Julia’s Bridge to the Blog

Lately in class we have been discussing different Tyson theories and how we can use them to interpret different readings. Though today we rid ourselves of Tyson and dove into Passion Play with no tools for analyzing but our minds. Today’s class discussion touched on many topics in a very short amount of time.

We began class Dr. Scanlon asking us to think of words that best described this play. The list of terms were endless; passion, violence, control/power and sacrifice. But the words that were discussed most during our class were the following; evil, authenticity, reality, delusion, responsibility, and scripting verses choice.

To start, the class discussed how different Act 3 was than all the rest. In Act 1&2 the play was portrayed as a more faith based, wholesome creation but we see a dramatic shift in Act 3. The play becomes more of a modern, commercialized production. The professionalization of the production thus changes its realness, reliability and authenticity. Therefore, we able to conclude the changes in eras and what was valued in society.

The next topic of discussion started with picking out certain characters and discussing their function within the play. The first character discussed was Violet. Violet is a character containing many layers; she is a wise women/little girl who in all the Acts represents freedom of choice, reality and new ideas. Though, throughout the play she is seen as mad, a fool and naïve to others, she is one of the only characters who have a health grip on reality. Violet, during parts of the play, mocks the religious aspect exposing the emptiness of religious entities. It is Violet who ultimately predicts that the play will become/ is becoming more of a performance rather than an important religious play. Another character we touched on was P; P represents the evil in society. He plays a homosexual and a cripple, both of which are looked down upon by the “religious” characters of the play. In Act 2 P has an issue with his character playing the hero. He thus proceeds to change his line in the script to take complete responsibility of sentencing Jesus to his death. He is so overcome with guilt that he hallucinates blood on his hands. In this scene alone we see disillusion, script verses choice and responsibility. Other characters, such as Mary, were discussed very briefly and opened the question of delusion and also miracle verses science/magic.

Our class discussion was cut short, in which Dr. Scanlon assured us we would continue on Thursday. It was hard to talk in depth about each character due to time constraints but it left me wondering a few things. Is there a clear line drawn between reality verses play? Or do these themes overlap and intertwine? And is Sarah Ruhl saying it is a good thing to question and change the script? And when would it appropriate to follow the script (blindly or not)? And how influential are characters to one another? Do characters seem to transform over Acts or do they keep the same ideologies throughout?

What’s a Play but a Play on Words?

As I said at the end of class today, “What is the point of Sarah Ruhl’s drama, Passion Play?”. I get confused, while reading, trying to figure out Sarah Ruhl’s purpose in writing Passion Play. Professor Scanlon said today in class that what we might ask ourselves is how does Sarah Ruhl “plays” on scripting and choice within her play. I took that as Scanlon saying, look at how Ruhl uses metatheatricality in her drama to emphasize the tension between scripting and making the conscious decision to choose your scripting. However, I’m not sure and I would love a response to what you all think the play is about. Unfortunately I took closely to the school of deconstructive theory and I have been working off of how the play unravels itself and because of that Ruhl is creating a nonsensical play that unwinds like a string with so many ends it is hard to tell what is being casted for the audience to understand.

More Themes in Passion Play

Today in class we put up several themes and ideas present in Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play. One of those themes was fidelity, but that got me thinking about another theme I wanted to add– Desire. Google defines desire as “a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.” So whether that be a sexual desire, which is apparent in all three parts, there are other types of desire

In part one, we see Pontius’ desire for Mary 1, in both a sexual manner and in the form of a companion after he finds out she is pregnant. We see desire again in part one, in the form of Mary 2 desiring to be with Mary 1 and you could strain a littler further and say that John’s proposal to Mary 1 could be construed as his own desire to be so much more holy by becoming a part of the “holy trinity.”

In part two we again see desire between Elsa and the German Officer. He desires her sexually, and though she does not say if she desires him back, she admits that she just has to play the virgin Mary one last time– she desires for people to think that she is still virginal one last time. We also see desire between for one another between Eric and the Foot Soldier– both in the form of sexual desire, and companionship from the other– for Eric desires to leave the play just so he can remain in contact with the Foot Soldier.

In part three, P. Desires Mary 1 so much so that he asks her to Marry him. When he is gone off to war, J desires after Mary 1. When Mary 1 finds out that she is pregnant, she desires at first to be rid of the child. During rehearsal, the young director desires the play to be completely professional performance, while members of the cast feel like the play should represent what the bible says.

I’m sure that a deeper analysis would result in even more examples of desire within Passion Play, but these are just some of the examples that led me to this theme.

