In rehearsal we have discussed how Gordon weaponizes his “lack-of-power”. He doesn’t know how to do anything, he doesn’t have control over anything, it’s not his fault. A man who uses this excuse has been branded by the media as “The Bumbling Man”
In 2016, in the midst of the Weinstein scandal, Lili Loofbourow published an article “The myth of the male bumbler” – she described them as “wide-eyed and perennially confused”
The world baffles the bumbler. He’s astonished to discover that he had power over anyone at all, let alone that he was perceived as using it. What power? he says.Who, me?
The bumbler is bad at his job, bad at menial tasks, so unaware of the world around them that they are not responsible for the fallout of anything that they were responsible for or anything they did.
There’s a reason for this plague of know-nothings: The bumbler’s perpetual amazement exonerates him. Incompetence is less damaging than malice. And men — particularly powerful men — use that loophole like corporations use off-shore accounts. The bumbler takes one of our culture’s most muscular myths — that men are clueless — and weaponizes it into an alibi.
The result of the bumbler at it’s best is that those around him have to pick up the slack (take over organizing office parties, change a diaper, feed the baby) – at it’s worst, the bumbling man uses his personality to get out sexual assault, contact with Russian agents, or complicity.
KYLE: It’s a peculiar feeling, this kind of love, Gordon. You have the ability. Everything, all of it, is made up of people. With you at the top. It. Functions through: people That make it work and go and people can stop it, when it is not working. For everyone, and say This is not good. This can be different. And better. Gordon, you can do this.
The production of GREATER GOOD will take place at The Commonwealth School, in Boston’s Back Bay. The design team and full artistic team has been frequently visiting the school since the winter, planning for how the scenes and audiences will inhabit and move through the space.
There is no one person to blame in the downfall of Gleason but we can point to certain “strategies” in management that certainly didn’t help. Many times throughout the play there is mention of excess, that leads to waste, that we can assume then leads to a deficit for the school the ultimately causes it to close. The baccarat crystal, alpacas and lobster are some examples of this.
Marie Antoinette was an Austrian queen who was married to the French King Louis XVI. She is famously known for the quote “let them eat cake” and she is used as a symbol for excess, indulgence, and a doomed bourgeoisie. She was executed during the French revolution for the crime of “treason”.
We see her directly referenced twice in the play when Isa is talking to Kyle about their raise. Isa brings up Marie Antoinette to tell Kyle to embody the spirit of excess – she wants Kyle believe that they are worthy of “riches”.
ISA: At your summer review. Gordon should have offered. KYLE: I think I’d actually’d love a burger. ISA: You should just ask him. If they are gonna act like this is the Palace of Versailles… Then Marie Antoinette your inner self—
KYLE: It’s fine, it’s totally fine. They keep— ISA: Nodon’ttaketheirscrapsYouareMarieAntoinettewhatiswrongwithyou? Kyle. KYLE: It’s just bread. It’s just bread. Shift and KYLE seems isolated and ISA does not seem to hear Their. AlthoughIameyeingrottingfoodlikeit’sbeingservedtomeonasilverplatter. AlthoughIameyeingrottingfoodwhenitistimeIgotupfromthetable. Shift and KYLE and ISA are back on the same plane. It is just bread. It is just bread. It is just bread—
Kyle’s line of “it is just bread” is a meaningful (maybe intentional) reference to the quote “let them eat cake” that is attributed to Marie Antoinette but in French does translate more directly to “let them eat bread”
From wikipedia: ” ‘Let them eat cake’ is the traditional translation of the French phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“, supposedly spoken by “a great princess” upon learning that the peasants had no bread. Since brioche was a luxury bread enriched with butter and eggs, the quotation would reflect the princess’s disregard for the peasants, or her poor understanding of their situation.”
With each “It is just bread” that Kyle says, the gap between the extravagance of Gleason and Kyle widens.
In the same scene the Palace of Versailles is referenced to. The Palace of Versailles is where Marie Antoinette lived and is the ultimate symbol of waste. “As the most imitated building of 17th century, Versailles stood for power, wealth, sex and scandal….” [Five ways Versailles has influenced pop culture today]. Versailles started off as a simple hunting lodge for King Louis XIII
Versailles, which is capable of holding up to 20,000 people, has 700 rooms, more than 2,000 windows, 1,250 chimneys, and 67 staircases… Up to 3,000 princes, courtesans, ministers, and servants lived there at any given time. Palace inhabitants coveted spaces nearest the king’s apartments, as this proximity offered status. ….
