by Andrea Hairston
The Big Circus Show this year—filled with good and bad clowns, wild beasts, amazing acrobats, and cranky ringmasters—was the November Election. Audience participation part was very exciting; however, it was an excruciatingly long show. The bloated budget for smoke and mirrors, for lying and grandstanding drained our spirits. We spent so much time fussing over nonsense—legitimate rape, the slacker 47%, etc. The Gate Keepers trying to keep folks out of the big tent were also infuriating. I did a lot of cursing. Yet, I must confess that the final act was a HUGE relief.
While in Germany this past summer, my German friends “gave” me a Bavarian folk theatre production for a birthday present—Da Himmegugga roughly translated as "The Stargazer." (http://www.e-und-e-ringsgwandl.de/) This musical SF & F play is about a wild peasant inventor, the Himmegugga, who is certain of imminent alien visitation! He sends out signals to the aliens believing they will share his cosmic sense of wonder and be able to answer the question of God’s existence. The Himmegugga’s daughter sticks by him but his neighbors think he is a misanthropic crackpot making wild contraptions that are as pointless as his star gazing. The Himmegugga has stopped talking to his best and oldest friend. House trolls (marvelous puppets) wreck havoc with his home life, stealing and rearranging the chaos of hilarious inventive junk. Only the audience sees the trolls who include us in their mischief. None of his inventions work, and it’s looking pretty bleak when an alien finally drops in for a visit and transforms the Himmegugga’s relation to the cosmos. It turns out that God is in the marvel of inventions and meanings we make together.
The actors speak in Bavarian dialect. The text is full of Bavarian wit and wisdom, and the production is done for the home crowd. The rest of us hang on by the seat of our pants in high German. Elfriede and Erwin Ringsgwandl wrote, produced, directed, and acted in the production which started as a I have a barn, let’s do that play we’ve been talking about community production. Da Himmegugga is now in a big tent and selling out to enthusiastic crowds (even a few non-Bavarians) twelve months in advance. The play celebrates the local and intimate that embraces the cosmic and the universal. The audience is part of the action. We are stargazers, inventors plagued by trolls, hanging on to dreams. Here is a song in many languages pleading with the alien to come visit. http://vimeo.com/33828651. This mythic, folk SF epic stands in sharp contrast to:
The Movie I Wanted to Like But Just Couldn’t
Beasts from the Southern Wild. The cinematography is stunning. The child actress playing the lead is absolutely compelling. I dashed to the movie theatre at the promise of a mythic story riffing on New Orleans, flood waters of Biblical proportions, and a bold little black girl. Beyond the corruption and decay of postindustrial, late capitalist civilization, white and black folks have made a place of wonder—the Bathtub—below sea level. Here, their spirits are not drowned. Floods wash away their world-trailer park trash-kingdom. Monstrous black beasts storm the ruins of their devastated world and are turned aside by the grace of the child heroine who is fierce beyond her years!
What’s not to love?
We all see different movies. I saw another Topsy wild black child raising herself. I saw folksy poor people without history, context, or motivation, filmed in their beautiful, picturesque, primitive glory. Racism is magically over! I endured another mythic presentation of Noble Savages never combing their hair, eating at troughs, and celebrating patriarchal masculinity. The Noble Savages cling to their irrational magical thinking when hospitals tempt them with healing. The Savages are close to the beasts and forces of nature who torment and threaten them. Mute women are the hand maidens to their noble savagery, ghosts and vague memories. Girl children must be tough, never cry, and align with the patriarchal Savages if they wish to survive.
For me Beasts was regressive nostalgia masquerading as visionary divination.
Books and Movies
I enjoyed Argo, Lincoln, Cloud Atlas, and Flight. There was also the delicious serial melodrama of Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones. Pariah (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1233334/)written and directed by Dee Rees was a revelation. The film does a compelling exploration of the lives of young, black, queer women in Brooklyn. The script and cast are very strong—particularly the lead, Adepero Oduye.
We inhabit the stories we tell and we become the characters we imagine. I am grateful to these storytellers for the Andrea that will go charging into 2013!