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.
Embedded in the DNA of this play is a discussion of how class issues compound other forms of marginalization. The character of Kyle (they/them/theirs pronouns) is Gleason Street School’s only trans faculty member, and also one of the only faculty members who didn’t receive a raise this year. They are pulling extra shifts on their side gigs and still eating saltines, buying dented cans of tuna from the sale bin, and wearing a layers of sweaters until December to save on their heating bill. When Kyle asks Gordon, the Head of School, for a raise, Gordon blames the system and low budgets, but Kyle reminds him that it’s people who make the systems, and people who are responsible for acting as gatekeepers to change.
Earlier this week, Dev Blair (they/them/theirs pronouns) — the actor who plays Kyle — posted a Twitter thread that articulates many of the same issues Kyle faces. Dev and Kyle are not the same person, but Dev’s lived experience of a young queer/trans person of color in the gig economy is an important touchstone for the world of the play. Dev offered to share their twitter thread here as a way to shine more light on the issues embedded in the play.
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.