While Versailles’ extravagance is dreamlike, keeping it running was a financial nightmare. Some estimates say that maintaining the palace, including caring for and feeding the Royal Family and their massive staff, consumed anywhere from 6-25% of the entire French government income.
Actual building costs for Versailles are debated by modern historians, because currency values are uncertain. However, Versailles’ price tag ranges anywhere from two billion dollars (in 1994 USD) all the way up to a maximum cost of $299,520,000,000! The palace represented an extravagance that presented a stark contrast to the working class in France. (Source)
The extravagance of Versailles caused tension amongst the different classes in France – much like the extravagance of the Gleason Street School gala leads to tension between the teachers, rich parents, poor parents, parents of color. Ultimately the french revolt and kill Marie Antoinette but they continue to pay for the upkeep of Versailles.
Gleason Street, the fictional school in GREATER GOOD, exists in the lineage of “progressive education.” There are loads of resources out there that discuss the nuances of progressive ed in great detail, but lets begin with an overview. For this purpose, Wikipedia is a good launchpad:
Progressive education is a pedagogical movement that began in the late nineteenth century; it has persisted in various forms to the present. The term progressive was engaged to distinguish this education from the traditional Euro-American curricula of the 19th century, which was rooted in classical preparation for the university and strongly differentiated by social class. By contrast, progressive education finds its roots in present experience. Most progressive education programs have these qualities in common:
• Emphasis on learning by doing – hands-on projects, expeditionary learning, experiential learning • Integrated curriculum focused on thematic units • Integration of entrepreneurship into education • Strong emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking • Group work and development of social skills • Understanding and action as the goals of learning as opposed to rote knowledge • Collaborative and cooperativelearning projects • Education for social responsibility and democracy • Highly personalized learning accounting for each individual’s personal goals • Integration of community service and service learning projects into the daily curriculum • Selection of subject content by looking forward to ask what skills will be needed in future society • De-emphasis on textbooks in favor of varied learning resources • Emphasis on lifelong learning and social skills • Assessment by evaluation of child’s projects and productions
In the 1960s-70s, the number of progressive schools went through a national decline for a number of reasons — some of which are applicable to our own exploration of education and governance in the play. These include:
• The economy: The oil crisis and recession made shoestring schools less viable. • Non-implementation: Schools failed to implement a model of shared governance • Interpersonal dynamics: Disagreement over school goals, poor group process skills, lack of critical dialogue, and fear of assertive leadership
In the modern moment, the numbers of progressive schools are on the rise, and are connected to wider regional accrediting bodies. In Massachusetts, the Association of Independent Schools of New England is the central membership organization both accrediting and representing the needs of the independent and progressive school ecology. (And a reminder, that progressive schools and independent schools are not exactly the same.)
Cuts in funding for public education in many states have led to the founding of an unprecedented number of independent schools, many of which have progressive philosophies. The charter school movement has also spawned an increase in progressive programs. Most recently, public outcry against No Child Left Behind testing and teaching to the test has brought progressive education again into the limelight. Despite the variations that still exist among the progressive programs throughout the country, most progressive schools today are vitalized by these common practices:
• The curriculum is more flexible and is influenced by student interest • Teachers are facilitators of learning who encourage students to use a wide variety of activities to learn • Progressive teachers use a wider variety of materials allowing for individual and group research. • Progressive teachers encourage students to learn by discovery • Progressive education programs often include the use of community resources and encourage service-learning projects.
All grayed-box text has been culled from Wikipedia
This post contains an action item specifically for the cast and team of GREATER GOOD.
As the script and design concept go through revisions, Steve, Kirsten, and Ilana are inviting folx to participate in an ad hoc design visioning brainstorm.
Read and think about the prompt below. Then, share your brainstorm with us by using the CONTACT page (found on the upper menu bar of this site).
What is covered up? Behind the walls of Gleason Street School, under the floorboards, in and below the foundation of the building, is a festering history of oppression in America. It’s a goop, a guck, a living organic substance. It is a psychological manifestation of the oblivious ego of white privilege. It seeps out of the cracks. It can’t be contained. The substance holds objects — perhaps books, the pillars of the White House, broken pieces from the House of Slaves from Goree Island, for example. We want to make a brainstorm list of what other things are in this substance. All ideas are welcome.