The “red sky” and wind

In all of the parts of Passion Play, there have been mentions of the “sky turning red.” I was just wondering what was thought by this.  Is it a connection the character has with God or is it a hallucination they imagine?  Along with noticing the red sky there has also been a large presence of the wind, “capturing the wind” or “controlling the wind.”  What does the wind have to do with the meaning of Passion Play? Is the wind related to the red sky?

Emily Young’s Blog Post on Passion Play

One thing we talked about today in class was a palimpsest. Dr. Scanlon described a palimpsest as something you write on (parchment or velum) that you have to reuse. In order to reuse it, you clean it off with acid. Despite cleaning it, the original writing will still faintly be there as a “ghost presence” because you can never completely clean it off. In other words, the new doesn’t obliterate the old.

In class today, we talked about the term palimpsest in terms of poetry. We talked about it a little bit in terms of Passion Play by talking about it in layers. There’s the passion play as a novel, and inside the passion play novel we have three separate passion plays taking place in England, Germany, and the United States.

Because the separate passion plays in England, Germany, and the United States are underlying layers of the Passion Play novel, it is a palimpsest.

I agree with the argument that Passion Play as a novel is a palimpsest. However, when we began to talk about what a palimpsest is, I began to apply it to the play in a slightly different way. When I thought about it in terms of “the new doesn’t obliterate the old”, I thought of Catholicism and Protestantism. Queen Elizabeth is trying to get rid of Catholicism all together, which is the reason for England’s passion play (at least according to John). She also wants to get rid of the play because it displays/supports Catholicism. I think you could argue that, by her actions, Queen Elizabeth is creating a palimpsest. If Catholicism is the “old” and Protestantism is the “new”, Queen Elizabeth is trying to obliterate the old with the new. Basically, she wants to completely scrap Catholicism to replace it with Catholicism. However, she would never completely be able to get rid of Catholicism (or the “old”) because it was the original. If people wanted to practice Catholicism, they were going to do it whether she tried to get rid of it or not. I think that is obvious because of the fact that there was a passion play in England. She may have been able to significantly limit the public practice of Catholicism by eliminating churches and outlawing it, but she would never be able to completely get rid of it.

I’m curious to see if anyone else has a similar thought. Does anyone else think that maybe Queen Elizabeth attempted to create a palimpsest by trying to replace Catholicism with Protestantism? If you don’t think this qualifies as a palimpsest, do you think maybe she was just trying to separate the play from reality?

Part 2 BIRD Imagery

So, we discussed the fish motif of Part 1.  Now how about the bird motif of Part 2?  Birds and associated objects crop up everywhere:  “Breadcrumbs are eaten by birds” (62); doves in the Temple scene; Mary 2’s childhood bird; Violet’s punishment in the bird-cage; and the bird-puppet that meets Violet in the forest.  What’s the role of the bird?

Samantha’s Bridge to the Blog

Today in class we talked of the difference between Drama and Performance, and how drama is about content, dialogue, characters(protagonist/antagonist) and is textual. Performance is more about the delivery/articulation, what is seen or experienced and the interpretation of the performance. When we read Passion Play out loud, many people, including me interpreted the characters much differently than when we read in our own heads. We asked ourselves is the Friar naive and John the one who can separate reality from the fake, or is John delusional and the Friar angry about the play? Depending on how we read, our views of the characters and their actions within the play differed.

We also talked about three theories of self
self: when there is stability in someones character, and they can be introspective
selves: which are multiple fractured/fluid, identity that is always changing, or as Freud said there are “competing parts”
no stable inner core: the idea that our self is structured from the discourses around us and that we perform certain identities

Linking these theories with what we have read so far, in class we talked a little on how the characters in the play believe they are the people they are performing. The characters in this play seem to have selves, or no stable inner cores. Each one plays someone, not only in the play within the play, but in real life. Even the Friar is performing because he cannot indicate his true identity as a priest. One character who seems to have no stable inner core is Mary 1. Mary 1 is supposed to be playing Mary in the play, but she is least similar to the real Mary. Outside the play she likes to sleep with men and lies about her pregnancy. On the other hand Mary 2 is normally called a whore and considered unfit to play the virgin Mary. It’s also interesting that Mary 1 identified with Mary Magdalene, saying that she “was a whore because she pretended and thats like me – I’m a whore because I pretend things”(Ruhl 23). Mary 1 identifies with who she is performing and not with her own self. She will also perform whatever role needs to be performed at the time, which is shown when Mary 1 tells Mary 2 that she will “dress as man” (Ruhl 49) if needed.
Some questions to ask are what were Ruhl’s reasons for making the characters play people who they were least like? how would the actual play be different if the characters WERE similar to those they were playing? What was Ruhl’s reasoning for making Mary 2 fantasize about women? deep down is Mary 2 conflicted with who she is or should be?