvious leader, then later appeared to climb and then descend based on the whims of the two climbers at beginning and end of the chain)
- Admirer: “Oh! If I were king…” – “Two Rulers” (a king espouses a rather conservative view of government)
- Girlfriend: “Let’s go to the market and get some eggs!” – “Excuse Me, pt. 2” (a.d.a. “The Sperm Play,” in which sperm cells discuss who among them is most fit to fertilize the Ovum)
- Announcer: “He’s also tasting the roots of the trees.” – “Lemmings” (root is a very big deal to the lemmings, at least in this fiction)
- Announcer: “He inaugurates the police force.” – Security Clowns (pre-show bit in which clown security officers gave audience members a “search”)
- Announcer: “He salutes the great victors and the great vanquished.” – End Fight (the entire cast gets pulled into a giant brawl to be king of the mountain atop a platform – they all end up dead)
- Announcer: “Finally, he recites a poem.” – “Two Rulers” (the play is written entirely in rhyming couplets)
- Announcer: “The leader has eaten his soup!” – “Soup” (this was a recurring bit in which parents tried to persuade and later force their child to eat his soup)
I’m not sure if there are any more, but if any cast or audience noticed others, please let me know!