MY FIRST AUTOGRACE HOMEOGRAPHY (1973-74) directed by Ian W. Hill at The Brick
An Interview with Julia Lee Barclay-Morton

Indie Theater Now asked Julia Lee Barclay-Morton a few questions about this upcoming event.

Is this play political? Why or why not?

Yes and no. Yes in that the memories from which this cut-up text is culled included the politics of the period of time (1973-74) and yes in that the feminists were right "the personal is political." However, there is no particular politics advocated in the traditional sense of the word. Like all of my work, it is attempting to get underneath the reality-machinery - that which creates the preconditions for politics as we know it. Instead of asking: Pepsi or Coke, it's asking: why do we drink soda in the first place? Who's making this stuff? Or, as Joseph Chaikin wrote so beautifully in The Presence of the Actor, the question is not what do I want but instead "What makes me want what I want?" He also wrote - and this relates to the politics of this piece, too - "A person's self-hatred is the measure of the effectiveness of the oppressive system under which he lives." And of course this being written in the early 70s, even Chaikin is using "he" as normative. When you consider the shame attached to not only being gay or a person of color or poor but even just being female in our world, you kinda get his point. The way we are labeled and seen affects who we are and what we feel capable of becoming or wanting. In that all of my writing is an attempt to get underneath those assumptions, yes, it's political (though some may refer to that as instead philosophical).

Theater is a necessary ingredient in democratic societies. Do you agree or disagree, and why?

Theater is a necessary ingredient in any society and as far as I know thrives in all societies in some form or other. Any culture that has some form of secularized sacred space has theater. As far as democracy goes, I don't really know if that makes theater more or less necessary; if theater can be used as a real forum to have conversations about what we want our world to be - then yes, it is. However, I am not certain how often the theater is used for that purpose. Theater itself tends to avoid easy categorization or a desire to be used for any purpose other than its own. It's a polyglot form, forever impure, which is why - in the end after all my ranting and raving - I love it.

Which political figure would like your show the best: Chris Christie, Hilary Clinton, Rand Paul, or Al Sharpton?

I seriously doubt any of them could be still for long enough to inhabit this world. My (albeit limited) experience with professional politicians is that they are seeking simple solutions to complex problems, whereas the kind of theater I make and like does the opposite: takes what appears simple on the surface and refracts every day life in order to ask us to question the nature of our assumptions. That kind of event is the opposite of our sound-bite politics of today. If I had to give any politician a shot at being able to sit and watch this work, I'd probably go with Vaclav Havel - because he was, of course, primarily a playwright. Maybe Ralph Nader would give it a go, too.

Who do you think has the right idea about theater: Brecht, Artaud, Shakespeare, or Aristotle?

A Brecht and Artaud master-mix is ideal for now: the cool head of political analysis and desire for audience as critical witness heated up by the passion of Artaud and his questioning of the Western certainties. Shakespeare of course is still the ultimate writer for theater - because he wrote during a time of tectonic shift in the world - just when theater as we in the West know it - came into its own and the fact his writing still resonates today is astonishing. The great thing about Shakespeare is how impure he is, how little he hews to anyone's rules of playwriting (read closely and you'll see this is true) and how multiple his voices are. Aristotle is to my mind the least authoritative because the dude did not make theater. As someone who wrote a Ph.D. arguing that the theatrical event itself can be an act of philosophy (in an attempt to win back the turf I've felt philosophers have attempted to make their own since Aristotle), I have a bit of a grudge, it's true. I could go on but I won't. Aren't you sorry now that you asked me that question?

Is it more important to you to write about people who have the same political/social views as you, or people who have entirely different ones?

I don't write characters in the traditional sense of the word, but as far as ideas go, I think it's important to acknowledge them all and argue it out - whether in the theater or in life. However, there is a point where some people simply decide to 'otherize' each other - to the point where no discussion is possible. One hopes that the theater is one, tiny place left where we can still have these discussions without someone storming out or screaming or just switching the channel, URL, Facebook page or whatever. We are in a weird time in this country where we've demonized people on the 'other side' of whatever issue to such a degree we don't see each other as human anymore. Can theater heal this? Probably not. But perhaps it can offer a space, a small space, where we don't have to play by those rules and influence, however slightly - maybe in a butterfly effect kinda way - a conduit to one another, outside of the presentational, performative selves back to vulnerable, communicative selves who can acknowledge one another - as we are in reality - interdependent on one another. That is my dream.

posted October 30, 2014
Julia Lee Barclay-Morton

Julia Lee Barclay-Morton