After viewing the video, which I enjoyed, sharing interesting ideas with good company, feeling expansive, always in search for patterns and meta-patterns, feeing also like a man swept downstream, grasping for a root to clutch onto, I decide to go out and get some fresh air, clear my head of so many abstractions, get in touch with the body.
This is the start of gay pride month, the weather is mild, and I’m in search for something hard to put into words. In my head I hear Peggy Lee’s sad refrain," Is that all there is? If that’s all there is, my friend’s then let’s keep dancing, let’s break out the booze and have a ball…"
Bubbles, spheres, spaces, voices full of the sound of money, faces flicker in and out of awareness, half memory, half made up, foams arise in my warped imagination, as I ride my bike through Manhattan at night, going down Christopher Street, passing the Stonewall where the great riot broke out, passing the mostly empty bars and quiet streets. A few decades ago this was the hub of a huge international cultural experiment. The streets and the bars and theaters were packed.
The place feels empty tonight, empty as a movie set waiting for another cast of characters to take charge. New York at night in the Village, feels more and more like an empty Hollywood set, just a few extras and crew standing around this gaudy expensive tourist trap. “The heat " an old prostitute once said,” from the street is gone."
Weird feelings, hope, curiosity, mingled with nihilism, I have always considered myself to be a Tragic Optimist. I park my bike, enter and settle down to conduct my social research, looking for the patterns that connect. About a dozen men, different ages, races, shapes and sizes are scattered around the bar. I find a dark corner where I can watch. I’m in observer mode
A young , baby faced, black man approaches me. He is entertaining and witty, launches into a theatrical rant, the rhythm of different cultural currents flowing somehow through his body/mind into my ‘space’, my ‘physical space’, and my psychic space. We all have our ‘blind spots’. And that is perhaps what I’m learning most from this exchange with this young man, with his campy, hyper ironic, self parody. He reminds of cross between Billie Holliday, the great Blues singer and Charles Ludllam, the great underground theatre genius who died of AIDS three decades ago. How did this young man have access to all of that? He was revealing my blind spot which had now turned into a Black Hole ,a vortex and I was starting to fall, unprepared, into a new cosmology. Who owns time and space? No one. I had a moment of panic. How can I cross over, into my old age, into the inevitable falling apart, that all of us, if we are lucky, will have to go through, without a smart phone?.
In the old days, we lived out of the cliché with willd abandon, LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG. I didn’t expect nor am I prepared as most of the Baby Boomers for this phase. Will we be put out to pasture? Euthanized? Or will we find an alternate way?
I thanked the charming young man and got on my bide and enjoyed my night ride home. After a good night’s sleep, a lots of strong coffee, I found Charles Ludlam’s Manifesto for Ridiculous Theater, on line, which I vaguely intuited, continues to shape events, a tragic past, a misty future, we need motifs and manifestos to hold us together.
If you read, dear comrades, his manifesto with your somatic intelligence, you may feel in your spine, a gentle, tingling sensation, that rises up to the crown, up, up and away and around the globe, creating a mild euphoria, surfing your own energy, surfing our energies, as universal affects, entangled with biology and culture, bring together the myriad fragments, resonating with the possibilities of a renewal of cultures. If we don’t do it who will?
###CHARLES LUDLAM’S MAINFISTO FOR A RIDICULOUS THEATER
Aim: To get beyond nihilism by revaluing combat.
Axioms to a theater for ridicule:
- You are a living mockery of your own ideals. If not, you have set your ideals too low.
- The things one takes seriously are one’s weaknesses.
- Just as many people who claim belief in God disprove it with their ever act, so too there are those whose every deed, though they say there is no God, is an act of faith.
- Evolution is a conscious process.
- Bathos is that which is intended to be sorrowful but because of the extremity of its expression becomes comic. Pathos is that which is meant to be comic but because of the extremity of its expression becomes sorrowful. Some things which seem to be opposites are actually different degrees of the same thing.
- The comic hero thrives on his vices. The tragic hero is destroyed by his virtue. Moral paradox is the crux of drama.
- The theater is a humble materialist enterprise which seeks to produce riches of the imagination, not the other way around. The theater is an event not an object. Theater workers need not blush and conceal their desperate struggle to pay the landlords their rents. Theater without the stink of art.
###Instructions for use:
This is farce not Sunday school. Illustrate hedonistic calculus. Test out a dangerous idea, a theme that threatens to destroy one’s whole value system. Treat the material in a madly farcical manner without losing the seriousness of the theme. Show how paradoxes arrest the mind. Scare yourself a bit along the way.