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!
It came to me one night after a post-show hurrah during Durang/Durang.
The plan had been to do Shakespeare this fall – The Comedy of Errors at Raleigh Little Theatre’s amphitheater. Shakespeare and amphitheater go together like brie and bacon, and I was getting pretty fired up about the show. However, there was a problem.
The trouble was threefold:
- Hopscotch is at the beginning of September and SPARKcon is mid-September.
- Actor’s Comedy Lab is doing The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at RLT at the end of September, and there is not enough parking for two shows.
- It’s cold at night in October.
So September was not possible and RLT was only available during October. No sweat, right? Find another venue. We’ve made a firm commitment to performing in Raleigh from now on – it’s where most of us live, and there is a relatively large theatre crowd here.
The only problem is that finding performance space in Raleigh is one of the most difficult challenges I face as a managing director, especially after the closure of Raleigh Ensemble Players.
Being a vagabond theatre company is a lot of fun, but also at times like this a royal pain in the arse.
Theatres in Raleigh in the fall are busy with their own seasons, and most don’t really want to squeeze another show in when they’re trying to rehearse and get ready for their next opening. Trying to book consecutive weeks in Raleigh and Durham makes it even trickier.
So it was time to do something different. I had already been wrestling with the idea of using non-theatre spaces, and the next best thing I could come up with was art galleries. Sure, they don’t have raked floors or lighting plots, but they understand the challenges of finding spaces and getting work seen.
I figured if we weren’t going to go big with a grand amphitheater show, we should do exactly the opposite. It was time to think of an intimate, funky show that wouldn’t need a lot of space, but that would make an impact.
That’s what occurred to me that Saturday night after Durang. Then I realized we shouldn’t do Shakespeare this fall. There’s at least four other productions of Shakespeare plays going on in the Triangle, anyway.
I thought about a show I had seen 17 years ago, one that I still remember because it made such an impact. It was an original adaptation of Eugene Ionesco’s “The Leader,” an absurdist comedy about people excitedly (and blindly) following a mysterious leader figure.
“The Leader” is only about 10 pages long, but the production I saw had sliced up the script and inserted several original sketches and movement pieces, making a full length play.
Immediately I knew we needed to do this piece in the fall – right in time for the 2012 election.
Expanding the play will be a challenge, and it’s not what we normally do, but I think it will be a great experience. I’ve already got some ideas for clown pieces and vignettes that we can try out. We’ll spend the next few weeks playing theater games and work-shopping, and the ensemble will devise the show together.
I went to two of the fine ladies at ground zero of SPARKcon – the two Sarahs at Visual Art Exchange – and they turned out to be as wonderfully supportive as I thought they’d be. We have ourselves a show.
The Leader goes up October 25-28 at Common Ground Theatre in Durham and November 3-11 at Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh.
See you then,