Sunday, December 5, 2010

36 dramatic situations

Now I have read Georges Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations... Interesting.

I have learned a new word: suzerainty.
"Suzerainty occurs where a region or people is a tributary to a more powerful entity which controls its foreign affairs while allowing the tributary vassal state some limited domestic autonomy."
Oh! Israel-Palestine!

His language is old-fashioned and not too well translated, and his ideas, values, attitudes, prejudices? are so... hmm...
26th dramatic situation: crimes of love; Sixth : Homosexuality:
"The tribadic or sapphic branch has not been used upon the stage; Mourey alone has attempted it, but in vain in his "Lawn Tennis." The objection which might be urged against it (and which probably explains why the drama, in the ages of its liberty, has made no use of it) is that this vice has not the horrible grandeur of its congener. Weak and colorless, the last evil habit of worn-out or unattractive women, it does not offer to the tragic poet that madness, brutal and preposterous, but springing from wild youth and strength, which we find in the criminal passion of the heroic ages."
 Lesbian love is "weak and colorless, the last evil habit of worn-out or unattractive women" :-D

It is what you make of it, dear Georges... But, poor Georges was born 1868. I find it interesting that he can at some level understand an attractive and powerful man's passion, love, desire, to a young and attractive man, and that the man "dared to express and gratify" these "unnatural" feelings, that his love was responded, and he calls the story "fine and moving"... But for a woman to feel passion, love and desire to another woman, they both must be either "worn-out" or "unattractive"...
This is all information of Gabriel Mourey's Lawn-Tennis I have managed to find:
"His explicitly lesbian one-act play Lawn-tennis, understandably turned down by Antoine for the Théathre Libre in May 1891, has similarities with Jeux but was never considered as a model. Camille and Elaine go much further than the three coy dancers in Nijinsky's supposedly daring scenarion twenty-two years later, and Mourey's 'mixed doubles' were extremely short-lived!"
Debussy and the theatre by Robert Orledge

"A group of young artists led by André Antoine had recently founded the cooperative Théâtre Libre to experiment with new forms and controversial themes. They had promised their friend Gabriel Mourey that they would produce his lesbian drama, Lawn-Tennis, but upon reading it, they considered it too risky and dropped the project."
French Theater by Louis Godbout

"This short piece is Lawn-tennis, by Gabriel Mourey, Antoine's friend. It seems that they associated tennis and lesbianism already then, because it is a love story of two women. One, Elaine, is feminine and has long been under the inluence of the other, Camille, who is rather masculine; it is therefore the model of fem-butch we are being served. The action takes place on a tennis court where Camille, back from a long journey, is desperate to see Elaine, who married in her absence, and does all she can to avoid the meeting. Camille's hope rises, when Georges, Elaine's new husband, confides to her that their love is crumbling. He believes Elaine loves another man, but Camille joyfully assures him that there has never been other men in her life.
Camille finally manages to see Elaine. She confesses to Elaine that she still loves her, confident and trustful, but in the moment of her victory Elaine tells her in disgust that she is pregnant and she wants to break up the relationship with Camille and go to her husband. Camille mad with rage then strangles Elaine, saying "yes, I'm here, it's me, Georges, your Georges whom you love..."while Elaine desperately cries for Georges"
- Le Rideau Rose, histoire du théâtre gai et lesbien jusqu'en 1969 by Louis Godbout
(my translation - consider that my French isn't that good.)

I think that is more "madness, brutal and preposterous, but springing from wild youth and strength, which we find in the criminal passion" than "last evil habit of worn-out and unattractive women"... And it was written 1891.

Well... what ever. We have come a LOOOOOOONG way in 100 years... Or most of us, at least :-D

"But it is not possible to detail in these pages, even if I so desired, the second part of the Art of Combination; that which we in France call by the somewhat feeble term (as Goethe remarked) "composition." All that I have here undertaken to show is, first, that a single study must create, at the same time, the episodes or actions of the characters, and the characters themselves : for upon the stage, what the latter are may be known only by what they do; next, how invention and composition, those two modes of the Art of Combination (not Imagination, empty word!) will, in our works to come, spring easily and naturally from the theory of the Thirty-Six Situations.

Thus, from the first edition of this little book, I might offer (speaking not ironically but seriously) to dramatic authors and theatrical managers, ten thousand scenarios, totally different from those used repeatedly upon our stage in the last fifty years- The scenarios will be, needless to say, of a realistic and effective character.
I will contract to deliver a thousand in eight days.
For the production of a single gross, but twenty-four hours are required.
Prices quoted on single dozens.
Write or call, No. 19, Passage de 1'Elysee des Beaux-Arts.
The Situations will be detailed act by act,  and, if desired, scene by scene"

But I hear myself accused, with much violence, of an intent to "kill imagination." "Enemy of fancy !" "Destroyer of wonders!" "Assassin of prodigy!"
These and similar titles cause me not a blush.

- Georges Polti
Such a pity he didn't write the Art of Composition as well :-D

What KIND of story - Alexandra Sokoloff


Anonymous said...

What the frak is this guy talking about?

Not agreeing or disagreeing...just confused.

Hart Johnson said...

So interesting, the prejudices people dream up. I suspect, in a day where people couldn't often live openly, that others made judgment on the few extreme cases they heard of (or in Georges limited view, it would seem UNextreme cases for lesbians). I grew up in a very small town, and people held stereotypes because gay and lesbian young people tended to LEAVE (both for acceptance and a reasonably sized partner pool) so there was nobody left to undo the misconceptions. In other words... these nuts still exist--the remedy is meeting real people... Thank goodness most do (and those who DON'T stay in their small little towns and don't inflict themselves upon us)

Ketutar said...

In first quote he is talking about how bland and uninteresting lesbian love is, in the second he's telling that when one knows the 36 dramatic situations, one can easily whip up thousands of good plots. :-)

Hart, I come from a little Finnish town. The first black person to move in was a wonder people stared at :-D
But I just assumed everyone was hetero, and when it later turned out that I was wrong, it wasn't a big deal... I wonder why... It was never talked about. I suppose that's why - it was never talked about negatively either, so how would I have known there was something to react on :-D

Anonymous said...

Ok, thanks Ket. And yeah, I read it

The guys was an IDIOT if you ask me. IOW - if one can see the various 'real-life' situations that ppl get into every day one can whip up a literary fiction plot. And in extension a fantasy plot - just switch real people with imaginary creatures. See, I just said it in considerably less words.
This is just like Shakespeare and his blank verse. What a killer of good stories, that blank verse...:D

Ketutar said...

Well... enough people can appreciate Shakespeare even in blank verse :-D
Thankfully there are people who can translate one form of writing into another, so that others can enjoy Shakespeare too :-D