The Dramatists

For several days each year, the citizens would come to watch plays acted out in the amphitheatre built into the mountains with a view of the sea. There were no playwrights anymore, as they had all been banished. Tropes, scripts and personae should not be written in stone. There were no tragedies or comedies, either, for these were too restrictive. Instead, the actors worked with stagehands to improvise new stories. It was to be a communal effort that included the audience, but attendance was poor and it is not certain that the viewers really understood the language, symbolism or disjointed plots, nor were they often called on to contribute to the speech acts and performances of art. The laws of the drama were strict. The actors could only discuss what was on the stage or visible to the audience and to themselves. One could not launch into a soliloquy about owls and olive trees if there were no owls or olive trees in the amphitheatre or on stage. Actors departed or entered in two ways–they were summoned or dismissed by those on stage, or they entered and departed if they felt like it. Sometimes, this resulted in live combat–but that was also part of the narrative. The same rule applied to stage hands bringing in props. The great drama was thus a typhon of amphorae, masks, mobile trees, cosmological tapestries, swords, spears, smoke, incense, magic lanterns, drums, faces of pain and ecstasy, and clouds of battle. Most of the time, the plays were quite slow and difficult to remember, although the viewers would occasionally recall strange details during their day to day activities, such as the time a mobile tree caught fire, the time an actress dressed as a spearman from a phalanx gutted another actress that the stage hands had to drag off, her body leaving a thick stain and musky scent of blood and essences on the stones. There was also the seven hour monologue on the nature of stars and wet chitons–accompanied by various actresses, asleep and awake, in wet chitons and surrounded by discarded chitons. In the end, an expensive translucent chiton was ripped to shreds by the fatigued and dying actor, pale in the blue dawn, at the climax of the monologue. One day, an inspired actor, having banished all other actors and props from the stage, looked around at the audience. It was impossible to celebrate the event, he said, when obstacles to pure transience and openness remained. It was clear to him that something would have to be done about the viewers, the mountains, the sea and the stars. They should be summoned and dismissed at the whim of an actor in accordance with the needs of the momenta. For now, he intoned, he would dispatch himself in the only possible momentum to return to impermanence. And with these words, the dramatist impaled himself, falling upon his spear.


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