By Anjali Gupta

On Thursday, October 9, ArtPace closes its 2003 film and video series with a presentation of The Emperor Jones, a Wooster Group production of the play by Eugene O'Neill.

Since 1975, the NYC-based Wooster Group - under director Elizabeth LeCompte and principle actors Willem Dafoe, Spalding Gray, Peyton Smith, Kate Valk, and Ron Vawter (1948-1994) - have struggled to obliterate the boundaries that confine contemporary theater to the quaint and predictable.

The Emperor Jones &
In Order Not To Be Here
Thursday, October 9
445 N. Main
Wooster plays are not performed but delivered, usually at a rapid-fire pace that alters both the medium and message, fortified by bizarre manipulations of sound, set, and costume. The group favors off-center, outlandishly postmodern interpretations of conservative plays such as The Temptation of St. Anthony and Our Town. But in Wooster world, pious St. Anthony's character is supplanted by the reincarnation of potty-mouthed Lenny Bruce. Innocuous audio from Our Town is set to the silent motion of white actors in black face, forced to both construct the idyllic set of Wilder's utopian classic and perform a vaudeville routine by Pigmeat Markham.

Wooster first recorded The Emperor Jones in 1999. The video was released in 2001 as a collaborative piece between the troupe and video artist Chris Kondek. Kondek weaves live action - performed by Dafoe and a gender-bent, racially cross-dressed Valk - with incongruous stock footage, clips gleaned from other films, and amateur vacation videos. The camera maintains a tight - albeit warbling - frame on the principle actors, who are superimposed on a sundry of backgrounds.

Compositing is a tricky device. It can be seamless when done well (think City of Lost Children); but done poorly, it is less an effect than an affectation, encircling actors in a hard edge that brings to mind badly produced T-Rex videos. The performative nuances of the Wooster Group are not so easy to capture on film or video, and the piece is ambitious in its attempt to meld the genres of experimental theater and video art into a new form of expression. But in Kondek's hands, an already abrasive, fragmented theatrical sensibility is posthumously transmuted into a claustrophobic, low-tech, marginally cinematic experience that erases the spatial expanse of the stage.

Chicago-based Deborah Stratman's award-winning 16mm film In Order Not To Be Here, which was not screened last month due to technical difficulties, will run after The Emperor Jones. •


By Steven G. Kellman

When Stanley Cavell, then president of the American Philosophical Association and professor of philosophy at Harvard, visited Trinity University in 1988, he did not speak - directly - about ontology or epistemology. The subject of his public lecture was Gaslight, a 1944 melodrama starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. For one of America's leading philosophers to apply his analytic intelligence to a cinematic tearjearker seemed as incongruous as hiring Stephen Hawking to audit Trinity's photocopying budget. But Cavell's discussion of Gaslight became part of his sagacious 1996 book The Melodrama of the Unknown Woman.

Now professor emeritus at Harvard, Cavell returns to Trinity on Wednesday, October 15, and the subject of his lecture at 7:30 p.m. in the Chapman Auditorium will be "Two Tales of Winter: Shakespeare and Eric Rohmer." One of the most enduring, if not endearing, directors from the French New Wave, Rohmer is somewhat classier than George Cukor, the studio veteran who directed Gaslight, and Shakespeare is of course Shakespeare (unless he was Marlowe or Oxford). But is Cavell again slumming, performing labor more suitable to mere English professors or even those harmless drudges who review movies?

Two Tales Of Winter: Shakespeare And Eric Rohmer
Wednesday, October 15
Chapman Auditorium
Trinity University
1 Trinity Place
The Winter's Tale, one of Shakespeare's final plays, is also one of the bard's oddest. Set in part on the sea coast of Bohemia, a landlocked kingdom, it contains the most notorious stage direction in all of English theater - "Exit, pursued by a bear." Leontes, king of Sicilia, cannot bear the thought that his wife, Hermione, and his best friend, Polixenes, king of Bohemia, might be in love with each other. In a jealous rage as baseless and violent as Othello's, he orders the deaths of Hermione and Perdita, the daughter she bears him while in prison. Sixteen years later, in a triumph of love, mercy, and imagination, a statue of Hermione comes alive, and all on stage are reconciled.

Rohmer's 1992 film begins with a summer romance between Félice (Charlotte Véry) and Charles (Frédéric van den Driessche). Promising to return, Charles departs. But five years later, all that remains of Charles for Félice is the daughter she gave birth to after her beloved left. Although she has two new lovers, one of whom takes her to a performance of The Winter's Tale, neither measures up to her memory of Charles.

Rohmer is fond of making cinematic sequences, including Six Moral Tales and Comedies and Proverbs. A Tale of Winter (Conte d'hiver) is part of a tetralogy organized by season that also includes Summer (1986), A Tale of Springtime (1990), and An Autumn Tale (1999). But both its title and the play-within-the-film invite comparison with Shakespeare. So, too, do the separation of lovers, the child born later, and the reconciliation. Cavell, who majored in music, at the University of California, gave up the saxophone when he heard Charlie Parker. He took up philosophy after reading Emerson, Wittgenstein, and Austin. The philosopher's riffs on two winter tales will surely enliven an autumn evening. •


By Elaine Wolff

The voice of the recovered John Forbes Nash, mathematical genius and sufferer of schizophrenia, weaves in and out of his story as told by friends, family, and colleagues in the PBS documentary A Brilliant Madness. When we hear him speak, he tends to say tantalizing things that go to the heart of our fascination with his story. Although the kind of madness from which he suffered is inherited as a genetic predisposition, to what extent did his life's experiences trigger it? What roles did free will and brain chemistry play in his remarkable recovery? "Madness can be an escape," Nash says at the beginning of the film. "If things are not so good, you may be want to imagine something better."

A Brilliant Madness
Tuesday, October 14
Witte Museum
3801 Broadway
Nash was a math prodigy in Cold War America, driven by his own colossal ambition, the expectations placed on science and mathematics in the wake of the atomic bomb, and the pressures of married life. Even before the onset of his illness, he was extreme in an eccentric universe, behaving in bizarre and repetitive ways on campus. He engaged in morally questionable behavior, denying and refusing to support a son he fathered out of wedlock. Irritating though his behavior was to some, his manifest genius excused everything in a world where a colleague gave Nash credit for solving a problem in the colleague's dream. "I dreamt that I met Nash and I asked him the problem, and he told me the answer," says Donald Newman, "I could not have done it myself."

The tolerance that was accorded Nash's arrogance and erratic conduct lurks in the background, awaiting interrogation. The PBS documentary treads lightly on the many questions and implications of Nash's life, but it nonetheless provides a somber and insightful complement to the triumphal feature film A Brilliant Mind.

A Brilliant Madness screens as part of the Witte Museum's "Fine Line: Mental Health/ Mental Illness" exhibit. •

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