Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Tractatus Pathetico-Poeticus [6.233-4]

6.223 The question of whether institutions are needed for the solution of magical problems must be given the answer that in this case language itself provides the necessary institutions.

6.2331 And the process of conjuring ushers us into just this institution.
Conjuring is not a democratic process.

6.234 Magic is a mandate of passion.

6.2341 A magical mandate exists through work with spells. This mandate is dependent on every magical sentence's ability to obscure itself.

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Paradox of Stage Performance III

Many thanks to Simon, Jay, Stower and Jack, for thinking along with me on this problem. Here is the state of things tonight.

There are two stages and two plays. But there is only one troupe. There are two casts or, at least, two castings. So, for example, we have,

Cast A

Jack plays Devon
Julie plays Samantha

Cast B

Jack plays Tex
Julie plays Debbie

Now, in the paradoxical situation I'm imagining, Tex is the actor (backstage on stage B) who plays Devon (onstage on stage A) and Devon (backstage on stage A) is the actor who plays Tex (onstage on stage B).

Consider the situation in terms of "representation" or "aboutness" and from the point of view of the audience. Take, first, a naively enthralled member of the audience for A, i.e., one who is caught up in the action of the play and afterwards talks to friends about Devon and Samantha and their various troubles. (Remember that one of my constraints is that each play must work on its own as a play about actors who are backstage at a play the audience can't see.)

"I hadn't expected Devon to go so far as to kill Samantha," he might say.

This audience member may go the next night and see play B and afterwards talk about Tex and Debbie in the same way. (After all, a play about putting on a play we happen to know the plot of is not unusual.) He may even return the following night to see play A in a new light. None of this is, as I've just put it, indicative of paradox.

[Here the actual plot of the plays does, however, become interesting. The question of where the "real" killing happens, depending on the location of the "real" gun (not the prop) may begin to the trouble the attentive audience. If, that is, this sort of play is even conceivable. . .]

Okay, what about the critic? Having seen play A, she will no doubt write about Devon and Samantha but also about the lighting and the directing and, of course, about Jack and Julie, that is, about their performances. She may say, for example, "Jack's performance is an insult to the intelligence of the audience," or something.

But this is where something starts to happen. After all, who is the critic really criticizing? Jack or Tex? Suppose there is some interesting reason on stage B for the acting on stage A to be less than exceptional? At what point must we concede that Jack is playing his role (that of a bad actor) perfectly?

All this would be interesting if not for the fact that neither Jack nor Tex have anything to wear. That is, while we seem to have a formal roles defined (casting) we still lack performable roles (costumes).

Still thinking.