Too Far. (And a Sentimental Thank You).

I love talk-backs. Jake hates them, as do many of my other cast members, but I absolutely love them. I love getting a chance to discuss things with the audience and hearing their opinion, and I love having the chance to share what I do and love from a different perspective.

So far, I think my favorite talk back came from Wednesday night.

During the conversation, one woman raised her hand and commented that she thought that the rape scene goes on for far too long, and that she was uncomfortable and felt awkward and was miffed that we had put her in that position of feeling frightened.

**Caution, this article contains spoilers for those not familiar with the show**.

This fascinated me for several reasons. First, the immediate and visceral reaction that I kept INSIDE MY HEAD (see, I’m learning) was “For fuck’s sake”. But instead, I heard her out, and while I don’t think we convinced her otherwise, it was really interesting getting to hear a dissenting opinion on such a pivotal part of the show.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, as both Lavinia and as a woman.

It’s interesting  that she referred to the scene in question as the “rape scene”, because there actually isn’t one. As the audience, you never actually see Lavinia’s rape. The scene before, (Scene 2.3) where Lavinia is pleading to Tamora and her sons is merely textual buildup for the actual event, but that is all Mr. Billy Shakes– it’s long because that’s how he wrote it. To make Lavinia beg and beg and beg to absolutely no success.

It’s difficult in that scene, as well, because I, Catie, know that I don’t have a chance in hell of getting away, but I can’t let that color my performance or I’d be broadcasting the ending for anyone who doesn’t know the outcome. (It is at this point I should probably go add “spoilers” to the top).  Every night, there is hope. Every night, I see that hope taken away.

In the beginning, there were many people who asked if were going to show the actual rape—other productions have, to mixed effect. There exists on YouTube a pretty hilarious version of Titus that was performed in the style of Grand Guinol, so of course all the hand chopping and tongue cutting was on stage, but to me, personally, it is far, far worse not seeing what happens, because then your imagination is forced to take over. What order did they rape and mutilate her in? How did they do it? We’ve had some awkwardly bizarre conversations during this run, and I know what happens, but it’s not something that I ever share with the audience.

There was also a lot of discussion about the actual physicality and blocking of scene 2.3 being too short or too long. The BBC version of Titus is about 5 minutes of the most stagnant and boring pieces of filmwork ever– when I watched it, Lavinia was so ambivalent to her demise that I was BORED– and the audience should never be bored. We have blocked the scene to be a fairly accurate representation of what Lavinia is going through– I’m trapped and there isn’t much I can do about it but be thrown around and threatened.

We also talked a lot about what do we show and  not show in that scene? There have been about 7 or 8 different inceptions of that scene, all of which contained different acts of violence and violation, but I think that the current, “in show” version of the show does a good job of portraying the violation of Lavinia without being gratuitous for the sake of being shocking or offensive.

The scene is so physically and emotionally draining that I count myself really lucky that I have Andy and Jeb to work with, because they are both willing to take risks but also very polite and respectful of me.There was a point at rehearsal where Jake had to give the note “come on guys, you’re not going to break her”.

It’s also been great because we’ve been able to keep a sense of humor about things, which I think has to happen just to keep us sane as people. There was one night that we decided that one of the brothers should take my panties off. I came prepared with an extra pair on underneath, and we were excited to see how that would read from the audience. So we get to the section of text where we decided it would be easiest to happen and somehow, the underwear got caught on my shoes and I spent an entire speech trying to not look like I was trying to help Chiron take my underwear off. We decided that was probably not the best use of our time, so that was cut. Underwear fail.

At the talk back, I was sitting next to Aaron and we discussed the comments that were made, and we basically have the same view on what happens. Rape is terrible. It’s a terrible, awful violation of a person’s rights and spirit and looking at rape SHOULD make you feel uncomfortable.

It is so interesting to me that the woman who commented found that “feeling something” at a show was WRONG instead of awesome. I was ecstatic that she was uncomfortable, because it meant that our scene is effective in the ways that it should be. (I almost felt bad for her since it seemed the the rest of the cast was in agreement as well.)

When I was researching this role, it was startling and disgusting to me about how many statistics there are about the numbers of people who are raped every day and then forgotten by society.

Rape is a thing that happens every day, to all shapes, sizes and races of women (and men) and it goes on for as long as their rapists want it to– I feel, personally, that not treating that scene with great weight and making it brutal and uncomfortable is doing victims a disservice by glossing over it and making it shiny and happy and great so the audience can be comfortable  is exactly why there are so many silent victims around the world.

It’s easy to turn your head and pretend that it doesn’t happen. It’s easy to ignore the stories of victims from countries you’ve never been to. It’s easy to dismiss the huge numbers in those sad statistics because you don’t have to look anyone in the eye.

At this show you do. And I love that.
And on that note…

THANK YOU.

I just want to say that I have been absolutely astounded beyond belief at the level of support and kindness shown towards me after I posted my last entry. I got so many messages and emails of positive thoughts that I still haven’t had time to personally respond to every single one. I don’t consider myself a role model or someone other people look up to, but I am touched by how many people I have seemingly affected by just being my dorky self.

So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who read or took the time to comment on my blog. You are all fantastic and have genuinely made me so very, very happy.

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2 Comments

  1. Catie, (repulsive grammar ahead) you is one of my favoritest people in da whole wide universe. (Ok. I’m done now. I felt that I needed to use incorrect grammar to express my admiration for you.)

  2. Hi,
    I just read your blog about your experiences doing Titus and I found them fascinating; it’s great to see someone else’s perspective of the show. I agree with all your thoughts on 2.3, when we did the show last year people’s reactions varied from (a kind of nervous) laughter at the words Chiron and Demetrius were saying – which despite being aweful puns, are actually rather fun – to sheer revulsion and feeling sick finally seeing Lavinia alone and bleeding on stage.

    One other question, I have been looking for the Grand Guinol Titus on YouTube, but to no avail, if you have the link, could you post it, please?

    Cheers,
    Vic

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