Issue 2.1 Homepage

Article Contents
·On the "liveness" of a spectacle as a point of entry
·On readying an audience for a play
·On the relationship between the university and the theater
·On the call to witness, and the standing ovation
·On taking the theater seriously, both on the Right and on the Left
·On "bringing together people who know about organizing and activism with those who know how to bring you to your feet"
·On art and activism
·On finding an audience

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Anna Deavere Smith and Ann Pellegrini, "Performing Affect" (page 6 of 8)

On "bringing together people who know about organizing and activism with those who know how to bring you to your feet":

Audience Member (Judith Shapiro): [W]hat happened this morning [when the audience stood for Nieves, after she spoke of her experience in Chile in 1973] was very complicated, actually . . . . And I'd like to talk about that a little, and to think through the comparison which you brought before us, about how we respond to something like what we heard this morning, as opposed to what Anna Deavere Smith does for us in performance.

When Nieves was speaking very graphically about the things that happened to her, it was really unbearable. It was unbearable. Because you could read it in an article, but to be in the presence of someone who was physically there, and you imagine those things physically happening to a person who is in your presence - it is really unbearable.

Then we had a political analysis of it. In other words, she moved to say, and who I blamed for this are the following.

Now, I think when people stood up, many different things could have been going on. Some could have been standing up for political solidarity because many of those political analyses of why that happened in 1973 in Chile, and what was the role of the American government in this? And we're standing up because that was a political moment.

Others were standing up . . . and not only one of these things, but there was also the sheer respect of standing up, to be in the presence of someone who had gone through something that the rest of us can't even hear about, much less think of how we would survive.

And the political moment can be a moment of transcendence or repression or denial that either you deal with; and then the human thing of it. But at some point you do have to have the political analysis and see - what are we going to do about this? What are we going to do, to see that those things don't happen in the world anymore?

I don't know what the question is exactly, but [how do] we know what the relationship is between how we are mobilized by that experience? How we are mobilized by the experience of helping these people brought before us. What the necessary distance (inaudible). I really don't know . . .

ADS: I think you've said it all when you said, "I don't know what the question is." It is about the work. How are we prepared to do the work? And I think that we have an opportunity that I'm very excited about, to bring together people who know about organizing and activism, with those of us who know how to bring you to your feet.

Which is either, on the one hand, having the story so large and so authentic and so much from the body and from the soul, that it has to come to your body and to your soul - unless you're just frozen and dead, and God help you.

Or - because you've studied how to do that, as a science. Right? And so, and Nieves, it's odd to speak about you without you speaking, so much as we are, and I haven't even met you. But if someone were to dare to play her, let's say, because next week she can't come to class and you'd like to have the story told to your class.

And what it would take, the skill that it would take to have the story spoken in such a way that it had that authenticity. All right. So we bring the people to their feet, either from the authentic story or a representation of the story. But then what? Then what?

Are we only going to go home and say - my God, this very attractive woman in these beautifully-colorful clothes with all this life got up and told me this thing that just . . . is that all we're going to do, is continue to tell the story? Or are we going to do something?

S&F Online - Issue 2.1, Public Sentiments - Ann Cvetkovich and Ann Pellegrini, Guest Editors - ©2003.