The Specific Features and Alienation of the Dramatic/Theatre Memory

/, Essays, Blesok no. 65/The Specific Features and Alienation of the Dramatic/Theatre Memory

The Specific Features and Alienation of the Dramatic/Theatre Memory

Both plays appear to theatralize concrete historical events. More specifically, they strive to develop their action in a quite concrete historical context. The first one, examines the gruesome reckonings between immigrants in Sofia in 1921 which culminated with the assassination of Gjorče Petrov, one of the epitomes of the Macedonian struggle, and the second, the ordeals and traumas of the war (1941-1944) which appear to be resolved (or, perhaps, culminate) with the liberation of Skopje, the Macedonian capital.
Although both plays appear to take historical events as their referential framework, neither can be defined as a historical play. In both cases, the dramatic story of historical facts is rather random; thus, they only briefly touch upon, as if in “flashes”, a single moment in history (or, if you prefer, a moment of memorized history as recorded and codified truth). However, before and after it, they uninterruptedly develop their fictional plots and their unraveling. Instead of attempting to “come closer” to the historical matter that they thematize (regardless of the manner in which it would be done) or developing it “simultaneously” (by commenting on it or entering into a debate with it), the dramatic stories of Crnila and Osloboduvanje na Skopje systematically move further away from this historical matter as fact, thus establishing a radically tangential relation to it and, by doing so, alienating it in a quite dramatic manner.
In Crnila, a play which appears to speculate on the alleged circumstances that led to the assassination of Gjorče Petrov on 28 June 1921, alienation is the principle on which it is built. It is evident both on the level of the so-called historicism (“showing people and events in their historical, transient form”, as Brecht puts it), but also on the level of the story itself as a parable, a story which is Existential (Biblical, as it were) in its setup. Namely, its texture is masterfully woven on at least two levels: the level of plot development (a group of brutes, traitors and desperate men who assassinate the national hero) and a level “concealed” behind the ideological, political and historical empty phrases with which – sometimes – drama, and especially that which is Existential in its traits, likes to operate (obliteration of one’s own ideals; the skepticism that subverts every great idea; the dubiousness of the so-called great goals which are, allegedly, worthy of self-sacrifice…). “The parable is the reduced model of our own world whose measures are faithfully reproduced. It reduces every concrete event to a theoretical principle which is then offered as a paradigm. Paradoxically, the parable is the way in which we speak about the present, but which is, at the same time, placed within a different perspective and is disguised in an imaginary story or framework.” (Pavis, 2004:255).
By speaking of the crisis of the national idea (or cause, for that matter) which resulted in the assassination of Gjorče Petrov in 1921 (as one of its undisputed protagonists or symbols) the playwright actually speaks about the dubiousness of the entire project of the national emancipation of the Macedonians. He addresses the delicate question of the dubiousness of the Macedonian idea, cause, state…for which he himself fanatically fought in World War II (1941-1944), and which he lived to see come to life as ASNOM Macedonia (founded at the Anti-Fascist Assembly of the National Liberation of Macedonia). However, his play was written in 1961, forty years after the historical event which it memorizes as a parable and twenty years after the strivings of the generation to which he himself belonged and which set out to radically change the world and Macedonia as its part. If we bear in mind these facts, we can adequately decode some of the most direct, but also the most provocative lines from Crinila (e.g. “Macedonia is dead, it has been dead for a long time, it died first in our hearts, and then, there where you are looking for it – in History” (Čašule, 2002:346). The parable is, simply, a genre with a “double bottom” (Pavis, ibid) and, hence, an exceptionally alienated one.
In Osloboduvanje na Skopje (1976) the process of alienation does not necessarily concern its genre; it is essentially methodical and formative. Namely, in this play, the process of alienation is developed precisely in the manner described by Shklovsky as ideal; he explains that the procedure/technique (the famed Russian Formalist priom!) should be considered as the concluding element of literary technique, but not of the literary art itself. In other words, every text either becomes a literary work or a work of art, or it does not, depending on the technique, that is, the manner in which it has been made; however, the manner/technique should be alienating without exception
By making the protagonists of his play children between the ages of three and twelve, Jovanović a priori determines his alienating point of view of an allegedly historical subject matter fixed and given in the play’s title. Yes, the play does thematize the liberation of a concrete city which did happen on 13 November 1944, but the playwright is not concerned with the facts or persons that confirm the historical context to which the events refer, but with the alienating perspective from which this context is experienced and remembered.
This is, naturally, the perspective of a marginal group – women and children – whose view of events, and especially of the great and fateful ones (war, bondage, freedom…) usually cannot be brought into correlation with the perspective of the historical protagonists of the given event, the fathers and the men, the heroes and liberators. Situated in a historical moment filled with anxiety (the war) and in an even more stressful drama/stage space to which they belong (the basement and the narrow yard of a house in Skopje) these marginalized individuals constantly look upon the world and the events from below – that augmentative perspective that frogs are said to have.
In contrast to them, the hero-men always look upon the world from above, having the perspective that in film making usually results in the visual reduction and the perspective that birds are said to have. Such a choice of perspectives becomes, at the same time, a model for remembering/memorizing events and the consequences that follow. In as many as 34 scenes of the total of 36, the participants are mainly children and women. Adult men either only pass by or stay/visit them for short periods (as family members, enemies, sympathizers or characters with similar roles). Since in the given historical event (the liberation of Skopje) they participate in a different – active, direct, decisive – way, they will remember it completely differently, and that is, without doubt, as epically pathetic.
The skill in the technique that Jovanović applies in order to make his play about the experience and memory of the liberation of Skopje is, simply, the skill of articulation/practicing of a quite unique dramaturgical memory which is alienating without exception!

2018-08-21T17:22:58+00:00 April 29th, 2009|Categories: Literature, Essays, Blesok no. 65|0 Comments