I picked up a copy of Robert Brustein’s, “The Theatre of Revolt,” from the resource table at one end of our rehearsal space. I can’t hope to summarize Brustein’s extended treatment of the theatre of revolt and of the relation between Antonin Artaud and Genet, but one or two sentences struck me squarely between the eyes.
Genet has “the capacity to transform pathology into ceremonious drama through a rich, imaginative use of the stage. Genet’s plays take the form of liberated dreams, organized into rites.”
The Balcony is a rite, a ceremony, the closest analogy to which is, perhaps, a high mass. One of the challenges for the actor…especially a novice, which I count myself, is to recognize that there are ceremonies within the ceremonies, appearances within the appearances.
At some point trying to winkle out the logic underlying the pieces of the ritual is nearly impossible. Who am I? Am I an actor participating in a ceremonial ritual? When I become “the Envoy” what do I become?
Am I an envoy on a mission to save the social structure attacked by revolution? Am I, that is, an element piercing the illusions of the Balcony from outside? Or am I simply another customer of Madam Irma’s illusions playing out a sexual fantasy with a whore dressed as Saint Teresa? Or am I a combination of those possibilities?
At Mass, when the host is elevated, is it important to settle the question of whether it is a wheaten wafer or the body of Christ?
No, because what counts is the ritual of elevation, the rite in which Priest, Acolytes, and the worshipers take part.
So it is with “The Balcony.”