The dramaturgy team put together a timeline of events in the play as the events would have unfolded linearally, rather than the order in which they appear in the script. Actors may find it useful to refer to this chronology as we map the narrative and character journeys.
Note: as the play changes through the next week’s revisions, this timeline may also change. Watch this space for updates!
Lina posted a great resource earlier today that detailed some components that comprise “white supremacy culture.”
Last night in rehearsal, we spent more than an hour discussing how the conditions and systems of whiteness manifest themselves — in the school, amongst the council, in governance, in interpersonal relationships between characters, and in the world outside the play.
Some observations that came from that conversation are listed below. The comments have been anonymized.
• “Whiteness has been constructed in the play to be as loomingly present as it is in reality.” • “Isa’s line about how ‘you can’t have your pet pony black person go on a rampage’ — to be on the school’s parent council, do you have to be a certain kind of black person?” • “I’m interested in how whiteness is associated with obliviousness — permission to be oblivious. For Gordon, as the cis white head of school, only someone with his status can behave the way he does.” • “Is part of the way Gordon keeps his position, and how everyone takes care of him, waiting on him, making allowances for him — is it because the POC on the council actually need a white guy as the figurehead?” • “White people are able to tap out of situations/conversations/the work when it gets tough. This feels connected to Gordon’s desire to ‘just drift’ and basically walk away from this school whose mission is about access and citizenry.” • “Thinking about ‘code-switching’ in these scenes. In life, there are metaphorical ‘front spaces’ where marginalized people need to perform, and ‘back spaces’ where marginalized people feel more comfortable to be themselves. How do POC interact during the scene with the cocktail party, where there are no white people, but they are still surrounded by the overwhelming presence of whiteness? On top of which, economics, rather than race, becomes a sorting factor with regards to characters’ status.” • “I read recently Domination and the Arts of Resistance — it touches on front space vs back space. People in positions of power have the ability to be more casual in spaces of performance. In the cocktail party scene, Kim comes out and almost says that they need Christine to substitute for Ann on the council because they don’t want the composition of the council to shift to become more white.” • “Whiteness as an ideology exists outside of bodies, even in a place with a plurality of black and brown people.” • “Black people are hyper visible in some spaces while being simultaneously invisible in those same spaces. Like the way that Val presumes Christine isn’t a member of the parents council, and instead is a stranger who got lost on the way to CVS. Then, at the same time, Christine is featured in the fundraising videos as the diverse face to represent the school.” • “There are some POC characters who are aware they’re in white spaces, and play differently to that.” • “Marginalized people in white spaces are often called on to leverage their identity as a selling point. Like Christine is asked to do as a black woman of a lower economic status, or like Kyle has probably been asked to do with regards to their black trans identity.” • “Wealth and whiteness are often linked, but that does not hold true in this play. Money is all over this play all the time, and the some of the wealthiest characters are POC. The most economically disadvantaged character is white, but has positional power as the Vice-Prolocutor of the council.” • “Kirsten is looking at the issue of substitution — how white culture looks to simply substitute people of color for one another, such as we see with Ann and Christine.”
Built by dismantlingracism.org who offered organizations support in creating anti-racist movements in their environments. Through their years of doing this work they created a list of characteristics of white supremacy that show up in our culture and harm us.
Highly recommend reading the whole document.
White Supremacy Culture The above link has details on the following characteristics as well as their “antidotes” – Perfectionism – Sense of Urgency – Defensiveness – Quantity Over Quality – Worship of the Written Word – Paternalism – Either/Or Thinking – Power Hoarding – Fear of Open Conflict – Individualism – Progress is Bigger, More – Objectivity – Right to Comfort
Think about these different characteristics and how we are harmed or helped by these characteristics.
Yesterday in rehearsal, director Steve Bogart offered some guidance for how actors and characters alike might navigate the complexities of the play’s interpersonal relationships. He recommended that the actors check out the work of renowned voice teacher Patsy Rodenburg, who has codified the nature of “presence” into a system of 3 Circles of Energy. To be fully present is to live in 2nd Circle, whereas 1st Circle denotes the kind of energy that flows back into oneself, and 3rd Circle energy is that which is so big as to crowd out other voices. Check out this excellent video of Patsy speaking about 2nd Circle, and how to navigate this through life and art.
“Speech is political. Sound is political.” — Patsy Rodenburg
Here’s a way to download and read the January 2010 American Theatre magazine article about Patsy’s work and ideas: