THE JOURNAL OF

AMERICAN DRAMA AND THEATRE
Volume 21, Number 1
Winter 2009
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THE JOURNAL OF AMERICAN DRAMA AND THEATRE
Volume 21, Number 1 Winter 2009
CONTENTS
jOE FALOCCO
Conflicting Ideological Interpretations of the Founding of the
Stratford Festival
MARK E VANS BRYAN
"Crusade of Conquest": Orientalist Surrogations in Manifest-
Destinarian Theatre
MrRIAi'vf KAMMER
Eco-Epic Theatre: Materiality, Ecology, and the Mainstream
LEANNE GROENEVELD
Remembering and Revenging the Death of Christ: Adrienne
Kennedy's Motherhood 2000 and the York Crucifixion
CONTRIBUTORS
5
21
49
65
87
jOURNAL OF AMERICAN DRAMA AND THEATRE 21, NO.1 (WINTER 2009)
CONFLICTING IDEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATIONS OF THE
FOUNDING OF THE STRATFORD FESTIVAL
Joe Falocco
In recent decades, critics writing from a postcolonial perspective have
portrayed Tyrone Guthrie's 1953 founding of the Stratford, Ontario
Shakespearean Festival as an imperialist endeavor designed to assert
British hegemony in cultural affairs and prevent Canadian artists and
audiences from achieving theatrical independence. Because he was a
British director who sought to stage the works of an English playwright
"within the particular conditions of Canadian postcoloniality in the post-
war years,"! Guthrie has been accused of cultural imperialism. As Robert
Shaughnessy writes, "Guthrie's attempt to transplant a supposedly uni-
versal conception of Shakespeare into the Canadian context has been
read as a neo-colonial maneuver willingly abetted by the forces of
anglophile nostalgia."2 This narrative forms part of a broader discourse
which sees "Shakespeare as one of the major instruments of coloniza-
tion."3 Recently, however, one of the principal exponents of this school,
Ric Knowles, has expressed misgivings. In discussing an adaptation of
Julius Caesar performed by members of several indigenous Canadian
nations, Knowles acknowledges that his "tendency to focus, post-new
historically and post-colonially, on 'Shakespeare' as agent of the colonial
project" has sometimes "blinded [him] to the potential practical use of
Shakespeare" as a means for the colonized to develop a distinct cultural
identity.
4
Knowles courageously confronts the possibility that his long-
held emphasis on the imperialist uses of Shakespeare may have been
exaggerated. In this present essay, I would like to urge that the ideologi-
cal context of the founding of the Stratford Festival, which has long been
seen by Knowles and like-minded critics as a prime example of
1
Robert Shaughnessy, The Shakespeare Effict: A History of Twentieth-Century
PeiformaJzce (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 123.
2 Ibid., 124.
3 Richard Paul Knowles, "The Death of a Chief Watching for Adaptation; or,
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bard," Shakespeare Bulletin 25, no. 3 (Fall
2007): 54-SS.
4
lbid., 62.
6 FALOCCO
Shakespeare's imperialist function, should be similarly reexamined. While
it is impossible to know what unspoken urges might have motivated
Guthrie's actions, he did not consciously pursue an agenda of cultural
hegemony. Colonialism and imperialism, Shaughnessy observes, "were
not the terms in which Guthrie and his Canadian collaborators regarded
the Stratford Festival."S My goal in this study is to emphasize the pro-
gressive nature of Guthrie's intent. Although his efforts were no doubt
informed to some extent by the patrician prejudices of his class,
Guthrie's objectives were positive and noble: a fact that has been largely
overlooked in recent criticism.
Several related ideological concerns motivated Guthrie in estab-
lishing the Stratford Festival. Foremost among t hese was the director's
belief in the function of theatre as a spiritual and, in a broad sense, "reli-
gious ritual."6 Guthrie believed that "theatre is the direct descendant of
Fertility Rites,

V'ar Dance, and all t he corporate ritual expressions by
means of which our primitive ancestors, often wiser than their progeny,
sought to relate themselves to God, or the gods."
7
Modern theatres were
not amenable to this ritual function, and the opportunity to devise an
alternative configuration in which the audience would nearly surround
the actors as in ancient times was a major factor in Guthrie's decision to
come to Ontario. He also conceived of theatre as a means of preserving
community in a society increasingly alienated by mechanization, where
"each year machines (do] more of the work which was formerly done by
humans."S Guthrie saw the possibility of a genuinely shared experience
between performers and public as theatre's unique advantage over f!lm
and as the primary justification for the live stage's continued existence in
the cinematic age. The intimate relationship between actor and audience
required for this survival was not possible in a proscenium theatre, and
the open stage at Stratford offered Guthrie the chance to create a the-
atrical model which could compete with cinema and television. Under
these more favorable circumstances, Guthrie believed "that a Theatre,
5 Shaughnessy, The Shakespeare Effect, 124.
6 Tyrone Guthrie, In Various Directions: A View of Theatre (New York:
Macmillan, 1965), 29.
7 Tyrone Guthrie, "A Long View of the Stratford Festival," in T11Jice Have the
Trumpets Sounded: A Record of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival in Canada in 1954, edited by
Tyrone Guthrie, Robertson Davies, and Grant MacDonald (Toronto: Clark, Irwin, and
Co., 1954), 193.
8 Tyrone Guthrie, A New Tbeatre (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964), 165.
(ONFL!Cf!NG lDEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATIONS 7
where live actors perform plays to an audience which is there in the flesh
before them" could "survive all threats from powerfully organized indus-
tries, which pump prefabricated drama out of cans and blowers and con-
traptions of one kind and another."9
Guthrie also sought to bridge the "social chasm" which he
believed had come to separate actors from audience since the rise of the
proscenium stage.
10
Theatre practitioners, he felt, were often treated as
"the lower classes" by their affluent public.
11
Guthrie designed his thrust
stage to break down this social barrier as it would abolish the physical
partition of the proscenium wall. Another egalitarian goal of Guthrie's
was to expand the audience demographic; theatre should not, he felt, "be
aimed at a cultural minority"
1
2 because "everyone, literally everyone, is
part of human culture."
1
3 This program of inclusion led Guthrie to
champion theatrical development in Canada, a nation which in 1953 had
little dramatic tradition. He hoped that at Stratford classical plays would
be "interpreted into a Canadian idiom, [and] given a Canadian style,"14
thereby expanding access to theatre for both audience and artists.
Guthrie's stated goals in founding the Stratford Festival contrast
sharply with the interpretation of this event developed in recent decades
by critics like Knowles and Dennis Salter. While Guthrie saw himself as
an anti-authoritarian rebel breaking down barriers of class and geogra-
phy, these later scholars portray him as a cultural imperialist serving an
elitist and reactionary agenda. This more recent view perceives the estab-
lishment of the Stratford Festival as "discursively constructed as the
founding of a Shakespearean National Theatre in Canada after the
British (imperialist) Model, in which Shakespeare was used to serve the
interests of cultural colonization by a dominant-and on occasion
explicitly capitalist (or anti-communist)--elite."
1
5 Rather than breaking
9 Guthrie, ''A Long Viev.·," 191.
1
0 Tyrone Guthrie, A Ufe in the Theatre (New York: McGraw Hill, 1959), 197.
11
Tyrone Guthrie, "Theatre at Minneapolis," in Actor and Architect, edited by
Stephen Joseph (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1964), 32.
12 Guthrie, A New Theatre, 177.
13 Ibid., 171.
14
Ibid., 172.
15 Richard Paul Knowles, "From Nationalist to Multinational: The Stratford
Festival, Free Trade, and the Discourses of Intercultural Trade," Theatre Journa/47, no. 1
(March 1995): 26.
8 FALOCCO
down social barriers and expanding access, the Stratford Festival offered
a "product presented for the pleasure of a privileged and culturally dom-
inant group of consumers."
1
6 Instead of enabling Canadian practitioners
to find an indigenous means of expression through classical texts,
Guthrie's efforts, in this interpretation, led these "postcolonial actors" to
"disavow their particular historical conditions."17 This left these per-
formers with a sense of "divided identity"18 which prevented them from
achieving artistic or political independence.
The discrepancy between Guthrie's expressed intent and the
opinion of his efforts held by some postmodern critics originates in con-
trasting ideological interpretations of the twentieth-century movement to
recover early modern staging practices. While not overly concerned with
the supposed historical accuracy of his productions, Guthrie championed
the thrust stage which aligned him to a certain extent with the
Elizabethanists. His concern with theatre as a communal ritual led
Guthrie to become a major proponent, in both theory and practice, of
the "open stage." For Guthrie, this term referred not only to the aboli-
tion of the proscenium but to "an auditorium arranged not in front of the
stage, but, to a greater or less extent, wrapped around the stage." He dis-
tinguished between an "Arena" format, where the audience completely
surrounds the playing area, and a "Thrust" or "Open" configuration, in
which the public only partially encircles the platform.
1
9 The three-quarter
configuration is generally considered to have been a key feature of early
modern theatres. The new Globe in London and the reconstructed
Blackfriars in Staunton, Virginia both place audience on three sides in a
semi-circle of approximately 180 degrees from the front of each theatre's
frons scenae. In his most famous performance space, the original tent at
Stratford, Ontario, Guthrie pursued a more circular form by arranging
the public in a 240-degree arc.ZO Guthrie also shared with early
16 Richard Paul Knowles, "Shakespeare, 1993, and the Discourses of the
Stratford Festival, Ontario," Shaluspeare Quarterly 45, no. 2 (Summer 1994): 215.
1
7
Denis Salter, "Acting Shakespeare in Postcolonial Space," in Shaluspeare,
Theory, and Peiformance, edited by James C. Bulman (London: Routledge, 1996), 114.
18 Ibid., 122.
19 Tyrone Guthrie, "Do We Go to the Theatre for Illusion?," New York Times,
16 January 1966, X3.
20 Alan J. Somerset, The Stratford Festival Story (New York: Greenwood Press,
1991), xiv.
CONFLICI'ING IDEOLOGICAL I NTERPRETATIONS 9
Elizabethanists like William Poel and Nugent Monck, and with their
descendants at the new Globe and reconstructed Blackfriars Playhouse, a
desire to minimize illusion's role in the theatrical process. "The attraction
for me of the 'open' stage, as opposed to the proscenium," Guthrie
wrote, "is primarily this: that it stresses the ritual as opposed to the illu-
sionary quality of performance."2J He noted elsewhere, "The fact that an
audience sits around the stage makes it easier to apprehend what is, in fact,
the purpose of theatrical performance," which was "not to create the illu-
sion that a palpable fiction is a fact, but rather to recreate in ritual terms
an ordered and significant series of ideas."22
Rather than indulging in archaism for its own sake, the practi-
tioners of the "Elizabethan revival" looked backward in a progressiYe
attempt to address the challenges of the modern age. "The theatrical
past" served for them as "a crack in the present through which one could
grab at a future."
2
3 Many scholars, however, see in this movement a "dis-
mally regressive"24 attempt to separate Shakespeare from the material cir-
cumstances of contemporary audiences. Productions employing
Elizabethan conventions, in this view, use the cultural authority of a uni-
versal Shakespeare, frozen in time, to forestall societal change and pre-
serve the interests of ruling elites. Salter succinctly connects this opinion
to the work of Guthrie when he writes that "the Stratford stage has
sought to transport Canadian theatre-and the culture it represents-
backwards in time to the very spirit of the Elizabethan age. It has often
provided Canadians with the comforting illusion that they have secured
unique access to Shakespeare himsel£."25 This kind of escapism, howev-
er, was never the Elizabethanists' main objective. William Poel, Nugent
Monck, and Tyrone Guthrie did not seek to turn their theatres into the
kind of historically accurate amusement park derided by William Bridges-
21 Tyrone Guthrie, "Shakespeare at Stratford, Ontario," Shakespeare Survey 8
(1955): 131.
22 Guthrie, In Various Directions, 69.
23 Peter Womack, "Notes on the 'Elizabethan' Avant-Garde," in Shakespeare and
the Tu;entieth Century, edited by Jonathan Bate, Jill L. Levenson, and Dieter Mehl (Newark:
University of Delaware Press, 1996), 81.
24 Terry Eagleton, ''Afterword," The Shakespeare Myth, edited by Graham
Holderness (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988), 206.
25 Salter, "Acting Shakespeare in Postcolonial Space," 121.
10 FALOCCO
Adams in 1919 as "Ye Olde Shakespeare Bunne Shoppe."26 This was par-
ticularly true at Stratford where there was no "attempt [at] an Elizabethan
pseudo-antique style."
27
Guthrie notes, in what may have been a direct
response to Bridges-Adams, "we were determined to eschew Ye O/de."28
Instead Guthrie, like Poel and Monck before him, sought a very contem-
porary response to the problems facing theatre in the twentieth century.
Ritual and Community
"Ritual," J. L. Styan writes, was "Guthrie's favorite word."29 Indeed,
Guthrie's writings reveal an almost obsessive concern with theatre as a
spiritual rite. His vision was religious but far from orthodox. "It is my
belief," he wrote, "that, in trying to serve the theatre faithfully, I am offer-
ing some sort of service to God."30 Guthrie's vision incorporated
Christianity, as when he wrote of the "priest in Holy Communion" as "an
actor impersonating Christ in a very solemn drama,"3
1
but he also
expressed dissatisfaction with modern religion. "Christian culture," he
lamented, "has taken over many of the ideas underlying dionysiac and
other more primitive rites of spring. We have purified them, or it could
equally be said, emasculated them, by the elimination of much grossness
and sexuality."32 Guthrie looked back to ancient Greece for more mean-
ingful religious rituals, professing that "we, like the Athenians, have a
sneaking belief in many gods."33 He saw a common origin for Greek reli-
gion and Christianity, and for Greek and modern drama as well, in pre-
historic rituals. These were originally celebrated with human and then
later animal sacrifices until finally, "instead of an actual sacrifice, the
26 William Bridges-Adams, A Bridges Adams Letter Book, edited by Robert
Speaight (London: Society for Theatre Research, 1971), 29.
27 Gurhrie, "Shakespeare at Stratford," 128.
28 Gurhrie, A Life in tbe Theatre, 319.
2
9 J. L Styan, The Shakespeare Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1977), 205.
30 Gurhric, In Various Directions, 23.
31 Guthrie, "A Long View," 192.
32 Guthrie, In Various Directions, 31.
33 Ibid., 26.
CON£'UCTING IDEOLOGICAL I NTERPRETATIONS 11
offering took symbolic form. A story of sacrifice was enacted in honor of
the God in a tragedy." Guthrie believed that "Macbeth, Hamlet ... even
Willy Loman ... are all, like the protagonists of Greek tragedy, victims at
a ceremony of sacrifice."34 When Guthrie's Oedipus Rex proved the most
successful production in the Stratford Festival's second season, Brooks
Atkinson wrote in the New York Times that "it would be ironic if
Sophocles emerged as the godfather of a Shakespeare festival."JS In fact,
it was hardly "ironic," considering Guthrie's emphasis on the ritual qual-
ity of theatre and on the unbroken continuity he perceived between prim-
itive rites of sacrifice and modern tragedy.
Guthrie saw the thrust stage as essential to recovering theatre's
sacred aspects. The placement of the public in close proximity to the
playing area created a sense of unity between audience and actors which
enhanced what Guthrie perceived as the sacramental quality of drama.
"The appreciation of Ritual," he wrote, "is greatly enhanced if you are
aware of its performance as a social act, aware of being one of many who
are 'assisting' at the performance, as the French so accurately describe the
function of an audience." The presence of spectators on three sides
increased this sensation, because they could see each other as well as the
performers on stage. By thus emphasizing the "social, shared aspect of
performance" the public is "constantly .. . reminded that one and all are
sharing the same occasion, taking part in the same rites."36 A sense of
community and participation was vital to Guthrie, who believed that the-
atre was "essentially a sociable, communal affair."3
7
The audience,
Guthrie wrote, must feel "invited to par ticipate" and should therefore be
"arranged [so] that spectators can see one another around, and beyond,
the more brightly lighted stage."38
Anti-industrialism
Guthrie believed that interactive ritual was especially important to a mod-
ern society in which people had been alienated by technology. Li ke Poel
and Monck, Guthrie bemoaned the industrial transition from "handcraft
3
4
Ibid. , 33.
35 Brooks Atkinson, "Bard in Canada," New York Times, 3 July 1955, X1.
36 Guthrie, "Do We Go To The Theatre for Illusion?," X3.
37 Guthrie, In Various Directions, 69.
38 Guthrie, A New Theatre, 69.
12 FALOCCO
to mechanical processes" with its accompanying shift in emphasis "from
quality to quantity."39 While these earlier Elizabethanists expressed these
sentiments by aligning themselves with the Pre-Raphaelites, Guthrie was
drawn to a later, analogous phenomenon, the "Folk Art revival."
According to Guthrie this movement "aimed to keep alive simple and
ancient expressions, in danger of disappearing with the change-over from
a predominantly agricultural to a predominantly urban and industrial
society."
4
0 Guthrie feared that, because of the assembly-line mentality,
"the joy will be taken out of work" and "a deadly standardization will be
imposed, not just upon commodities, but on ideas."41 This anti-industri-
al bias partly explains Guthrie's emphasis on visual detail in the early years
of the Stratford Festival, when he sometimes seemed perversely deter-
mined to spend as much money and effort as possible on props and cos-
tumes. Such was the case in 1953's "incident of the shoes," an episode of
Festival lore so well known as to be chronicled in the business magazine
Industrial Canada. 42
In two different accounts of the Festival's founding, from A Life
in the Theatre and Renown at Stratford, Guthrie describes at length the prob-
lem of securing adequate footwear for performers. This challenge is also
addressed by Guthrie's designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch, who rejects the
notion that such apparel is relatively unimportant. This conventional wis-
dom, she insists, is "a fallacy on the open stage" because, in a theatre like
Stratford's, "shoes can let down the whole effect."
4
3 Moiseiwitsch may be
partly right, but Guthrie's insistence that for Richard III he "required
shoes of a shape, and in materials and colors, which bore no resemblance
to the shoes mass produced for the public"
44
seems excessive. I believe
that the real significance of the shoes for Guthrie lay in his rejection of
industrialism. Guthrie laments that "Canada, like the United States, is
organized for mass-production" and that it is "almost impossible to get
people to bother to make somethi ng for which there is no mass-demand,
39 Guthrie, A Lift in the Theatre, 324.
40
Ibid., 43.
41
Ibid., 324.
4
2 A. W House, "The Miracle of Stratford," Industrial Ca!lada 54, no. 5 (1953): 63.
43 Tanya Moiseiwitsch, "Problems in Design," Drama Survey 3 (Spring-Summer
1963): 114.
44 Guthrie, A Uft in the Theatre, 323.
CONFL!Cf!NG lDF.OLOGJCAL INTERPRETATIONS 13
for which no blueprint exists, which requires craftsmanship." Finally
Guthrie found "an aged Jewish craftsman," who was "delighted to feel
that his skill was valued again," to make shoes for Richard III. "Too old
for the rush and flurry of competitive mass-production," Guthrie moral-
izes, "he was still a first-rate tradesman."4S A similar "little bootmaker"
was found to provide footwear for All's Well That Ends Well.
46
For
Guthrie, the difference between the labors of these elderly cobblers and
the industrial output of modern shoe factories had a parallel in the per-
forming arts. Live theatre was "the source of the custom-made drama,"
whereas film and television only created "the sort of drama produced for
cheap mass-distribution," which "cheapened the art of acting by making
it over-familiar."4
7
Stratford had no tradition of live theatre, and Ontario
law at the time of the Festival's founding "defined a theatre simply as 'a
place where moving pictures are shown."'48 Guthrie may have used his
apparent obsession with quality and authenticity in props and costumes
to emphasize the genuine craftsmanship of his theatrical medium in con-
trast to cinematic mass-production.
The Challenge from Cinema
Guthrie understood that from a practical point of view theatre had to
change if it was to survive in the cinematic age; "we have all been spoilt
by movies," he wrote. Guthrie then elaborated:
Perhaps our eyes have been opened by the movies and
television. We expect to see the actors, we expect to hear
them, so spoilt are we. And if you are sitting at the back
of a theatre that holds 3,000 people you don't see the
actors at all, and you only hear them if they are relayed
by a loudspeaker. It is a disappointing and dreary expe-
rience which people simply do not suppor t.
4
9
45 Tyrone Guthrie, "First Shakespeare Festival at Srratford, Ontario," in Ren01vn
at S !raiford, edited by Tyrone Guthrie, Robertson Davies, and Grant MacDonald (Toronto:
Clarke, Irwin, and Co., 1953), 14.
46 Guthrie, A Lift in the Theatre, 325.
47 Guthrie, " First Shakespeare Festival," 31.
4
8 John Pettigrew and Jamie Portman, Stratford: The First Thirty Years (Toronto:
Macmillan of Canada, 1985), 16.
49 Guthrie, "Thearre at Minneapolis," 34.
14 FALOCCO
As opposed to a "dreary" experience in the cheap seats of a large prosce-
nium auditorium, the thrust stage offered the kind of "close-up" per-
spective which the film-going public had come to expect.
Guthrie also believed, in accordance with Gary Taylor's later
assertion regarding the relationship of cinema to the Elizabethan
revival,SO that the open stage's lack of scenic illusion spared the theatre
from having to compete with film in terms of verisimilitude. Guthrie
claims, "most thoughtful people realized the moment the movies had
passed the bioscope stage, that the death-knell was ringing for theatrical
realism."51 He elsewhere notes, "I lost interest in naturalism when I began
to believe that the cinema was a better medium for naturalistic expression
than the theatre."52 Guthrie said of the stage he built for the Stratford
Festival that, in contrast to cinematic illusion, "there is no possibility of
scenery at all. Any scenery is created in the imagination of the audience
by the words. And that is the right way." Such an approach was impossi-
ble in traditional theatres "because of the architecture of the buildings."
A proscenium audience is "placed all on one side" while "looking at a pic-
ture frame" and is therefore "conditioned by the shape of the auditori-
um and 10 generations of playgoing to expect a picture."S3 These visual
expectations increased once audiences began to frequent movie houses
regularly. The open stage shifted this paradigm of perception, and
allowed the public to judge live drama on its own terms without unfa-
vorable comparisons to cinema.
Guthrie believed that theatre would prosper only if it offered its
public something film could not by giving spectators the chance to
impact the quality of performance through their "assistance" and
response. His communal vision was developed partly in response to cin-
ema. "Theatre-going," he claimed, "is a sociable, a shared experience"
because "the audience, unlike the audience for movies or television, has
an active part to play, has to do its share towards creating the perform-
ance, [and] can make or mar the occasion."S4 The power of the public in
this regard is greatly increased by the intimacy of the thrust configura-
50 Gary Taylor, Reinventing Shakespeare: a Cultural History from the Restoration to the
Present (New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989), 274.
51 Guthrie, "Theatre at Minneapolis," 46.
52 Guthrie, A Life in the Theatre, 200.
5
3
"A Regisseur Reflects," Times (London), 10 April1959, 14.
54 Guthrie, A New Theatre, 70.
(ONFL!CITNG IDEOLOGICAL lNTERPRET,ITIONS 15
tion. Knowles is correct when he writes that at Stratford the stage and the
building "are, to a large extent, themselves the message." I disagree, how-
ever, with what he takes this message to be. While Knowles believes that
this "stage and its auditorium impose physical conditions that once again
construct audiences as passive consumers of the production-as-product
and that support the replication of capitalist and patriarchal structures,"55
I feel that this interpretation overlooks the real sense of empowerment
through active engagement which Guthrie's open stage provides its pub-
lic. This effect is not afforded by cinema or proscenium theatre-modes
of performance which, in my view, tend far more to "construct audiences
as passive consumers" in the service of "capitalist and patriarchal struc-
tures" than does the thrust stage at Stratford.
Colonialism
In dealing with his Canadian collaborators, Guthrie was not above using
his position as a "looming patriarch of British Theatre"56 to exert "to the
full the aura of exotic authority brought all the way from old England."5
7
Yet Knowles's interpretation of the Festival's creation as "the solidifica-
tion of a delayed colonial celebration of a nineteenth-century brand of
Canadian nationalism configured on an imperialist British model"S8
should be at least partly mitigated by Guthrie's expressed notions with
regard to Canadian identity, sentiments which reflect his broader attitude
toward colonialism. Guthrie strove to make the Stratford project as much
as possible "an effort for and by Canadians."59 "It was Dr. Guthrie,"
Herbert Whittaker wrote in 1958, "who established the Festival's partic-
ular flavor of Canadianism," a characteristic which "was more responsi-
ble for the success of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival than any other
factor."60 Guthrie's writings display sensitivity to the topic of cultural
55 Richard Paul Knowles, "Shakespeare, 1993, and the Discourses of the
Stratford Festival, Ontario," 219.
56 Salter, ''Acting Shakespeare," 120.
5
7
James Forsyth, Tyrone Guthrie: A Biograpf?y (London: Hamish Hamilton,
1976), 226.
58 Knowles, "Nationalist to Multinational," 20.
59 Guthrie, "Shakespeare at Stratford, Ontario," 127.
60 Herbert Whittaker, The Stratford Festival 1953-1957 (foronro: Clarke, Irwin,
and Co., 1958), xxiii.
16 FALOCCO
hegemony. He hoped that Canadians would be able "to assimilate classi-
cal works of art as part of their own heritage, not just regard them as
imports, acquired at second-hand from overseas."GJ Guthrie acknowl-
edged that in "the first year, although there were only four British actors,
the weight they pulled was out of all proportion to their numbers." But
he pointed to greater equity in 1954, when in Measure for Measure "two of
the three chief characters were played by Canadian actors" and in "The
Taming of the Shrew both the leading players were Canadian."62 Brooks
Atkinson of the New York Times acknowledged Guthrie's attempts to use
local talent, writing in 1953, "most of the actors-and very good ones
too-are Canadian professionals."63
Some critics have dismissed Guthrie's "drive for a Canadian
character" as "so much rubbish."6
4
Dennis Salter, for instance, cites
Michael Langham's 1982 observation that "there was never anything
Canadian about Stratford .... [I]hat was a diplomatic thing Guthrie
cooked up" as proof of Sir Tyrone's insincerity.6S Langham, however, did
not work in Stratford until 1955, when he directed Julius Caesar before
taking charge of the entire Festival from Guthrie.66 He therefore could
have had only limited knowledge of what transpired during the first two
seasons, which was the time of Guthrie's greatest involvement. Knowles
suggests that Guthrie quickly abandoned any aspirations of promoting
Canadian nationalism. ''As early as 1954," he observes, "Guthrie admit-
ted, 'I don't know how far it may be possible to interpret a classical play
in a distinctively Canadian way."'67 This quotation of Guthrie is from ''A
Long View of the Stratford Festival" published in Twice Have the Trumpets
5 ounded. The defeatist attitude Knowles attributes to Guthrie is, I believe,
called into question by the director's suggestion, immediately preceding
the passage cited by Knowles, that "a Festival's claim to be a Canadian
61 Guthrie, ''A Long View," 167.
62 I bid., 145.
63 Brooks Atkinson, "Canada's Stratford," New York Times, 19 July 1953, Xl.
6
4
Nathan Cohen, "Theatre Today: English Canada," Canadian Theatre History:
Selected Readings, edited by Don Rubin (Toronto: Copp Clark Ltd., 1996), 236.
65 Salter, ''Acting Shakespeare," 121. Ellipsis in the original.
66 Forsyth, Tyrone Guthrie, 252.
67 Knowles, "Nationalist to Multinational," 24.
CONFLICflNG lDEOl.OGJCAL INTERPRETATIONS 17
institution might be based upon the fact that the company of actors was
overwhelmingly Canadian."68
In this same essay, Guthrie rejects the notion that Canadian
actors should eliminate regionalisms from their speech. This is significant
in terms of Knowles's critique of the Stratford Festival's colonialist lean-
ings. In "Shakespeare, Voice, and Ideology: Interrogating the Natural
Voice," Knowles claims that voice training which advocates so-called
"neutral" speech "clearly reinforce[s] North American Anglophilia as
embodied in 'ye olde' Shakespeare Festivals across the continent, in imi-
tation of British voice and other training" and therefore betrays its "ide-
ological underpinnings" as a means of cultural repression.69 Guthrie
agrees. He not only claims that "it would be quite wrong for Canadian
actors to try to pronounce the words of a classical play in an assumed
'English' accent."70 Guthrie goes further, suggesting that "the plays of
Shakespeare should be presented by Canadian actors speaking in a rec-
ognizably Canadian manner." He believes that " the most distinctive char-
acteristic of Canadian actors is their speech" and prefers this indigenous
vocalization to either British accents or "the macedoine of dialects which
passes for English on the rare occasions when Shakespeare's heard on
Broadway."7t Guthrie's advocacy of regional Canadian speech is there-
fore, by the terms of Knowles's own analysis, progressive rather than
reactionary.
Guthrie's praise of Canadian speech and of Canada in general
may have been, as Cohen and Salter assert, no more than public relations.
If Guthrie was insincere, however, he was at least consistent. A decade
later he expressed similar concerns regarding cultural imperialism when
planning his namesake theatre in Minneapolis. "We certainly did not want
it to appear," he wrote of this venrure, "as if once again Britain were try-
ing to instruct the colonists."
72
Elsewhere during this same period
Guthrie explained:
68 Guthrie, "A Long View," 166.
69 Richard Paul Knowles, "Shakespeare, Voice, and Ideology: Interrogating the
Natural Voice," in Shak£speare, Theory, and Peifornrance, edited by James C. Bulman (London:
Routledge, 1996), 103.
70 Guthrie, "Long View," 185.
71
Ibid., 175.
72 Guthrie, A New Theatre, 43.
18
Just because I come from Britain it is extremely impor-
tant that I don't seem to be shoving British products
down their throats. The American theatre is always
being grand-mothered by us. We come over and say
"Old darlings, you really don't know anything about it!
We have been at it for five centuries. Let me show you!"
And it doesn't do. These are grown-up people who are
developing their own theatre. If you are working in the
1-1iddle West this must be . . . an expression of the
Middle WestJ3
FALOCCO
Guthrie's comments on his work in the United States and his earlier hope
that the Stratford Festival would provide "Canadian artists" with a means
to "express what the Canadian climate, the Canadian soil and their fellow
Canadians have made of them"
74
suggest greater enlightenment on
Guthrie's part toward issues of national identity than his detractors have
acknowledged.
Elements of Guthrie's own biography may have attuned him to
the complications of cross-cultural collaboration. Robert Shaughnessy
suggests that Guthrie's ''Anglo-Irishness" and his awareness of "Ireland's
troubled passage towards a post-colonial national identity" made him
particularly sensitive to issues of imperialismJS Guthrie's views on the
Irish question were passionate. His Protestant family's life had been
turned upside down when their county was awarded in 1922 to the Irish
Free State rather than to the British-ruled North.76 Guthrie compared the
inequitable sectarian divide in Northern Ireland with racial segregation in
the Jim Crow South77 and frequently argued for Irish unificationJB
This personal connection to the Irish troubles helped make
Guthrie throughout his career a champion of local empowerment and
expression. He wrote of his early theatrical experiences in Belfast and
73 Guthrie, "Theatre at Minneapolis," 40.
74 Guthrie, ''A Long View," 171.
7
5 Shaughnessy, The Shakespeare Effect, 91.
16 Forsyth, Tyrone G11thrie, 37.
7
7 Tyrone Guthrie, "Sir Tyrone Guthrie Speaks to the People of Northern
Ireland," Listener 31 Guly 1969): 150.
78 "Guthrie Apology for Border Remark," Times (London) 17 December 1964, 7.
CONFUCTING IDEOLOG!Ci\L INTERPRETATIONS 19
Glasgow, "while I was in Ireland and Scotland I believed that indigenous
drama was a valuable element in both national development and interna-
tional understanding."
7
9 Guthrie acted on his principles in 1926 when he
resigned a secure job with the BBC to produce "theatre on a shoestring"
with the nationalist Scottish Players80 and similarly championed local
expression while working in Australia, Canada, and the United States.8
1
Guthrie insisted, however, that the only way for practitioners in
these countries to develop their own traditions of dramaturgy and per-
formance was to immerse themselves in the classics of western theatre.
"I believe," Guthrie wrote in 1953, "that it is only through the classics
that either artists or audience can be adequately trained."82 This belief,
perhaps understandably, has provoked the ire of some postmodern
Canadian critics. "Guthrie even went so far," Margaret Groome laments,
"as to suggest that a distinctive Canadian theatre would emerge on!J out
of a study of Shakespeare and other classics."83 Yet Guthrie's logic was
not completely spurious. He reasoned that, since Canada had no indige-
nous tradition of written English drama, any attempts to establish a
canon for performance must be based on imitation. If Canadians were to
"go on writing and producing realistic comedies of Canadian life" these
would "remain mere copies of a naturalistic theatre which is essentially
the product of nineteenth-century culture in Europe; and is already
bygone." Far better, he claimed, for a "distinctive national style, whether
of acting, producing, writing or criticizing plays" to "be founded on the
study of the classics."84 Guthrie's intentions were noble, but his
Eurocentric viewpoint offended later critics writing from a multicultural
perspective.
It may be impossible for any representative of a dominant cui-
79 Guthrie, A Lzje in the Theatre, 347.
80 Forsyth, Tyrone Guthrie, 66-8.
81 Albert Rossi, Astonish Us in the Morning: Tyrone Guthrie Remembered (London:
Hutchinson and Co., 1977), 177.
82 Tyrone Guthrie, "Is Canada Ready for Big-Time Theatre?," Mayfair 27
(October 1953): 27.
83 Margaret Groome, "Stratford and the Aspirations for a Canadian National
Theatre," in Shakespeare in Canada: "a world elsewhere"? edited by Diana Brydon and Irena
R. Makaryk (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 126.
84 Guthrie, "First Shakespeare," 28.
20
FALOCCO
ture to completely rid himself of imperialist impulses, particularly when
dealing with that culture's former colonial subjects. I believe, however,
that the colonialist aspects of Guthrie's work at Stratford have been exag-
gerated by critics like Salter and Knowles, who have simultaneously 'over-
looked the more important ideological significance of his achievement.
Guthrie's larger agenda of empowering audiences and actors through
communal ritual, his quest to develop a new mode of theatrical expres-
sion in response to the technological dominance of cinema, and his egal-
itarian desire to expand the demographic base of theatre audiences and
break down the social and physical barriers separating public from per-
formers far outweigh any taint of cultural imperialism that clings to his
efforts.
jOURNAL OF AMERICAN DRAMA AND THEATRE 21, NO.1 (

Related Interests

\liNTER 2009)
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST": 0RIENTALIST SURROGATIONS IN
MANIFEST-DESTINARIAN THEATRE
Mark Evans Bryan
Four weeks into its first production run at New York's Bowery Theatre
in autumn, 1847, the "beautiful national drama of 'The Siege of
Monterey"' was "still attracting thousands."
1
A stage anthology of "patri-
otic scenes," The Siege of Monterry, or the Triumphs of Rough and Reat!J• dram-
atized the "visions" of a sleeping General Zachary Taylor during the U.S.-
Mexico War.z The extravaganza was so popular in its initial week that
"hundreds of persons" were left without tickets on the streets of lower
Manhattan each night, and it fomented such imperialistic zeal in the
Bowery's working-class audience that the army's "recruiting service,"
argued one journalist, was "quite efficient in consequence."3 A national-
istic commemoration of U.S. victories in Mexico, The Siege o/ Monterry was
perhaps the most popular of such public spectacles during a vogue in
New York and Philadelphia for jingoistic theatrical celebrations of U.S.
conquest.4 During this period, the production's concluding episode was
certainly also the most witnessed islamicist-orientalist performance of
U.S. expansion and empire, a surrogation of the Arab for the Mexican
1
"Theatrical and Musical," New York Herald, 23 October 1847, 2 ("America's
Historical Newspapers," http:/ / www.readex.com, hereafter referred to as AHN). This
column, as well as the others that reported on The Siege of Monterey in the N ew York Herald
in the fall and winter of 1847-48, was likely written by Thomas W Whitley, a writer and
landscape painter, who was the drama columnist for James Gordon Bennett's "scandal
sheet" in the late 1840s and the author of his own orientalist drama, The Jesuit; Or, The
Amours of Capt. Effingham and the Lac!J Zanfa (1 850) .
2 George C. D. Odell, Annals of the Ne1v York Stage, volume 5 (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1931), 346.
3 "Theatrical and Musical," N ew York Herald, 2 October 1847, 2 (AHN);
"Query," "Fall and Winter Fashions for Genrlemen," Spirit of the Times 30 October 1847,
423, American Periodical Series, www:proquest.com, hereafter referred to as APS. The
Siege of Monterey was produced by Joseph C. Foster, an impresario of the spectacular
equestrian theatre in Philadelphia and New York.
4
Odell, Annals, 348-9, and Robert W Johannsen, To the Halls of the Montezumas:
The Mexican War in the American Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985),
219-20.
22 BRYAN
other in the aerialist and strongman act of the "Bedouin Arabs."S Anti-
Catholicism has long been understood as a powerful marginalizing narra-
tive in the rhetoric of expansion in the Jacksonian and antebellum United
States, but the islamicist-orientialist dramas of this period demonstrate
that such fictions of the Muslim world provided a ready paradigm for
demonizing Mexico and the North American frontiers, a model more
alien, more exotic, more barbaric for nativist theatre audiences than pop-
ular burlesques of Catholicism and Spanish colonial culture.
The citation of the "thousands" of spectators packing the
Bowery Theatre appeared in the New York Herald on 23 October 1847,
coupled with an admonition that customers "go early, or you cannot
secure a seat," for that evening's performance would be the last of "the
Bedouin Arabs," who had thrilled audiences in previous weeks with an
act that concluded with acrobatic "somersets over six men with bayo-
nets," blending orientalist spectacle with the representation of U.S. mili-
tary conquest.6 Such performances amalgamated orientalist images with
the representation of Catholic Mexico and the Native American frontier
during a period characterized famously by John Quincy Adams as a "cru-
sade of conquest," roughly from the Treaty of Ghent (1815) to the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), including continuing tension with
Europe and Muslim north Africa, the independence and annexation of
Texas, the Florida Wars, and the conflict commemorated by The Siege of
Monterry.
7
The former president predicted that the incipient wars would
be "of races-the Anglo-Saxon American pitted against the Moorish
Spanish Mexican American," enfolding Arab and Berber identity into the
racialist and culturalist rhetoric of Manifest Destiny. The leaps of the
"Bedouin Arabs" over the rifles of costumed soldiers in Foster's specta-
cle comprise a metonymic acrobatics, a manifestation and surrogation in
performance of orientalist barbarity for this composite "Moorish
Spanish Mexican American" other.
5 In The Cultural Roots if American lslamicism (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2006), Timothy Marr "highlights the lowercase term islamicism to clearly register (the]
variance between orientalist codes and Islamic faith" (7). In this study, I follow Marr's
model, using the uncapitalized "islamicist-orientalist" as a descriptor for these complex and
chimerical representations of culrure in the Islamic world in popular U.S. drama.
6 New York Herald, 23 October 1847, 2 (AHN).
7 John Quincy Adams's anti-slavery "crusade of conquest" speech occurred
during a House of Representatives debate on federal support for those affected by con-
flicts with Native Americans in Alabama and Georgia on 25 May 1836 (Essex Gazette, 18
June 1836, 1-2 [AHN]).
"CRUSADE or CONQUEST" 23
Produced six months before the signing of the accord that ended
La lntervencidn Norteamericana, Joseph C. Foster's Siege of Monterry was a
spectacular performance of nearly current events "involving the Fall of
Metamoras [sic], the Capture of Monterey [sic], the Bombardment of
Vera Cruz, and the Battle of Buena Vista."B Journalists described a pro-
duction in which audiences, investing in the "real[ity]" of the perform-
ance, enthusiastically applauded the entrances of the U.S. Army and greet-
ed their Mexican counterparts with hostility. Even "the marches and
manoeuvres of the military are performed according to rule," writes the
Herald columnist; it "is in fact a condensed history of the war, beautifully
illustrated"-presumably from the perspective of the expansionist
Herald-"a perfect panorama of the great events which have transpired
since the commencement of the war with Mexico."
9
The performance of
the Bedouin Arabs was distinct from both the Siege of Monterry itself and
the production's discrete afterpieces. But though not expressly integrated
into the dreams of "Old Rough and Ready," the act utilized the produc-
tion's scenic spectacle and supernumerary soldiers, literalizing Arab bar-
barity in the diegetic space of the Mexican world, trading desert for
desert. And though newspaper accounts note the engagement of New
York audiences with the events recreated on stage, the performance of
the "real" Bedouin Arabs required no similar suspension of disbelief.
Their act was repeatedly advertised, for instance, as the authentic specta-
cle of "Wild Children of the Desert" and the story of their initial engage-
ment by a U.S. circus manager on a trip to the "Eastern Continent" to
procure camels, was a key element of the troupe's publicity.JO At the
8 Odell, Annals, 346.
9 "Theatrical and Musical," New York Herald, 2-3 and 9 October 1847 (AHN).
10 With few exceptions duting the run of The Siege of Monterry, the Bedouin Arabs
performed in a concluding episode of the war spectacle and were then followed by discrete
afterpieces. The expanded, hippodromic version of the Arabs' "authentic" act included a
parade of "12 Real Syrian Camels," purported to be "Sacred," "the gift of ALLAH to the true
disciples of Mahomet" (advertisement for Howe & Company Circus, Cleveland Herald, 13 June
1848, "Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers," http:/ /www.gale.com). In the summer of
1848, there were seven members in the Bedouin Arabs: "Mustapha- The Athlete or flying
man. Malek-The Tamer of Wild Horses. Hamet-The Man of good councils. Mahomet-
the strong. Zazrac- The leader in deeds of war. Mahmoud- The Favorite. Alla- The ever
enduring. [And,] Kabri-The Sorcerer." But unlike similar objectifying performances of
exotic men and women during the period, the Bedouin Arabs appear to have been an inde-
pendent company, engaging separately with theatres and circuses in the eastern United States
during the late 1840s. A performance of the troupe in Boston the following winter, for
instance, was billed as a "benefit" for "Mahomet the strong," perhaps the most celebrated
member of the Bedouin Arabs (Dai!J Evening Transcript [11 February 1848), 2 [AHNJ).
24 BRYAN
Circus and National Theatre in Philadelphia, a year after the Arabs
worked with Foster at the Bowery Theatre, they again collaborated with
the theatre manager to mount a spectacle that alloyed images of the U.S.-
Mexico War ("Mr. E. Derkins, in his great act of Gen. Taylor's Campaign,
or the Flight of Santa Anna" and Mary Ann Wells in "The Spanish
Maid") and orientalist representations of the Islamic world: the enter-
tainment "commence(d] with a Grand Cavalcade entitled Warriors of the
Crescent, or The Beauties of the Harem," featured a performance by
"Maiden, the Sultana's pearl" (a horse), and concluded the first and sec-
ond acts with performances by the Bedouin Arabs, the "Dark Sons of
the Desert."
11
Indeed, this conjunction of the U.S. Army in Mexico and
islamicist-orientalist discourse in the mid-Atlantic U.S. even found its par-
allel with the conquering army in Mexico City. During the Christmas
week in 1847, The Seraglio of Tangiers was presented by W R. Hart at the
newly-renamed National Theatre, at which Hart was charged by the mil-
itary authorities to "establish the 'American Drama' in the [former] 'Gran
Teatre de Santa Anna."' The production included "a whole regiment of
soldieresses appearing and going through various military evolutions," a
performance that referenced the parade "discipline" of the U.S. Army,
inhering both the "harem" representations of orientalist drama and the
image of the Winfield Scott's army itself.12
Such spectacles reflect an alternative to the orthodoxy of schol-
arship on islamicist-orientalist popular theatre and drama during this per-
iod. Contemporary literary scholarship tends to associate the islamicist-
orientalist impulse in the U.S. with narratives opposing slavery and polit-
ical or religious tyranny. This discourse compares U.S. culture positively
to the imagined immoral practices of the oriental other, or, alternately,
upbraids the United Srates by contrasting slavery in North America with
the abolition of slavery in the Maghreb. Especially prominent in recent
literary and theatre scholarship, for instance, are the anti-slavery dramas
of the so-called Barbary Wars, such as Susanna Haswell Rowson's Slaves
in Algiers; Or, A Struggle for Freedom (1794). The consequent historio-
graphic scripturality of such texts has obscured the deeply unsettling role
that islamicist-orientalist discourse played, conversely, in the advocacy of
imperialism.
11 Classified advertisement for the Circus and National Theatre, North American
and United States Gazelle, 8 December 1848 (AHN).
1
2 The American Star, 20 October 1847, 2; 19 December 1847, 2. A subsequent
report in the American Star (21 December 184 7), which lists the title as The Seraglio of
Tangier, indicates that the "military evolutions" of these "soldieresses" referenced the
parade "discipline" of the U.S. Army (2).
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 25
In addition to the popular spectacles of theatrical auteurs like
Foster and Hart, islamicist-orientalist literary dramas, drawing both per-
formance and reading audiences, were templates for Manifest-
Destinarian performance. Noted anti-abolitionist novelist Caroline Lee
Hentz began her literary career with DeLara; Or, The Moorish Bride (1831),
a Byronic romance that racialized and demonized the Andalusian Arabic
roots of Spanish colonial culture. The drama was produced successfully
in Philadelphia and Boston and later published in an influential southern
literary journal. The metaphorical Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet (1848),
by poet and secessionist George Henry Miles, became famous when it
won the consolation prize in Edwin Forrest's competition for a new
drama in 1848; the play was celebrated in literary journals, if not in com-
mercial theatres. And The Jesuit; Or, The Amours of Capt. Effingham and the
Lat!J Zarifa (1850) by Thomas W Whitley-who was likely the very Herald
columnist who praised the performances of the Bedouin Arabs in The
Siege of Monterry--combined generic miscegenation melodrama, images
of the Second Seminole War and the first campaign of the U.S.-Mex.ico
War, a prominent reference to the mythology of James Fenimore
Cooper's "Leatherstocking" novels, and the broad strokes of the early
modern Spanish La Historia del Abencerrqje y Ia hermosa Jarifa. Whitley, a
landscape painter and theatre critic, published this, his only drama, in the
influential pages of the Democratic Review, in the pages of which the
phrase "manifest destiny" was coined.13
Although the theatrical spectacle of productions like The Siege of
Monterry---produced before the advent of practical documentary photog-
raphy and without extant dramatic texts- commended to later scholars
only traces of their materiality, much of the self-consciously literary
drama in the nineteenth-century United States has been neglected
because, though the primary archive is rich, no scriptural tradition has
matured. Moreover, despite popularity in the burgeoning publishing
world of the 1840s, as "literary territory," argues Richard Slatkin, "the
Mexican War barely ex.ists."1
4
Embraced by neither the historians of the
popular theatre nor the scholars of nineteenth-century literature, these
dramas are almost entirely disremembered 10 scholarship.
Contemporaneous critiques of Miles's Mohammed, in fact, seemed to
13 John L. O'Sullivan first used the phrase "manifest destiny" in an article
favoring the full annexation of Texas ("Annexation," Democratic Reviei/J 17 Duly-August
1845]: 5 [APS]).
14
Richard Slotkin, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age qf
Industrialization, 1800-1890 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998), 191.
26 B RYAN
antlctpate this. "Considering that this is not the best age for [literary]
compositions," wrote one reviewer of the published play, "the prize must
stand for fame. "1S The critic in the American W hzg Review, recognizing that,
having won Forrest's prize, the play had been "condemned almost with-
out a hearing" by many theatre-goers, felt "compelled [nonetheless] to
rank this tragedy above many that have attained a great celebrity." "In
blank verse," the Review continues, Miles had "not a superior in modern
times. Since Coleridge, it is the best."
1
6 Unfortunately, the commercial
tastes of earlier generations have conspired to efface dramas such as
Mohammed from literary and theatre history, and, critically in this case,
these dramas illuminate a powerfully marginalizing "crusade" in nine-
teenth-century popular theatre.
The complicated relation between the colonial Spanish empire,
arising from cultural syncretisms of Spanish, African, and indigenous
American cultures, as well as the cultural and political authority of Spain
itself-owing its culture both to Catholic Hispania and Islamic Al
Andalus-was an attractive subject for imperialist U.S. authors. The
translation of four hundred years of islamicist-orientalist English-lan-
guage literary practice to the representation and performance of the wars
with Mexico and the Seminoles was a fait accompli, for instance, in the
journalistic and popular rhetoric of these conflicts. Describing the Texan
and Mexican wilderness as an   Deserta" was an already prominent
journalistic metaphor.17 Newspaper writers and editors frequently com-
pared the long-running conflict between imperial France and Abd al
Qadir's resistance fighters in Algeria with the conflicts in Florida and
Mexico. Former U.S. Consul to Tunis, Mordecai Noah, writing in his New
York Evening Star, argued that the "powerful Arab army" of  
Kadir" was "like our Seminoles, indomitable in their hostility, crafty in
their plans, and bold in their attacks."
18
An 1847 editorial in the Louisville
15 "Literary Intelligence," Christian Examiner and &ligious Miscellany 49, no. 1
Ouly 1850): 156 (APS).
16 Review of Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet, American Wbig Review 6, no. 2
(August 1850): 217 (APS). The re\·iewer continues: "The structure of his tragedy is regu-
lar, and he follows the best models in the composition of his plot. He shows not only the
complete scholar in the substance of his work, but the true artist in its construction. To
all these excellencies we have only to add, that this tragedy of Mohammed is interesting ..
. it is full of genuine fire."
17 C. Austin Woodruff, "Adventure and Scenery in the Far South-West, No.
III," Southern Literary Messenger 7 Ouly/ August 1841): 471 (APS).
18 "Editor of the New York Evening Star," "The Algerian and French \X'ar," The
North American, 1 January 1840, 1 (AHN).
"CRUSADE oF CoNQUEST" 27
Journal used the conflict in Algeria-a costly war the French had fought
for "upwards of sixteen years," having secured only an untenable "mili-
tary possession"-as an argument against the conquest and military
occupation of Mexico, the ''All Mexico" position of many advocates of
slavery in the South and also of some abolitionists in the North.
1
9 In the
summer of 1846, a (Charleston) Southern Patriot correspondent conclu-
ded a report on the French-Algerian conflict by noting that the "great
body of the Mexican people are not a whit more civilized than the sav-
ages of [Algeria] and are not to be treated a jot more respectfully. The
people of the United States cannot regard them as equals .... The
Mexicans are as capricious in their moods as any barbarians, and their
arrogance and insolence ... is even greater than that of Sikh or Arab."ZD
Indeed, this evocation of race epitomizes the journalistic synde-
ses of the I slamic world and Catholic Mexico. A widely-reprinted 1846
Philadelphia Ledger editorial, for instance, described the multicultural
Mexican people as "the Arabs of the American continent."2
1
A 1\lew
Orleans Tropic writer described the "countenances" of Mexicans as
"hideous from natural physiognomy": they have "the look of Arabs."2
2
The Mexican people, "with its Arab blood," wrote a Philadelphia Evening
Bulletin correspondent in 1847, have "inherited ... the wild and turbulent
spirit, conjoined with the vindictive hatred, of the Ishmaelites of the
world. For the Mexican race-we speak now of the Spanish portion of
it and not the Indian-is strongly tinged with the blood of the desert."
The Bulletin writer continues, noting that the "greater part of Spain ...
was of Arab blood": "The Mexican race, we shall find, is true to its
parentage. In it are displayed ... most of the characteristics for which
these sons of the desert have been celebrated since they first went forth
under Ishmael. Do you want a name for perfidy? In Europe they call it
19 New Hampshire (Keene) Sentinel, 3 February 1847, 2 (AHN).
20 "From a Correspondent, New York, June 26," The Southern Patriot, 8 July
1846, 2 (AHN).
21 Ohio Statesman (Columbus), 3 June 1846, 3 (AI-l.N): "The Rancheros, part of
the materiel of the Mexican army, are half lndian and half Spanish in their extraction;
gaunt, shriveled, though muscular in their frames, and dark and swarthy visaged as they
are, these men are the Arabs of the American continent ... ever on the alert, never to be
surprised, and untiring in the pursuit of the foe, when plunder, no matter how trifling, is
to be obtained."
22 "The Mixed Character of the Mexican People," Ne1v Orleans Tropic, in Dwight's
American Magazine, 5 September 1846, 495 (APS).
28 BRYAN
Arab treachery, in America, Mexican deceit."23 The Quarter!J Revieuls 1844
review of William H. Prescott's History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843), on
the other hand, located Prescott's islamicist representation in the nation's
indigenous peoples, exaggerating, in fact, Prescott's characterization. The
review calls Nezahualcoyotl a "Western Sultan," who kept a "harem" and
wrote poems that "echoed along the course of Eastern, at least
Mahometan poetry'' and compares the fifteenth-century Acolhua leader
to Harun al-Rashid, the Abbasid caliph fictionalized in The Arabian
Nights, and to Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, the sixteenth-century
Mughal emperor.24 Not surprisingly, when General Antonio Lopez de
Santa Anna arrived in Vera Cruz on a British steamship in August 1846,
accounts in U.S. newspapers prominently and repeatedly announced the
ship's name: "The Arab," one dispatch recorded as Santa Anna
approached, "is in sight."2S
And though anti-progressive and pro-slavery islamicist-oriental-
ist discourse acquired a pointed imperialist narrative in playwriting in the
United States in the 1830s and 1840s, this particular burlesquing of life
in the Islamic world emerged shortly after, and perhaps in response to,
the anti-slavery dramas of the turn of the nineteenth century. Edwin C.
Holland's stage version of Byron's "Turkish Tale," The Corsair(1814), for
instance, is a largely faithful adaptation-with one major exception-of
the heroic poem that limns the raid of the pirate, Conrad, on the "haram"
of Seyd, "Pacha of Caron." Published in 1818 in Charleston, South
Carolina, and performed at the Charleston Theatre, Holland's drama was
one of the first of many performance adaptations of The Corsair.26 But
although the setting likely reminded its audience of the occupation of
Greece by the Ottoman Empire and the action, as ordained by Byron,
23 "The Mexican Race," Philadelphia Evming Bulletin, Boston &corder, 20 May
1847, 80 (AHN).
2
4
"Prescott's History of the Conquest of Mexico," Quarter!J Review, reprinted in the
Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature (March 1844): 338-40 (APS).
25 "Vera Cru:c, Aug. 16, 1846," New Hampshire Sen tine/, 9 September 1846, 2. In
an article reporting on General LOpez de Santa Anna's arrival in Vera Cruz from the N ew
Orleans Picqyune, for instance, the ship's name is used nine times in seven short paragraphs
(AHN).
26 Edwin C. Holland, The Corsair (Charleston, SC: A. E. Miller, 1818). The orig-
inal production of Holland's adaptation was noted in numerous newspapers, as far afield
as Boston, where that city's Independent Chronicle & Boston Patriot noted that "numerous and
respectable audiences evinced their approbation of this effort of natiye genius in a very
liberal manner" (7 March 1818, 4) (AHN).
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 29
involves the emancipation of a Persian slave from the seraglio, Holland's
play is less concerned with liberation than with the material hazards of
slavery for the slaveowner, the precariousness of power in a society with
women and men in bondage.2
7
Holland, a newspaper editor and some-
time poet, is best-known as the author of A Refutation of the Calumnies cir-
culated against the Southern & Western States, Respecting the Institution and
Existence of Slavery among Them (1822), a defense of slavery and of
Holland's role two years earlier in the dissolution of an African Methodist
Episcopal congregation in Charleston, an action that eventually led to the
execution of Denmark Vesey. Holland's defense of the indefensible clo-
ses with what became its most famous lines: "Let it never be forgotten,"
he warns, that "our NEGROES are truly the Jacobins of the country; that
they are the anarchists and the domestic enem)'."2B Holland's adaptation of
The Corsair, written just two years before the beginning of the Vesey
affair, reflects these fears of slave sansculottes. The drama culminates in
the escape of Conrad and Gulnare, the Persian slave, from Seyd's palace.
Their flight is facilitated by the sedition of the Pacha's henchmen and
secured when Gulnare murders Seyd. Reunited with Conrad, she explains
that her guards, slaves themselves, were "ripe for revolt" and easily con-
vinced to betray their master, a sequence translated faithfully to the stage
from Byron. But although Seyd is Conrad's enemy and captor, the mani-
fesdy Christian and European Conrad is horrified when he comes face to
face with a slave bathed in her master's blood.
Seyd's murder is a sin against honor for Byron's Christian pirate,
but an entirely different mode of sin in Holland's imagination. The South
Carolinian distorts the scene in which Gulnare and Conrad negotiate her
absolution and purges the poem's implied sexuality in their later embrace.
In Byron's poem, Conrad is stunned into silence by the homicide,
unchained by Gulnare's fellow freed slaves, and hastened to his ship; only
later, on his journey home, does he consider Gulnare's pleas for forgive-
ness, his "hate for that deed" but his "grief for her distress," and finally
embraces her.2
9
Holland's Gulnare, however, pleads with the privateer
27 "Coron" is the Venetian and Turkish name for Koroni, in the Peloponnese.
The events that culminated in the Greek War of Independence (1821-29) were watched
with interest by many opponents of slavery in the U.S.
2
8
Edwin C. Holland, A Rtjutation of the Calumnies circulated against the Southern &
Western States, Rtspecting the Institution and Existence of Slavery among Them (Charleston: A. E.
Miller, 1822; rpt. New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969), 86.
2
9
George Gordon Byron, "The Corsair," The Select Poetical Works of Lord Byron
(Paris: B. Cormon and Blanc, 1836), Canto III, part xvii, 51.
30 BRYAN
during his stupor, with Seyd's blood still on her hands and Conrad help-
less in chains. Although he offers her his gratitude, the concord they
reach is uncertain ("When thou hast heard the story of my wrongs,"
while enslaved in Seyd's "haram," Gulnare predicts "then, wilt thou just-
ify, what now, thou must/ Unsparingly condemn!-more of this anon!-
Let us away!"). She then "claps her hands," Holland writes, and Conrad
is loosed from his chains and "suffers himself to be led out by
Gulnare."30 Byron's pirate and harem slave have a romantic rapproche-
ment on the deck of his ship, despite his intent to return to his wife; but
in Holland's play, Gulnare frees a conflicted Conrad and then disappears
from the play, unloved and unforgiven. Holland's version of the denoue-
ment is a uniquely and shamefully American perspective on the romanti-
cist "raid of the seraglio" tale, an unironic dramatic exposition of one of
William Lloyd Garrison's famous satirical "Truisms" of slavery in the
U.S.: "a white man, who kills a tyrant, is a hero, and deserves a monu-
ment," but if "a slave kill his master, he is a murderer, and deserves to be
burnt."31
The Young Carolinians,- or; Americans in Algiers (1818) was published
in the same year and by the same Charleston press as Holland's version
of The Corsair. Written by Sarah Pogson Smith, the English-born daugh-
ter of a slaveholding plantation owner, this melodrama of Euro-
American captives in north Africa is a distinctly southern rendering of
the broad strokes of Slaves in Algiers. Indeed, it is remarkably conditional
in its depiction of slavery and contains one of the first overt defenses of
the institution in U.S. drama.32
The narrative follows the travails and eventual escape of the
newly-captured "young Carolinians" as they survive the abuses of slavery
in Algiers and attempt to return home, where slavery is a different insti-
tution. In Pogson Smith's Algiers, male slaves are worked nearly to death
at the point of a sword, and Ellinor, the principal female character, must
beg and maneuver to avoid sexual slavery in the Dey's seraglio. The play's
initial description of captivity imagines "slaves yoked together in great
30 Holland, The Corsair, 48-50.
31 William Lloyd Garrison, "Truisms," The Uberator 1, no. 2 (8 January 1831): 1
(AHN).
32 Charles S. Watson, who attributes the play to Maria Pinckney, claims it com-
prises "the first defense of slavery in a southern play" in The History of Soulhem Drama
(Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997), 46. Amelia Howe Kritzer's argument for
the authorship of Pogson Smith, rather than Pinckney, is persuasive (Plays I?J Ear!J
American Women, 1775-1850 [Ann Arbor: University of l'vfichigan Press, 1995), 20).
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 31
numbers" clearing stone, with "Turks ... standing over the slaves with
goads and whips," one of whom is "lashing about his whip, unmerciful-
ly driving the slaves." St. Julien, one of the Carolinians, condemns the
"Savage, cruel drivers": ''Ye have pierced my flesh with your keen goads.
My toil-worn wretched body cannot endure such usage much longer. 0,
that this feverish languor did not so reduce me; unnerved, unnerved, by
these incessant trials beyond my strength."33 He decries the condition and
practice of his bondage, but not the state of forced servitude itself. In the
following scenes, which alternate between depictions of the differing
modes of slavery in Charleston and Algiers, the manner of slavery in the
Islamic state is condemned time and again, but the institution is not.
Indeed, it is defended: in Charleston, the African-American slave, Cudjoe,
compares his life to that of a poor white laborer.
I slave for true; but poor folks must work e\·ery where.
Suppose me poor buckra; well, I serve some rich buck-
ra, him pay me; but when Cudjo sick, or lame, or old too
much for work, him turn me away; now misses pay me
too-for I get plenty of good ting for eat, and when I
sick, ah! my deary mistress give me too much nasty stuff
for cure me ... she look pon me with one kind eye,
same like a dove-glad to see poor old Cudjo well.34
Moreover, the limens of U.S. racialized slavery, the charitable institution
Cudjoe describes, are absent in Algiers' upside-down version of slavery
in the American South. Consequently, the relationship between slave and
slaveholder inheres potential chaos for Algiers' society. Ellinor, for
instance, is saved from the seraglio by Achmet, a Jannisary captain who
falls in love with her and offers to marry her and protect her brother. His
father, Mustapha, objects to his son's interest in Ellinor (who does not
return Achmet's affection) not, it seems, because a union between the two
is beyond imagining or the code of law, but because it seems dangerou-
sly plausible. Like the blocking character in a Renaissance comedy,
Mustapha must manipulate and scheme to frustrate Achmet's desire.
Slavery in Algiers, Pogson Smith seems to argue, is a form of cultural
helotry, ill-defined and ripe for abuse, rather than the moral and benefi-
cent (and racially-prescribed) servitude of the Carolinas. Muslim slavery
33 Pogson Smith, The Young Carolinians, from Essqys, Religious, Moral, Dramatic &
Poetical (Charleston: A.E. Miller, 1818), 66-7.
3
4
Ibid., 96.
32 BRYAN
is cruel, Pogson Smith contends, because it little resembles the putatively
righteous and pastoral institution in her United States.
Echoing Pogson Smith's defense of slavery, Caroline Lee Hentz
penned what would become one of the most celebrated anti-abolitionist
novels, The   Northern Bride (1854) in response to Uncle Cabin
(1852).35 Hentz's literary career began in earnest, however, in 1831, when
her drama, De Lara, or The Moorish Bride, won a contest for a new tragedy
sponsored by actor and manager William Pelby. Produced in 1831 in
Boston and Philadelphia, where it was judged by a "confident" reviewer
"the very best piece in the catalogue of the American Drama," the play
was reinvigorated in print in the South in 1843. It was published in the
short-lived literary magazine, The Southron, founded and edited by
Alexander Beaufort Meek, the romanticist, Southern-exceptionalist poet,
who, in the first issue of his journal, "called upon his fellow Southerners
to take advantage of the leisure afforded by the slave society ... to dev-
elop a literature comparable to that of European countries."36
De Lara is a dramatic concretization of the association of
Catholic Spain (and, by extension, Catholic Mexico) with "the Arab
blood" and "inherited ... vindictive hatred" to which the later Philadelphia
Evening Bulletin correspondent referred. Set in a "Castle on the frontier of
Granada" as the armies of the Castilian Laras and Granada's Prince,
Abdallah, struggle for power, the play is an islamicist-orientalist romance
that seeks to tar Spanish culture with the fictive barbarism of its
"Moorish" roots. Fernando de Lara, whose father has recently been mur-
dered, is in love with Zoraya, daughter of Abdel Osman of the
Abencerrajes of Granada. In the final scenes, Osman is proved a villain
and the love between Lara and Zoraya is ultimately a tragic one. Indeed,
De Lara is finally a miscegenation melodrama, though a romantic and ori-
entalist one, and resembles the dramas that would prove exceptionally
35 Caroline Lee Hentz, The Planter} Northern Bnde (Philadelphia: A. Han, 1854).
Hentz argues that enslaved African Americans were "the happiest labouring class on the
face of the globe," that the ownership of slaves was comparable to a "parental authority,"
and that the condition of slavery in the South was characterized by "affectionate kindness
and care on one side, and loyal and devoted attachment on the other" (volume I, v-vi).
36 The play was subsequently published as De Lara, Or, The Moorish Bride, A
Tragetjy in Five Acts (fuscaloosa, Alabama: Woodruff and Olcott, 1843); page numbers
refer to this single-volume edition. With Pelby in the lead role of "Fernando de Lara," De
Lara was produced at the Arch Street Theatre and at Pel by's Tremont Theatre in Boston
in 1831. Benjamin Buford Williams describes Tbe Southron in A Literary History of Alabm11a:
The Nineteenth Cenlllry (Rutherford, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press,
1979), 42-5 and 51-2.
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 33
popular in the ensuing decades in plays set in the slaveholding culture of
the southern United States. But it is principally a drama profoundly dis-
trustful of syncretic Spanish culture, in which crypto-Muslim identity is
racially-identified, inherent, and dangerous.
For her title character, Hentz has composited a group of fic-
tional and historical figures from Spanish history, a task easily accom-
plished by an English-language author in the 1820s and 1830s. The early
nineteenth century was a period of genuine fascination with Muslim
Spain in publishing and popular culture in the United States and Britain.
Popular travelogues described the Alhambra, Alcazar, and the Great
Mosque of Cordova. Orientalist fiction was in vogue; Washington Irving,
for example, penned The Chronicles of the Conquest of Granada (1829) and
Tales of the Alhambra (1832), and Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote (1605),
with its fictional Moriscan provenance, was published in English in
dozens of editions. The Lara name itself is intertwined in fiction and his-
tory with the conflicts between Catholic Castile and Muslim Granada.
Members of the family were noble servants of the Castilian crown for
generations, both fighting and allying with Andalusian Muslims, and the
family was even rumored to have been part of an apocryphal lineage that
links the Muslim dynasties of Granada, Cordova, and Seville (and
through them, the Prophet Muhammad himself) to the kings of Castile,
through Zaida, the Christian convert who married King Alfonso VI in
the eleventh century.37
In the popular medieval romancero of the "seven sons of Lara,"
one of Gonzalo Gustos de Lara's sons kills a "Moor" at his uncle's wed-
ding. In revenge, Gonzalo Gustos' brother betrays him to the Muslim
king of Cordova and Gonzalo Gustos de Lara is imprisoned and his sons
killed and beheaded. When he finally escapes, it is with the help of the
king's sister, also called Zaida, with whom he has fallen in love and con-
ceived another son, Mudarra, who will finally seek the Lara family
revenge. (Hentz called her heroine "Zoraya," a name which shares only
its first and last letters with the "Zaida" of history and literature and is
derived from neither Spanish nor Arabic sources; it may, however, be a
misremembered near-homophone for "Zoraida," the Muslim woman
who figured in the narrative of Don Quixote's escape from Algiers, or
"Zorilda," the heroine of Monk Lewis's Timour the Tartar [1811], the ori-
37 See, for instance, Nancy Joe Dyer's ''Alfonsine Historiography: The Literary
Narrative," Emperor of Culture: Alfonso X, the Learned of Castile, and his Thirteenth-century
Renaissance, edited by Robert I. Burns (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
1990), 141-59, and Bernard F. Reilly, The Kingdom of Leon-Castilla under King Alfonso VI,
1065-1109 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 234.
34 BRYAN
entalist equestrian spectacle popular in the United States as late as the
1840s.) The story of the children of Lara and the revenge of Mudarra
was retold and adapted in many English-language iterations, including
Robert Southey's popular Chronicle of the Cid, from tbe Spanish (1808);
poems such as]. G. Lockhart's "The Vengeance of Mudarra" (1823) and
Victor Hugo's "Don Rodrigo" (1828), translated and published in a vari-
ety of editions; travelogues such as Reminiscences of Spain (1833) by Caleb
Cushing; romanticist poet and critic Leigh Hunt's drama, A Father Avenged
(1828); and works of history, such as George Power's The History of the
Empire of the Mum/mans in Spain and Portugal (1815) and Jean-Pierre Claris
de Florian's "History of the Moors in Spain," the volume-long introduc-
tion to his novel, Gonzalve de Cordoue, ou Grenade reconquise (1791), first
published in English in 1793 and available in the United States shortly
thereafter.38
De Lara begins by condemning the notion that a Christian,
Spanish identity might transcend Muslim roots. Abdel Osman has
feigned friendship and fealty to the elder Lara, Fernando's murdered
father, and publicly converted to Catholicism ("Now listed 'neath the
banner of the cross") to secure his release from Spanish bondage. In the
first scene, however, he must prove his "secret heart" to his vengeful
friend, Hassan. ''Vicissitudes change not the inner man," the old warrior
vows: "The soul of Abdel Osman is the same! I Is the keen, polished
cimeter transformed I Because, perchance, a foreign sheath conceals
it?"39 As the forces of Lara and Prince Abdallah, to whom Zoraya is
betrothed, do battle, Osman and his confederates scheme to destroy the
Christian Spanish and to separate Zoraya and Ferdinand de Lara. Finally,
accused of "false aposta[sy]," Osman, the secret Muslim, admits his
crime: "I own and glory in the deed [of murdering your father]! I By
me-Alhama's scourge, Grenada's fear, Castilia's pride-the great De
Lara fell! I I waited only till thy blood should fill the cup of my revenge,
to rend the veil." "Fools!" he cries, "did ye think . . . That I, an
Abencerrage, was indeed I The poor, meek, canting driveller that I
seemed?"
4
0 Lara mortally wounds Abdel Osman in the affray that follows
and "senseless" with grief, Zoraya declares that the "gulf between" she
38 Florian asserts that "it is from this Mudarra Gonzalva arc descended the
Mauriques of Lara, one of the greatest houses in Spain" (Gonzalva if Cordova; or Grenada
&coNquered [London: J. Johnson, 1793], 214).
39 Hentz, The Planter's Northern Bride, 10-11.
40 Ibid., 75.
"CRUSADE OF CONQUF.ST" 35
and Lara has now become "impassable, eternal--deep. I Oceans of
blood could not divide us more I Than this red stream, drawn from a
father's veins." Though Ferdinand de Lara is now bereft of love and hap-
piness ("Yes, we are sunder'd!-what is left for me?" he asks), he revels
in his vengeance. The unnatural union of the two has ended in bloodshed
and chaos. The character of syncretic Spain, Hentz alleges, is contami-
nated by its barbaric, oriental roots; the product of the union between
Catholic Hispania and Islamic Al Andalus is vile and violent. Wars of
expansion with despotic Spain or primitive Mexico, the play perhaps sug-
gests, are therefore beneficent campaigns for a (non-Catholic) Christian
emp1re.
With a similar, but pro-Catholic, agenda, George Henry Miles's
Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet (1848) dragoons the holiest narrative in
the Islamic tradition to assail the "Moorish Spanish Mexican American"
culture that Adams described and, unlike other dramatists, to deflect the
anti-Catholic sentiment that underscored this period in the United States,
transforming the conflict into one between a Christian nation and a cryp-
to-Islamic one. Likely one of the most discussed yet seldom seen dramas
of the antebellum period, Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet purported to
trace the "naked history" of the Muslim prophet's life from his revelation
until his death and, in doing so, created a transnational metaphor for the
conquest of Mexico by Zachary Taylor and the U.S. Army.4t
When :tvWes, the Maryland poet and professor, first drew this
parallel between Muhammad and Zachary Taylor, he was largely
unknown in northern literary circles. This historical tragedy, however,
attracted the attention of Edwin Forrest, the actor and iconic hero of
working-class northern U.S. audiences. Judged unstageworthy but the
most accomplished literary drama among its competitors, Mohammed
famously won the consolation, and only, prize in Forrest's 1848 competi-
tion for a new tragedy.4
2
In the years that followed the productions and
publication of Mohammed, Miles grew mildly famous as a playwright,
regional romanticist poet, and literary critic. An admirer of Byron, Irving,
Robert Browning, and Siglo de oro playwrights, Lope de Vega and
Calderon, Miles returned repeatedly in his writing to the crisis of the Civil
41 George Henrr fvWes, Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet: A Tragetfy, in Filii! Acts
(Boston: Phillips, Sampson & Co., 1850; rpt. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing,
2006), v.
42 Forrest, "To George H. Miles, Esq.," 7 December 1848, reprinted in John
Churton Collins, "Introduction," in George Henry l\liles, Said the Rose and Other LJrics
(New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1907), xix.
36 BRYAN
War, to slavery-which he favored-and to islamicist-orientalist fictions.
Written under a pseudonym, "God Save the South" (1863) is unques-
tionably Jiles's most famous work-with music composed by others, it
would emerge as a favorite anthem in the Confederacy-but the best-
known works originally attributed to Miles were a poetic defense of
Byron against the accusations of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Atlantic Month!J
expose, "The True Story of Byron's Life" (1869), and Miles's major
islamicist-orientalist writings: the dramas Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet
and Abou Hassan, the Wag,· or, The Sleeper Awakened (1868), and the
Manifest-Destinarian poem, ''Aladdin's Palace" (1858) .
4
3 In the poem, he
compares the United States to the magical Arabian fortress conjured in a
single night, representing Manifest Destiny as a crowning achievement of
democracy in the United States: "So from the dust our young Republic
springs I Before the dazzled eyes of Eastern Kings. I Not like old Rome,
slow spreading into state, I The century that freed beholds us great, I
Sees our broad empire belt the western world, I From main to main our
starry flag unfurled."44
A devout convert to Catholicism, J\files surrogates in Mohammed
the triumph of the title character's true believers over the "primitive"
Meccans with the conflict between the United States and Mexico in order
to diminish the Catholicity of the Mexican people while celebrating the
expansionist war. In the key moment of the battle for Mecca, the drama's
hero rallies his retreating followers by proclaiming "God and Mohammed
will support you now," the "resemblance between [which) and an answer
which has recently become a part of American history," Miles wrote, was
intentionaJ.45 "The answer" to which Miles refers is a legendary utterance
of Zachary Taylor: in 1847, at the Battle of Buena Vista, Taylor pur-
43 Stowe, "The True Story of Byron's Life," Atlantic Monthly 24, no. 143
(September 1869): 295-313. Miles's "Byron" was originally published the same month in
the Sun (Baltimore). Miles's writings on slavery and disunion include the equivocal seces-
sionist drama, The Seven Sisters (1859), performed in New York in 1861 and revived the
following year, and the words and music to "Contraband Now" (1864), a minstrel-dialect
song that laments the passing of the Union for the sake of "Uncle Sambo," whose "best
days," goes the chorus, "are all ober, / He's only a Contraband now!" (144-49). "God Save
the South" was written under the pseudonym "Ernest Halphin."
44 11iles, Said the Rose and Other Lyrics, 88.
45 Act 4, scene 3 of Mohammed ends with Mohammed rallying his retreating fol-
lowers in the battle for Mecca by proclaiming "God and Mohammed will support you
now" (106) . The 1850 publication includes an endnote suggesting that the "resemblance
between this and an answer which has recently become a part of American history" is
intentional (163 n12).
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST'' 37
portedly rallied the soldiers in his command by nearly single-handedly
reinforcing a critical position. "I have no reinforcements," he is said to
have declared, "but Major Bliss and I myself will support you now."
46
But Miles's "Mohammed" is not simply an allegorical represen-
tation of Taylor in the battle with the MeccansiMex.icans; the character
is also, counterintuitively, a perverted Christian hero. Although Miles's
Mohammed is a false prophet, "guilty of wilful deceit and imposture," he
is a messenger of "Eternal Truth," characterized by Miles as having "sin-
cerely believed in the Unity of God" and having "detested ... the slav-
ish superstition" of the Arab peoples.
47
Still, for Miles, he is a devil with
good intentions. Though he unites and rescues his people from animism
and religious strife, the play traces its protagonist's increasing megaloma-
nia, propensity for brutality ("Islam or death!" becomes the battle cry of
his forces), and the unscrupulous machinations of his followers to estab-
lish power in the caliphate that will follow his death. In the first scene,
after Cadijah finds her husband in deep sleep, as though "Some evil spir-
it I O'ershadows" him, she observes, Miles suggests the falsity of
Mohammed's testimony, insinuating that Mohammed has dreamed his
vision and based an essentially Christian dogma on a caravan to Syria, a
journey during which he "beheld I The rites of Jew and Christian, and
oft heard I the precepts of their sacred volumes. Then I The unknown
truths, of which [his] pining soul I Had vaguely dreamed, began to dawn
in beauty." He converts his wife, and as she lies prostrate before him
reciting the Shahadah, Miles describes Mohammed's reaction in the stage
directions: 'Whilst she speaks, with her face buried in her hands,
Mohammed silently gloats over his triumph."48 He demonstrates his
supernatural power as an ability to chicane potential followers: he begs
his god, for instance, not to smite Sophian, his rival, and, when no thun-
derbolt appears, he asserts falsely, the audience soon sees, that his "prayer
I Has stayed the avenging lightning, as it leaped I from Azrael's uplifted
hand."49 Alone in prayer, Mohammed admits to "Omniscient God" his
pretense and prevarication, as well as his vision for a new Arabia:
Omniscient God, I If I have tampered with thy awful
name, I And feigned communion with thy majesty, - I
46 "Anecdotes of Gen. Taylor," Barre [M.A] Gazette, 23 August 1847, 1 (AHN).
47 Miles, Mohammed, v-vi.
48 I bid., 2-8.
49
Ibid., 33-34.
38
If I have falsely worn the Prophet's mantle, I And false-
ly sworn to be thy messenger, - I 'Tis to reclaim the
erring soul of man, / To fix his longings on thy death-
less beauty, / To wipe the stigma from Arabia's brow. I
I am not an impostor!-in my youth / I sought and
found-now love and worship thee. / ... if I bring / A
nation to adore thee, shall I not /Deserve the splendid
title I usurp, / And be the Prophet I pretend to be?SO
BRYAN
By the end of Act 4, Miles has created another Tamburlaine in his
Mohammed: "I'll scourge the world! / ... Plucked from their thrones, /
Bareheaded kings shall tremble at my feet."51
There is nothing counterhegemonic in Miles's representation of
Mohammed's imposture, or in the character's increasingly barbaric and
autocratic behavior-these are the standard tropes of orientalist Euro-
American writing on Islam-but the "truth" that undergirds Miles's
tragedy is unexpected. The orientalist fantasy is a covert Catholic
endorsement of the war of conquest; the association of the Prophet with
Taylor is not an inversion of journalistic or literary allegories that associ-
ated Mexico with the Arab peoples in the 1840s, but an extension of this
preexisting construction with a debased, though Christian, Mohammed.
As Clayton S. Ellsworth has noted, the major Catholic newspapers in the
United States either offered equivocal support or "maintained editorial
silence" on the conflict with Mexico; many Catholic intellectuals followed
suit.52 The most prominent Catholic, however, to agitate for the full
annexation of the Mexican states-the "All Mexico" position-in order
to swell the number of Catholics in the United States and, consequently,
increase the power of the Catholic Church, was Orestes Brownson,
whom Miles admired and whose work influenced Miles's teaching and
writing. 53 During a period of extraordinary nativist and anti-Catholic sen-
50 Miles, Mohammed, 38. Italics in original.
51 Ibid., 116. The line refers to the first major orientalist fantasy in the English-
language stage tradition, Christopher Marlowe's Tamburfaine the Great (1587)-the refer-
ence is itself part of an early modern tradition of representing the Muslim as a "scourge"
of the Christian God-"1 that am termed the scourge and wrath of God, I The only fear
and terror of the world, I \X'ill first subdue the Turk, and then enlarge I Those Christian
capth·es which you keep as slaves" (Part One, 3.3, 44-47).
52 Clayton S. Ellsworth, "The American Churches and the Mexican War," The
American Historical Rer;ien; 45, no. 2 Qanuary 1940): 302.
53 Brownson later reversed his public support for the war, fearing that the
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 39
timent in the United States, Miles recasts Mexican Catholic identity,
pointing his anti-Catholic audience toward the heterodoxical Andalusian
Arabic roots of Spanish colonial culture instead of Mexico's state religion
of Catholicism. The surrogation in Mohammed denudes Manifest Destiny
of its anti-Catholic undercurrents by metaphorically reshaping the con-
flict as one not between Protestant, Anglo-American culture and Catholic
Mexico, but instead between "the Arabs of the American continent" and
a growing (and clandestinely, perhaps Catholic) Christian empire.
However, unlike the dramas of Holland, Pogson Smith, and
Hentz, Miles makes very few explicit references to the condition of slav-
ery in Mohammed's world. But the protagonist's descent into tyranny
points the drama to the uniquely pro-slavery politics of its southern
author. Early in the drama, Sophian asks Caled, who will later follow
Mohammed, if he has "marked, of late I The sudden change in this
Mohammed's manner- I How sternly through the Caaba he sweeps, I
Frowning upon our venerated idols . . . ?"5
4
Taylor, a Virginia-born slave-
holder and adamant political "non-partisan," was ultimately nominated
for president by the anti-expansionist Whigs, who were not unanimously
confident in their candidate's positions on slavery. Taylor's brief adminis-
tration, in fact, was opposed both to the diminution of slavery in the
southern states and to the expansion of slavery into the territories
acquired in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. "Sternly," Miles may have
perceived, did Taylor "sweep" into Washington, flush with expansionist
military victories and popular with southern voters; but, in Taylor's reluc-
tance to nurture the institution of slavery (and, indeed, to condemn it by
impeding its expansion and, consequently, its favorable representation in
Congress), the slaveholding president "frown[ed] upon" the "venerated
idols" of his fellow Southerners. Indeed, aside from Mohammed's con-
sultations with his slave, Zeid, and the almost supernumerary function of
servant characters, slavery, in Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet, is concomi-
tant with the growth of empire; Miles avoids the representations of chat-
tel slavery of his fellow southerner dramatists. As Mohammed's power
grows, the condition of slavery as a punishment for conquered peoples
becomes the dominant image. He brags, for instance, that the children of
the Ansars have become his "slaves, I Who piously preserve each falling
hair, I Ay, e'en my spittle."SS On his deathbed, Mohammed commands
public tension m·er the extension of slavery would "injure the South" (Ellsworth, "The
American Churches and the Mexican War," 303).
54 Miles, Mohammed, 13.
ss Ibid., 87.
40 BRYAN
his followers to "extend the faith, I Till slave and freemen, serf and scep-
tred king, I Do homage at my tomb," an entreaty either tyrannical or rad-
ically democratic. 5
6
Like the islamicist-orientalist dramas that preceded it,
slavery in Mohammed is normative, but, aside from the drama's implicit
criticism of Taylor as a false prophet, Miles remains largely silent on the
institution of slavery itself. Timothy Marr argues that during the early
republican period, intellectuals in the United States "construct[ed] south-
ern territory as a domestic orient ... labeling the entire United States
below the Mason-Dixon line as an American Barbary."S7 Miles, however,
rejects this identification, pushing the construction still further south. He
profanes the foundational narrative of the Islamic tradition in order to
construct the vast lands of   as a savage and conquerable ori-
ent, where crypto-Islam, rather than Catholicism, is the marker of bar-
barism and where Miles's model of southern, pro-slavery Catholic culture
might thrive.
Published during the same spring as Mohammed but profoundly
anti-Catholic in its sentiment, Thomas W Whitley's The Jesuit; Or, The
Amours of Capt. Effingham and the Laqy Zarifa (1850) stages the subjugation
of ''All Mexico" in effigy. 5
8
Borrowing its hero's name from the mythol-
ogy of James Fenimore Cooper, Whitley's "national melo-drama" follows
a young navy captain and Zarifa, the Arabic-named "daughter of a
wealthy Spaniard," as they race against time and the machinations of an
evil Castilian Jesuit, in an absurdly indited plot device, to be reunited and
recapture Zarifa's inheritance. A prologue recounts the lovers' struggles
five years before, in St. Augustine, Florida; although the drama itself
takes place in a span of less than twelve hours, in the tiny Mexican village
of Timulte in 1846, the context of this unwritten first act, in St.
Augustine in 1841 during the Second Seminole War, is critical. The town
was then peopled by "old Floridians," many of whom were the descen-
dants of the Minorcans and Ottoman Greeks who settled the New
56
Ibid., 130.
57 Marr, "Imagining Ishmael: Studies in Islamic Orientalism in America from
Puritans to Melville," (Diss., Yale U, 1997), 140-41. Marr cites Benjamin Franklin (slavery
in the south might lead to "a new Barbary rising in America") and Thomas Jefferson
(Virginia might be "fast sinking" to be "the Barbary of the Union.")
58 Thomas W Whittey, The Jesuit was originally published in three successive
issues of the Democratic Review (26, no. 141 [March 1850]: 235-43; 26, no. 142 [April1850]:
346-53; and 26, no. 143 [May 1850]: 439-50 [APS]). Subsequent page numbers refer to this
serial publication. It was published in a single volume by the Review later in 1850 as The
Jesuit: .A National Melo-drama.
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 41
Smyrna colony in the late 1760s. Their homes in St. Augustine became
the center for social interaction between naval officers and civilians
(indeed, romantic liaisons between these officers and young European-
Floridian women were apparently so common that the military was
prompted to discourage such relationships officially).S
9
Although Zarifa's
father was a "wealthy Spaniard," Whitley's drama indicates that she is her-
self a woman of mixed Spanish, Native American, and perhaps African
descent: when Effingham's Irish adjutant, O'Dougherty, meets Zarifa in
Timulte, he wonders "what kind of a craythur she is? Black, white, or
red?" "Black, I'll be sworn," he concludes.60 In Florida, the young lovers
are separated in one eventful night in which their secret wedding is pre-
vented, Effingham is nearly murdered, Zarifa's father entrusts his fortune
to the native Castilian, Morales (provided the Jesuit can keep the lovers
apart for five years) and Zarifa is spirited away to Mexico. The Jesuit begins
as those five years come to a close and the U.S. Navy approaches the
Mexican river village in which Zarifa, her son, and Morales all reside and
where Morales counts down the hours until he will secure Zarifa's fami-
ly fortune. On hi.s gunboat, Effingham awaits orders during the brief
armistice of the fall of 1846, as Morales, who has learned that his rival is
both alive and present, maneuvers to keep Zarifa and Effingham apart
for the final twelve hours of the term of the inheritance compact.
The Jesuit was originally published in the Democratic Revie1v (and
lambasted in the rival American Whig Review).61 Richard Slatkin notes that
in 1847 and 1848, the Democratic Review couched its expansionist politics
in two serialized novels: The Border Settlement; or, The Daughter, a
romance of "Indian conflicts of the Revolution," that required \Vhig and
Tory to unite to defeat their shared "racial enemy"; and Chalcahual, which
followed the fall of the Aztecs to Spanish conquistadores. Interspersed
among the serialized chapters were editorials that expatiated the ideolog-
ical intents of the fiction.62 Likewise, in 1850, The Jesuit was published in
59 John K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War, 1835-1842 (Gainesville:
University of Florida Press, 1985), 131-32. Many of the St.   whom Mahon
describes as "linorcan" were refugees from Andrew Turnbull's New Smyrna colony,
"driven out" in 1777 (40).
60 Whitley, The jesuit, 235 and 347.
61 Of The Jesuit, the American Whzg Review noted, "stupidity at times is so ridicu-
lous as to be laughable; but this pamphlet has not even that doubtful recommendation. It
is so stupidly stupid as to be tiresome" (13, no. 76 (April 1851]: 378 [APS]).
62 Slatkin, The Fatal Environment, 177-78.
42 BRYAN
three successive issues of the Review, interlarded with a serialized story
that compared the "hellish work" of the abolitionists to the dangers of
the Seminoles in Florida, and editorials praising John C. Calhoun, mar-
ginalizing Native Americans and the peoples of the African and Middle
Eastern diasporas, and decrying the "the two great enemies to human
freedom-king-craft [monarchism] and priest-craft [Catholicism]."63
The author's own politics are a good deal less clear than those of
the Democratic Review. Whitley shared a common interest in westward
expansion with Miles, but Whitley's advocacy was an unorthodox one,
tinged with utopianist philosophies and a changing political outlook over
the course of his mercurial career. Indeed, he was a protean figure in mid-
nineteenth-century New York City, Cincinnati, and northern New Jersey:
in addition to publishing The Jesuit in the Democratic Review and writing art
and theatre columns for the staunchly Democratic and pro-slavery New
York Herald (in which Whitley's writing exacerbated the tensions that
erupted in the Astor Place Riot between supporters of William Macready
and Forrest, a former friend and employer of Whitley, who had tended
Forrest's Kentucky estate in the mid-1840s), the English-born landscape
painter famously led the public opposition to the American Art-Union
movement, founded and published a Democratic newspaper, and spent
his later years as a Democratic politician in Hoboken. But, despite his
party affiliation and associations with pro-slavery and expansionist jour-
nals after 1846, Whitley was a member of the English Unitarian move-
ment when he immigrated to the United States; briefly the associate edi-
tor of the progressive Workers Journal; a political cartoonist whose most
famous broad-sheet, which included what may be the first anti-Semitic
caricature in U.S histor y, criticized Andrew J ackson's dissolution of the
national bank, a decision generally supported by Democrats and south-
erners;G4 and, in the mid-1840s, he partnered with Horace Greeley in an
ill-fated Fourierist commune in rural Pennsylvania. One thing, however,
is certain: Whitley shared the Democratic Revieuls hostility to "priest-craft."
Like Hentz's De Lara, and strongly in opposition to Miles's expansionist
but pro-Catholic drama, The Jesuit conflated age-old European islamicist-
orientalist tropes with the representation of Catholicism, particularly in
63 "The Revulsion," Democratic Review26, no. 143 (May 1850): 423.
64 Whitley's cartoon "The PEOPLE putting Responsibility to the test or the
downfall of the Kitchen Cabinet and CoUar Presses" (1834) is plate 1834-7 in Bernard F.
Reilly, Jr.'s American Political Prints, 1766-1876 [Boston: G.K. Hall, 1991], 65-66); John J.
Appel calls it the "earliest American-made caricature Jew I know of" in 'Jews in
American Caricature: 1820-1844," Anti-Semitism in America, volume 6 of American jeiJJish
History, edited by JeffreyS. Gurock (New York: Routledge, 1998), 53.
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 43
images of elicit and abusive sexuality and of ''Arab treachery."
As in Antonio de Villegas's Abencerrqje y la hermosa Jarifa (1565),
the union of the eponymous lovers of The Jesuit is opposed by the father
of Jarifa/Zarifa and, when permitted to unite, betrothed but unmarried,
their love is sealed by sexual intercourse. In the sixteenth-century
romance, the relationship is unremarkable. The Abencerraje, writes trans-
lator John Esten Keller, was composed at a time in Spain when a nostal-
gia for the "Moorish wars ... parallel[ed]" modern U.S. representations
of "noble savage" Native Americans; "it was fashionable to write about .
. . the lovely and fiercely passionate Moorish ladies who were" the "sweet-
hearts, wives, and concubines" of Muslim warriors.65 In The Jesuit, Zarifa's
sexual affair with Effingham in Florida is an "illicit love"; Zarifa's Irish
servant, Biddy, blames Zarifa's precipitance. "It was a great wakeness,"
Biddy explains, "all owing to the climate, I believe," though the Irish
domestic then admits to having succumbed to the "same climate affect"
on several occasions.66 The exotic sexuality of Spain's nostalgic oriental-
ist literary tradition is transferred and transformed in The Jesuit. Whitley
imbues the mixed-race Zarifa, an observant Catholic presumably averse
to the grave sin of premarital sexuality, instead with the orthodox islam-
icist-orientalist association of the Muslim woman with, as Edward Said
describes, "sexual promise (and threat), untiring sensuality, unlimited
desire, [and] deep generative energies," "a remarkably persistent motif in
Western attitudes to the Orient."67 The "threat" that Said describes man-
ifests itself, however, in a consequent independence in these characters.
Indeed, like Gulnare in The Corsair, Zarifa is the most dynamic agent of
action in the melodrama; she is sexually available to Effingham, but, at
the same time, it is Zarifa, in disguise, who slips aboard Effingham's boat
65 Though unmarried, when Zarifa is spirited away to Mexico in the prologue
to The Jesuit, she is "in a situation of great delicacy," the "discovery" of which "breaks her
fathet's heart" (Whitley, 235); in the Abencerrqje, after Abindamiez and Jarifa are betrothed,
"they went to bed, where in a new experience they kindled even hotter the fire in their
hearts. In this victory they made love and exchanged confidences, more suited to con-
templation than to words" (Francisco LOpez Estrada Qohn Esten Keller, trans.], Antonio
de Villegas' El Abencerrqje [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1964], 67).
Keller, " Introduction," 12.
66 Whitley, The Jesuit, 238 and 352.
6? Edward W. Said, Orienta/ism (New York: Vintage, 1979), 188. The "acknowl-
edg[ment]" of this trope in islamicist-oriental.ist discourse comes in Said's discussion of
Gustave Flaubert's writings inspired by Egyptian dancer, Kuchuk Hanem, deployed as a
"disturbing symbol of fecundity, peculiarly Oriental in her luxuriant and seemingly
unbounded sexuality" (187).
44 BRYAN
to discover if he has married ill the intervening years, Zarifa who later
provides for Effingham's safety, indeed Zarifa who orchestrates the
events that set her salvation in motion.
Male sexuality in The Jesuit is equally concomitant with the tradi-
tions of islamicist-orientalist representation. Indeed, barbaric and trans-
gressive sexuality and violence in Whitley's play is not confined solely to
Irish and Spanish Catholic male rapacity; cupidity has the imprimatur of
the church itself. When O'Dougherty goes ashore hoping to "kiss" the
"pretty little Indian girl" (who is, ill fact, Zarifa), he hesitates, concluding
that the young woman is not simply mestizo, as he anticipated, but also
African. A "thrifle" he swiftly vows to "overcome" by raping her "in the
dark," on the advice of a "wise" and "sensible" priest: "'Tirince,' says he,
'white, me boy, is black in the dark."'68 In Timulte, while more or less loyal
to Effingham, O'Dougherty-both an orthodox, comic stage Irishman
and a figure of potential threat- stalks for conquest. Reunited with his
common-law wife and children (also from his service in St. Augustine),
O'Dougherty's narrative ends with a loathsome note of disappointment
that he hasn't had the chance to assault a Mexican Catholic nun: "if I had
only captured a couple of the nuns- the prettiest of them I mane-
never mind!-the divil!-havn't I found me owld swateheart Biddy, and
isn't she on some accounts, by her own showing, as good as any two of
thim same vargins?"69 The Irish midshipman is not alone in this repre-
sentation; Timulte's convent is a kind of harem, ruled over by Morales
and his drunken "bravos," where they imprison Zarifa's son and impound
her property.
Described by Zarifa as a "serpent," "villain," and "monster,"
Morales is motivated by material treasure and avarice for power. Indeed,
he is introduced after the prologue gambling and drinking with a Mexican
friar as they plot to abduct Zarifa's son. He deploys his religion as a
weapon of conquest and manipulation, dominating the " Indian
Messenger" by both "showing him a cross, and drawing a dagger"-in a
neat stage metaphor for Spanish conquest in Mesoamerica and oriental-
ist representations of the spread   ~ Islam- and threatening unsuccess-
fully the Polish Catholic ship's orderly, Zinski, also with the blade and
damnation ("Give way! or by all saints and holy angels, thy soul I'll send
to hell!"). ''You're of our Holy Mother Church?" asks the Jesuit, briefly
imprisoned ill the ship's hold; "I am" replies Zinski, "but not a traitor! ..
68 Whitley, The Jesuit, 34 7.
69
Ibid., 447.
"CRUS:\DE OF CONQUEST'' 45
. a thousand charms can't tempt a Pole from duty!"70 (To northern
European Catholics, Whitley may offer here amnesty from the play's anti-
Catholic slanders; Zinski puts his ethnicity, and his allegiance to the U.S.
Navy, ahead of his presumed fealty to the Pope.) But in The Jesuit,
"charms" are essential to entice an Irish Catholic to duty: ordered to go
ashore and facilitate Effingham's plans, O'Dougherty complies, but only
because, he explains, "by my sowl, I'll dispatch a few of these Mexicers .
. . killing a dozen or two of them, by the articles of war, will be the mak-
ing of me! Och! what a chance is here now for promotion."7t
Whitley's maligning of Catholicism, coupled with his reference
to the heroine of Villegas's Abencerraje, however, is not simply an impli-
cation by association of the Roman church with orientalist constructions
of Islam. The play reimagines the miscegenation narrative of Hentz's De
Lara in a "New World" context, adapting elements of the early modern
Spanish tale, the first "Moorish novel" in the European tradition, and
also the works of James Fenimore Cooper, whose initial "Effingham"
character, in The Pioneers (1823), did as much to establish a kind of com-
posite U.S. identity (English and Native American and self-made pastoral-
adamic) as his later "Effingham" characters did to criticize Jacksonian
culture and undermine Cooper's reputation in the Whig press.72 Indeed,
the very cadence of The Jesuits secondary title echoes the title of the
famous nove/a morisca, the tale of Jarifa and Abindarraez, one of the last
of the Abencerraje family of Grenada, in which the lovers are separated
by her father and brought together again by an unlikely ally, Abindamiez's
Catholic captor, Rodrigo de Narvaez.
Although Zachary Taylor does not appear in The Jesuit, "Old
Rough and Ready" is a powerful and present force nonetheless, terrible
in his victories over his foes but magnanimous in conquest. When
Effingham ftnally meets Timulte's commander under the flag of truce
negotiated by Taylor in Monterrey, the two drink to the "gallant General's
health": "The annals of our country," the naval officer proclaims, "hath
70 Ibid., 349, 238, and 441.
71 Whitley, The Jesuit, 242.
72 Members of the Effingham family appear prominently in The Pioneers (1823),
the first novel in Cooper's "Leatherstocking" books, and in Homeward Bound and its sequel,
Home as Found (1838). Thomas R. Lounsbury noted chat Cooper's published criticism had
inflamed the animosity of conservative Christians in New England, former Federalists,
the people of Boston (for a variety of offenses), the merchant class of New York and the
growing cities, the educated, the press, and the general public (for their putative coarse-
ness and vulgarity) Uames Fenimore Cooper [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1882), 171-75).
46 BRYAN
not a brighter name inscribed upon its pages. In war, always victorious
and humane; in council, wise; in action, energy personified."73 The
armistice that follows affords Effingham and Zarifa the opportunity to
meet again. Like Narvaez in E/ Abencerraje, Taylor's heroism and chivalry
frame the lovers' story. In both The Jesuit and E/ Abencerraje y Ia hermosa
Jarifa, the young warrior is obliged to the hero of a frontier war.
Abindarraez is prisoner of the Christian Narvaez, conqueror of the
"Moorish" city of Antequera; Effingham is subordinate to the legendary
"Rough and Ready," conqueror of the Mexican stronghold of Monterrey.
Each young warrior is permitted the opportunity to reunite with his
Jarifa/Zarifa as a consequence of the conqueror's uniquely honorable
conduct. Despite his charge from the prince to defend the frontier
against Muslim incursion, Narvaez paroles Abindarraez so that the young
warrior may seek Jarifa. And, against the orders of his superiors, Taylor
famously agreed to an eight-week armistice with General Pedro de
Ampudia and allowed Mexican troops to withdraw from Monterrey with
honor. Foster's Siege of Monterey dramatized this for New York audiences
and, indeed, it was the stuff of legend as quickly as popular biographies
could be published.
Like Hentz's use of the Lara name, the provenance of Whitley's
melodrama of a frustrated love between Zarifa and her warrior was cer-
tainly not unknown to reading audiences. Variations of the star-crossed-
lovers story featuring Jarifa (or Zarifa or Xarifa) are common in early
modern Spanish literature and in subsequent English translation and
adaptation. In the U.S., multiple versions of the tale were published dur-
ing the early nineteenth century, including, most popularly, "The
Abencerrage; A Spanish Tale," by Washington Irving, writing under the
pseudonym, "Geoffrey Crayon."
74
And, as John Esten Keller, twentieth-
centur y English translator of Villegas's sixteenth-century Abencerraje,
points out, Cervantes' popular Don Quixote, returning home after his
initial adventure, "felt transfigured into Abindarraez and imagined his
lady was Jarifa."7S
73 Whitley, the jesuit, 445-46.
74
See, for instance, "The Abencerrage; A Spanish Tale," The Knickerbocker 13,
no. 6 Qune 1839): 487 -94; the piece was reprinted, and credited to "Geoffrey Crayon," in
The Literary Geminae 1, no. 2 Quly 1839): 35-44.
75 Keller, "The Abencerraje as a Work of Literary Art," AtJtonio de Villegas' El
Abencerra;e, 31. See Don Quijote, volume 1, chapter 5 (translated by Burton Raffel [New
York: W/.W/. Norton & Co., 1996]), 27.
"CRUS.'\DE OF CONQUEST" 47
"Effingham," too, was not an obscure name in U.S. literature in
1850. Having introduced the Effingham family in The Pioneers (1823),
Cooper returned to his earlier characters' descendants in Homeward Bound
(1838) and Home as Found (1838), the latter novel largely a critique of pop-
ular culture in the United States. Cooper himself became so identified
with the latter-day Effinghams of Homeward Bound and Home as Found that
during the period of his libel suits against Whig newspaper editors in the
1840s, the author was known in both friendly and unfriendly newspapers
as "Effingham." But the Democratic press-including the New York
Herald and the Democratic &view, as well as Whitley's own Hoboken
Gazette-remained cordial reporters on Cooper and his work.
If Whitley intended The Jesuit's Effingham to be, in the words of
historian Richard Slotkin, a figure of "Cooperian mythology," it was cer-
tainly a reference to the Effinghams of The Pioneers.76 In the novel,
"Oliver Edwards," later revealed to be Edward Oliver Effingham, is the
young woodsman companion of Natty Bumppo. Called a "half-breed"
by the townspeople and dubbed ''Young Eagle, Child of the Delawares"
by John Mohegan (or Chingachgook), the young man is, in fact, the
Anglo-American grandson of "Fire-eater," Major Edward Effingham,
Chingachgook's adopted son and the benefactor of Bumppo's youth.77
The young Effingham is a figure of romantic, and hybrid, American iden-
tity, blending the Englishness of his grandfather, the Cooperian savage
nobility of Chingachgook, and the adamic qualities of "Leatherstocking"
himself. In the incipient new America of conquered Mexico, under the
protection of the U.S. nineteenth century's greatest conqueror, a figure of
Cooperian myth unites with Adams' "Moorish Spanish Mexican
American," a heroine of mixed Spanish and non-European heritage with
an Arabic name. But unlike the miscegenation melodrama of Hentz's De
Lara, the literal union berween the rwo does not concern Whitley; indeed,
the play ends happily rather than tragically. The conquest of the
"Moorish Spanish Mexican American," however, is complete. In a vul-
nerable village in coastal Mexico, the U.S. military officer dominates his
76 See SIOtkin, The Fatal Environment, 81-106, for his discussion of the
" Leatherstocking Myth" in U.S. culture. Sla tkin argues that the image of
"Leatherstocking" and "Cooperian   broadly was a powerful influence on later
writers. "Using the terms codified by Cooper," Slatkin writes, "succeeding generations of
historical romance writers, historians, and dime nm:elists elaborated the Myth of the
Frontier into a myth-ideological language system, rich in symbols and types that could be
deployed as political or literary occasions seemed to require" (1 00).
7
7 Cooper, The Pioneers (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1880), 154 and 201 -3.
48 BRYAN
enemies and takes from the wicked Castilian Jesuit and his bravos, Zarifa,
her child, her property, and her fortune.
The Democratic New York Herald, indeed likely Whitley himself,
praised the "ascendan[cy]" of The Siege of Monterry and the "Bedouin
Arabs" in the autumn of 1847, declaring that "nothing so much shows
the spirit of a people as the character of their amusement."78 Islamicist-
orientalist discourse has long been associated with the amusements of
the early republic. Centuries of orientalist art and literature in Europe,
coupled with the young nation's naval conflicts with Muslim north Africa,
conspired to create a popular mode of demonstrating the virtues of a
comparatively new settler culture in relief against an allegedly exotic,
predatory, and tyrannical enemy. But, in the decades of debate over
expansion, during which many in the U.S. anticipated a war with Spain or
Mexico, southern dramatists (and, in Whitley's case, a mid-Atlantic
Democrat) deployed these marginalizing images and narratives in order
to champion the putatively charitable condition of American slavery and
to demonize Catholic Spain and Mexico. Unlike the nationalistic, self-
congratulatory, and anti-slavery dramas that have been popular subjects
of recent scholarship, these islamicist-orientalist dramas present an alter-
native and anti-progressive amusement that both debased the cultures of
the Islamic world and advocated for imperialistic territorial expansion, the
subjugation of the indigenous North Americans, and the endurance of
slavery in the United States.
78 "Theatrical and Musical," New 1'0rk Herold, 7 October 1847, 2 (AHN).
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN DRAMA AND THEATRE 21, NO.1 (WINTER 2009)
Eco-EPIC THEATRE: MATERIALITY, ECOLOGY, AND THE
MAINSTREAM
Miriam Kammer
[Nature as] metaphor is so integral a feature of the aes-
thetic of modern realist-humanist drama, that, paradox-
ically, its implications for a possible ecological theatre
are easy to miss. It's very ubiquity renders it invisible.
1
The artist who is a realist ... exposes all the veils and
deceptions that obscure reality and intervenes in his
public's real actions.z
In 1938, in the midst of America's Great Depression and on the eve of
world war, Antonio Artaud wrote the following lines:
Never before, when it is life itself that is threatened, has
so much been said about civilization and culture. And
there is a strange parallelism between this generalized
collapse of life, which is the basis for the current
demoralization and the concern of a culture that has
never merged with life, and which is made to dictate to
life.
3
These words, spoken by a presumed madman, echo through the decades
and are amplified by our growing environmental crisis-specifically the
struggle over energy that has transcended the realm of rhetoric and is
materially impacting nations and landscapes far from our own. The dis-
course of the ownership of natural resources and the call for ecological
accountability are complex sites where multiple political and economic
ideologies meet. When artists intervene at flash points such as these, the
1 Una Chaudhuri, '"There Must Be a Lot of Fish in That Lake': Toward an
Ecological Theatre," Theater 25, no. 1 (1994): 24.
2
Sarah Bryant-Bertail, Space and Time in Epic Theater: The Brechtian Legary
(Rochester: Camden House, 2000), 1.
3 Antonio Artaud, Theatre and its Double, translated by Mary Caroline Richards
(New York: Grove Press, 1958), 7.
50 KAMMER
distinctions between activism and performance blur. A number of the-
atres of social change have adopted epic theatre tactics, and the growing
field of ecodrama is one among them. This paper will focus primarily on
two ecodramas from the corpus of mainstream theatre produced in the
last few years, David Marner's The Water Engine: An American Fable (1977)
produced by the Strawberry Theatre Workshop in Seattle, Washington,
and Larry Loebell's Girl Science (2004) staged at the Earth Matters On-
Stage Playwrights' Festival in Arcata, California. These plays center
around the theme of water, and both employ epic theatre methods to
expose and critique layers of myth and address the need for safe, renew-
able sources of energy in the face of political and corporate hegemony.
Each of these texts effectively addresses environmental issues
within a conventional theatrical framework; i.e., acts are divided logically
into scenes, story-lines are based on discernible cause-and-effect, and
characters are approachable, realistic figures who could fit comfortably
within the proscenium arch of almost any LORT stage. Because these
plays function within the parameters of traditional theatre, they are more
accessible to a number of audience types, from liberal to moderate to
conservative, or to the simply unaware. Plainly put, works such as these
do not merely preach to the converted. They reach the audiences that
need to be reached.
Overview: Ecodrama, Eco-Marxism, and Eco-Epic Theatre
In a special issue of Theatre Topics, Theresa ]. May writes, "it took a hur-
ricane to demolish the popular conceptual binary that di stinguishes
between 'nature' and 'culture.' ... [In the] twenty-first century we humans
will come to terms with our relationship to the natural world, come hell
or high water."
4
This statement is one among many in today's environ-
mental discourse on production and pollution. Such matters of man and
environment are charged with debate, and opposing camps are forming
behind economic, political, and social lines. Individuals must seek out
information in an understandable and preferably memorable form, and
herein lies the power of ecodrama. Unlike the nature writing of Thoreau
and Emerson or the landscape painting of Thomas Cole and the Hudson
River School, ecodramatic performance-like most forms of theatrical
performance-is a palpable, embodied event. Ecodramas draw both sub-
4 Theresa J. May, "Beyond Bambi: Toward a Dangerous Ecocriticism in Theatre
Studies," Theatre Topics 17, no. 2 (2007): 95.
ECO-EP!C THEATRE 51
ject and spectator into a conversation in the same time and space,s and
they engage their audience's imaginations and motivate spectators to
action.6 As a genre, "ecodrama" encompasses plays that subtly illustrate
the bond between the human and non-human world as well as those that
directly deal with environmental concerns. When such plays undertake
topics that speak economically and/ or on a communal level, principles of
Eco-Marxism often move to the fore.
Eco-Marxist artworks expose and interrogate any of the myriad
ways in which man has used nature against man. The Eco-Marxist cause
is overtly political, decries the mystification of ecology, and demands
rational inquiry and argument.
7
In Eco-Socialism: From Deep Ecology to Social
Justice, David Pepper delineates Marxist principles pertinent to discourse
of environmental justice. These .include:
- Emphasizing basic human needs for communality and
production.
- Opposing crude determinism, materialism, and
economism, but also opposing idealism.
- Taking a dialectical, materialist approach to history
and social change, which acknowledges the .importance
of ideas, subjectivity, and spirituality, but also relates
them to economic contexts.
- Having a structuralist perspective which particular!J thinks
about hmv surface appearances manifest under!Jing class relations
[and understanding] absolutely how morality is cultur-
ally and historically constructed.8
Offenses that undo the notion of a nature-culture split can be
more easily identified and challenged, such as the inequitable parsing out
of space and the corruption of the body, when one applies an Eco-
Marxist lens. On the stage, as in life, these conditions, which are all too
5 Theresa May, "Greening the Theatre: Taking Ecocriticism from Page to
Stage," in Coming into Contact: New Esscrys on Ecomtical Theory and Practice, edited by Annie
Ingram, Ian Marshall, Adam Sweeting, and Dan Philippon (Athens: University of Georgia
Press, forthcoming), 3.
6 Arjun Appadurai, Moderni(Y at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 7.
7 Greg Garrard, Ecocriticism: The New Critical Idiom (London: Routledge, 2004), 28.
8 David Pepper, Eco-S ocialism (London: Routledge, 1993), 218. Emphasis mine.
52 KAMMER
often taken for granted as natural and immutable, become subject to an
ecological and semiotic critique. For example, can you afford a house
near the beach, or near a landfill? Does your child play on grass or on
asphalt? Do you live upriver or down? Our answers to these questions
distinguish us socially and economically and too often mark us physic-
ally. In the play Heroes and Saints by Cherrie Moraga, eco-social inequality
is played out on the characters' bodies. Inspired by the struggles of the
United Farm Workers movement, Heroes and Saints is a fable of
Chicano/a life in a California cancer-cluster town. The protagonist
Cerezita, a teenager poisoned inutero by industrial waste-water, is born
without a body. Her mother's life in a polluted housing tract has damaged
her daughter to the extreme-she is literally compressed into a head.
Theatrically, Cerezita's physical image is a metaphor for her oppressed
economic station.
Some plays take up Eco-Marxist concerns more subtly, however.
For instance, Tom Stoppard's Arcadia exhibits man's desire to organize
nature into geometrically-pleasing parks; Shakespeare's As You Like It
rehearses the prejudice that rural spaces are home to uncultured brutes
while urban areas sport only elites; and Samuel Beckett's Endgame con-
fronts physically damaged individuals trapped inside a tiny house sur-
rounded by a wasteland. Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit, a dramatization of the
real-life Sleepy Lagoon Murder case, reveals how socio-economic preju-
dices are manifested environmentally. Unable to swim in "white" water-
ing holes or park in "white" lovers' lanes, Mexican youths prized the area
they called the "lagoon"-an "old, abandoned gravel pit" that served as
their urban refuge.9 So precious was this scrap of nature that turf wars
turned deadly one evening, a young man died, and a prejudicial trial
ensued.
Two scripts under scrutiny here, The Water Engine and Girl Science,
demonstrate that Eco-Marxist principles and epic theatre tactics go hand-
in-hand. Brecht and Piscator, the founders of the Epic tradition, based
their model on Marx's philosophy of historical materialism. Key to their
theory is the clear connection of staged events to spectators' personal,
tangible situations.
1
0 Writes Sarah Bryant-Bertail, Epic Theatre seeks to
reveal the "operation of social, economic and political forces by showing
how certain orders of reality had developed historically and were perpet-
uated."!! A tool of a number of theatres of resistance and social change,
9 Luis Valdez, Zoot Suit and Other Plays (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1992), 38.
10 Bryant-Bertail, Space and Time in Epic Theater, 2.
11 Ibid.
Eco-EPIC THEATRE 53
such as post-colonialist, African-American, and gay and lesbian perform-
ance, 12 the epic tradition has proven so effective in pursuit of environ-
mental justice. This marriage of ecological activism with Brechtian stag-
ing principles gives rise to a sub-genre of theatre- the eco-epic theatre.
Oil and Water: T1r Wata- EI1fi1r
Pieces such as Mamet's The Water Engine and Loebell's Girl Science--both
approachable playtexts suited to a range of audiences-seek not only to
stimulate an emotional response but also to engage spectators' critical
faculties. These two missions are the hallmarks of the epic tradition. As
we watch The Water Engine unfold, we consider its discourse critically, not
passively: Could an engine really run on water instead of fossil fuels?
Could pumping disasters and oil spills become news of the past? Could
such technology already exist? Eco-epic theatre works to expose such
possibilities by dispelling culturally constructed myths. In his Mythologies,
Roland Barthes speaks extensively on the myth as the vehicle by which
history is turned into nature. Says Barthes, "every object in the world can
pass from a closed, silent existence to an oral state, open to appropriation
by society, for there is no law, whether natural or not, which forbids talk-
ing about things."l3 Man, machines, and environments are no exceptions.
In this play about the struggle over an invention that would free workers
from the drudgery of industrial life, Mamet separates out myth from real-
ity and points clearly to the inequities that shape American social order.
For instance, The Water Engine echoes the Eco-Marxist principle that it is
useless to try to solve ecological problems through the continued use of
capitalist models because these are the systems that caused the global
environmental crisis in the first place.'
4
The play thereby addresses the
connections between corrupt corporate practice and environmental
exploitation-how can earth's resources be owned by a privileged few
who manipulate what has naturally been given?
The action of the Water Engine centers around Charles Lang, a
young, poor factory worker from 1933 Chicago who invents an engine
that runs on water-a safe, renewable, and freely available resource. "Big
Business," embodied by two men who purport tO be lawyers named
12 Ibid., 66.
13 Roland Barthes, Mythologies, translated by Annette Lavers (New York: Hill
and Wang, 1972), 109.
14 Theresa May, "Notes on Ecocriticism," 3.
54 KAMMER
Gross ("excessively large'') and Oberman ("over-man"), learn of the
engine when Lang seeks out Gross to get the patent that he needs for
legal protection. Instead of protecting Lang as they were hired to do,
these lawyers try to force him to sell the rights to his creation. As oil con-
sumption makes much more money for power suppliers than water, they
plan to destroy the engine and its plans. Soon Lang realizes that his
engine, his life, and the life of his sister are in jeopardy and at the mercy
of these coercive interests. Despite this heavy opposition, Lang chooses
to fight until his end with the limited tools at his disposal.
Given the deepening, global need for alternative forms of ener-
gy and the grassroots calls for a break in corporate fuel hegemony, Water
Engine's 2007 Seattle production was a timely staging of a piece written
over thirty years ago. The Strawberry Workshop produced the play at the
Richard Hugo House Theatre (a standard proscenium space of about
140 seats) in a manner that highlighted the text's epic use of space and
time which kept the play's Eco-Marxist themes at the fore. Unlike the dra-
matic theatre which aims to lull the spectator into an imaginary world,
epic theatre troubles illusory realism to expose the apparati of history at
work, drawing attention to the ideologies that have shaped our past and
present.
1
5 Key to this is the V-effect (or Alienation Effect) where situa-
tions are "made strange" in order to engage the spectator critically by
short-circuiting her emotional response. States Bryant-Bertail, the V-
effect "gives a hopeful sense of active agency ... [and] connotes move-
ment around a static, central entity."16
This V-effect is employed throughout the Strawberry
Workshop's production, and is especially discernible in the scenic com-
position. Designers split the stage into two opposing levels, the stage
floor where the "story" took place and the raised, upstage platform that
stood for both a radio station's recording studio and the newspaper
reporter's office. This set-up highlighted two key principles in the text:
the power the media holds over our culture, and the strategic stratifica-
tion of citizens into classes. These opposing sectors also emphasized the
distance between spectator and spectacle-audience members watched
the radio station workers witness the spectacle below from their strategic
position above. In this system, the audience is encouraged to critically dis-
cern the economic and environmental implications of the play. We can-
not merely empathize with the play's characters.
This mental engagement is re-enforced by the production's epic
15 Ibid.
1
6 Bryant-Benail, Space and Time in Epic Theater, 19.
ECO-EPJC THEATRE
55
use of the body as sign. The manner in which the actors moved and posi-
tioned themselves in and around the space reified their characters' rela-
tionship with each other, setting each moment apart ideologically instead
of blending beats into a continuous sweep. In this manner, these actors
seemed to "write" the story themselves, for their characters' choices and
subsequent actions remained prominent while their personalities
assumed a secondary stance.17 Each actor played multiple parts, crossing
upstage to portray radio and newspaper workers and downstage to
embody characters in Lang's life. Even the actors portraying Lang and his
sister played multiple roles, highlighting the fact that persona is cultural-
ly constructed. In this epic style of acting, the actor and his/her charac-
ter remain separate.
1
8 Gabriel Baron's portrayal of Lang and David
Goldstein's embodiment of Bernie, the shop-keeper's son, are two exam-
ples. In portraying Bernie, Goldstein's adult body raised its voice,
slouched its frame, and used child-like facial expressions to signi fy a
youthful persona- we literally watch him shift from adult to child. In
Gabriel Baron's active "writing" of Lang on-stage, he presents his char-
acter as one in process as his circumstances shift. We perceive Lang's spir-
it being run down by Gross and Oberman, for Lang seemed in continu-
ous motion as if the two were pushing him around the space, although
the actors' bodies never touched.
Gross and Oberman do not need to physically manipulate the
inventor, however, because their empowered position allows them to do
so discursively. While workers such as Lang may make the world, they can-
not take hold of it, for that is the task of the mythmaker.
1
9 Here, the myth-
makers are the lawyers Gross and Oberman and the pervasive and inva-
sive corporate interests they represent. They are, according to Barthes,
the "linguistic oppressors," while Lang is the linguistically "oppressed."ZO
The oppressed is nothing, he has only one language, that
of his emancipation; the oppressor is ever ything, his
language is rich, multiform, supple, with all possible
degrees of dignity at its disposal. ... The oppressed
makes the world, he has only an active, transitive Ian-
17 Ibid.
1
8 Ibid.
19 Barthes, Mythologie.r, 148-9.
20
Ibid., 149.
56
guage .... The oppressor's language is Myth. The lan-
guage of the former aims at transforming, of the latter
at eternalizing.2t
KAMMER
Having bought into their own universalizing myth, Gross and Oberman
underestimate Lang, for Lang proves to be intelligent and effective in the
only manner he can be-by the use of clever tactics.
In his essay on what it means to walk in a city, Michel DeCerteau
explains that most individuals must operate each day underneath the
watchful eye of those in power, situated in their towers above, who have
strategically laid out pathways for those who live below. Sometimes, how-
ever, the pedestrian can work as a tactician by cutting across the maze that
strategists have built, forging a bit of his own road. The "tactic," then, is
"an art of the weak," and the tactician must seek out opportunities for
resistance and subversion whenever possible.
22
In this spirit, factory
worker Lang employs quick thinking throughout the story as he cleverly
preserves his environmentally-friendly engine from destructive forces. He
metaphorically and literally takes advantage of little ruptures in the fabric
of the city, such as sneaking out the back-door of a candy shop, allowing
him to quickly and quietly wind his way through the neighborhood while
evading the watchful eye of the policemen in the pay of Gross and
Oberman. Mamet's stage direction in this scene in act 2 is chilling: "The
cops are circulating."23 Also exemplary of this strategy-tactic dichotomy
is a moment in act 1 when Oberman meets Lang in a park at night. While
he and Lang walk through working-class Bughouse Square, Oberman
quips he "should get here more often."24 In the Workshop's staging of
this scene, the Oberman-actor looks around incessantly, as if he has just
descended from on high to an unfamiliar place.
Eco-Epic theatre shows that both spectators and characters have
choices. We are not merely at the mercy of fate but must apply our fac-
ulty for reason and choice in difficult situations. This is what Lang does
throughout the play, from his first steps into Gross's office to his mailing
the blueprints to the shopkeeper's son so that Gross and Oberman would
2t Ibid.
22 Michel De Certeau, The Practice tf Everydqy Life, translated by Steven Rendell
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 36-7.
23 David Mamet, The Water Engine (New York: Grove Press, 1977), 53.
24 Ibid., 31.
Eco-ErlC THEATRE 57
be unable to find and destroy them. In both Mamet's script and the
Workshop's staging, each of the characters are defined by their present
actions, not their personal back-stories. Though Lang's choices drive the
dramatic action of the play, we learn very little about him. He is devoid
of a past, for he is completely of the present. He is a true protagonist in
an epic sense, for he "knows no objective but only a finishing point ....
[Its] course need not be a straight one but may quite well be in curves or
even leaps."25
The question that is placed before the audience of whether
human beings truly possess free-will or are ruled by fate is further
addressed by the the physical passage of the chain letter from character
to character. The letter is a tangible, nodal point where conflicting dimen-
sions and ideologies meet.
2
6 The chain letter appears to be a typical one-
if you choose to do X, something good will happen; if you choose not
to do X, something bad will. The Chain letter speaks out loud through the
actors' voices and reveals its own contents to the characters and specta-
tors. By the end of act 1, however, the tone of the Chainletter shifts-it
seems to become more desperate as Lang's situation grows worse. The
Voice of the Chainletter states, "make sure you send the letter on to
someone who you trust will send the letter on. All people are connected."2
7
Even without this spoken text, the manner in which the letter is passed
physically from actor to actor is epically gestic, for it actualizes the social
relationships between the characters.zs From the first moment the letter
enters the mimetic space of Lang's life, it is given dialogic voice:
The door bell ;ingles.
Mr. Wallace: Bernie?
Bernie: Yeah, Pop.
Mr. Wallace: See who just came in.
Mailman: Mailman! Anybody want a letter?
Chainletter (voice over): Do not break the chain.29
25 Bertolt Brecht, Brecht on Theatre, translated by John Willett (New York: Hill
and \X'ang, 1964), 45.
26 Bryant-Bertail, Space and Time in Epic Theater, 22.
27 Mamet, The Water Engine, 42. Emphasis mine.
28 Bryant-Bertail, Space and Time in Epic Theater, 22.
29 Mamet, The Water Engine, 7.
58 KAMMER
In this exchange, man's ability to choose is set off against a sense of
inevitability, and this juxtaposition is embodied in one material object.
The mailman's line is carefully worded as a question of choice; the
Chainletter's admonition is imbued with fear and fate. Throughout the
play, the voice of the Chainletter interrupts the flow of the scenes, pro-
ducing a V-Effect that purposely makes these moments seem jarring and
strange.
In his 1956 essay, "The Tasks of Brechtian Criticism," Barthes
contends, "Brechtian theatre is a moral theatre, that is, a theatre which
asks, with the spectator: what is to be done in such a situation?"30
Throughout the play, characters, actors and spectators alike are present-
ed this same query. In The Water Engine, "Bughouse Square" is a staging
ground for discourses contrary to the prevailing cultural view. Here one
may listen (shouJd one choose) to the speeches of the "Soapbox
Speakers." One particular monologue is a haunting reminder of Walter
Benjamin's thesis, "all efforts to render politics aesthetic cuJminate in one
thing: war."31 Says the Soapbox speaker, free-flowing, passionately:
What is there so attractive in these t e   i f u ~ pomp filled cere-
monies? What is so seductive in them? They support the
torture of the ages. The Great War, the pogroms, the
Crusades, the Inquisition (may God Bless us all) "My
Country Right or Wrong"-in nomine patri, fillii, spiri-
tiis sancti. Let us go and free the Holy Land .... We sup-
port these things, friend, you and I. The power of the
torturers comes from the love of Patriotic Songs. We are
the Hun.32
Quickly, a character called "Watcher" shouts his reply: "Go back to
Russia." Brecht's was a theatre concerned with politics, and clearly this
play is shaped by politics, too. For Mamet's characters in Depression-era
Chicago, it is the possibility of communism that looms large; for the
spectators watching the 2007 production, it is the motivation behind the
30 Roland Barthes, "The Tasks of Brechtian Criticism," translated by Richard
Howard, in HBJ Antbology if Drama, edited by W.B. Worthen (Fort Worth: Harcourt
Brace, 1983), 555.
31 Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical
Reproduction," in 11/Hminations, translated by Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books,
1978), 241.
32 Mamet, The Water Engine, 26. Emphases mine.
Eco-EP!C THEATRE
59
Iraq War.
Accordingly, The Water Engine includes a seemingly patriotic song
that is actually imbued with irony, reprimand, and a call for ecological
integrity. It is a piece of gestic music-the type that invokes contradicto-
ry meanings, and the audience discerns and contemplates them both.33 At
the beginning of the script, Mamet includes this song for the actors to
voice as a group, followed quickly by a decree from the radio station's
announcer, touting the Chicago World's Fair, the Century of Progress
Exposition, and its Hall of Science. The lyrics proclaim:
By the rivers gently flowing,
Illinois, Illinois,
Let thy prairies verdant growing
Illinois, Illinois.
Til upon the Inland Sea
Stands Chicago, great and free,
Turning all the world to thee,
Illinois, Illinois.
This unnamed song is replete with idyllic nature imagery. Here, the
singers give voice to the land in an ecological fashion, but this portrayal
is directly opposed to reality. It is ironic and contradictory because this
vision of progress, "gentleness," and "freedom" is proved false through-
out the play. Strawberry Workshop chose to repeat this song at the end
of the performance, just after we learn of Lang's and his sister's death
and Bernie's receipt of the plans in the mail. Instead of all of the cast
members gathered together, singing in cooperation, only one woman
sang at the end. In that moment, the song signified something complete-
ly different from what it did in the beginning. It shifted from an anthem
to a funerary dirge, but one with a charge to the audience to forge a bet-
ter standard of life, environmentally and politically.
River, Coal, and Girl Scierre
As in The Water Engine, environmental wisdom and corporate practice col-
lide in Larry Loebell's Girl Science, a play replete with epic tactics designed
for a conventional playhouse. Girl Science is a piece of historical fiction
rooted in the material past of the anthracite region-a swath of land in
eastern Pennsylvania that once was the largest provider of hard coal on
33 Bryant-Bertail, Space and Time in Epic Theater, 21.
60
KAMMER
earth. It concerns the life of the character Johanna Vernon, an SO-year-
old scientist who has devoted over sixty years to the study of a
Pennsylvania river that she has lived near since birth. Her niece Lois, a
junior history professor, decides to make her mark in academia by writ-
ing Johanna's biography, for although her aunt has made major contribu-
tions in the fight against water pollution (Lois at one point calls her the
"EPA's go-to-gal"
34
) she feels that Johanna, as a woman, has not received
the critical attention she deserves. In the process of writing her book,
Lois uncovers Johanna's long-silent secret that her first love died while
skating on the river in front of her family's estate. This was the first
instance in memory when the river did not completely freeze, for
Johanna's father's coal mining company secretly dumped waste into the
river, altering the water's chemical composition and raising its freezing
point.
The history of the area where Girl Science is set is one of social
and environmental tragedy, but also one of endurance and integrity. In
1914, 100,000,000 million tons of rare anthracite coal were pulled from
the land by 180,000 boys and men. Primarily from poor, immigrant fam-
ilies, these workers endured appalling job conditions and fought hard for
unionization. 35 Over the next several decades cheaper fuel sources
became available, and by the 1960s the anthracite industry's collapse near-
ly destroyed the area's economy. As of today, the average annual output
from these mines is a fraction of what it used to be--down to 5 million
tons or roughly 1% of the country's entire supply,36 a positive step for
human safety and local ecology, but also a bringer of unemployment and
socio-economic decline. In these postindustrial years, culm banks still dot
the landscape, rivers remain unsafe for swimming, and smoke and fumes
from mine fires below continue to break through the earth's surface.
Since the 1970s, and after a period of "understand[able] collec-
tive amnesia,"3
7
a number of plays have been written chronicling the dif-
ferent facets of life of these so-called anthracite people, GirlS cience being
3
4
Larry Loebell, Girl Science, Ecodrama Playwrights Festival performance script
(Arcata: Humboldt State University, 2004), 5.
35 See John Bodnar, Anthracite People: Families, Unions and Work, 1900-1940
(Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1983).
36 Philip Mosley, ed., Anthracite! An Anthology of Pennsylvania Coal Region Plays
(Scranton: University of Scranton Press, 2006), vii.
3
7
Ibid.
Eco-EPIC THEATRE 61
one among them.38 Two of these scripts include Coaltown Breaker (1975)
by Michael Cotter, which recounts the 1963 Sheppton Mining Disaster
where two miners were rescued alive after being trapped in a mine for
two weeks, and Jack McDonough and Bob Schlesinger's The Fire Down
Below (2002), which presents a historical study of the key figures of the
Great Anthracite Strike of 1902. Perhaps most well-known is Pulitzer
Prize winner Jason Miller's first work, Noboc!J Hears A Broken Drum. Drum
was originally staged Off Broadway in March 1970 and revived in 1998
in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania at the F. M. Kirby Center, a historic,
proscenium theatre only a short distance from where Girl Science is set. In
both content and form, Broken Drum honors a collective, cultural memo-
ry and deconstructs its historicity by foregrounding the economic factors
that oppressed a people and damaged their land. The piece depicts every-
day life in an Irish coal-patch (company-owned town) in the late nine-
teenth century and illustrates the community's constant fight against
social injustice. The plot telescopes the history of the Anthracite Region,
and includes the birth of miners' unions, the people's conflicting views
on immigration and patriotism, and a critique of the actions of the local
Catholic Church.
Miller's text, like Loebell's, borrows heavily from the epic theatre
tradition. For instance, Drum is written as a series of shifting vignettes in
which ten actors play nineteen roles, enacting clearly constructed per-
sonas in each scene. In its New York production, designers forewent real-
istic scenery, utilized a scrim, and apportioned the stage into five distinct
areas set apart by lighting.
39
Girl Science, set near the southern end of
Pennsylvania's anthracite fields, employs a similar, epic use of space and
representation of time. Utilizing the V-Effect, Girl Science juxtaposes
moments from the past with events in the present, comparing and con-
trasting historical and contemporary signs. In the play, the actors por-
traying Young Johanna, her father, and her friend Will Dayton in 1925
exist in the same space as those who play Lois, Peter, and the older
Johanna of 1990. In the 2004 production, the stage was divided into four
interconnected areas: upstage right, the Vernon's family gazebo; mid-
stage left, Lois's apartment; wrapping around the stage lip, a long, black
sheet which signified the river; and at center stage, an unmarked cross-
roads where characters of the present and the past transcended bound-
anes, and gestically wrote the play as they moved between temporal
38 See John Bodnar, Anthracite People.
39 Mosley, Anthracite!, xv-xvi.
62 KJ\MMER
worlds.
4
0
In addition to its symbolic designation of space, Girl Science
rejects illusory realism and exposes the contradictory ideologies that have
shaped our present and past through its use of the body as sign, particu-
larly through juxtaposed representations of Johanna. In demonstrating
the material implications of choices made, paths not taken, and the
resultant residues that shape human beings, "Johanna" is physically split
into two persons estranged from each other, as one actor is scripted to
play Young Johanna and another to play the older. In this way, not one
but two bodies become focal points at which cultural mores are strictly
delineated and confront one another materially-precocious girl against
professional woman, young lover against old maid. Instead of character
and actor blending into a fluid whole, each remains conspicuously sepa-
rate; the actors' bodies never recede, and so their characters' historical
constructedness cannot either.4
1
The human body can function as an emblem of most any insti-
tution that sees itself "under threat," including class systems and socia-
lly-structured conceptions of gender.
42
This is revealed not only with the
protagonist's double body, but perhaps more so by the broken, frozen
body of Will, Young Johanna's boyfriend. Will is a working-class boy
from the town; Johanna is a wealthy child from the riverside. They reach
out to each other romantically (as such characters often do), but the con-
sequences prove disastrous. Will freezes to death in the polluted river, and
Johanna honors his memory by forgoing marriage and devoting herself
to a life of science in which she tries everyday to undo the damage
wrought by her father's coal company. Both Will and Johanna become
indelibly marked by profit-driven, ecological disaster-one by death, the
other by a guilt-ridden life.
As it is set primarily upon a riverbank that is portrayed on-stage,
Girl Science further demonstrates the power of theatre's "place-fullness."
The force of the river-as historical entity and stage-subject/ object-is
unmissable and illustrative of a basic tenet of ecodrama. As described by
May, "the representation of place-on-stage can be more than the back-
drop against which human action is played out." Place can "drive" the
40 Bryant-Bertail, Space and Time in Epic Theater, 22-3.
41
Ibid.
42 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion o/ Identi!J (London:
Routledge, 1990), 24.
Eco-Errc THE.\TRE 63
action, at times becoming a character with its own sense of agency.43 As
it operates within a Brechtian system, the river that claimed Will is more
than a scenic element; it becomes a character in the play. Throughout the
piece, the river is dialectically presented as a living entity to be studied and
cherished, but also respected and feared. Lain clearly before spectators, it
is a gestic object where ideologies dash-Johanna and her science, and
her father and his power company's unethical practice. In the introduct-
or y scene and throughout the play, Young Johanna, already invested in
environmental science, takes her pail and thermometer, crosses down-
stage to the river-sheet, and records the temperature of the water. Her
love of her home and this river is palpable. For a large part of act 1,
Young Johanna and Will sit on the bank and watch the water while Lois
and Johanna remain in the gazebo, gazing out at the river but from much
farther away. The pastoral nature of these scenes is later contrasted in act
2 when the river, made sick from industrial waste and now incapable of
supporting Will's weight, opens up and swallows the young man into its
depths. Young Johanna throws herself onto the icy surface, kicking and
screaming as she tries unsuccessfully to rescue him. Perhaps because she
will one day save it, the river spares her life.
The "Other Way," A Textual Passage
In Utopia and Peiformance, Jill Dolan writes, "live performance provides a
place where people come together, embodied and passionate, to share
experiences of meaning making and imagination that can describe or
capture fleeting imitations of a better world."
4
4 Epic theatre, accordingly,
aims to instill in audiences of various backgrounds "a constant nervous
recollection of familiarity, a shudder of recognition" of the tangible cir-
cumstances of life, no matter how ideologically-driven or occluded by
myth they may be.
4
5 This epic tradition coincides unmistakably with the
Eco-Marxist interrogation of the interplay between social inequality and
ecological exploitation, and accessible Eco-Epic playtexts such as those
described above are born of these complementary, investigative systems.
The Water Engine and Girl Science both present historical situations that res-
43 Theresa May, "Greening the Theatre," 16.
44
Jill Dolan, Utopia in Peiformance: Finding Hope at the Theatre (Ann Arbor:
University of Michigan Press, 2005), 2.
45
Karen Laughlin, "Brechtian Theory and American Feminist Theatre," Brecht
Sourcebook, edited by Carol Martin and Henry Bial (London: Routledge, 2000), 219.
64 KAMMER
onate with current-day spectators in a critical and entertaining manner.
These plays are digestible, mimetic reminders that man and his environ-
ment are inextricably linked-physically, metaphysically, and socio-eco-
nomically-and that matters of conflict, pollution, and exploitation are
not fated, but are changeable through human agency. There is "another
way," and ecodrama can reveal such a choice. In the moment when Lang
first displays his engine, for instance, we can sensorially comprehend the
possibility of a better way of life. Lang tells us of his invention:
What you're going to see is like a sailboat. ...
This engine.
Pause
This engine, Mr. Gross, draws power from the Earth.
It draws power from the Earth ....
Sound Engine sparks.
There are no more factories.
4
6
46 Mamet, The Water Engine, 20-21.
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN DRAJ',IA AND T HEATRE 21, NO. 1 (WI NTER 2009)
REMEMBERING AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF CHRIST:
ADRIENNE KENNEDY'S MOIHERHOOD 2000 AND THE YORK
CRUCIFIXION
Leanne Groeneveld
In Adrienne Kennedy's Motherhood 2000, first performed as a staged read-
ing at the McCarter Theatre's Winter's Tales festival in Princeton, New
Jersey in 1994, the central character Mother/Writer recounts and, at the
end of the play, re-enacts for the audience her execution of a policeman
she believes viciously beat her son in 1991. She tells us that this execution
took (and in her re-enactment, it takes) place in the context of a modern
production of the fifteenth-century York play of the Crucifixion, a text
several characters, including a policeman named Richard Fox in the role
of Christ, came (and come) together to perform in the streets of New
York.
Elinor Fuchs, one of the few critics to comment (albeit briefly)
on Motherhood 2000, suggests that Adrienne Kennedy here "shatters the
Christian Passion Play with the central gesture of revenge tragedy."1 She
writes:
The extreme discordance of the two genres, mystery
play and revenge tragedy, itself becomes a dramaturgical
image of the moral chaos of the millennium that pro-
vides the setting for Kennedy's narrative. A moment ago
we trusted the narrator as our ethical norm in a racist
and collapsing world. Now morality is suddenly sus-
pended. There is an end, but no resolution. The play has
the density of stone.2
From this description, Mother/Writer at the end of the play seems a late
example of what Fuchs has elsewhere described as Kennedy's early
(1960s) "static" central characters, who are "doomed by their own guilt,
the crimes of earlier generations, and a sense of extrusion from the nor-
mative world."3 Mother/Writer resembles these early characters in that
I Elinor Fuchs, "The Apocalyptic Century," Theater 29, no. 3 (1999): 35.
2
Ibid.
3 Elinor Fuchs, "Adrienne Kennedy and the First Avant-Garde," in Intersecting
66 GROENEVELD
she is morally complicit both in her own and in another's victimization;
according to Fuchs, however, it seems that she is unlike these early char-
acters in the sense that Kennedy and Mother/Writer manage to effect
some kind of change: they "shatter" the Christian passion play by trans-
forming it into revenge tragedy. Presumably the revenge tragedy and pas-
sion play, in their characterization as "discordant," are presented as
incompatible, destructive doubles that annihilate each other when
brought into close proximity. The problem here is the presumption that
the genres are exclusive. Almost always at the center of the revenge
tragedy we ftnd the secular "martyr,"
4
while at the margins of the passion
play lurk those ready to exact revenge.
I would therefore like to complicate Fuchs's brief analysis of
Motherhood 2000, specifically of the text's suspension of morality, of
Mother/Writer's stasis, and of the presumed "discordance" between the
two early dramatic genres of passion play and revenge tragedy. First of
all, Mother/Writer, her moral dilemma, and her problematic resolution of
that dilemma appear more like than unlike the characters, dilemmas, and
resolutions in Kennedy's early texts. Fuchs writes of these early plays,
"The guilt of crime and sin, real or imagined, and the torment of unre-
solvable racial antinomies create a charged environment in which
Kennedy's essentially stationary characters obsessively repeat their titanic
conflicts."5 The impossibility of determining whether the actor
Mother/Writer kills in the year 2000 is indeed Richard Fox and the man
responsible for her son's beating complicates Mother/Writer's act of
re,renge, making it potentially more like a martyrdom. Mother/Writer is
not unaware of this potential, making her attack on some level a con-
sciously chosen symbolic retribution, with the actor as scapegoat or sac-
rifice.
Second, more than any of Kennedy's other texts, at least for me,
this particular play emphasizes static repetition. We are told about and see
before us the performance of the York play of the Crucifixion, a text rit-
ually repeated in historical fact for decades if not centuries (from some-
time in the late fourteenth century to sometime around 1569) and in
Boundaries: The Tbeatre of Adrienne Kennecfy, edited by PaulK Bryant-Jackson and Lois More
Overbeck (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), 78.
4
For example, in Thomas Kyd's Spanish Tragetfy, Don Andrea and Don Horatio;
in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, Bassianus and Lavinia and in Hamlet, old Hamlet; in
John Marston's Antonio's Revenge, Andrugio, Duke of Genoa; in The Revenger's Tragecfy,
Gloriana and Antonio's wife.
5 Fuchs, "Adrienne Kennedy and the First Avam-Garde," 78.
REMEMBERJNG AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF CHRIST 67
Kennedy's fictional exaggeration, for millennia, suggested by her use of
the adjective "ancient" to describe the restaged "miracle play."
6
Motherhood 2000, performed in the present, is a return to and re-enact-
ment of this literary text as well as a return to and re-enactment of past
moments in Mother/Writer's life. At first it seems that Mother/Writer
has made substantial changes to the script and to her present situation,
but on further reflection it becomes apparent that nothing really has been
altered, that Mother/Writer will continue to return to the moment of her
son's beating as well as to the moment she exacted her revenge. Cyclic
stasis is the stuff and manner of both the late medieval text and
Kennedy's meta theatrical revisiting/ revision of that text.
Finally, I will suggest that revenge tragedies and passion plays
have not in the past been and are not now necessarily "discordant";
rather, as I have suggested above, they tend to be interdependent. The
revenge tragedy makes a kind of martyr of its first victim, and the mar-
tyr is usually revenged. l'vf.otherhood 2000 remembers the connection of the
two genres' central actions and thus their complicity and collapse. The
suspension at the end and climax of the play is then merely the suspen-
sion between subsequent obsessive repetitions of a trauma and of a con-
flict still central to Western culture: between Christ (or his figure) and his
killer-the Jew, the racial "other."
Mother/Writer's act of revenge takes place in the year 2000,
when New York City is in a state of apocalyptic turmoil. As
Mother/Writer describes the situation, "you never knew when bombings
would occur .. . . City officials were constantly drowned near the Statue
of Liberty" (231). Across the Hudson, much of New Jersey was
destroyed by "civil strife," to the point where "Refugees ... arrived every
morning at the 79th Street Boat Basin where armies of people lived.
Riverside Park between 86th Street and 116th was dangerous: inhabited
only by gangs." More personally, Mother/Writer reveals that she was at
the time "often hungry." "Food was at the market on Broadway and 91 st,
but unexpected shootings on the street kept me fearful. I saved sacks of
potatoes so that in case of shootings I would always have something to
eat" (230).
Mother/Writer tells us that as she was emerging from her apart-
ment building one day, she was shocked to see Richard Fox and his
"disheveled" troupe of white actors (229), who called themselves the
Oliviers, performing "an ancient miracle play" (228) at the Soldiers and
6 Adrienne Kennedy, Motherhood 2000, in The A drienne Kennedy Reader
(Minneapolis: University of 1\Iinnesota Press, 2001), 228. Subsequent references tO this
work are supplied in parentheses in the text.
68 GROENEVELD
Sailors monument just outside her door. She explains that she immedi-
ately recognized Fox as the policeman primarily responsible for her son's
beating, even though she had never before seen him in person, because
her sister had videotaped the assault.
According to Mother/Writer's neighbor Judy, a casting director,
the Oliviers were "one of the groups who traveled from national monu-
ment to monument trying to find asylum" from the chaos overtaking the
city. Mother/Writer observes that the actors "seemed protected by the
soldier costumes they wore," despite the fact that these costumes were
"shabby" (231).
Mother/Writer tells us that night after night she watched the per-
formances of the troupe from the roof of her brownstone. One night
she left the roof and walked to the park. She talked with the actors and
"decided to join their company." After learning that she had worked as a
playwright and had taught at Harvard, the others asked her to become the
only Black member of their troupe and to "rewrite a section of the play''
(231).
The next night she arrived at the park and assumed the role of
one of the soldiers charged with crucifying Christ, who was played, she
tells us, by the policeman Richard Fox. At this point, the ending of the
play described in Mother/Writer's monologue is "re-enacted" on the
stage: the requisite other actors appear and, following the fifteenth-cen-
tury York text, the soldier characters (including Mother/Writer) describe
stabilizing the cross in its mortise with wedges, mock Christ/Fox for
claiming to be God's son and for predicting the destruction and restora-
tion of the temple, and gamble for his cloak. At this point in the original
text, the soldiers leave to report their actions to Pilate. But in
Mother/\X'riter's new version of the York play (her "New York
Crucifixion''), the ending (in the year 2000) and the time of performance
are changed. Breaking out of the dialogue, which is only slightly mod-
ernized from that found in the fifteenth-century play text, and reverting
to the past (narrative) tense, Mother/Writer tells the audience in an aside,
"I spoke my lines coughing, wheezing ... then found my place directly
before Fox and struck him in the head with a hammer." The stage direc-
tions that follow, in the present tense of performance, state simply "(She
does.) / (He falls)" (233). The play-within-the-play and the play as mem-
ory of that play conclude at the same moment; Mother /Writer does not
address the audience again and, presumably, the stage goes to black. The
manipulation of time here, the complicated temporal layering of histori-
cal event and of two separate moments of performance, is characteristic
of Kennedy's work as a whole. In her other plays time is dream-like,
REMEMBERING AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF CHRIST
69
multi-layered, prone to disorienting slippage, sped up or slowed down,
and even ignored as a structuring element.
7
The fact that Adrienne Kennedy's son Adam was arrested and
beaten by a white police officer in 1991 makes it tempting to read
    actions and the play as a whole as nothing more than the
playwright's personal revenge fantasy. \X'erner Sollors describes it instead
as a "dramatic rumination about the senseless beating that her son
received," which seems a more useful representation because "rumina-
tion" implies an obsessive return, but from a distance.s The beating of
her son and his subsequent threatened arrest for allegedly assaulting the
police officer is central to at least two other texts by Kennedy, "Letter to
My Students on My Sixty-first Birthday by Suzanne Alexander" and Sleep
Deprivation Chamber.9 The former, written in 1992 and described by
Kennedy as "a blend of fiction and nonfiction,"lO represents in greater
detail the events leading up to the trial of Teddy, Suzanne's son, by an
all-white jury for his alleged assault on the police officer. Sleep Deprivation
Chamber, a full-length play that gives voice to Teddy, Teddy's father David,
and Officer Holzer (among others) and dramatizes the trial itself, often
repeats entire passages from "Letter to My Students" while contradicting
it in a number of ways. In the former text, David disappears in the days
leading up to the trial while in the latter his uncle March wanders off, a
forgetful and forgotten icon of the civil rights movement; "Letter to My
Students" ends with the district attorney seeking and being granted trial
by jury instead of trial by judge, while Sleep Depn·vation Chamber ends with
the charges against Teddy being dropped, and by a judge, not a jury. Both
texts are very different from Motherhood 2000, with its single, unnamed
7
See Linda Kintz, The Subject's Tragedy: Political Poetics, Feminist Theory, and Drama
(Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1992), 143; Carla]. McDonough, "God and
the Owls: The Sacred and the Profane in Adrienne Kennedy's The Owl Answers," Modern
Drama 40 (1997): 386-387; Philip C. Kolin, Understanding Adrienne Kennedy (Columbia:
University of South Carolina Press, 2005), 139; and William R. Elwood, ''Adrienne
Kennedy through the Lens of German Expressionism," Intersecting Boundaries, 89.
8 Werner Sollars, "Introduction," The Adrienne Kennedy Reader, xiv.
9 Adrienne Kennedy, "Letter to My Students on My Sixty-first Birthday by
Suzanne Alexander," The Adrienne Kennedy Reader, 197-227; Adam P. Kennedy and
Adrienne Kennedy, Sleep Deprivation Chamber (New York: Theatre Communications
Group, 1996).
10 Adrienne Kennedy, telephone interview, published in Claudia Barnett, "'An
Evasion of Ontology': Being Adrienne Kennedy," The Drama Revie1v 49, no. 3 (Fall 2005):
163.
70
GRCJENEYEW
narrator/ central character, its apocalyptic setting, and its unsettling night-
mare quality.
If "Letter to My Students" and Sleep Deprivation Chamber are
"part-truth and part-fiction," Motherhood 2000 is something else, perhaps
something more like Kennedy's Fumryhouse of a Negro and The 01viAnswers.
Critic Ben Brantley distinguishes Sleep Deprivation Chamber from these early
texts in a 1996 New York Times review: "the location of what the author
once called the 'funnyhouse of a Negro' has shifted [in Sleep Deprivation
from a haunted interior landscape to a world that is crushingly
real."tt The world of Motherhood 2000 can certainly be described as
"haunted" and "interior." If it resembles anything in "Letters to My
Students" and Sleep Deprivation Chamber, it resembles Suzanne's recurring
nightmares-that Teddy, accused of murdering the "French king," is
"drawn in sunder and dismembered by five horses"
1
2; that Suzanne is
sleepwalking toward Yorick's grave; that her daughter is stripped naked
and forced to stand exposed in the Quad of the university.
Yet Mother/Writer is not Suzanne Alexander,l3 who in turn is
not identical to Adrienne Kennedy. Certainly all of Kennedy's characters
are and are not her: she has famously claimed, "autobiographical work is
the only thing that interests me, apparently because that is what I do
best."14 Mother/Writer's and Suzanne's memories are Kennedy's memo-
ries to an extent, since author and characters overlap.
1
5 But identities,
II Ben Brantley, "Righting a Wrong in a World Out of Joint," New York Times,
27 February 1996, C15, quoted in Kolin, Understanding Adrienne Kmnet!J, 161.
12 Kennedy, "Letter to my Students," 198; Kennedy, Sleep Deprivation Chamber, 6.
l3 Kolin refers to   as "Suzanne" throughout his analysis, assert-
ing that "Motherhood 2000 is primarily a monologue spoken by Suzanne Alexander"
(Understanding Adrienne Kmnedy, 167). Since the text itself does not equate the two charac-
ters, this conflation may be problematic.
14 Adrienne Kennedy, "A Growth of Images," Drama Revie1v 21 (December
1977): 42, quoted in Kolin, Understanding Adrienne Kennedy, 5, and in Werner Sollers, "People
Who Led to My Plqys: Adrienne Kennedy's Autobiography," Intersecting Boundaries, 13.
IS For discussions of the nature of this overlap, see Elin Diamond, "Mimesis,
Mimicry, and the 'True-Real,"' Modern Drama 32, no. 1 (March 1989): 58-72 and "Mimesis
in Syncopated Time: Reading Adrienne Kennedy," Intersecting Boundaries, 131-41; Claudia
Barnett, "'This Fundamental Challenge to Identity': Reproduction and Representation in
the Drama of Adrienne Kennedy," Theatre Journal 48, no. 2 (1996): 141-55, and '"An
Evasion of Ontology': Being Adrienne Kennedy": 157-86; and Elaine Aston,
"Imag(in)ing a Life: Adrienne Kennedy's People Who Led to MY Plays and Dead!J Triplets,"
Auto/ biography and Jdenli(y: Women, Theatre, and PeifOrmance (Manchester: Manchester
University Press, 2004), 58-75.
REMEMBERING AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF CHRIST
71
both fictional and autobiographical, are not only received (products of
context and history) but also performed, reinterpreted, and reimagined.16
"Letter to My Students," Sleep Deprivation Chamber, and Motherhood 2000 all
may be described as "ruminations" on the beating of Kennedy's son but
all work to very different effects. In Motherhood 2000 the attack on the
child becomes a kind of martyrdom as it takes on mythic importance.
And yet, despite the introduction of the mythic, the play does not estab-
lish as clear a distinction between innocence and guilt, between good and
evil, as do "Letter to My Students" and Sleep Deprivation Chamber.J7
In the act and theatrical representation of executing Richard
Fox, Mother/Writer at once exacts revenge on the man she thinks is
responsible for the attack on her son and rejects the traditional Western
Judea-Christian paradigm of passive, silent suffering embodied in the fig-
ure of Christ. She kills both the tormenter and the tormented, the sacri-
ficial figure held up as example to be imitated and followed. Initially this
might seem, as Fuchs appears to suggest, a complete rejection of the cen-
tral salvific event remembered and repeated in the York play of the
Crucifixion (and so a conscious use of revenge tragedy to annihilate and
move beyond the imitatio Christi imperative as represented in the passion
play and cyclically, therefore statically, repeated). Certainly the fact that
Richard Fox, who may have been a violent racist, plays Christ compro-
mises the latter figure, in a way familiar from Kennedy's early plays. In
Fum!Jhouse of a Negro, for example, a Jesus figure appears on stage as one
of the central character Sarah's selves or alter-egos. Jesus in this early play
is described in the stage directions as "a hunchback, yellow-skinned dwarf,
dressed in white rags and sandals."
1
8 Fuchs explains, "this Jesus is ... the Jesus
that was left after Sarah discovered that her loving relationship with him
16 See Kintz, The Subject's Tragedy, 143-5.
1
7 Claudia Barnett, in '"This Fundamental Challenge to Identiry,"' notes that
Kennedy's late plays seem to differ from the early plays in that the former contain sim-
pler and more assured assignments of "guilt." According to Barnett, in the early plays
"blame is fairly evenly distributed and earned. More often than not, Kennedy's characters
fall prey not to tangible, culpable oppressors, but to the hazy, consuming, uncontrollable
forces of birth. Their dooms are often self-inflicted, and then self-perpetuated by the
reproductive cycle" (146). In a note to this section of her argument, Barnett then writes:
"The Alexander Plqys may be an exception to this rule. Kennedy's most recent work seems
more polar in its presentation of good and evil; her writing seems to have shifted over the
years to reflect a more dichotomized world view. The anger expressed in the later plays is
coupled with blame, especially of white sociery" (146, n. 22).
18 Kennedy, Fum!Jhome of a Negro, in The Adrienne Kennedy Reader, 15.
72 GROENEVELD
was a lie."
1
9
Discussing what she describes as Kennedy's early (again, 1960s)
"symbolist" plays, Fuchs describes Kennedy's use of the "religious sign"
as "complex": "It can turn punishing and vengeful," she writes, "or its
affirmative power may be exactly balanced by a sign from another cul-
ture-the Virgin Mary by the Owl [a sign of female power), the pale Jesus
by the black [Patrice) Lumumba-leading to spiritual doubt and paraly-
sis."20 In Motherhood 2000, Richard Fox as problematic Christ figure seems
balanced or doubled by the more traditional and fully realized Christ fig-
ure of Mother/Writer's son, put to his passion nine years before the vari-
ation on the Crucifixion remembered and re-enacted in Kennedy's play.21
Mother/Writer tells us: "On Friday night, January 11, my son was
knocked to the ground and beaten in the head and face, kicked in the
chest and stomach and dragged in the mud by a policeman./ My son was
stopped because he had a taillight out." She continues, "my beloved son
was also a Rhodes Scholar and traveled the country giving speeches for
the causes of Blacks" (230) . The day of the week on which the son expe-
rienced his passion cannot be coincidental, nor his occupation or identi-
ty as itinerant speaker, nor his potential as liberator, even savior.22
Mother/Writer recounts happy memories of her life with her
young son, his affection for his turtle and pop tarts and his habit of
watching Rawhzde "with his cowboy hat on" (232). She admits that she
was (and reveals through her actions that she still is) "haunted" by her
son's attacker (228) and has thought of him "constantly since 1991"
(229). Mother/Writer is obviously the double of the Virgin Mary, appear-
ing at the foot of the cross in her rewritten version of the York
Crucifixion as the Blessed Virgin Mary in the original text very conspic-
uously does not. In the York play, the only characters present on stage are
Christ and his executioners. Mary's, the other women's, and the disciples'
absence strengthens the audience's affective response to Christ's body,
19 Fuchs, "Adrienne Kennedy," 82.
2
0 Ibid.
21 Kolin also notices that "The agonies he [Mother/\X'riter's son] has already
suffered at the hands of Fox and his cohorts sound very much like the Roman soldiers'
offenses against Christ," Understanding Adrienne Kennedy, 170.
22 Kolin notes that Mother/Writer's son is "Like Christ, who trumpeted the
rights of the poor and enshackled." His philanthropy distinguishes him from Richard
Fox: Mother/Writer's "son is not shamming holiness on a cross like Fox but saving oth-
ers in Washington, D.C., for the venerable cause of social justice." Ibid., 170, 171.
REMEMBERJNG AND REVENGI NG THE D EATH OF CHRJST 73
transforming this image of the Crucifixion from the historical to the
iconic, the timeless. A lack of specific context makes the York Christ on
his cross something more like a crucifix than a historical figure.
Mother/Writer, by reintroducing Mary, reestablishes context: the effect
of her son's agony, on Mother/Writer and not on the audience, is empha-
sized.
Given the centrality of her son's passion to Mother/Writer's
identity, her confession in the second half of the play, "My sons were
somewhere in Washington but I didn't know where" (231), seems sur-
prising and striking. We know nothing about her son's response to his
own beating, whether or not it remains as traumatically formative for him
as it obviously is for his mother. In a strange way, the son is central to the
play and completely incidental-as is Richard Fox, who never speaks and
appears only at the end just before his murder.
This is the point at which Kennedy's play becomes disturbing, in
very complex ways. All that remains of the son's attack is its narrative,
which Mother/Writer transmits and potentially revises and fictionalizes.
Mother/Writer informs us that she offered to "rewrite" the "ancient"
play for the Oliviers, though she didn't tell them to what effect. Most sig-
nificantly, her revisions seem to involve stripping Christ of his two
speeches in the original York play, effectively silencing him, ensuring that
we never get Richard Fox's side of the story. She silences Fox/Christ as
her son has been silenced- we know almost nothing about him except
that his court case against his attackers was unsuccessful- and as
Mother/Writer was silenced after her son's attack-she tells us, "I wrote
again and again: / Congressmen / The Black Caucus / The County
Manager / NAACP I Chief of Police" (230), all in vain, as no one
responded to her or even, it seems, acknowledged her calls for justice.
The religious sign next turns "punishing and vengeful" even as
its "affirmative power" is balanced.23 In Motherhood 2000, these effects are
realized in the figures of Mother/Writer as black Madonna and of her
nameless son as black Christ. Both imply stasis in this balance. That
Mother/Writer thinks (consciously or unconsciously) of her son as a type
of Christ and of herself as a type of Mary suggests the centrality of
these Western types to her own mythology and sense of identity: she
attempts to restore (consciously or unconsciously) these religious signs by
reinvesting them with affirmative power. Her attempt, however, is unsuc-
cessful. Her identification of her son with Christ and her self with the
Virgin Mary challenges the dominant image of these figures but also rein-
23 Fuchs, "Adrienne Kennedy," 82.
74 GROENEVELD
scribes their importance to the formation of Western subjectivity, e

Related Interests

en
Western black subjectivity, barred in the dominant culture by skin color
from direct identification with Christ and Mary. Mother/Writer's early
counterpart is the Reverend Passmore's Wife in The Owl Answers, a char-
acter who achieves "virgin" motherhood by rejecting her own identity
and sexuality and by adopting a child, Clara. The Reverend's Wife con-
trasts herself with Clara's "black [birth] mother," whom she describes as
"the biggest whore in town."2
4
Mother/Writer differs from the
Reverend's Wife in that they identify with different moments in Mary's
narrative: the Reverend's Wife with Christ's miraculous conception and
birth, Mother/Writer with Christ's passion. But both characters are simi-
lar in that they are defined by these moments and seem unable to
progress in their own narratives, their own histories.
In Mother/Writer's case, despite her offer to the Oliviers, she
never really attempts substantially to rewrite the Passion narrative in
order to achieve its restoration, as she changes only the manner of
Christ's death, not the fact of his death. And this change in narrative
depends upon the actor's ability, according to Mother/Writer's judgment,
to fulfill the central role or type within this narrative. Fox as Christ dies
in a narrative similar but not identical to that of the biblical and "ancient"
theatrical crucifixion, just as her son suffers in a narrative similar but not
identical to that paradigm: he is buffeted but not crucified, not killed. The
two passions (the son's beating and Richard Fox's death) could be taken
together to constitute a complete passion sequence; this complete
sequence is the product of Mother/Writer's "script." Mother/Writer,
despite what at first glance seems a rejection of the narrative and sign of
the Crucifixion in her act of revenge, retains that narrative and sign at the
center of her own drama. That she admits and creates variations merely
underscores its coercive power as accommodating and variable paradigm
or pattern.
The Crucifixion remains the central traumatic event Western cul-
ture cannot escape. Mother/Writer cannot escape it any more than the
Oliviers can. They attempt to use the play, a representative and central
narrative from their cultural past, to keep the chaos around them at bay
for a time, and their attempt works to a degree: Mother/Writer tells us
that the actors "seemed protected by the soldier costumes they wore"
(231). Vestigial respect for (or fear of) the signs and symbols of a crum-
bling Christian (police) state keeps them safe, at least momentarily, which
suggests that, like Mother/Writer, the population of New York in the
24 Kennedy, The Owl Ans1vers, in The Adrienne Kennecfy Reader, 39.
REMEMBERING AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF CHRIST 75
year 2000 is incapable of rejecting completely the system of signs under
and in which they have lived for so long. The Oliviers, monuments them-
selves in that they remember and repeat in their play a history foreign and
yet foundational, perform night after night at the Soldiers and Sailors
monument (to the Civil War and racial struggle), one of the few places
they, as relics of the past, can find a stage and therefore sanctuary or "asy-
lum."
We sense a radical degeneration, though, a loss of centrality and
power. Unlike their predecessors in York, the Oliviers are unable to claim
the entire city as their stage. To illustrate, on Corpus Christi day in 1468,
the guilds o f York pulled their pageant wagons through the main streets
of that city, stopping to perform at twelve different stations located at
important religious and secular sites along their route;2s in contrast, in
2000, the Oliviers perform once each night, alone, and in a small park
beside a largely forgotten historical monument.26 Further, the York cycle
at its height consisted of forty-eight to fifty plays dramatizing in their
sequence biblical history from the Fall of the Angels to Last Judgment.
The Oliviers' play text is only a tiny fraction of the York cycle, only its
violent center, its traumatic core. Yet they continue on with their per-
formance.
Like their historical counterparts, the New York actors in their
representation of the soldiers are members of a community, with identi-
ties overlapping those of their characters. In fifteenth-century York, the
Crucifixion was staged by the Pinners' guild, a professional association of
workmen who "made small metal objects, mostly with sharp points, such
as pins, fishooks [sic] and buckles."27 The actors' "real world" occupa-
25 See Richard Beadle, "Introduction," The York Plqys (London: Edward
Arnold, 1982), 33-4.
26 In a 23 September 2002 New Yorker article, Rebecca Mead reflects on a
memorial held at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on the one-
year anniversary of the World Trade Centre disaster. She describes the hotel's strange sim-
ulation of the New York cityscape, noti ng that the Twin Towers have been missing since
the hotel's construction in 1997, but that "New York-New York does include a squat
forty-seven-story replica of the Empire State Building; a scaled-down Chrysler Building
that is significantly less shiny than the real thing, on account of its being topped with
fibreglass rather than steel; a slice of Lever House; and a massive!J oversized Soldiers' and
Sailors' Monument that seems designed to perplex visiting New Yorkers, who are not s11re thry've ever
noticed the real thing' (emphasis added, "A Desert Tribute," The New Yorker, 23 September
2002, http:/ /www.newyorker.com/ archive/2002/09 /23/020923ta_talk_mead (accessed
5 January 2009).
27 Beadle, "Notes," The York Plqys, 452.
76 GROENEVEW
tions and identities were loosely appropriate to the fictional occupations
and identities of their characters; the actors made nail-like objects and the
characters used nail-like props to ftx Christ to the cross.zs Not always but
often the handiwork of a particular guild would be showcased in its
Corpus Christi play. For example, in York the Shipwrights staged "The
Building of the Ark" while the Couchers, makers of decorative hangings
and of bedding, staged "Christ before Pilate 1: The Dream of Pilate's
Wife."
2
9
In Motherhood 2000, the actors of the restaged "miracle play" are,
according to Mother/Writer, members of the police service and employ-
ees of the courts and local government. She tells us, "I recognized the
other actors. They were the former district attorney, the county manager,
the police chief, and two policemen who had been involved in my son's
case" (229). These identities overlap again in interesting ways with those
of the York play's characters. One of the policemen, Richard Fox, plays
Christ. All the other men- the second policeman, the police chief, the
district attorney, and the county manager-play the soldiers who cruci-
fied Christ. All these men, in Mother/Writer's eyes, participated in her
son's passion either directly, by beating him physically, or indirectly, by
refusing to prosecute or punish those responsible for the crime. Part of
a corrupt judicial and correctional system, the men portray soldiers who
translate corrupt legal judgment into corrective punishment. The play
thus becomes a kind of advertisement for the "handiwork" of modern
correctional and judicial "guilds."
In the York play, the soldiers who crucify Christ are represented
as simple workmen simply carrying out orders, putting a legal text into
effect and action.
I Miles: Sir knyghtis, take heede hydir in hye,
This dede on dergh we may noght drawe [draw out].
3ee wootte [know] youreselffe als wele as I
Howe lordis and leders of owre !awe
as geven dome Qudgment] pat pis doote [fool] schall
dye.
28 In general, the Blacksmiths' guild was responsible for large nails, the kind
used in building construction. However, in York, there was an independent guild respon-
sible for the production of nails; with the Girdlers they staged the Slaughter of the
Innocents play. See Clifford Davidson, Technology, Guilds, and Early English Drama
(Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1996), 110, n. 45.
29 See Clifford Davidson's discussion of the Shipwrights' relationship to their
play. Ibid., 13-16.
  AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF CHRIST 77
II Miles: Sir, aile pare counsaile wele we knawe.
Sen [since] we are comen to Caluarie
Latte ilke [each] man helpe nowe as hym awe [as he
ought].
III Miles: We are alle redy, loo,
Pat forward [agreement] to fullfille.
IV Miles: Late here howe we schall doo,
And go we tyte [quickly] pertille.30
They are concerned with following their orders to the letter, even though
this perfect translation of order into action will cause them considerable
physical hardship:
IV Miles: I wille goo saie to orne soueraynes
Of all pis werkis howe we haue wrought.
I Miles: Nay sirs, anothir thyng
Fallis firste to youe and me,
I>ei badde we schulde hym hyng
On heghte pat men myght see.
II Miles: We woote wele so ther wordes wore,
But sir, pat dede will do vs dere.
III Miles: It may not mende for to moote [argue] more,
Pis harlotte muste be hanged here.31
Language, as the soldiers use it, refers simply and directly to the
body: their language is heavily deictic and gestural, suggesting that the
characters are either uninterested in language without physical referent or
unable to comprehend such language. Throughout the play, they discuss
and describe the violent actions they take against Christ's body (":Pat
corde full kyndely can I knytte [tie]"32; "I schall fonde [try] hym [the nail]
for to hitte"
3
3). More tellingly, they are unable to understand Christ when
he asks God the Father to show mercy on humankind in exchange for
Christ's passion,3
4
and when he discusses his body as symbol and prays
30 The York Plays, Play 35, ll. 1-12.
31 Ibid., ll. 151-160.
32 Ibid., I. 133.
33 Ibid., I. 139.
34 Ibid., ll. 49-60.
78
GROENEVELD
for mercy for the souls of his tormenters.3
5
The first and second soldiers'
response to the latter speech is to dismiss Christ's words as gibberish, the
noise of animals.
I Miles: We, harke, he jangelis Dangles] like a jay.
II Miles: Methynke he patris [prattles] like a py [magpie).36
The soldiers do not understand Christ's meaning because they under-
stand only literal meaning and physical referents, not figural meaning and
spiritual truths. Words are used to convey orders and to report when and
how these orders have been carried out. The soldiers, with Christ suc-
cessfully "crossed,"37 set out to tell Pilate about their work as well as to
tell others what they have done: the second soldier declares, "Pis race
[action, course of events] mon be rehersed right, / Thurgh pe worlde
both este and weste."38 They have understood, followed, and fulfilled the
letter of the law, with no comprehension of the larger significance of
their actions.
Christ's second speech, misunderstood by the soldiers, is a direct
appeal and address to the play's audience. It also reminds us that the sol-
diers do not understand the import of their actions.
Al men pat walkis by waye or strete,
Takes tente
3
e schalle no trauayle tyne [waste].
Byholdes myn heede, myn handis, and my feete,
And fully feele nowe, or [before] 3e fine [go away],
Yf any mournyng may be meete [equal],
Or myscheue mesured vnto myne.
My fadir, pat alle bales [suffering] may bete [relieve],
Forgiffls pes men pat dois me pyne.
What pei wirke wotte pai noght;
Therfore, my fadir, I craue,
Latte neuere per synnys be sought,
But see per saules to saue.39
35 Ibid., 11. 253-264.
36 Ibid., Jl. 265-266.
37 Ibid., I. 23; Kennedy, Motherhood 2000, 229.
38 Tbe York Plqys, Play 35, 11. 283-284.
39 Ibid., 11. 253-264.
REMEMBERI NG AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF CHRIST 79
This technique of direct address, used only by Christ in the York
Crucifixion, is used by Mother/Writer throughout Motherhood 2000,
which is one long, extended monologue. Christ's is replaced by her appeal
to the audience, one made not as Christ but as Madonna and, most
strangely, at the end of the play when she assumes her role in the York
Crucifixion, also as soldier. In the original York text, the soldiers never
speak to the audience, never acknowledge its existence, locked as they are
in the world of the play but also in the world of the literal, of the flesh.
At the same time, Mother/Writer's direct address to the audience serves
as or substitutes for the soldiers' "rehearsal" or report of the actions they
have taken, a report that presumably follows the action of the York play,
as this report is never staged. Motherhood 2000 is a description of
Mother/Writer's murder of the man she believes was Richard Fox.
Mother/Writer speaks throughout the play in the manner of Christ, using
direct address, to report that Christ is dead, and how she killed him.
Despite the strange double nature suggested by Mother/Writer's
ability to recognize the spectator, her participation in the play in the role
of soldier, to those who know the York play even moderately well, sug-
gests that on some level Mother/Writer is nothing more than a simple
workman, someone who puts words into effect without completely com-
prehending their meaning or import. In the year 2000, Mother/Writer
tells the Oliviers that she "had once been a playwright and had taught at
Harvard" (231). Already in the year 2000 these identities exist only in the
past; she is not a playwright and she does not teach at Harvard. This loca-
tion of her creative and analytic selves in the past suggests that both were
and have been suspended, even ended, at very least during the period of
chaos Mother/Writer was living through in the year 2000 and, the play
strongly suggests, ever since the beating of her son nine years before.
Like the soldiers in the York play, Mother/Writer has been reduced in
part to the level of the body, to the literal and the physical, in her con-
stant hunger and fear for her own physical safety. As mentioned above,
she admits that in the year 2000 she "was often hungry" and that she
"hadn't been to Broadway for more than a year" because it "was impos-
sible to make [her] way through the men on the sidewalks fighting among
themselves" (230). She notes that Judy the casting director " [ s ]ometimes
... still went shopping at Saks." Mother/Writer adds, "Still she was
younger than I was and less afraid" (231) .
.Mother/Writer is also reduced to the physical in her obsession
with her son's broken body, his beating in 1991. This act of violence com-
pelled her to write letters, not plays, appeals for justice that remain unan-
swered. Like the soldiers, Mother/Writer in 2000 lives and works in the
80 GROENEVELD
realm of the body, not of ideas, not of figurative or abstract concepts.
She is uninterested, like the soldiers, in language without physical refer-
ent and physical effect: the incarceration and punishment of her son's
attackers, for example. And, like the soldiers, she is not evil, just distract-
ed, obsessed-limited by her context, the apocalyptic chaos of New York
and her resultant fear and hunger-with the body and its concerns.
Mother/Writer's identification with the soldier characters in the York text
strongly suggests that she shares their limitations. One might therefore
conclude that Mother/Writer cannot understand the significance of the
larger script in which she plays her part because of the trauma of her
son's beating and the immediate threats to her own body. And yet, unlike
the soldiers she addresses her audience directly, indicating that she is
aware of the medium (theatre) in which she communicates and creates.
Further, Mother/Writer reminds us that she was a playwright and a pro-
fessor, and so engaged in artistic and analytical activities. Her characteri-
zation, then, contrasts with that of the soldiers in the York Crucifixion.
Clifford Davidson notes that the "effect of the Pinners' play was to visu-
alize the soldier-executioners as men perhaps not so different in social
standing from the members of the guilds that produced the play but nev-
ertheless of limited intelligence."40 Mother/Writer did not in 2000 aban-
don all intellectual activities; she tells us that she often sat on the rooftop
of her brownstone to read (231). It is possible then, that instead of being
reduced to the body by the trauma of her son's beating and her own fear,
she instead chooses the body over the figural and the abstract, to achieve
an end she recognizes on some level as problematic. She chooses, then,
to turn a blind eye.
We know that Mother/Writer attempts to use the play to exact
revenge for her son's beating and to achieve closure, a resolution of her
own trauma linked to the crime. At best, she achieves the former at the
historical moment at which she executes Fox.4t At worst, her execution
of the actor playing Christ is in fact a murder and therefore perhaps even
a martyrdom, an act of violence as senseless and undeserved as the attack
on her son. When Mother/Writer tells us that Richard Fox appeared in
4
0 Davidson, Technofqgy, Guilds, and Ear!J English Drama, 47.
4
1 Kolin in Understanding Adrienne Kennu!J argues this point: "Concerned with
the aftereffects of the incident [the beating of her son], Motherhood 2000 discloses how
[Mother/Writer) found the policeman, named Richard Fox, as well as the other officers,
and how she finally achieved justice ... . In 2000, with the legal system crumbling, moth-
ers are transformed from weeping women at the foot of the cross into militant Marys
who give their sons the justice they have earned with their blood" (167, 170).
      AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF CIIRIST 81
front of her brownstone, she remarks, "how amazing that this man
should appear on the very street where I lived." (229) It is also, poten-
tially, amazing that she recognizes Fox, given that, as she admits, she had
"seen Richard Fox only on videotape," a videotape recorded at night,
when the beating occurred.42 That she admits she desperately wanted to
find Fox all those years ("I had wanted to find him. I wanted to find his
house somewhere in the suburbs of Virginia, but the lawyers concealed
any information about Fox from me," [229]) further problematizes the
fact that she does. The actor who plays Christ in the year 2000 may be
Richard Fox and the man responsible for her son's beating or he may not
be. The text is unclear, or deliberately ambiguous.
In any case, Mother/Writer's repeated "cyclic" returns to both
the York and New York crucifixions strongly suggest that she does not
in the end achieve the closure she seeks, a resolution of her trauma. In
her narrated history of her encounter with the Oliviers, she says that she
repeatedly watched the group perform before she approached them:
"Evenings I could hear the actors, from the roof of my brownstone
where I went to rest" (229), she tells us; "nights I continued to watch the
ancient miracle play from the roof." Having watched the play often, when
she finally approaches the group in the park she tries "to speak along with
the actors" (231), with some success, we may presume: she has learned
their lines. She participates from a distance in the repetition of the
"ancient" cycle and so on some level is implicated in its continuation and
perpetuation, which is fantastically extended into both the past and the
future. Her use of the adjective "ancient" pushes the York cycle's origins
well back before the first recorded reference to its production in 1376;
4
3
the play-within-the-play's performance in 2000 and Motherhood 2000's per-
formance in 1994 extend the cycle's terminus from 1569 to over four
42
In "Letter to My Students" and Sleep Deprivation Chamber, defense attorney
Edelstein describes the videotape as "dark," containing "only the very end of the inci-
dent" ("Letter" 223; Sleep 25). He therefore doesn't consider it useful as evidence. Yet in
these texts there is never any doubt about the identity of Teddy's attacker. In Sleep
Deprivation Chamber, Teddy recognizes and confronts him in the courtroom, and Officer
Holzer admits to arresting Teddy, denying only that he used unprovoked and excessive
force. The absent son in Motherhood 2000 seems never to have confronted and therefore
identified his attacker, or at least seems never to have done so in his mother's presence.
43 This ftrst reference is found in the A/Y Memorandum Book; it notes the
amount of rent paid per year for a building in which three Corpus Christi pageant wag-
ons were stored. See Alexandra Johnston and Margaret Rogerson, Records of Ear!J English
Drama: York (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979), volume 1, xix. For the original
Latin reference, see volume 1, 3; for a translation, see volume 2, 689.
82 GROENEVELD
hundred years later.
44
We get no sense of interruption, or that the per-
for mance in 2000 was something new, a revival. Motherhood 2000 pushes
the already impressive historical repetition of the York Corpus Christi
plays to an impossible extreme.
Mother/Writer then explains that she rewrote a section of the
play, making it not completely new but not exactly the same. This new
script ends with the death of an actor, the actor playing Christ, whether
he is Richard Fox or not, and so seems on one level fundamentally dif-
ferent from her source text: this one, we presume, cannot be repeated, at
least on the stage, since a dead actor (unlike Christ and unlike a dead char-
acter) cannot be resurrected. This is likely the reason why the play ends
as abruptly as it does, with the stage directions "(She does [hits him with a
hammer].) / (He falls)" (233). The death of an actor introduces a discon-
certing level of reality to the stage. The show surely could not, in 2000,
"go on," could not have been repeated again the next night at the Soldiers
and Sailors monument.
Nonetheless, repetition continues in the present; we know this
because of the complicated structure of the text (and the resultant com-
plicated verb tenses employed in this analysis). Motberhood 2000 is dis-
tanced in time from the events it narrates. Mother/Writer's son was
attacked in 1991; Richard Fox (or an actor interchangeable with
Fox/Christ) was killed in the year 2000; Motherhood 2000 was first per-
formed in 1994; Mother/Writer speaks to us from a fourth moment in
time, in the future of all these events. We know nothing about her life in
this fourth time, the time of Mother/Writer's monologue and represen-
tation of the murder of Richard Fox the actor by the Soldiers and Sailors
monument. The theatrical representation at the end of the monologue
introduces new but not unrelated moral complications: its performance
is not clearly framed as a flashback. The man representing Fox in the
play-within-the-play, the fictional future of the events Mother/Writer
recounts, cannot be him, as he was killed in the year 2000, before the per-
formance of the monologue (not in 1994 but in the vague future) ever
began. We assume, then, that the actor in the current performance of
Motherhood 2000 only represents Fox, stands in for him; the execution of
Fox that we see enacted before us is a theatrical representation, not a
moment recorded on videotape (like the beating of Mother/Writer's
son). The abruptness of the stage directions and the sudden, shocking
ending of the play seem to blur the lines of reality and representation.
The audience, in a Pirandellian vertigo, is encouraged to wonder if this
44 1569 is the date of the last recorded performance. See ibid., vol. 1, p. 355,
and Beadle, "Introduction," The York Pf'!J's, 19.
REMEli!BF.RING AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF (HIUST 83
actor is killed as Richard Fox as actor was killed sometime in the past of
the current monologue. Since Richard Fox died as actor, not character, in
the year 2000, the actor portraying Richard Fox might die as actor, not
character, in the theatrical time of the monologue. The effect is unset-
tling.
Before this climactic disorientation of the audience and tempo-
rary suspension of the narrative, Mother/Writer recounts only those
events in her life leading up to the year 2000, to that moment she thought
might bring her closure. That she returns to that moment with her audi-
ence over the course of the play, remembering and reliving it, centering
herself and her identity around it, suggests that she has not achieved any
final resolution. Mother/Writer renounces as she is formed by three
"passions"- Christ's, her son's, and Richard Fox's-and she has no
choice but to think and act in terms of all three. She is trapped. Her son's
beating is a trauma to which she repeatedly returns, and her execution of
Richard Fox is the retributive act that is never finished and in the end
never brings the expected closure: because every person responsible for
the initial crime cannot be punished; because the problem is systemic, not
individual; because the man she killed may or may not have been Richard
Fox (may have only represented him); and because she has (likely con-
sciously) taken on a morally problematic role in the narrative she adapts
and yet repeats. A man named Richard Fox allegedly beat her son and the
legal system allowed him to escape punishment for that crime.
Mother/Writer took revenge and in so doing placed herself in the role of
torturer and soldier, the role Fox assumed in the passion narrative involv-
ing her son as Christ. Mother/Writer and Fox are not as different as they
initially appear.
Further, Mother/Writer appears implicated in the racism that
infuriates her and drives her to act. The text strongly suggests that the
"civil strife" plaguing New York City in the year 2000 is racial and cul-
tural. Mother/Writer's brownstone can be taken as a microcosm of the
city of New York: "the five floors were occupied by Bosnians,
Californians, Haitians, Neo-Nazis: all were split into subgroups and each
group had their own agenda, wars, and language." Mother/Writer tells
her audience, "it was impossible to tell friends from enemies" (231): she
describes, and indicates her past participation in, a paranoia around race,
culture, and class.
The mention of Neo-Nazis in a play presented initially in mono-
logue by an African American actress encourages the audience at first to
focus on white anxiety and violence in relation to the African American
"other," but the setting of the play is New York; these are Neo-Nazis, not
84 GROENEVELD
Klansmen; and the play-within-the-play is a late medieval play from
England dramatizing the Crucifixion. The specter of anti-Semitism hov-
ers here, as does the history of its justification: that the Jews were Christ
killers, that the Jews were child killers (in the ubiquitous blood libel: the
stories of young boys killed by Jews to malicious ritual purpose45), and
even that the Jews were so blind to spiritual truths that they could not see
beyond the fleshly and literal (as the soldiers are depicted in the York play
of the Crucifixion, and as I have suggested Mother/Writer is depicted in
Motherhood 2000).46 The play's temporal setting problematizes
Mother/Writer's acts even further, since the millennia! hysteria she
describes in New York reminds us of European panic in the face of dis-
ease and the persecution (and periodic slaughter) of Jews across Europe
in the middle ages, in those countries from which they had not yet been
expelled.47 In late medieval York, the origin of the play-within-the-play,
the Jews were only a historical and literary presence, having been officially
expelled from England in 1290. Yet this presence, often as grotesque
stereotype, was surprisingly strong, certainly in the text of the complete
York cycle, which dramatized the trial, torture, and crucifixion of Christ
year after year in the streets of the city. Mother/Writer, an African
American woman, assumes the role of the Jewish "Christ killer," putting
herself in the narrative as the victim of that hysteria and of a persecution
justified as "revenge." But by her own account, she really killed a man,
and is not above the same hysteria that historically has led to horrific per-
45 See R.I. Moore, The Fonnation tf a Persecuting Society (Oxford: Blackwell, 1987,
1990), 34-9; R. Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth o/ Ritual Murder: jews and Magic in Reformation
Germany (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988); Alan Dundes, ed., The Blood libel
Ltgend: A Casebook in Anti-Semihi: Folklore (Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin
Press, 1991); and Miri Rubin, Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval jews (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), especially Chapter 1, "From Jewish Boy to Bleeding
Host."
4
6 In de Doctrina Christiana (Christian Instruction), Saint Augustine explains that
"When a figurative expression is understood as if it were literal, it is understood carnal-
ly" (124). Before the advent of Christ, the Jews "observed the symbols of spiritual things
instead of the things themselves, unaware of what they represented" (125), and yet they
pleased God; after Christ's advent, however, their adherence to "carnal" signs became a
"wretched slavery of soul ... to be satisfied with signs instead of realities, and not be able
to elevate the eye of the mind above sensible creation to drink in eternal light" (124-125).
Translated by John J. Gavigan, in Writings o/ Saint Augustine, volume 4. The Fathers of the
Church (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1947).
47 For contemporary accounts of the torture and execution of German Jews,
accused in 1349 of spreading plague by poisoning wells, see Rosemary Horrox, The Black
Death (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994), 207-219.
      AND REVENGING THE D EATH OF CHRIST 85
secution, since she in turn sought revenge on a Christ/Child persecutor,
if not killer. Mother/Writer, like other of Kennedy's central characters, is
both victim and victimizer.
In the end, Mother/Writer and the audience are left in a compli-
cated and shameful position: of desiring the death of a man who in the
end may or may not have been directly responsible for an act of racially-
motivated violence, and of responding with horror and nausea to that
same desired death. We are caught in a feedback loop with the central
character, who returns to the sites of both her original trauma and her act
of revenge in her re-enactment of Christ's passion, since both she and
Fox are soldiers, and both her son and Fox are Christ. In a sense we learn
nothing about Mother/Writer's present because she has no present: she
has only a past to which she obsessively returns and which she performs
again and again. She has created her own New York cycle play, one con-
sisting of the York cycle's climactic core and primary effects: suffering
and retribution and further suffering.
CONTRIBUTORS
Mark Evans Bryan is an assistant professor of theatre at Denison
University. A historian of the revolutionary period and the "long" nine-
teenth century in American theatre, Bryan's work has appeared in the
KeY!JOn Review, the Blackwell Companion to T1ventieth-Century American Drama,
previously in the Journal of American Drama and Theatre, and is forthcom-
ing in the Journal of Popular Culture and the William and Mary Quarter!J.
Joe Falocco is a Lecturer in Integrative Arts at Penn State Erie, The
Behrend College. He holds an MFA in Performance from Roosevelt
University and a PhD in English from the University of North Carolina
at Greensboro, where his dissertation "Elizabethan Staging in the
Twentieth Century: Theatrical Practice and Cultural Context" won the
University's annual Outstanding Dissertation Award. The New England
Theatre Journal recently published an article distilled from Joe's chapter on
Harley Granville Barker, and he has previously contributed to Shakespeare
Bulletin, the Mark Tivain Annual, and the Tennessee Williams Annual Revie1v.
Leanne Groeneveld is an Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies at
Campion College, a Jesuit liberal arts college located at the University of
Regina (in Saskatchewan, Canada). She specializes in early English theatre
and Passion drama.
Miriam Kammer is a Ph.D. student in the Theatre History, Theory, and
Criticism program at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her areas of
interest include the intersections of performance and ecology and the
relationships between performance, heritage, and memorialization. Most
recently, Miriam was a 2008 Fellow in the Institute on the Public
Humanities for Doctoral Students at the Simpson Center for the
Humanities at the University of Washington.
MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
roMANIA After 2000
Edited by Saviana Stanescu and Daniel Gerould.
Translation editors: Saviana Stanescu and Ruth Margraff.
This volume represents the first anthology of new
Romanian Drama published in the United States and
introduces American readers to compelling playwrights
and plays that address resonant issues of a post·totali·
tarian society on its way toward democracy and a new
European identity. includes the plays: Stop The Tempo
by Gianina Carbunariu, Romania. Kiss Me! by Bogdan
Georgescu, Vitamins by Vera I on, Romania 21 by ~ t e f   n
Peca and Waxing West by Saviana Stanescu.
This publication produced in collaboration with the
Romanian Cultural Institute in New York and Bucharest.
Buenos Aires in Translation
Translated and Edited by jean Graham-Jones
BAiT epitomizes true international theatrical collabora·
tion, bringing together four of the most important contem·
porary playwrights from Buenos Aires and pairing them
with four cutting-edge US-based directors and their
ensembles. Throughout a period of one year, playwrights,
translator, directors, and actors worked together to deliv·
er four English-language world premieres at Performance
Space 122 in the fall of 2006.
Plays include: Women Dreamt Horses by Daniel Veronese;
A Kingdom, A Country or a Wasteland, In the Snow by Lola
Arias; Ex·Antwone by Federico Leon; Panic by Rafael
Spregelburd. BAiT is a Performance Space 122 Production,
an initiative of Salon Volcan, with the support of lnstituto
Cervantes and the Consulate General of Argentina in
NewYork.
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MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
Theatre Research Resources in New York City
Sixth Edition, 2007
Editor: Jessica Brater, Senior Editor: Marvin Carlson
ll<l 'lt•l fb \ •UUti R.t\t.M. il'tt'
Theatre Research Resources in New York City is the most
comprehensive catalogue of New York City research
facilities available to theatre scholars. Within the
indexed volume, each facility is briefly described includ-
ing an outline of its holdings and practical matters such
as hours of operation. Most entries include electronic
contact information and web sites. The listings are
grouped as follows: Libraries, Museums, and Historical
Societies; University and College Libraries; Ethnic and
Language Associations; Theatre Companies and Acting
Schools; and Film and Other.
Comedy: A Bibliography
Editor: Meghan Duffy, Senior Editor: Daniel Gerould
This bibliography is intended for scholars, teachers, stu-
dents, artists, and general readers interested in the theo-
ry and practice of comedy. The keenest minds have been
drawn to the debate about the nature of comedy and
attracted to speculation about its theory and practice. For
all lovers of comedy Comedy: A Bibliography is an essen-
tial guide and resource, providing authors, titles, and pub-
lication data for over a thousand books and articles devot-
ed to this most elusive of genres.
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MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
Witkiewicz: Seven Plays
Translated and Edited by Daniel Gerould
W1tk•cwicz
SEVEN PLAYS
This volume contains seven ofWitkiewicz's most impor-
tant plays: The Pragmatists, Tumor Brainiowicz, Gyuba/
Wahazar, The Anonymous Work, The Cuttlefish, Dainty
Shapes and Hairy Apes, and The Beelzebub Sonata, as
well as two of his theoreti cal essays, "Theoret ical
Introduction" and "A Few Words About the Role of the
Actor in the Theatre of Pure Form."
Witkiewicz . . . takes up and continues the vein of dream
and grotesque fantasy exemplified by the late Strindberg
or by Wedekind; his ideas are closely paralleled by those
of the surrealists and Antonin Artaud which culminated in
the masterpieces of the dramatists of the Absurd . . . . It is
high time that this major playwright should become better
known in the English-speaking world. Martin Esslin
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Four Works for the Theatre by Hugo Claus
Translated and Edited by David Willinger
Hugo Claus is the foremost contemporary writer of Dutch
language theatre, poetry, and prose. Flemish by birth and
upbringing, Claus is the author of some ninety plays, nov-
els, and collections of poetry. He is renowned as an enfant
terrible of the arts throughout Europe. From the time he
was affiliated with the international art group, COBRA, to
his liaison with pornographic film star Silvia Kristel, to the
celebration of his novel, Tbe Sorrow of Belgium, Claus has
careened through a career that is both scandal-ridden
and formidable. Claus takes on all the taboos of his times.
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MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
Four Ploys From North Africa
Translated and edited by Marvin Carlson
This volume contains four modern plays from the
Maghreb: Abdelkader Alloula's The Veil and Fatima
Gallaire's House of Wives, both Algerian, Julila Baccar's
Araberlin from Tunisia, and Tayeb Saddiki's The Folies Ber-
bers from Morocco.
As the rich tradition of modern Arabic theatre has recently
begun to be recognized by the Western theatre community,
an important area within that tradition is still under-repre-
sented in existing anthologies and scholarship. That is the
drama from the Northwest of Africa, the region known in
Arabic as the Maghreb.
The Arab Oedipus
Edited by Marvin Carlson
This volume contains four plays based on the Oedipus leg-
end by four leading dramatists of the Arab world. Tawfiq
AI-Hakim' s King Oedipus, Ali Ahmed Bakathir's The
Tragedy of Oedipus, Ali Salim's The Comedy of Oedipus
and Walid lkhlasi's Oedipus as well as AI-Hakim's preface
to his Oedipus on the subject of Arabic tragedy, a preface
on translating Bakathir by Dalia Basiouny, and a general
introduction by the editor.
An awareness of the rich tradition of modern Arabic the-
atre has only recently begun to be felt by the Western the-
atre community, and we hope that this collection will con-
tribute to that growing awareness.
THE ARAB OEDIPUS
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MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
The Heirs of Moliere
Translated and Edited by Marvin Carlson
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This volume contains four representative French comedies
of the period from the death of Moliere to the French
Revolution: The Absent-Minded Lover by
Regnard, The Conceited Count by Philippe Nericault
Destouches, The Fashionable Prejudice by Pierre Nivelle de
la Chaussee, and The Friend of the Laws by Jean-Louis Laya.
Translated in a poetic form that seeks to capture the wit
and spirit of t he originals, these four plays suggest some-
thing of the range of the Moliere inheritance, from comedy
of character through the highly popular sentimental come-
dy of the mid-eighteenth century, to comedy that employs
the Moliere tradition for more contemporary political ends.
Pixerecourt: Four Melodramas
Translated and Edited by Daniel Gerould & Marvin Carlson
This volume contains four of Pixerecourt's most important
melodramas: The Ruins of Babylon or ]afar and Zaida, The
Dog of Montargis or The Forest of Bondy, Christopher Colum-
bus or The Discovery of the New World, and Alice or The Scot-
tish Gravediggers, as well as Charles Nodier's
"Introduction" to the 1843 Collected Edition of Pixerecourt's
plays and the two theoretical essays by the playwright,
"Melodrama," and "Final Reflections on Melodrama."
Pixerecourt furnished the Theatre of Marvels with its most
stunning effects, and brought the classic situations affair-
ground comedy up-to-date. He determined the structure of
a popular theatre which was to last through the 19th centu-
ry. Hannah Winter, The Theatre of Marvels
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MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
Zeami and the No Theatre in the World
Edited by Benito Ortolani and Samuel Leiter
This volume contains the proceedings of the "Zeami and
the No Theatre in the World" symposium, held in New
York City in October 1997, in conjunction with the
"Japanese Theatre in the World" exhibit shown at the
same time at the Japan Society. The book contains an
introduction and fifteen essays, organized into sections
entitled "Zeami's Theories and Aesthetics," "Zeami and
Drama," and "Zeami and the World."
Contemporary Theatre in Egypt
Edited by Marvin Carlson
This publication includes the transcript of the February
1999 Symposium on Contemporary Egyptian Theatre, held
at the City University of New York Graduate Center, as well
as three plays by Egyptian playwrights: The Last Walk by
Alfred Farag, The Absent One by Gam a I Maqsoud, and The
Nightmare by Lenin EI·Ramley. It concludes with a bibliog-
raphy of English translations and secondary articles on
the theatre in Egypt since 1955.
......... \ ~ .   ... ... , ...
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Related Interests

V'ar Dance, and all t he corporate ritual expressions by
means of which our primitive ancestors, often wiser than their progeny,
sought to relate themselves to God, or the gods."
7
Modern theatres were
not amenable to this ritual function, and the opportunity to devise an
alternative configuration in which the audience would nearly surround
the actors as in ancient times was a major factor in Guthrie's decision to
come to Ontario. He also conceived of theatre as a means of preserving
community in a society increasingly alienated by mechanization, where
"each year machines (do] more of the work which was formerly done by
humans."S Guthrie saw the possibility of a genuinely shared experience
between performers and public as theatre's unique advantage over f!lm
and as the primary justification for the live stage's continued existence in
the cinematic age. The intimate relationship between actor and audience
required for this survival was not possible in a proscenium theatre, and
the open stage at Stratford offered Guthrie the chance to create a the-
atrical model which could compete with cinema and television. Under
these more favorable circumstances, Guthrie believed "that a Theatre,
5 Shaughnessy, The Shakespeare Effect, 124.
6 Tyrone Guthrie, In Various Directions: A View of Theatre (New York:
Macmillan, 1965), 29.
7 Tyrone Guthrie, "A Long View of the Stratford Festival," in T11Jice Have the
Trumpets Sounded: A Record of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival in Canada in 1954, edited by
Tyrone Guthrie, Robertson Davies, and Grant MacDonald (Toronto: Clark, Irwin, and
Co., 1954), 193.
8 Tyrone Guthrie, A New Tbeatre (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964), 165.
(ONFL!Cf!NG lDEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATIONS 7
where live actors perform plays to an audience which is there in the flesh
before them" could "survive all threats from powerfully organized indus-
tries, which pump prefabricated drama out of cans and blowers and con-
traptions of one kind and another."9
Guthrie also sought to bridge the "social chasm" which he
believed had come to separate actors from audience since the rise of the
proscenium stage.
10
Theatre practitioners, he felt, were often treated as
"the lower classes" by their affluent public.
11
Guthrie designed his thrust
stage to break down this social barrier as it would abolish the physical
partition of the proscenium wall. Another egalitarian goal of Guthrie's
was to expand the audience demographic; theatre should not, he felt, "be
aimed at a cultural minority"
1
2 because "everyone, literally everyone, is
part of human culture."
1
3 This program of inclusion led Guthrie to
champion theatrical development in Canada, a nation which in 1953 had
little dramatic tradition. He hoped that at Stratford classical plays would
be "interpreted into a Canadian idiom, [and] given a Canadian style,"14
thereby expanding access to theatre for both audience and artists.
Guthrie's stated goals in founding the Stratford Festival contrast
sharply with the interpretation of this event developed in recent decades
by critics like Knowles and Dennis Salter. While Guthrie saw himself as
an anti-authoritarian rebel breaking down barriers of class and geogra-
phy, these later scholars portray him as a cultural imperialist serving an
elitist and reactionary agenda. This more recent view perceives the estab-
lishment of the Stratford Festival as "discursively constructed as the
founding of a Shakespearean National Theatre in Canada after the
British (imperialist) Model, in which Shakespeare was used to serve the
interests of cultural colonization by a dominant-and on occasion
explicitly capitalist (or anti-communist)--elite."
1
5 Rather than breaking
9 Guthrie, ''A Long Viev.·," 191.
1
0 Tyrone Guthrie, A Ufe in the Theatre (New York: McGraw Hill, 1959), 197.
11
Tyrone Guthrie, "Theatre at Minneapolis," in Actor and Architect, edited by
Stephen Joseph (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1964), 32.
12 Guthrie, A New Theatre, 177.
13 Ibid., 171.
14
Ibid., 172.
15 Richard Paul Knowles, "From Nationalist to Multinational: The Stratford
Festival, Free Trade, and the Discourses of Intercultural Trade," Theatre Journa/47, no. 1
(March 1995): 26.
8 FALOCCO
down social barriers and expanding access, the Stratford Festival offered
a "product presented for the pleasure of a privileged and culturally dom-
inant group of consumers."
1
6 Instead of enabling Canadian practitioners
to find an indigenous means of expression through classical texts,
Guthrie's efforts, in this interpretation, led these "postcolonial actors" to
"disavow their particular historical conditions."17 This left these per-
formers with a sense of "divided identity"18 which prevented them from
achieving artistic or political independence.
The discrepancy between Guthrie's expressed intent and the
opinion of his efforts held by some postmodern critics originates in con-
trasting ideological interpretations of the twentieth-century movement to
recover early modern staging practices. While not overly concerned with
the supposed historical accuracy of his productions, Guthrie championed
the thrust stage which aligned him to a certain extent with the
Elizabethanists. His concern with theatre as a communal ritual led
Guthrie to become a major proponent, in both theory and practice, of
the "open stage." For Guthrie, this term referred not only to the aboli-
tion of the proscenium but to "an auditorium arranged not in front of the
stage, but, to a greater or less extent, wrapped around the stage." He dis-
tinguished between an "Arena" format, where the audience completely
surrounds the playing area, and a "Thrust" or "Open" configuration, in
which the public only partially encircles the platform.
1
9 The three-quarter
configuration is generally considered to have been a key feature of early
modern theatres. The new Globe in London and the reconstructed
Blackfriars in Staunton, Virginia both place audience on three sides in a
semi-circle of approximately 180 degrees from the front of each theatre's
frons scenae. In his most famous performance space, the original tent at
Stratford, Ontario, Guthrie pursued a more circular form by arranging
the public in a 240-degree arc.ZO Guthrie also shared with early
16 Richard Paul Knowles, "Shakespeare, 1993, and the Discourses of the
Stratford Festival, Ontario," Shaluspeare Quarterly 45, no. 2 (Summer 1994): 215.
1
7
Denis Salter, "Acting Shakespeare in Postcolonial Space," in Shaluspeare,
Theory, and Peiformance, edited by James C. Bulman (London: Routledge, 1996), 114.
18 Ibid., 122.
19 Tyrone Guthrie, "Do We Go to the Theatre for Illusion?," New York Times,
16 January 1966, X3.
20 Alan J. Somerset, The Stratford Festival Story (New York: Greenwood Press,
1991), xiv.
CONFLICI'ING IDEOLOGICAL I NTERPRETATIONS 9
Elizabethanists like William Poel and Nugent Monck, and with their
descendants at the new Globe and reconstructed Blackfriars Playhouse, a
desire to minimize illusion's role in the theatrical process. "The attraction
for me of the 'open' stage, as opposed to the proscenium," Guthrie
wrote, "is primarily this: that it stresses the ritual as opposed to the illu-
sionary quality of performance."2J He noted elsewhere, "The fact that an
audience sits around the stage makes it easier to apprehend what is, in fact,
the purpose of theatrical performance," which was "not to create the illu-
sion that a palpable fiction is a fact, but rather to recreate in ritual terms
an ordered and significant series of ideas."22
Rather than indulging in archaism for its own sake, the practi-
tioners of the "Elizabethan revival" looked backward in a progressiYe
attempt to address the challenges of the modern age. "The theatrical
past" served for them as "a crack in the present through which one could
grab at a future."
2
3 Many scholars, however, see in this movement a "dis-
mally regressive"24 attempt to separate Shakespeare from the material cir-
cumstances of contemporary audiences. Productions employing
Elizabethan conventions, in this view, use the cultural authority of a uni-
versal Shakespeare, frozen in time, to forestall societal change and pre-
serve the interests of ruling elites. Salter succinctly connects this opinion
to the work of Guthrie when he writes that "the Stratford stage has
sought to transport Canadian theatre-and the culture it represents-
backwards in time to the very spirit of the Elizabethan age. It has often
provided Canadians with the comforting illusion that they have secured
unique access to Shakespeare himsel£."25 This kind of escapism, howev-
er, was never the Elizabethanists' main objective. William Poel, Nugent
Monck, and Tyrone Guthrie did not seek to turn their theatres into the
kind of historically accurate amusement park derided by William Bridges-
21 Tyrone Guthrie, "Shakespeare at Stratford, Ontario," Shakespeare Survey 8
(1955): 131.
22 Guthrie, In Various Directions, 69.
23 Peter Womack, "Notes on the 'Elizabethan' Avant-Garde," in Shakespeare and
the Tu;entieth Century, edited by Jonathan Bate, Jill L. Levenson, and Dieter Mehl (Newark:
University of Delaware Press, 1996), 81.
24 Terry Eagleton, ''Afterword," The Shakespeare Myth, edited by Graham
Holderness (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988), 206.
25 Salter, "Acting Shakespeare in Postcolonial Space," 121.
10 FALOCCO
Adams in 1919 as "Ye Olde Shakespeare Bunne Shoppe."26 This was par-
ticularly true at Stratford where there was no "attempt [at] an Elizabethan
pseudo-antique style."
27
Guthrie notes, in what may have been a direct
response to Bridges-Adams, "we were determined to eschew Ye O/de."28
Instead Guthrie, like Poel and Monck before him, sought a very contem-
porary response to the problems facing theatre in the twentieth century.
Ritual and Community
"Ritual," J. L. Styan writes, was "Guthrie's favorite word."29 Indeed,
Guthrie's writings reveal an almost obsessive concern with theatre as a
spiritual rite. His vision was religious but far from orthodox. "It is my
belief," he wrote, "that, in trying to serve the theatre faithfully, I am offer-
ing some sort of service to God."30 Guthrie's vision incorporated
Christianity, as when he wrote of the "priest in Holy Communion" as "an
actor impersonating Christ in a very solemn drama,"3
1
but he also
expressed dissatisfaction with modern religion. "Christian culture," he
lamented, "has taken over many of the ideas underlying dionysiac and
other more primitive rites of spring. We have purified them, or it could
equally be said, emasculated them, by the elimination of much grossness
and sexuality."32 Guthrie looked back to ancient Greece for more mean-
ingful religious rituals, professing that "we, like the Athenians, have a
sneaking belief in many gods."33 He saw a common origin for Greek reli-
gion and Christianity, and for Greek and modern drama as well, in pre-
historic rituals. These were originally celebrated with human and then
later animal sacrifices until finally, "instead of an actual sacrifice, the
26 William Bridges-Adams, A Bridges Adams Letter Book, edited by Robert
Speaight (London: Society for Theatre Research, 1971), 29.
27 Gurhrie, "Shakespeare at Stratford," 128.
28 Gurhrie, A Life in tbe Theatre, 319.
2
9 J. L Styan, The Shakespeare Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1977), 205.
30 Gurhric, In Various Directions, 23.
31 Guthrie, "A Long View," 192.
32 Guthrie, In Various Directions, 31.
33 Ibid., 26.
CON£'UCTING IDEOLOGICAL I NTERPRETATIONS 11
offering took symbolic form. A story of sacrifice was enacted in honor of
the God in a tragedy." Guthrie believed that "Macbeth, Hamlet ... even
Willy Loman ... are all, like the protagonists of Greek tragedy, victims at
a ceremony of sacrifice."34 When Guthrie's Oedipus Rex proved the most
successful production in the Stratford Festival's second season, Brooks
Atkinson wrote in the New York Times that "it would be ironic if
Sophocles emerged as the godfather of a Shakespeare festival."JS In fact,
it was hardly "ironic," considering Guthrie's emphasis on the ritual qual-
ity of theatre and on the unbroken continuity he perceived between prim-
itive rites of sacrifice and modern tragedy.
Guthrie saw the thrust stage as essential to recovering theatre's
sacred aspects. The placement of the public in close proximity to the
playing area created a sense of unity between audience and actors which
enhanced what Guthrie perceived as the sacramental quality of drama.
"The appreciation of Ritual," he wrote, "is greatly enhanced if you are
aware of its performance as a social act, aware of being one of many who
are 'assisting' at the performance, as the French so accurately describe the
function of an audience." The presence of spectators on three sides
increased this sensation, because they could see each other as well as the
performers on stage. By thus emphasizing the "social, shared aspect of
performance" the public is "constantly .. . reminded that one and all are
sharing the same occasion, taking part in the same rites."36 A sense of
community and participation was vital to Guthrie, who believed that the-
atre was "essentially a sociable, communal affair."3
7
The audience,
Guthrie wrote, must feel "invited to par ticipate" and should therefore be
"arranged [so] that spectators can see one another around, and beyond,
the more brightly lighted stage."38
Anti-industrialism
Guthrie believed that interactive ritual was especially important to a mod-
ern society in which people had been alienated by technology. Li ke Poel
and Monck, Guthrie bemoaned the industrial transition from "handcraft
3
4
Ibid. , 33.
35 Brooks Atkinson, "Bard in Canada," New York Times, 3 July 1955, X1.
36 Guthrie, "Do We Go To The Theatre for Illusion?," X3.
37 Guthrie, In Various Directions, 69.
38 Guthrie, A New Theatre, 69.
12 FALOCCO
to mechanical processes" with its accompanying shift in emphasis "from
quality to quantity."39 While these earlier Elizabethanists expressed these
sentiments by aligning themselves with the Pre-Raphaelites, Guthrie was
drawn to a later, analogous phenomenon, the "Folk Art revival."
According to Guthrie this movement "aimed to keep alive simple and
ancient expressions, in danger of disappearing with the change-over from
a predominantly agricultural to a predominantly urban and industrial
society."
4
0 Guthrie feared that, because of the assembly-line mentality,
"the joy will be taken out of work" and "a deadly standardization will be
imposed, not just upon commodities, but on ideas."41 This anti-industri-
al bias partly explains Guthrie's emphasis on visual detail in the early years
of the Stratford Festival, when he sometimes seemed perversely deter-
mined to spend as much money and effort as possible on props and cos-
tumes. Such was the case in 1953's "incident of the shoes," an episode of
Festival lore so well known as to be chronicled in the business magazine
Industrial Canada. 42
In two different accounts of the Festival's founding, from A Life
in the Theatre and Renown at Stratford, Guthrie describes at length the prob-
lem of securing adequate footwear for performers. This challenge is also
addressed by Guthrie's designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch, who rejects the
notion that such apparel is relatively unimportant. This conventional wis-
dom, she insists, is "a fallacy on the open stage" because, in a theatre like
Stratford's, "shoes can let down the whole effect."
4
3 Moiseiwitsch may be
partly right, but Guthrie's insistence that for Richard III he "required
shoes of a shape, and in materials and colors, which bore no resemblance
to the shoes mass produced for the public"
44
seems excessive. I believe
that the real significance of the shoes for Guthrie lay in his rejection of
industrialism. Guthrie laments that "Canada, like the United States, is
organized for mass-production" and that it is "almost impossible to get
people to bother to make somethi ng for which there is no mass-demand,
39 Guthrie, A Lift in the Theatre, 324.
40
Ibid., 43.
41
Ibid., 324.
4
2 A. W House, "The Miracle of Stratford," Industrial Ca!lada 54, no. 5 (1953): 63.
43 Tanya Moiseiwitsch, "Problems in Design," Drama Survey 3 (Spring-Summer
1963): 114.
44 Guthrie, A Uft in the Theatre, 323.
CONFL!Cf!NG lDF.OLOGJCAL INTERPRETATIONS 13
for which no blueprint exists, which requires craftsmanship." Finally
Guthrie found "an aged Jewish craftsman," who was "delighted to feel
that his skill was valued again," to make shoes for Richard III. "Too old
for the rush and flurry of competitive mass-production," Guthrie moral-
izes, "he was still a first-rate tradesman."4S A similar "little bootmaker"
was found to provide footwear for All's Well That Ends Well.
46
For
Guthrie, the difference between the labors of these elderly cobblers and
the industrial output of modern shoe factories had a parallel in the per-
forming arts. Live theatre was "the source of the custom-made drama,"
whereas film and television only created "the sort of drama produced for
cheap mass-distribution," which "cheapened the art of acting by making
it over-familiar."4
7
Stratford had no tradition of live theatre, and Ontario
law at the time of the Festival's founding "defined a theatre simply as 'a
place where moving pictures are shown."'48 Guthrie may have used his
apparent obsession with quality and authenticity in props and costumes
to emphasize the genuine craftsmanship of his theatrical medium in con-
trast to cinematic mass-production.
The Challenge from Cinema
Guthrie understood that from a practical point of view theatre had to
change if it was to survive in the cinematic age; "we have all been spoilt
by movies," he wrote. Guthrie then elaborated:
Perhaps our eyes have been opened by the movies and
television. We expect to see the actors, we expect to hear
them, so spoilt are we. And if you are sitting at the back
of a theatre that holds 3,000 people you don't see the
actors at all, and you only hear them if they are relayed
by a loudspeaker. It is a disappointing and dreary expe-
rience which people simply do not suppor t.
4
9
45 Tyrone Guthrie, "First Shakespeare Festival at Srratford, Ontario," in Ren01vn
at S !raiford, edited by Tyrone Guthrie, Robertson Davies, and Grant MacDonald (Toronto:
Clarke, Irwin, and Co., 1953), 14.
46 Guthrie, A Lift in the Theatre, 325.
47 Guthrie, " First Shakespeare Festival," 31.
4
8 John Pettigrew and Jamie Portman, Stratford: The First Thirty Years (Toronto:
Macmillan of Canada, 1985), 16.
49 Guthrie, "Thearre at Minneapolis," 34.
14 FALOCCO
As opposed to a "dreary" experience in the cheap seats of a large prosce-
nium auditorium, the thrust stage offered the kind of "close-up" per-
spective which the film-going public had come to expect.
Guthrie also believed, in accordance with Gary Taylor's later
assertion regarding the relationship of cinema to the Elizabethan
revival,SO that the open stage's lack of scenic illusion spared the theatre
from having to compete with film in terms of verisimilitude. Guthrie
claims, "most thoughtful people realized the moment the movies had
passed the bioscope stage, that the death-knell was ringing for theatrical
realism."51 He elsewhere notes, "I lost interest in naturalism when I began
to believe that the cinema was a better medium for naturalistic expression
than the theatre."52 Guthrie said of the stage he built for the Stratford
Festival that, in contrast to cinematic illusion, "there is no possibility of
scenery at all. Any scenery is created in the imagination of the audience
by the words. And that is the right way." Such an approach was impossi-
ble in traditional theatres "because of the architecture of the buildings."
A proscenium audience is "placed all on one side" while "looking at a pic-
ture frame" and is therefore "conditioned by the shape of the auditori-
um and 10 generations of playgoing to expect a picture."S3 These visual
expectations increased once audiences began to frequent movie houses
regularly. The open stage shifted this paradigm of perception, and
allowed the public to judge live drama on its own terms without unfa-
vorable comparisons to cinema.
Guthrie believed that theatre would prosper only if it offered its
public something film could not by giving spectators the chance to
impact the quality of performance through their "assistance" and
response. His communal vision was developed partly in response to cin-
ema. "Theatre-going," he claimed, "is a sociable, a shared experience"
because "the audience, unlike the audience for movies or television, has
an active part to play, has to do its share towards creating the perform-
ance, [and] can make or mar the occasion."S4 The power of the public in
this regard is greatly increased by the intimacy of the thrust configura-
50 Gary Taylor, Reinventing Shakespeare: a Cultural History from the Restoration to the
Present (New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989), 274.
51 Guthrie, "Theatre at Minneapolis," 46.
52 Guthrie, A Life in the Theatre, 200.
5
3
"A Regisseur Reflects," Times (London), 10 April1959, 14.
54 Guthrie, A New Theatre, 70.
(ONFL!CITNG IDEOLOGICAL lNTERPRET,ITIONS 15
tion. Knowles is correct when he writes that at Stratford the stage and the
building "are, to a large extent, themselves the message." I disagree, how-
ever, with what he takes this message to be. While Knowles believes that
this "stage and its auditorium impose physical conditions that once again
construct audiences as passive consumers of the production-as-product
and that support the replication of capitalist and patriarchal structures,"55
I feel that this interpretation overlooks the real sense of empowerment
through active engagement which Guthrie's open stage provides its pub-
lic. This effect is not afforded by cinema or proscenium theatre-modes
of performance which, in my view, tend far more to "construct audiences
as passive consumers" in the service of "capitalist and patriarchal struc-
tures" than does the thrust stage at Stratford.
Colonialism
In dealing with his Canadian collaborators, Guthrie was not above using
his position as a "looming patriarch of British Theatre"56 to exert "to the
full the aura of exotic authority brought all the way from old England."5
7
Yet Knowles's interpretation of the Festival's creation as "the solidifica-
tion of a delayed colonial celebration of a nineteenth-century brand of
Canadian nationalism configured on an imperialist British model"S8
should be at least partly mitigated by Guthrie's expressed notions with
regard to Canadian identity, sentiments which reflect his broader attitude
toward colonialism. Guthrie strove to make the Stratford project as much
as possible "an effort for and by Canadians."59 "It was Dr. Guthrie,"
Herbert Whittaker wrote in 1958, "who established the Festival's partic-
ular flavor of Canadianism," a characteristic which "was more responsi-
ble for the success of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival than any other
factor."60 Guthrie's writings display sensitivity to the topic of cultural
55 Richard Paul Knowles, "Shakespeare, 1993, and the Discourses of the
Stratford Festival, Ontario," 219.
56 Salter, ''Acting Shakespeare," 120.
5
7
James Forsyth, Tyrone Guthrie: A Biograpf?y (London: Hamish Hamilton,
1976), 226.
58 Knowles, "Nationalist to Multinational," 20.
59 Guthrie, "Shakespeare at Stratford, Ontario," 127.
60 Herbert Whittaker, The Stratford Festival 1953-1957 (foronro: Clarke, Irwin,
and Co., 1958), xxiii.
16 FALOCCO
hegemony. He hoped that Canadians would be able "to assimilate classi-
cal works of art as part of their own heritage, not just regard them as
imports, acquired at second-hand from overseas."GJ Guthrie acknowl-
edged that in "the first year, although there were only four British actors,
the weight they pulled was out of all proportion to their numbers." But
he pointed to greater equity in 1954, when in Measure for Measure "two of
the three chief characters were played by Canadian actors" and in "The
Taming of the Shrew both the leading players were Canadian."62 Brooks
Atkinson of the New York Times acknowledged Guthrie's attempts to use
local talent, writing in 1953, "most of the actors-and very good ones
too-are Canadian professionals."63
Some critics have dismissed Guthrie's "drive for a Canadian
character" as "so much rubbish."6
4
Dennis Salter, for instance, cites
Michael Langham's 1982 observation that "there was never anything
Canadian about Stratford .... [I]hat was a diplomatic thing Guthrie
cooked up" as proof of Sir Tyrone's insincerity.6S Langham, however, did
not work in Stratford until 1955, when he directed Julius Caesar before
taking charge of the entire Festival from Guthrie.66 He therefore could
have had only limited knowledge of what transpired during the first two
seasons, which was the time of Guthrie's greatest involvement. Knowles
suggests that Guthrie quickly abandoned any aspirations of promoting
Canadian nationalism. ''As early as 1954," he observes, "Guthrie admit-
ted, 'I don't know how far it may be possible to interpret a classical play
in a distinctively Canadian way."'67 This quotation of Guthrie is from ''A
Long View of the Stratford Festival" published in Twice Have the Trumpets
5 ounded. The defeatist attitude Knowles attributes to Guthrie is, I believe,
called into question by the director's suggestion, immediately preceding
the passage cited by Knowles, that "a Festival's claim to be a Canadian
61 Guthrie, ''A Long View," 167.
62 I bid., 145.
63 Brooks Atkinson, "Canada's Stratford," New York Times, 19 July 1953, Xl.
6
4
Nathan Cohen, "Theatre Today: English Canada," Canadian Theatre History:
Selected Readings, edited by Don Rubin (Toronto: Copp Clark Ltd., 1996), 236.
65 Salter, ''Acting Shakespeare," 121. Ellipsis in the original.
66 Forsyth, Tyrone Guthrie, 252.
67 Knowles, "Nationalist to Multinational," 24.
CONFLICflNG lDEOl.OGJCAL INTERPRETATIONS 17
institution might be based upon the fact that the company of actors was
overwhelmingly Canadian."68
In this same essay, Guthrie rejects the notion that Canadian
actors should eliminate regionalisms from their speech. This is significant
in terms of Knowles's critique of the Stratford Festival's colonialist lean-
ings. In "Shakespeare, Voice, and Ideology: Interrogating the Natural
Voice," Knowles claims that voice training which advocates so-called
"neutral" speech "clearly reinforce[s] North American Anglophilia as
embodied in 'ye olde' Shakespeare Festivals across the continent, in imi-
tation of British voice and other training" and therefore betrays its "ide-
ological underpinnings" as a means of cultural repression.69 Guthrie
agrees. He not only claims that "it would be quite wrong for Canadian
actors to try to pronounce the words of a classical play in an assumed
'English' accent."70 Guthrie goes further, suggesting that "the plays of
Shakespeare should be presented by Canadian actors speaking in a rec-
ognizably Canadian manner." He believes that " the most distinctive char-
acteristic of Canadian actors is their speech" and prefers this indigenous
vocalization to either British accents or "the macedoine of dialects which
passes for English on the rare occasions when Shakespeare's heard on
Broadway."7t Guthrie's advocacy of regional Canadian speech is there-
fore, by the terms of Knowles's own analysis, progressive rather than
reactionary.
Guthrie's praise of Canadian speech and of Canada in general
may have been, as Cohen and Salter assert, no more than public relations.
If Guthrie was insincere, however, he was at least consistent. A decade
later he expressed similar concerns regarding cultural imperialism when
planning his namesake theatre in Minneapolis. "We certainly did not want
it to appear," he wrote of this venrure, "as if once again Britain were try-
ing to instruct the colonists."
72
Elsewhere during this same period
Guthrie explained:
68 Guthrie, "A Long View," 166.
69 Richard Paul Knowles, "Shakespeare, Voice, and Ideology: Interrogating the
Natural Voice," in Shak£speare, Theory, and Peifornrance, edited by James C. Bulman (London:
Routledge, 1996), 103.
70 Guthrie, "Long View," 185.
71
Ibid., 175.
72 Guthrie, A New Theatre, 43.
18
Just because I come from Britain it is extremely impor-
tant that I don't seem to be shoving British products
down their throats. The American theatre is always
being grand-mothered by us. We come over and say
"Old darlings, you really don't know anything about it!
We have been at it for five centuries. Let me show you!"
And it doesn't do. These are grown-up people who are
developing their own theatre. If you are working in the
1-1iddle West this must be . . . an expression of the
Middle WestJ3
FALOCCO
Guthrie's comments on his work in the United States and his earlier hope
that the Stratford Festival would provide "Canadian artists" with a means
to "express what the Canadian climate, the Canadian soil and their fellow
Canadians have made of them"
74
suggest greater enlightenment on
Guthrie's part toward issues of national identity than his detractors have
acknowledged.
Elements of Guthrie's own biography may have attuned him to
the complications of cross-cultural collaboration. Robert Shaughnessy
suggests that Guthrie's ''Anglo-Irishness" and his awareness of "Ireland's
troubled passage towards a post-colonial national identity" made him
particularly sensitive to issues of imperialismJS Guthrie's views on the
Irish question were passionate. His Protestant family's life had been
turned upside down when their county was awarded in 1922 to the Irish
Free State rather than to the British-ruled North.76 Guthrie compared the
inequitable sectarian divide in Northern Ireland with racial segregation in
the Jim Crow South77 and frequently argued for Irish unificationJB
This personal connection to the Irish troubles helped make
Guthrie throughout his career a champion of local empowerment and
expression. He wrote of his early theatrical experiences in Belfast and
73 Guthrie, "Theatre at Minneapolis," 40.
74 Guthrie, ''A Long View," 171.
7
5 Shaughnessy, The Shakespeare Effect, 91.
16 Forsyth, Tyrone G11thrie, 37.
7
7 Tyrone Guthrie, "Sir Tyrone Guthrie Speaks to the People of Northern
Ireland," Listener 31 Guly 1969): 150.
78 "Guthrie Apology for Border Remark," Times (London) 17 December 1964, 7.
CONFUCTING IDEOLOG!Ci\L INTERPRETATIONS 19
Glasgow, "while I was in Ireland and Scotland I believed that indigenous
drama was a valuable element in both national development and interna-
tional understanding."
7
9 Guthrie acted on his principles in 1926 when he
resigned a secure job with the BBC to produce "theatre on a shoestring"
with the nationalist Scottish Players80 and similarly championed local
expression while working in Australia, Canada, and the United States.8
1
Guthrie insisted, however, that the only way for practitioners in
these countries to develop their own traditions of dramaturgy and per-
formance was to immerse themselves in the classics of western theatre.
"I believe," Guthrie wrote in 1953, "that it is only through the classics
that either artists or audience can be adequately trained."82 This belief,
perhaps understandably, has provoked the ire of some postmodern
Canadian critics. "Guthrie even went so far," Margaret Groome laments,
"as to suggest that a distinctive Canadian theatre would emerge on!J out
of a study of Shakespeare and other classics."83 Yet Guthrie's logic was
not completely spurious. He reasoned that, since Canada had no indige-
nous tradition of written English drama, any attempts to establish a
canon for performance must be based on imitation. If Canadians were to
"go on writing and producing realistic comedies of Canadian life" these
would "remain mere copies of a naturalistic theatre which is essentially
the product of nineteenth-century culture in Europe; and is already
bygone." Far better, he claimed, for a "distinctive national style, whether
of acting, producing, writing or criticizing plays" to "be founded on the
study of the classics."84 Guthrie's intentions were noble, but his
Eurocentric viewpoint offended later critics writing from a multicultural
perspective.
It may be impossible for any representative of a dominant cui-
79 Guthrie, A Lzje in the Theatre, 347.
80 Forsyth, Tyrone Guthrie, 66-8.
81 Albert Rossi, Astonish Us in the Morning: Tyrone Guthrie Remembered (London:
Hutchinson and Co., 1977), 177.
82 Tyrone Guthrie, "Is Canada Ready for Big-Time Theatre?," Mayfair 27
(October 1953): 27.
83 Margaret Groome, "Stratford and the Aspirations for a Canadian National
Theatre," in Shakespeare in Canada: "a world elsewhere"? edited by Diana Brydon and Irena
R. Makaryk (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 126.
84 Guthrie, "First Shakespeare," 28.
20
FALOCCO
ture to completely rid himself of imperialist impulses, particularly when
dealing with that culture's former colonial subjects. I believe, however,
that the colonialist aspects of Guthrie's work at Stratford have been exag-
gerated by critics like Salter and Knowles, who have simultaneously 'over-
looked the more important ideological significance of his achievement.
Guthrie's larger agenda of empowering audiences and actors through
communal ritual, his quest to develop a new mode of theatrical expres-
sion in response to the technological dominance of cinema, and his egal-
itarian desire to expand the demographic base of theatre audiences and
break down the social and physical barriers separating public from per-
formers far outweigh any taint of cultural imperialism that clings to his
efforts.
jOURNAL OF AMERICAN DRAMA AND THEATRE 21, NO.1 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\liNTER 2009)
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST": 0RIENTALIST SURROGATIONS IN
MANIFEST-DESTINARIAN THEATRE
Mark Evans Bryan
Four weeks into its first production run at New York's Bowery Theatre
in autumn, 1847, the "beautiful national drama of 'The Siege of
Monterey"' was "still attracting thousands."
1
A stage anthology of "patri-
otic scenes," The Siege of Monterry, or the Triumphs of Rough and Reat!J• dram-
atized the "visions" of a sleeping General Zachary Taylor during the U.S.-
Mexico War.z The extravaganza was so popular in its initial week that
"hundreds of persons" were left without tickets on the streets of lower
Manhattan each night, and it fomented such imperialistic zeal in the
Bowery's working-class audience that the army's "recruiting service,"
argued one journalist, was "quite efficient in consequence."3 A national-
istic commemoration of U.S. victories in Mexico, The Siege o/ Monterry was
perhaps the most popular of such public spectacles during a vogue in
New York and Philadelphia for jingoistic theatrical celebrations of U.S.
conquest.4 During this period, the production's concluding episode was
certainly also the most witnessed islamicist-orientalist performance of
U.S. expansion and empire, a surrogation of the Arab for the Mexican
1
"Theatrical and Musical," New York Herald, 23 October 1847, 2 ("America's
Historical Newspapers," http:/ / www.readex.com, hereafter referred to as AHN). This
column, as well as the others that reported on The Siege of Monterey in the N ew York Herald
in the fall and winter of 1847-48, was likely written by Thomas W Whitley, a writer and
landscape painter, who was the drama columnist for James Gordon Bennett's "scandal
sheet" in the late 1840s and the author of his own orientalist drama, The Jesuit; Or, The
Amours of Capt. Effingham and the Lac!J Zanfa (1 850) .
2 George C. D. Odell, Annals of the Ne1v York Stage, volume 5 (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1931), 346.
3 "Theatrical and Musical," N ew York Herald, 2 October 1847, 2 (AHN);
"Query," "Fall and Winter Fashions for Genrlemen," Spirit of the Times 30 October 1847,
423, American Periodical Series, www:proquest.com, hereafter referred to as APS. The
Siege of Monterey was produced by Joseph C. Foster, an impresario of the spectacular
equestrian theatre in Philadelphia and New York.
4
Odell, Annals, 348-9, and Robert W Johannsen, To the Halls of the Montezumas:
The Mexican War in the American Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985),
219-20.
22 BRYAN
other in the aerialist and strongman act of the "Bedouin Arabs."S Anti-
Catholicism has long been understood as a powerful marginalizing narra-
tive in the rhetoric of expansion in the Jacksonian and antebellum United
States, but the islamicist-orientialist dramas of this period demonstrate
that such fictions of the Muslim world provided a ready paradigm for
demonizing Mexico and the North American frontiers, a model more
alien, more exotic, more barbaric for nativist theatre audiences than pop-
ular burlesques of Catholicism and Spanish colonial culture.
The citation of the "thousands" of spectators packing the
Bowery Theatre appeared in the New York Herald on 23 October 1847,
coupled with an admonition that customers "go early, or you cannot
secure a seat," for that evening's performance would be the last of "the
Bedouin Arabs," who had thrilled audiences in previous weeks with an
act that concluded with acrobatic "somersets over six men with bayo-
nets," blending orientalist spectacle with the representation of U.S. mili-
tary conquest.6 Such performances amalgamated orientalist images with
the representation of Catholic Mexico and the Native American frontier
during a period characterized famously by John Quincy Adams as a "cru-
sade of conquest," roughly from the Treaty of Ghent (1815) to the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), including continuing tension with
Europe and Muslim north Africa, the independence and annexation of
Texas, the Florida Wars, and the conflict commemorated by The Siege of
Monterry.
7
The former president predicted that the incipient wars would
be "of races-the Anglo-Saxon American pitted against the Moorish
Spanish Mexican American," enfolding Arab and Berber identity into the
racialist and culturalist rhetoric of Manifest Destiny. The leaps of the
"Bedouin Arabs" over the rifles of costumed soldiers in Foster's specta-
cle comprise a metonymic acrobatics, a manifestation and surrogation in
performance of orientalist barbarity for this composite "Moorish
Spanish Mexican American" other.
5 In The Cultural Roots if American lslamicism (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2006), Timothy Marr "highlights the lowercase term islamicism to clearly register (the]
variance between orientalist codes and Islamic faith" (7). In this study, I follow Marr's
model, using the uncapitalized "islamicist-orientalist" as a descriptor for these complex and
chimerical representations of culrure in the Islamic world in popular U.S. drama.
6 New York Herald, 23 October 1847, 2 (AHN).
7 John Quincy Adams's anti-slavery "crusade of conquest" speech occurred
during a House of Representatives debate on federal support for those affected by con-
flicts with Native Americans in Alabama and Georgia on 25 May 1836 (Essex Gazette, 18
June 1836, 1-2 [AHN]).
"CRUSADE or CONQUEST" 23
Produced six months before the signing of the accord that ended
La lntervencidn Norteamericana, Joseph C. Foster's Siege of Monterry was a
spectacular performance of nearly current events "involving the Fall of
Metamoras [sic], the Capture of Monterey [sic], the Bombardment of
Vera Cruz, and the Battle of Buena Vista."B Journalists described a pro-
duction in which audiences, investing in the "real[ity]" of the perform-
ance, enthusiastically applauded the entrances of the U.S. Army and greet-
ed their Mexican counterparts with hostility. Even "the marches and
manoeuvres of the military are performed according to rule," writes the
Herald columnist; it "is in fact a condensed history of the war, beautifully
illustrated"-presumably from the perspective of the expansionist
Herald-"a perfect panorama of the great events which have transpired
since the commencement of the war with Mexico."
9
The performance of
the Bedouin Arabs was distinct from both the Siege of Monterry itself and
the production's discrete afterpieces. But though not expressly integrated
into the dreams of "Old Rough and Ready," the act utilized the produc-
tion's scenic spectacle and supernumerary soldiers, literalizing Arab bar-
barity in the diegetic space of the Mexican world, trading desert for
desert. And though newspaper accounts note the engagement of New
York audiences with the events recreated on stage, the performance of
the "real" Bedouin Arabs required no similar suspension of disbelief.
Their act was repeatedly advertised, for instance, as the authentic specta-
cle of "Wild Children of the Desert" and the story of their initial engage-
ment by a U.S. circus manager on a trip to the "Eastern Continent" to
procure camels, was a key element of the troupe's publicity.JO At the
8 Odell, Annals, 346.
9 "Theatrical and Musical," New York Herald, 2-3 and 9 October 1847 (AHN).
10 With few exceptions duting the run of The Siege of Monterry, the Bedouin Arabs
performed in a concluding episode of the war spectacle and were then followed by discrete
afterpieces. The expanded, hippodromic version of the Arabs' "authentic" act included a
parade of "12 Real Syrian Camels," purported to be "Sacred," "the gift of ALLAH to the true
disciples of Mahomet" (advertisement for Howe & Company Circus, Cleveland Herald, 13 June
1848, "Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers," http:/ /www.gale.com). In the summer of
1848, there were seven members in the Bedouin Arabs: "Mustapha- The Athlete or flying
man. Malek-The Tamer of Wild Horses. Hamet-The Man of good councils. Mahomet-
the strong. Zazrac- The leader in deeds of war. Mahmoud- The Favorite. Alla- The ever
enduring. [And,] Kabri-The Sorcerer." But unlike similar objectifying performances of
exotic men and women during the period, the Bedouin Arabs appear to have been an inde-
pendent company, engaging separately with theatres and circuses in the eastern United States
during the late 1840s. A performance of the troupe in Boston the following winter, for
instance, was billed as a "benefit" for "Mahomet the strong," perhaps the most celebrated
member of the Bedouin Arabs (Dai!J Evening Transcript [11 February 1848), 2 [AHNJ).
24 BRYAN
Circus and National Theatre in Philadelphia, a year after the Arabs
worked with Foster at the Bowery Theatre, they again collaborated with
the theatre manager to mount a spectacle that alloyed images of the U.S.-
Mexico War ("Mr. E. Derkins, in his great act of Gen. Taylor's Campaign,
or the Flight of Santa Anna" and Mary Ann Wells in "The Spanish
Maid") and orientalist representations of the Islamic world: the enter-
tainment "commence(d] with a Grand Cavalcade entitled Warriors of the
Crescent, or The Beauties of the Harem," featured a performance by
"Maiden, the Sultana's pearl" (a horse), and concluded the first and sec-
ond acts with performances by the Bedouin Arabs, the "Dark Sons of
the Desert."
11
Indeed, this conjunction of the U.S. Army in Mexico and
islamicist-orientalist discourse in the mid-Atlantic U.S. even found its par-
allel with the conquering army in Mexico City. During the Christmas
week in 1847, The Seraglio of Tangiers was presented by W R. Hart at the
newly-renamed National Theatre, at which Hart was charged by the mil-
itary authorities to "establish the 'American Drama' in the [former] 'Gran
Teatre de Santa Anna."' The production included "a whole regiment of
soldieresses appearing and going through various military evolutions," a
performance that referenced the parade "discipline" of the U.S. Army,
inhering both the "harem" representations of orientalist drama and the
image of the Winfield Scott's army itself.12
Such spectacles reflect an alternative to the orthodoxy of schol-
arship on islamicist-orientalist popular theatre and drama during this per-
iod. Contemporary literary scholarship tends to associate the islamicist-
orientalist impulse in the U.S. with narratives opposing slavery and polit-
ical or religious tyranny. This discourse compares U.S. culture positively
to the imagined immoral practices of the oriental other, or, alternately,
upbraids the United Srates by contrasting slavery in North America with
the abolition of slavery in the Maghreb. Especially prominent in recent
literary and theatre scholarship, for instance, are the anti-slavery dramas
of the so-called Barbary Wars, such as Susanna Haswell Rowson's Slaves
in Algiers; Or, A Struggle for Freedom (1794). The consequent historio-
graphic scripturality of such texts has obscured the deeply unsettling role
that islamicist-orientalist discourse played, conversely, in the advocacy of
imperialism.
11 Classified advertisement for the Circus and National Theatre, North American
and United States Gazelle, 8 December 1848 (AHN).
1
2 The American Star, 20 October 1847, 2; 19 December 1847, 2. A subsequent
report in the American Star (21 December 184 7), which lists the title as The Seraglio of
Tangier, indicates that the "military evolutions" of these "soldieresses" referenced the
parade "discipline" of the U.S. Army (2).
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 25
In addition to the popular spectacles of theatrical auteurs like
Foster and Hart, islamicist-orientalist literary dramas, drawing both per-
formance and reading audiences, were templates for Manifest-
Destinarian performance. Noted anti-abolitionist novelist Caroline Lee
Hentz began her literary career with DeLara; Or, The Moorish Bride (1831),
a Byronic romance that racialized and demonized the Andalusian Arabic
roots of Spanish colonial culture. The drama was produced successfully
in Philadelphia and Boston and later published in an influential southern
literary journal. The metaphorical Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet (1848),
by poet and secessionist George Henry Miles, became famous when it
won the consolation prize in Edwin Forrest's competition for a new
drama in 1848; the play was celebrated in literary journals, if not in com-
mercial theatres. And The Jesuit; Or, The Amours of Capt. Effingham and the
Lat!J Zarifa (1850) by Thomas W Whitley-who was likely the very Herald
columnist who praised the performances of the Bedouin Arabs in The
Siege of Monterry--combined generic miscegenation melodrama, images
of the Second Seminole War and the first campaign of the U.S.-Mex.ico
War, a prominent reference to the mythology of James Fenimore
Cooper's "Leatherstocking" novels, and the broad strokes of the early
modern Spanish La Historia del Abencerrqje y Ia hermosa Jarifa. Whitley, a
landscape painter and theatre critic, published this, his only drama, in the
influential pages of the Democratic Review, in the pages of which the
phrase "manifest destiny" was coined.13
Although the theatrical spectacle of productions like The Siege of
Monterry---produced before the advent of practical documentary photog-
raphy and without extant dramatic texts- commended to later scholars
only traces of their materiality, much of the self-consciously literary
drama in the nineteenth-century United States has been neglected
because, though the primary archive is rich, no scriptural tradition has
matured. Moreover, despite popularity in the burgeoning publishing
world of the 1840s, as "literary territory," argues Richard Slatkin, "the
Mexican War barely ex.ists."1
4
Embraced by neither the historians of the
popular theatre nor the scholars of nineteenth-century literature, these
dramas are almost entirely disremembered 10 scholarship.
Contemporaneous critiques of Miles's Mohammed, in fact, seemed to
13 John L. O'Sullivan first used the phrase "manifest destiny" in an article
favoring the full annexation of Texas ("Annexation," Democratic Reviei/J 17 Duly-August
1845]: 5 [APS]).
14
Richard Slotkin, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age qf
Industrialization, 1800-1890 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998), 191.
26 B RYAN
antlctpate this. "Considering that this is not the best age for [literary]
compositions," wrote one reviewer of the published play, "the prize must
stand for fame. "1S The critic in the American W hzg Review, recognizing that,
having won Forrest's prize, the play had been "condemned almost with-
out a hearing" by many theatre-goers, felt "compelled [nonetheless] to
rank this tragedy above many that have attained a great celebrity." "In
blank verse," the Review continues, Miles had "not a superior in modern
times. Since Coleridge, it is the best."
1
6 Unfortunately, the commercial
tastes of earlier generations have conspired to efface dramas such as
Mohammed from literary and theatre history, and, critically in this case,
these dramas illuminate a powerfully marginalizing "crusade" in nine-
teenth-century popular theatre.
The complicated relation between the colonial Spanish empire,
arising from cultural syncretisms of Spanish, African, and indigenous
American cultures, as well as the cultural and political authority of Spain
itself-owing its culture both to Catholic Hispania and Islamic Al
Andalus-was an attractive subject for imperialist U.S. authors. The
translation of four hundred years of islamicist-orientalist English-lan-
guage literary practice to the representation and performance of the wars
with Mexico and the Seminoles was a fait accompli, for instance, in the
journalistic and popular rhetoric of these conflicts. Describing the Texan
and Mexican wilderness as an   Deserta" was an already prominent
journalistic metaphor.17 Newspaper writers and editors frequently com-
pared the long-running conflict between imperial France and Abd al
Qadir's resistance fighters in Algeria with the conflicts in Florida and
Mexico. Former U.S. Consul to Tunis, Mordecai Noah, writing in his New
York Evening Star, argued that the "powerful Arab army" of  
Kadir" was "like our Seminoles, indomitable in their hostility, crafty in
their plans, and bold in their attacks."
18
An 1847 editorial in the Louisville
15 "Literary Intelligence," Christian Examiner and &ligious Miscellany 49, no. 1
Ouly 1850): 156 (APS).
16 Review of Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet, American Wbig Review 6, no. 2
(August 1850): 217 (APS). The re\·iewer continues: "The structure of his tragedy is regu-
lar, and he follows the best models in the composition of his plot. He shows not only the
complete scholar in the substance of his work, but the true artist in its construction. To
all these excellencies we have only to add, that this tragedy of Mohammed is interesting ..
. it is full of genuine fire."
17 C. Austin Woodruff, "Adventure and Scenery in the Far South-West, No.
III," Southern Literary Messenger 7 Ouly/ August 1841): 471 (APS).
18 "Editor of the New York Evening Star," "The Algerian and French \X'ar," The
North American, 1 January 1840, 1 (AHN).
"CRUSADE oF CoNQUEST" 27
Journal used the conflict in Algeria-a costly war the French had fought
for "upwards of sixteen years," having secured only an untenable "mili-
tary possession"-as an argument against the conquest and military
occupation of Mexico, the ''All Mexico" position of many advocates of
slavery in the South and also of some abolitionists in the North.
1
9 In the
summer of 1846, a (Charleston) Southern Patriot correspondent conclu-
ded a report on the French-Algerian conflict by noting that the "great
body of the Mexican people are not a whit more civilized than the sav-
ages of [Algeria] and are not to be treated a jot more respectfully. The
people of the United States cannot regard them as equals .... The
Mexicans are as capricious in their moods as any barbarians, and their
arrogance and insolence ... is even greater than that of Sikh or Arab."ZD
Indeed, this evocation of race epitomizes the journalistic synde-
ses of the I slamic world and Catholic Mexico. A widely-reprinted 1846
Philadelphia Ledger editorial, for instance, described the multicultural
Mexican people as "the Arabs of the American continent."2
1
A 1\lew
Orleans Tropic writer described the "countenances" of Mexicans as
"hideous from natural physiognomy": they have "the look of Arabs."2
2
The Mexican people, "with its Arab blood," wrote a Philadelphia Evening
Bulletin correspondent in 1847, have "inherited ... the wild and turbulent
spirit, conjoined with the vindictive hatred, of the Ishmaelites of the
world. For the Mexican race-we speak now of the Spanish portion of
it and not the Indian-is strongly tinged with the blood of the desert."
The Bulletin writer continues, noting that the "greater part of Spain ...
was of Arab blood": "The Mexican race, we shall find, is true to its
parentage. In it are displayed ... most of the characteristics for which
these sons of the desert have been celebrated since they first went forth
under Ishmael. Do you want a name for perfidy? In Europe they call it
19 New Hampshire (Keene) Sentinel, 3 February 1847, 2 (AHN).
20 "From a Correspondent, New York, June 26," The Southern Patriot, 8 July
1846, 2 (AHN).
21 Ohio Statesman (Columbus), 3 June 1846, 3 (AI-l.N): "The Rancheros, part of
the materiel of the Mexican army, are half lndian and half Spanish in their extraction;
gaunt, shriveled, though muscular in their frames, and dark and swarthy visaged as they
are, these men are the Arabs of the American continent ... ever on the alert, never to be
surprised, and untiring in the pursuit of the foe, when plunder, no matter how trifling, is
to be obtained."
22 "The Mixed Character of the Mexican People," Ne1v Orleans Tropic, in Dwight's
American Magazine, 5 September 1846, 495 (APS).
28 BRYAN
Arab treachery, in America, Mexican deceit."23 The Quarter!J Revieuls 1844
review of William H. Prescott's History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843), on
the other hand, located Prescott's islamicist representation in the nation's
indigenous peoples, exaggerating, in fact, Prescott's characterization. The
review calls Nezahualcoyotl a "Western Sultan," who kept a "harem" and
wrote poems that "echoed along the course of Eastern, at least
Mahometan poetry'' and compares the fifteenth-century Acolhua leader
to Harun al-Rashid, the Abbasid caliph fictionalized in The Arabian
Nights, and to Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, the sixteenth-century
Mughal emperor.24 Not surprisingly, when General Antonio Lopez de
Santa Anna arrived in Vera Cruz on a British steamship in August 1846,
accounts in U.S. newspapers prominently and repeatedly announced the
ship's name: "The Arab," one dispatch recorded as Santa Anna
approached, "is in sight."2S
And though anti-progressive and pro-slavery islamicist-oriental-
ist discourse acquired a pointed imperialist narrative in playwriting in the
United States in the 1830s and 1840s, this particular burlesquing of life
in the Islamic world emerged shortly after, and perhaps in response to,
the anti-slavery dramas of the turn of the nineteenth century. Edwin C.
Holland's stage version of Byron's "Turkish Tale," The Corsair(1814), for
instance, is a largely faithful adaptation-with one major exception-of
the heroic poem that limns the raid of the pirate, Conrad, on the "haram"
of Seyd, "Pacha of Caron." Published in 1818 in Charleston, South
Carolina, and performed at the Charleston Theatre, Holland's drama was
one of the first of many performance adaptations of The Corsair.26 But
although the setting likely reminded its audience of the occupation of
Greece by the Ottoman Empire and the action, as ordained by Byron,
23 "The Mexican Race," Philadelphia Evming Bulletin, Boston &corder, 20 May
1847, 80 (AHN).
2
4
"Prescott's History of the Conquest of Mexico," Quarter!J Review, reprinted in the
Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature (March 1844): 338-40 (APS).
25 "Vera Cru:c, Aug. 16, 1846," New Hampshire Sen tine/, 9 September 1846, 2. In
an article reporting on General LOpez de Santa Anna's arrival in Vera Cruz from the N ew
Orleans Picqyune, for instance, the ship's name is used nine times in seven short paragraphs
(AHN).
26 Edwin C. Holland, The Corsair (Charleston, SC: A. E. Miller, 1818). The orig-
inal production of Holland's adaptation was noted in numerous newspapers, as far afield
as Boston, where that city's Independent Chronicle & Boston Patriot noted that "numerous and
respectable audiences evinced their approbation of this effort of natiye genius in a very
liberal manner" (7 March 1818, 4) (AHN).
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 29
involves the emancipation of a Persian slave from the seraglio, Holland's
play is less concerned with liberation than with the material hazards of
slavery for the slaveowner, the precariousness of power in a society with
women and men in bondage.2
7
Holland, a newspaper editor and some-
time poet, is best-known as the author of A Refutation of the Calumnies cir-
culated against the Southern & Western States, Respecting the Institution and
Existence of Slavery among Them (1822), a defense of slavery and of
Holland's role two years earlier in the dissolution of an African Methodist
Episcopal congregation in Charleston, an action that eventually led to the
execution of Denmark Vesey. Holland's defense of the indefensible clo-
ses with what became its most famous lines: "Let it never be forgotten,"
he warns, that "our NEGROES are truly the Jacobins of the country; that
they are the anarchists and the domestic enem)'."2B Holland's adaptation of
The Corsair, written just two years before the beginning of the Vesey
affair, reflects these fears of slave sansculottes. The drama culminates in
the escape of Conrad and Gulnare, the Persian slave, from Seyd's palace.
Their flight is facilitated by the sedition of the Pacha's henchmen and
secured when Gulnare murders Seyd. Reunited with Conrad, she explains
that her guards, slaves themselves, were "ripe for revolt" and easily con-
vinced to betray their master, a sequence translated faithfully to the stage
from Byron. But although Seyd is Conrad's enemy and captor, the mani-
fesdy Christian and European Conrad is horrified when he comes face to
face with a slave bathed in her master's blood.
Seyd's murder is a sin against honor for Byron's Christian pirate,
but an entirely different mode of sin in Holland's imagination. The South
Carolinian distorts the scene in which Gulnare and Conrad negotiate her
absolution and purges the poem's implied sexuality in their later embrace.
In Byron's poem, Conrad is stunned into silence by the homicide,
unchained by Gulnare's fellow freed slaves, and hastened to his ship; only
later, on his journey home, does he consider Gulnare's pleas for forgive-
ness, his "hate for that deed" but his "grief for her distress," and finally
embraces her.2
9
Holland's Gulnare, however, pleads with the privateer
27 "Coron" is the Venetian and Turkish name for Koroni, in the Peloponnese.
The events that culminated in the Greek War of Independence (1821-29) were watched
with interest by many opponents of slavery in the U.S.
2
8
Edwin C. Holland, A Rtjutation of the Calumnies circulated against the Southern &
Western States, Rtspecting the Institution and Existence of Slavery among Them (Charleston: A. E.
Miller, 1822; rpt. New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969), 86.
2
9
George Gordon Byron, "The Corsair," The Select Poetical Works of Lord Byron
(Paris: B. Cormon and Blanc, 1836), Canto III, part xvii, 51.
30 BRYAN
during his stupor, with Seyd's blood still on her hands and Conrad help-
less in chains. Although he offers her his gratitude, the concord they
reach is uncertain ("When thou hast heard the story of my wrongs,"
while enslaved in Seyd's "haram," Gulnare predicts "then, wilt thou just-
ify, what now, thou must/ Unsparingly condemn!-more of this anon!-
Let us away!"). She then "claps her hands," Holland writes, and Conrad
is loosed from his chains and "suffers himself to be led out by
Gulnare."30 Byron's pirate and harem slave have a romantic rapproche-
ment on the deck of his ship, despite his intent to return to his wife; but
in Holland's play, Gulnare frees a conflicted Conrad and then disappears
from the play, unloved and unforgiven. Holland's version of the denoue-
ment is a uniquely and shamefully American perspective on the romanti-
cist "raid of the seraglio" tale, an unironic dramatic exposition of one of
William Lloyd Garrison's famous satirical "Truisms" of slavery in the
U.S.: "a white man, who kills a tyrant, is a hero, and deserves a monu-
ment," but if "a slave kill his master, he is a murderer, and deserves to be
burnt."31
The Young Carolinians,- or; Americans in Algiers (1818) was published
in the same year and by the same Charleston press as Holland's version
of The Corsair. Written by Sarah Pogson Smith, the English-born daugh-
ter of a slaveholding plantation owner, this melodrama of Euro-
American captives in north Africa is a distinctly southern rendering of
the broad strokes of Slaves in Algiers. Indeed, it is remarkably conditional
in its depiction of slavery and contains one of the first overt defenses of
the institution in U.S. drama.32
The narrative follows the travails and eventual escape of the
newly-captured "young Carolinians" as they survive the abuses of slavery
in Algiers and attempt to return home, where slavery is a different insti-
tution. In Pogson Smith's Algiers, male slaves are worked nearly to death
at the point of a sword, and Ellinor, the principal female character, must
beg and maneuver to avoid sexual slavery in the Dey's seraglio. The play's
initial description of captivity imagines "slaves yoked together in great
30 Holland, The Corsair, 48-50.
31 William Lloyd Garrison, "Truisms," The Uberator 1, no. 2 (8 January 1831): 1
(AHN).
32 Charles S. Watson, who attributes the play to Maria Pinckney, claims it com-
prises "the first defense of slavery in a southern play" in The History of Soulhem Drama
(Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997), 46. Amelia Howe Kritzer's argument for
the authorship of Pogson Smith, rather than Pinckney, is persuasive (Plays I?J Ear!J
American Women, 1775-1850 [Ann Arbor: University of l'vfichigan Press, 1995), 20).
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 31
numbers" clearing stone, with "Turks ... standing over the slaves with
goads and whips," one of whom is "lashing about his whip, unmerciful-
ly driving the slaves." St. Julien, one of the Carolinians, condemns the
"Savage, cruel drivers": ''Ye have pierced my flesh with your keen goads.
My toil-worn wretched body cannot endure such usage much longer. 0,
that this feverish languor did not so reduce me; unnerved, unnerved, by
these incessant trials beyond my strength."33 He decries the condition and
practice of his bondage, but not the state of forced servitude itself. In the
following scenes, which alternate between depictions of the differing
modes of slavery in Charleston and Algiers, the manner of slavery in the
Islamic state is condemned time and again, but the institution is not.
Indeed, it is defended: in Charleston, the African-American slave, Cudjoe,
compares his life to that of a poor white laborer.
I slave for true; but poor folks must work e\·ery where.
Suppose me poor buckra; well, I serve some rich buck-
ra, him pay me; but when Cudjo sick, or lame, or old too
much for work, him turn me away; now misses pay me
too-for I get plenty of good ting for eat, and when I
sick, ah! my deary mistress give me too much nasty stuff
for cure me ... she look pon me with one kind eye,
same like a dove-glad to see poor old Cudjo well.34
Moreover, the limens of U.S. racialized slavery, the charitable institution
Cudjoe describes, are absent in Algiers' upside-down version of slavery
in the American South. Consequently, the relationship between slave and
slaveholder inheres potential chaos for Algiers' society. Ellinor, for
instance, is saved from the seraglio by Achmet, a Jannisary captain who
falls in love with her and offers to marry her and protect her brother. His
father, Mustapha, objects to his son's interest in Ellinor (who does not
return Achmet's affection) not, it seems, because a union between the two
is beyond imagining or the code of law, but because it seems dangerou-
sly plausible. Like the blocking character in a Renaissance comedy,
Mustapha must manipulate and scheme to frustrate Achmet's desire.
Slavery in Algiers, Pogson Smith seems to argue, is a form of cultural
helotry, ill-defined and ripe for abuse, rather than the moral and benefi-
cent (and racially-prescribed) servitude of the Carolinas. Muslim slavery
33 Pogson Smith, The Young Carolinians, from Essqys, Religious, Moral, Dramatic &
Poetical (Charleston: A.E. Miller, 1818), 66-7.
3
4
Ibid., 96.
32 BRYAN
is cruel, Pogson Smith contends, because it little resembles the putatively
righteous and pastoral institution in her United States.
Echoing Pogson Smith's defense of slavery, Caroline Lee Hentz
penned what would become one of the most celebrated anti-abolitionist
novels, The   Northern Bride (1854) in response to Uncle Cabin
(1852).35 Hentz's literary career began in earnest, however, in 1831, when
her drama, De Lara, or The Moorish Bride, won a contest for a new tragedy
sponsored by actor and manager William Pelby. Produced in 1831 in
Boston and Philadelphia, where it was judged by a "confident" reviewer
"the very best piece in the catalogue of the American Drama," the play
was reinvigorated in print in the South in 1843. It was published in the
short-lived literary magazine, The Southron, founded and edited by
Alexander Beaufort Meek, the romanticist, Southern-exceptionalist poet,
who, in the first issue of his journal, "called upon his fellow Southerners
to take advantage of the leisure afforded by the slave society ... to dev-
elop a literature comparable to that of European countries."36
De Lara is a dramatic concretization of the association of
Catholic Spain (and, by extension, Catholic Mexico) with "the Arab
blood" and "inherited ... vindictive hatred" to which the later Philadelphia
Evening Bulletin correspondent referred. Set in a "Castle on the frontier of
Granada" as the armies of the Castilian Laras and Granada's Prince,
Abdallah, struggle for power, the play is an islamicist-orientalist romance
that seeks to tar Spanish culture with the fictive barbarism of its
"Moorish" roots. Fernando de Lara, whose father has recently been mur-
dered, is in love with Zoraya, daughter of Abdel Osman of the
Abencerrajes of Granada. In the final scenes, Osman is proved a villain
and the love between Lara and Zoraya is ultimately a tragic one. Indeed,
De Lara is finally a miscegenation melodrama, though a romantic and ori-
entalist one, and resembles the dramas that would prove exceptionally
35 Caroline Lee Hentz, The Planter} Northern Bnde (Philadelphia: A. Han, 1854).
Hentz argues that enslaved African Americans were "the happiest labouring class on the
face of the globe," that the ownership of slaves was comparable to a "parental authority,"
and that the condition of slavery in the South was characterized by "affectionate kindness
and care on one side, and loyal and devoted attachment on the other" (volume I, v-vi).
36 The play was subsequently published as De Lara, Or, The Moorish Bride, A
Tragetjy in Five Acts (fuscaloosa, Alabama: Woodruff and Olcott, 1843); page numbers
refer to this single-volume edition. With Pelby in the lead role of "Fernando de Lara," De
Lara was produced at the Arch Street Theatre and at Pel by's Tremont Theatre in Boston
in 1831. Benjamin Buford Williams describes Tbe Southron in A Literary History of Alabm11a:
The Nineteenth Cenlllry (Rutherford, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press,
1979), 42-5 and 51-2.
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 33
popular in the ensuing decades in plays set in the slaveholding culture of
the southern United States. But it is principally a drama profoundly dis-
trustful of syncretic Spanish culture, in which crypto-Muslim identity is
racially-identified, inherent, and dangerous.
For her title character, Hentz has composited a group of fic-
tional and historical figures from Spanish history, a task easily accom-
plished by an English-language author in the 1820s and 1830s. The early
nineteenth century was a period of genuine fascination with Muslim
Spain in publishing and popular culture in the United States and Britain.
Popular travelogues described the Alhambra, Alcazar, and the Great
Mosque of Cordova. Orientalist fiction was in vogue; Washington Irving,
for example, penned The Chronicles of the Conquest of Granada (1829) and
Tales of the Alhambra (1832), and Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote (1605),
with its fictional Moriscan provenance, was published in English in
dozens of editions. The Lara name itself is intertwined in fiction and his-
tory with the conflicts between Catholic Castile and Muslim Granada.
Members of the family were noble servants of the Castilian crown for
generations, both fighting and allying with Andalusian Muslims, and the
family was even rumored to have been part of an apocryphal lineage that
links the Muslim dynasties of Granada, Cordova, and Seville (and
through them, the Prophet Muhammad himself) to the kings of Castile,
through Zaida, the Christian convert who married King Alfonso VI in
the eleventh century.37
In the popular medieval romancero of the "seven sons of Lara,"
one of Gonzalo Gustos de Lara's sons kills a "Moor" at his uncle's wed-
ding. In revenge, Gonzalo Gustos' brother betrays him to the Muslim
king of Cordova and Gonzalo Gustos de Lara is imprisoned and his sons
killed and beheaded. When he finally escapes, it is with the help of the
king's sister, also called Zaida, with whom he has fallen in love and con-
ceived another son, Mudarra, who will finally seek the Lara family
revenge. (Hentz called her heroine "Zoraya," a name which shares only
its first and last letters with the "Zaida" of history and literature and is
derived from neither Spanish nor Arabic sources; it may, however, be a
misremembered near-homophone for "Zoraida," the Muslim woman
who figured in the narrative of Don Quixote's escape from Algiers, or
"Zorilda," the heroine of Monk Lewis's Timour the Tartar [1811], the ori-
37 See, for instance, Nancy Joe Dyer's ''Alfonsine Historiography: The Literary
Narrative," Emperor of Culture: Alfonso X, the Learned of Castile, and his Thirteenth-century
Renaissance, edited by Robert I. Burns (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
1990), 141-59, and Bernard F. Reilly, The Kingdom of Leon-Castilla under King Alfonso VI,
1065-1109 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 234.
34 BRYAN
entalist equestrian spectacle popular in the United States as late as the
1840s.) The story of the children of Lara and the revenge of Mudarra
was retold and adapted in many English-language iterations, including
Robert Southey's popular Chronicle of the Cid, from tbe Spanish (1808);
poems such as]. G. Lockhart's "The Vengeance of Mudarra" (1823) and
Victor Hugo's "Don Rodrigo" (1828), translated and published in a vari-
ety of editions; travelogues such as Reminiscences of Spain (1833) by Caleb
Cushing; romanticist poet and critic Leigh Hunt's drama, A Father Avenged
(1828); and works of history, such as George Power's The History of the
Empire of the Mum/mans in Spain and Portugal (1815) and Jean-Pierre Claris
de Florian's "History of the Moors in Spain," the volume-long introduc-
tion to his novel, Gonzalve de Cordoue, ou Grenade reconquise (1791), first
published in English in 1793 and available in the United States shortly
thereafter.38
De Lara begins by condemning the notion that a Christian,
Spanish identity might transcend Muslim roots. Abdel Osman has
feigned friendship and fealty to the elder Lara, Fernando's murdered
father, and publicly converted to Catholicism ("Now listed 'neath the
banner of the cross") to secure his release from Spanish bondage. In the
first scene, however, he must prove his "secret heart" to his vengeful
friend, Hassan. ''Vicissitudes change not the inner man," the old warrior
vows: "The soul of Abdel Osman is the same! I Is the keen, polished
cimeter transformed I Because, perchance, a foreign sheath conceals
it?"39 As the forces of Lara and Prince Abdallah, to whom Zoraya is
betrothed, do battle, Osman and his confederates scheme to destroy the
Christian Spanish and to separate Zoraya and Ferdinand de Lara. Finally,
accused of "false aposta[sy]," Osman, the secret Muslim, admits his
crime: "I own and glory in the deed [of murdering your father]! I By
me-Alhama's scourge, Grenada's fear, Castilia's pride-the great De
Lara fell! I I waited only till thy blood should fill the cup of my revenge,
to rend the veil." "Fools!" he cries, "did ye think . . . That I, an
Abencerrage, was indeed I The poor, meek, canting driveller that I
seemed?"
4
0 Lara mortally wounds Abdel Osman in the affray that follows
and "senseless" with grief, Zoraya declares that the "gulf between" she
38 Florian asserts that "it is from this Mudarra Gonzalva arc descended the
Mauriques of Lara, one of the greatest houses in Spain" (Gonzalva if Cordova; or Grenada
&coNquered [London: J. Johnson, 1793], 214).
39 Hentz, The Planter's Northern Bride, 10-11.
40 Ibid., 75.
"CRUSADE OF CONQUF.ST" 35
and Lara has now become "impassable, eternal--deep. I Oceans of
blood could not divide us more I Than this red stream, drawn from a
father's veins." Though Ferdinand de Lara is now bereft of love and hap-
piness ("Yes, we are sunder'd!-what is left for me?" he asks), he revels
in his vengeance. The unnatural union of the two has ended in bloodshed
and chaos. The character of syncretic Spain, Hentz alleges, is contami-
nated by its barbaric, oriental roots; the product of the union between
Catholic Hispania and Islamic Al Andalus is vile and violent. Wars of
expansion with despotic Spain or primitive Mexico, the play perhaps sug-
gests, are therefore beneficent campaigns for a (non-Catholic) Christian
emp1re.
With a similar, but pro-Catholic, agenda, George Henry Miles's
Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet (1848) dragoons the holiest narrative in
the Islamic tradition to assail the "Moorish Spanish Mexican American"
culture that Adams described and, unlike other dramatists, to deflect the
anti-Catholic sentiment that underscored this period in the United States,
transforming the conflict into one between a Christian nation and a cryp-
to-Islamic one. Likely one of the most discussed yet seldom seen dramas
of the antebellum period, Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet purported to
trace the "naked history" of the Muslim prophet's life from his revelation
until his death and, in doing so, created a transnational metaphor for the
conquest of Mexico by Zachary Taylor and the U.S. Army.4t
When :tvWes, the Maryland poet and professor, first drew this
parallel between Muhammad and Zachary Taylor, he was largely
unknown in northern literary circles. This historical tragedy, however,
attracted the attention of Edwin Forrest, the actor and iconic hero of
working-class northern U.S. audiences. Judged unstageworthy but the
most accomplished literary drama among its competitors, Mohammed
famously won the consolation, and only, prize in Forrest's 1848 competi-
tion for a new tragedy.4
2
In the years that followed the productions and
publication of Mohammed, Miles grew mildly famous as a playwright,
regional romanticist poet, and literary critic. An admirer of Byron, Irving,
Robert Browning, and Siglo de oro playwrights, Lope de Vega and
Calderon, Miles returned repeatedly in his writing to the crisis of the Civil
41 George Henrr fvWes, Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet: A Tragetfy, in Filii! Acts
(Boston: Phillips, Sampson & Co., 1850; rpt. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing,
2006), v.
42 Forrest, "To George H. Miles, Esq.," 7 December 1848, reprinted in John
Churton Collins, "Introduction," in George Henry l\liles, Said the Rose and Other LJrics
(New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1907), xix.
36 BRYAN
War, to slavery-which he favored-and to islamicist-orientalist fictions.
Written under a pseudonym, "God Save the South" (1863) is unques-
tionably Jiles's most famous work-with music composed by others, it
would emerge as a favorite anthem in the Confederacy-but the best-
known works originally attributed to Miles were a poetic defense of
Byron against the accusations of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Atlantic Month!J
expose, "The True Story of Byron's Life" (1869), and Miles's major
islamicist-orientalist writings: the dramas Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet
and Abou Hassan, the Wag,· or, The Sleeper Awakened (1868), and the
Manifest-Destinarian poem, ''Aladdin's Palace" (1858) .
4
3 In the poem, he
compares the United States to the magical Arabian fortress conjured in a
single night, representing Manifest Destiny as a crowning achievement of
democracy in the United States: "So from the dust our young Republic
springs I Before the dazzled eyes of Eastern Kings. I Not like old Rome,
slow spreading into state, I The century that freed beholds us great, I
Sees our broad empire belt the western world, I From main to main our
starry flag unfurled."44
A devout convert to Catholicism, J\files surrogates in Mohammed
the triumph of the title character's true believers over the "primitive"
Meccans with the conflict between the United States and Mexico in order
to diminish the Catholicity of the Mexican people while celebrating the
expansionist war. In the key moment of the battle for Mecca, the drama's
hero rallies his retreating followers by proclaiming "God and Mohammed
will support you now," the "resemblance between [which) and an answer
which has recently become a part of American history," Miles wrote, was
intentionaJ.45 "The answer" to which Miles refers is a legendary utterance
of Zachary Taylor: in 1847, at the Battle of Buena Vista, Taylor pur-
43 Stowe, "The True Story of Byron's Life," Atlantic Monthly 24, no. 143
(September 1869): 295-313. Miles's "Byron" was originally published the same month in
the Sun (Baltimore). Miles's writings on slavery and disunion include the equivocal seces-
sionist drama, The Seven Sisters (1859), performed in New York in 1861 and revived the
following year, and the words and music to "Contraband Now" (1864), a minstrel-dialect
song that laments the passing of the Union for the sake of "Uncle Sambo," whose "best
days," goes the chorus, "are all ober, / He's only a Contraband now!" (144-49). "God Save
the South" was written under the pseudonym "Ernest Halphin."
44 11iles, Said the Rose and Other Lyrics, 88.
45 Act 4, scene 3 of Mohammed ends with Mohammed rallying his retreating fol-
lowers in the battle for Mecca by proclaiming "God and Mohammed will support you
now" (106) . The 1850 publication includes an endnote suggesting that the "resemblance
between this and an answer which has recently become a part of American history" is
intentional (163 n12).
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST'' 37
portedly rallied the soldiers in his command by nearly single-handedly
reinforcing a critical position. "I have no reinforcements," he is said to
have declared, "but Major Bliss and I myself will support you now."
46
But Miles's "Mohammed" is not simply an allegorical represen-
tation of Taylor in the battle with the MeccansiMex.icans; the character
is also, counterintuitively, a perverted Christian hero. Although Miles's
Mohammed is a false prophet, "guilty of wilful deceit and imposture," he
is a messenger of "Eternal Truth," characterized by Miles as having "sin-
cerely believed in the Unity of God" and having "detested ... the slav-
ish superstition" of the Arab peoples.
47
Still, for Miles, he is a devil with
good intentions. Though he unites and rescues his people from animism
and religious strife, the play traces its protagonist's increasing megaloma-
nia, propensity for brutality ("Islam or death!" becomes the battle cry of
his forces), and the unscrupulous machinations of his followers to estab-
lish power in the caliphate that will follow his death. In the first scene,
after Cadijah finds her husband in deep sleep, as though "Some evil spir-
it I O'ershadows" him, she observes, Miles suggests the falsity of
Mohammed's testimony, insinuating that Mohammed has dreamed his
vision and based an essentially Christian dogma on a caravan to Syria, a
journey during which he "beheld I The rites of Jew and Christian, and
oft heard I the precepts of their sacred volumes. Then I The unknown
truths, of which [his] pining soul I Had vaguely dreamed, began to dawn
in beauty." He converts his wife, and as she lies prostrate before him
reciting the Shahadah, Miles describes Mohammed's reaction in the stage
directions: 'Whilst she speaks, with her face buried in her hands,
Mohammed silently gloats over his triumph."48 He demonstrates his
supernatural power as an ability to chicane potential followers: he begs
his god, for instance, not to smite Sophian, his rival, and, when no thun-
derbolt appears, he asserts falsely, the audience soon sees, that his "prayer
I Has stayed the avenging lightning, as it leaped I from Azrael's uplifted
hand."49 Alone in prayer, Mohammed admits to "Omniscient God" his
pretense and prevarication, as well as his vision for a new Arabia:
Omniscient God, I If I have tampered with thy awful
name, I And feigned communion with thy majesty, - I
46 "Anecdotes of Gen. Taylor," Barre [M.A] Gazette, 23 August 1847, 1 (AHN).
47 Miles, Mohammed, v-vi.
48 I bid., 2-8.
49
Ibid., 33-34.
38
If I have falsely worn the Prophet's mantle, I And false-
ly sworn to be thy messenger, - I 'Tis to reclaim the
erring soul of man, / To fix his longings on thy death-
less beauty, / To wipe the stigma from Arabia's brow. I
I am not an impostor!-in my youth / I sought and
found-now love and worship thee. / ... if I bring / A
nation to adore thee, shall I not /Deserve the splendid
title I usurp, / And be the Prophet I pretend to be?SO
BRYAN
By the end of Act 4, Miles has created another Tamburlaine in his
Mohammed: "I'll scourge the world! / ... Plucked from their thrones, /
Bareheaded kings shall tremble at my feet."51
There is nothing counterhegemonic in Miles's representation of
Mohammed's imposture, or in the character's increasingly barbaric and
autocratic behavior-these are the standard tropes of orientalist Euro-
American writing on Islam-but the "truth" that undergirds Miles's
tragedy is unexpected. The orientalist fantasy is a covert Catholic
endorsement of the war of conquest; the association of the Prophet with
Taylor is not an inversion of journalistic or literary allegories that associ-
ated Mexico with the Arab peoples in the 1840s, but an extension of this
preexisting construction with a debased, though Christian, Mohammed.
As Clayton S. Ellsworth has noted, the major Catholic newspapers in the
United States either offered equivocal support or "maintained editorial
silence" on the conflict with Mexico; many Catholic intellectuals followed
suit.52 The most prominent Catholic, however, to agitate for the full
annexation of the Mexican states-the "All Mexico" position-in order
to swell the number of Catholics in the United States and, consequently,
increase the power of the Catholic Church, was Orestes Brownson,
whom Miles admired and whose work influenced Miles's teaching and
writing. 53 During a period of extraordinary nativist and anti-Catholic sen-
50 Miles, Mohammed, 38. Italics in original.
51 Ibid., 116. The line refers to the first major orientalist fantasy in the English-
language stage tradition, Christopher Marlowe's Tamburfaine the Great (1587)-the refer-
ence is itself part of an early modern tradition of representing the Muslim as a "scourge"
of the Christian God-"1 that am termed the scourge and wrath of God, I The only fear
and terror of the world, I \X'ill first subdue the Turk, and then enlarge I Those Christian
capth·es which you keep as slaves" (Part One, 3.3, 44-47).
52 Clayton S. Ellsworth, "The American Churches and the Mexican War," The
American Historical Rer;ien; 45, no. 2 Qanuary 1940): 302.
53 Brownson later reversed his public support for the war, fearing that the
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 39
timent in the United States, Miles recasts Mexican Catholic identity,
pointing his anti-Catholic audience toward the heterodoxical Andalusian
Arabic roots of Spanish colonial culture instead of Mexico's state religion
of Catholicism. The surrogation in Mohammed denudes Manifest Destiny
of its anti-Catholic undercurrents by metaphorically reshaping the con-
flict as one not between Protestant, Anglo-American culture and Catholic
Mexico, but instead between "the Arabs of the American continent" and
a growing (and clandestinely, perhaps Catholic) Christian empire.
However, unlike the dramas of Holland, Pogson Smith, and
Hentz, Miles makes very few explicit references to the condition of slav-
ery in Mohammed's world. But the protagonist's descent into tyranny
points the drama to the uniquely pro-slavery politics of its southern
author. Early in the drama, Sophian asks Caled, who will later follow
Mohammed, if he has "marked, of late I The sudden change in this
Mohammed's manner- I How sternly through the Caaba he sweeps, I
Frowning upon our venerated idols . . . ?"5
4
Taylor, a Virginia-born slave-
holder and adamant political "non-partisan," was ultimately nominated
for president by the anti-expansionist Whigs, who were not unanimously
confident in their candidate's positions on slavery. Taylor's brief adminis-
tration, in fact, was opposed both to the diminution of slavery in the
southern states and to the expansion of slavery into the territories
acquired in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. "Sternly," Miles may have
perceived, did Taylor "sweep" into Washington, flush with expansionist
military victories and popular with southern voters; but, in Taylor's reluc-
tance to nurture the institution of slavery (and, indeed, to condemn it by
impeding its expansion and, consequently, its favorable representation in
Congress), the slaveholding president "frown[ed] upon" the "venerated
idols" of his fellow Southerners. Indeed, aside from Mohammed's con-
sultations with his slave, Zeid, and the almost supernumerary function of
servant characters, slavery, in Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet, is concomi-
tant with the growth of empire; Miles avoids the representations of chat-
tel slavery of his fellow southerner dramatists. As Mohammed's power
grows, the condition of slavery as a punishment for conquered peoples
becomes the dominant image. He brags, for instance, that the children of
the Ansars have become his "slaves, I Who piously preserve each falling
hair, I Ay, e'en my spittle."SS On his deathbed, Mohammed commands
public tension m·er the extension of slavery would "injure the South" (Ellsworth, "The
American Churches and the Mexican War," 303).
54 Miles, Mohammed, 13.
ss Ibid., 87.
40 BRYAN
his followers to "extend the faith, I Till slave and freemen, serf and scep-
tred king, I Do homage at my tomb," an entreaty either tyrannical or rad-
ically democratic. 5
6
Like the islamicist-orientalist dramas that preceded it,
slavery in Mohammed is normative, but, aside from the drama's implicit
criticism of Taylor as a false prophet, Miles remains largely silent on the
institution of slavery itself. Timothy Marr argues that during the early
republican period, intellectuals in the United States "construct[ed] south-
ern territory as a domestic orient ... labeling the entire United States
below the Mason-Dixon line as an American Barbary."S7 Miles, however,
rejects this identification, pushing the construction still further south. He
profanes the foundational narrative of the Islamic tradition in order to
construct the vast lands of   as a savage and conquerable ori-
ent, where crypto-Islam, rather than Catholicism, is the marker of bar-
barism and where Miles's model of southern, pro-slavery Catholic culture
might thrive.
Published during the same spring as Mohammed but profoundly
anti-Catholic in its sentiment, Thomas W Whitley's The Jesuit; Or, The
Amours of Capt. Effingham and the Laqy Zarifa (1850) stages the subjugation
of ''All Mexico" in effigy. 5
8
Borrowing its hero's name from the mythol-
ogy of James Fenimore Cooper, Whitley's "national melo-drama" follows
a young navy captain and Zarifa, the Arabic-named "daughter of a
wealthy Spaniard," as they race against time and the machinations of an
evil Castilian Jesuit, in an absurdly indited plot device, to be reunited and
recapture Zarifa's inheritance. A prologue recounts the lovers' struggles
five years before, in St. Augustine, Florida; although the drama itself
takes place in a span of less than twelve hours, in the tiny Mexican village
of Timulte in 1846, the context of this unwritten first act, in St.
Augustine in 1841 during the Second Seminole War, is critical. The town
was then peopled by "old Floridians," many of whom were the descen-
dants of the Minorcans and Ottoman Greeks who settled the New
56
Ibid., 130.
57 Marr, "Imagining Ishmael: Studies in Islamic Orientalism in America from
Puritans to Melville," (Diss., Yale U, 1997), 140-41. Marr cites Benjamin Franklin (slavery
in the south might lead to "a new Barbary rising in America") and Thomas Jefferson
(Virginia might be "fast sinking" to be "the Barbary of the Union.")
58 Thomas W Whittey, The Jesuit was originally published in three successive
issues of the Democratic Review (26, no. 141 [March 1850]: 235-43; 26, no. 142 [April1850]:
346-53; and 26, no. 143 [May 1850]: 439-50 [APS]). Subsequent page numbers refer to this
serial publication. It was published in a single volume by the Review later in 1850 as The
Jesuit: .A National Melo-drama.
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 41
Smyrna colony in the late 1760s. Their homes in St. Augustine became
the center for social interaction between naval officers and civilians
(indeed, romantic liaisons between these officers and young European-
Floridian women were apparently so common that the military was
prompted to discourage such relationships officially).S
9
Although Zarifa's
father was a "wealthy Spaniard," Whitley's drama indicates that she is her-
self a woman of mixed Spanish, Native American, and perhaps African
descent: when Effingham's Irish adjutant, O'Dougherty, meets Zarifa in
Timulte, he wonders "what kind of a craythur she is? Black, white, or
red?" "Black, I'll be sworn," he concludes.60 In Florida, the young lovers
are separated in one eventful night in which their secret wedding is pre-
vented, Effingham is nearly murdered, Zarifa's father entrusts his fortune
to the native Castilian, Morales (provided the Jesuit can keep the lovers
apart for five years) and Zarifa is spirited away to Mexico. The Jesuit begins
as those five years come to a close and the U.S. Navy approaches the
Mexican river village in which Zarifa, her son, and Morales all reside and
where Morales counts down the hours until he will secure Zarifa's fami-
ly fortune. On hi.s gunboat, Effingham awaits orders during the brief
armistice of the fall of 1846, as Morales, who has learned that his rival is
both alive and present, maneuvers to keep Zarifa and Effingham apart
for the final twelve hours of the term of the inheritance compact.
The Jesuit was originally published in the Democratic Revie1v (and
lambasted in the rival American Whig Review).61 Richard Slatkin notes that
in 1847 and 1848, the Democratic Review couched its expansionist politics
in two serialized novels: The Border Settlement; or, The Daughter, a
romance of "Indian conflicts of the Revolution," that required \Vhig and
Tory to unite to defeat their shared "racial enemy"; and Chalcahual, which
followed the fall of the Aztecs to Spanish conquistadores. Interspersed
among the serialized chapters were editorials that expatiated the ideolog-
ical intents of the fiction.62 Likewise, in 1850, The Jesuit was published in
59 John K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War, 1835-1842 (Gainesville:
University of Florida Press, 1985), 131-32. Many of the St.   whom Mahon
describes as "linorcan" were refugees from Andrew Turnbull's New Smyrna colony,
"driven out" in 1777 (40).
60 Whitley, The jesuit, 235 and 347.
61 Of The Jesuit, the American Whzg Review noted, "stupidity at times is so ridicu-
lous as to be laughable; but this pamphlet has not even that doubtful recommendation. It
is so stupidly stupid as to be tiresome" (13, no. 76 (April 1851]: 378 [APS]).
62 Slatkin, The Fatal Environment, 177-78.
42 BRYAN
three successive issues of the Review, interlarded with a serialized story
that compared the "hellish work" of the abolitionists to the dangers of
the Seminoles in Florida, and editorials praising John C. Calhoun, mar-
ginalizing Native Americans and the peoples of the African and Middle
Eastern diasporas, and decrying the "the two great enemies to human
freedom-king-craft [monarchism] and priest-craft [Catholicism]."63
The author's own politics are a good deal less clear than those of
the Democratic Review. Whitley shared a common interest in westward
expansion with Miles, but Whitley's advocacy was an unorthodox one,
tinged with utopianist philosophies and a changing political outlook over
the course of his mercurial career. Indeed, he was a protean figure in mid-
nineteenth-century New York City, Cincinnati, and northern New Jersey:
in addition to publishing The Jesuit in the Democratic Review and writing art
and theatre columns for the staunchly Democratic and pro-slavery New
York Herald (in which Whitley's writing exacerbated the tensions that
erupted in the Astor Place Riot between supporters of William Macready
and Forrest, a former friend and employer of Whitley, who had tended
Forrest's Kentucky estate in the mid-1840s), the English-born landscape
painter famously led the public opposition to the American Art-Union
movement, founded and published a Democratic newspaper, and spent
his later years as a Democratic politician in Hoboken. But, despite his
party affiliation and associations with pro-slavery and expansionist jour-
nals after 1846, Whitley was a member of the English Unitarian move-
ment when he immigrated to the United States; briefly the associate edi-
tor of the progressive Workers Journal; a political cartoonist whose most
famous broad-sheet, which included what may be the first anti-Semitic
caricature in U.S histor y, criticized Andrew J ackson's dissolution of the
national bank, a decision generally supported by Democrats and south-
erners;G4 and, in the mid-1840s, he partnered with Horace Greeley in an
ill-fated Fourierist commune in rural Pennsylvania. One thing, however,
is certain: Whitley shared the Democratic Revieuls hostility to "priest-craft."
Like Hentz's De Lara, and strongly in opposition to Miles's expansionist
but pro-Catholic drama, The Jesuit conflated age-old European islamicist-
orientalist tropes with the representation of Catholicism, particularly in
63 "The Revulsion," Democratic Review26, no. 143 (May 1850): 423.
64 Whitley's cartoon "The PEOPLE putting Responsibility to the test or the
downfall of the Kitchen Cabinet and CoUar Presses" (1834) is plate 1834-7 in Bernard F.
Reilly, Jr.'s American Political Prints, 1766-1876 [Boston: G.K. Hall, 1991], 65-66); John J.
Appel calls it the "earliest American-made caricature Jew I know of" in 'Jews in
American Caricature: 1820-1844," Anti-Semitism in America, volume 6 of American jeiJJish
History, edited by JeffreyS. Gurock (New York: Routledge, 1998), 53.
"CRUSADE OF CONQUEST" 43
images of elicit and abusive sexuality and of ''Arab treachery."
As in Antonio de Villegas's Abencerrqje y la hermosa Jarifa (1565),
the union of the eponymous lovers of The Jesuit is opposed by the father
of Jarifa/Zarifa and, when permitted to unite, betrothed but unmarried,
their love is sealed by sexual intercourse. In the sixteenth-century
romance, the relationship is unremarkable. The Abencerraje, writes trans-
lator John Esten Keller, was composed at a time in Spain when a nostal-
gia for the "Moorish wars ... parallel[ed]" modern U.S. representations
of "noble savage" Native Americans; "it was fashionable to write about .
. . the lovely and fiercely passionate Moorish ladies who were" the "sweet-
hearts, wives, and concubines" of Muslim warriors.65 In The Jesuit, Zarifa's
sexual affair with Effingham in Florida is an "illicit love"; Zarifa's Irish
servant, Biddy, blames Zarifa's precipitance. "It was a great wakeness,"
Biddy explains, "all owing to the climate, I believe," though the Irish
domestic then admits to having succumbed to the "same climate affect"
on several occasions.66 The exotic sexuality of Spain's nostalgic oriental-
ist literary tradition is transferred and transformed in The Jesuit. Whitley
imbues the mixed-race Zarifa, an observant Catholic presumably averse
to the grave sin of premarital sexuality, instead with the orthodox islam-
icist-orientalist association of the Muslim woman with, as Edward Said
describes, "sexual promise (and threat), untiring sensuality, unlimited
desire, [and] deep generative energies," "a remarkably persistent motif in
Western attitudes to the Orient."67 The "threat" that Said describes man-
ifests itself, however, in a consequent independence in these characters.
Indeed, like Gulnare in The Corsair, Zarifa is the most dynamic agent of
action in the melodrama; she is sexually available to Effingham, but, at
the same time, it is Zarifa, in disguise, who slips aboard Effingham's boat
65 Though unmarried, when Zarifa is spirited away to Mexico in the prologue
to The Jesuit, she is "in a situation of great delicacy," the "discovery" of which "breaks her
fathet's heart" (Whitley, 235); in the Abencerrqje, after Abindamiez and Jarifa are betrothed,
"they went to bed, where in a new experience they kindled even hotter the fire in their
hearts. In this victory they made love and exchanged confidences, more suited to con-
templation than to words" (Francisco LOpez Estrada Qohn Esten Keller, trans.], Antonio
de Villegas' El Abencerrqje [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1964], 67).
Keller, " Introduction," 12.
66 Whitley, The Jesuit, 238 and 352.
6? Edward W. Said, Orienta/ism (New York: Vintage, 1979), 188. The "acknowl-
edg[ment]" of this trope in islamicist-oriental.ist discourse comes in Said's discussion of
Gustave Flaubert's writings inspired by Egyptian dancer, Kuchuk Hanem, deployed as a
"disturbing symbol of fecundity, peculiarly Oriental in her luxuriant and seemingly
unbounded sexuality" (187).
44 BRYAN
to discover if he has married ill the intervening years, Zarifa who later
provides for Effingham's safety, indeed Zarifa who orchestrates the
events that set her salvation in motion.
Male sexuality in The Jesuit is equally concomitant with the tradi-
tions of islamicist-orientalist representation. Indeed, barbaric and trans-
gressive sexuality and violence in Whitley's play is not confined solely to
Irish and Spanish Catholic male rapacity; cupidity has the imprimatur of
the church itself. When O'Dougherty goes ashore hoping to "kiss" the
"pretty little Indian girl" (who is, ill fact, Zarifa), he hesitates, concluding
that the young woman is not simply mestizo, as he anticipated, but also
African. A "thrifle" he swiftly vows to "overcome" by raping her "in the
dark," on the advice of a "wise" and "sensible" priest: "'Tirince,' says he,
'white, me boy, is black in the dark."'68 In Timulte, while more or less loyal
to Effingham, O'Dougherty-both an orthodox, comic stage Irishman
and a figure of potential threat- stalks for conquest. Reunited with his
common-law wife and children (also from his service in St. Augustine),
O'Dougherty's narrative ends with a loathsome note of disappointment
that he hasn't had the chance to assault a Mexican Catholic nun: "if I had
only captured a couple of the nuns- the prettiest of them I mane-
never mind!-the divil!-havn't I found me owld swateheart Biddy, and
isn't she on some accounts, by her own showing, as good as any two of
thim same vargins?"69 The Irish midshipman is not alone in this repre-
sentation; Timulte's convent is a kind of harem, ruled over by Morales
and his drunken "bravos," where they imprison Zarifa's son and impound
her property.
Described by Zarifa as a "serpent," "villain," and "monster,"
Morales is motivated by material treasure and avarice for power. Indeed,
he is introduced after the prologue gambling and drinking with a Mexican
friar as they plot to abduct Zarifa's son. He deploys his religion as a
weapon of conquest and manipulation, dominating the " Indian
Messenger" by both "showing him a cross, and drawing a dagger"-in a
neat stage metaphor for Spanish conquest in Mesoamerica and oriental-
ist representations of the spread   ~ Islam- and threatening unsuccess-
fully the Polish Catholic ship's orderly, Zinski, also with the blade and
damnation ("Give way! or by all saints and holy angels, thy soul I'll send
to hell!"). ''You're of our Holy Mother Church?" asks the Jesuit, briefly
imprisoned ill the ship's hold; "I am" replies Zinski, "but not a traitor! ..
68 Whitley, The Jesuit, 34 7.
69
Ibid., 447.
"CRUS:\DE OF CONQUEST'' 45
. a thousand charms can't tempt a Pole from duty!"70 (To northern
European Catholics, Whitley may offer here amnesty from the play's anti-
Catholic slanders; Zinski puts his ethnicity, and his allegiance to the U.S.
Navy, ahead of his presumed fealty to the Pope.) But in The Jesuit,
"charms" are essential to entice an Irish Catholic to duty: ordered to go
ashore and facilitate Effingham's plans, O'Dougherty complies, but only
because, he explains, "by my sowl, I'll dispatch a few of these Mexicers .
. . killing a dozen or two of them, by the articles of war, will be the mak-
ing of me! Och! what a chance is here now for promotion."7t
Whitley's maligning of Catholicism, coupled with his reference
to the heroine of Villegas's Abencerraje, however, is not simply an impli-
cation by association of the Roman church with orientalist constructions
of Islam. The play reimagines the miscegenation narrative of Hentz's De
Lara in a "New World" context, adapting elements of the early modern
Spanish tale, the first "Moorish novel" in the European tradition, and
also the works of James Fenimore Cooper, whose initial "Effingham"
character, in The Pioneers (1823), did as much to establish a kind of com-
posite U.S. identity (English and Native American and self-made pastoral-
adamic) as his later "Effingham" characters did to criticize Jacksonian
culture and undermine Cooper's reputation in the Whig press.72 Indeed,
the very cadence of The Jesuits secondary title echoes the title of the
famous nove/a morisca, the tale of Jarifa and Abindarraez, one of the last
of the Abencerraje family of Grenada, in which the lovers are separated
by her father and brought together again by an unlikely ally, Abindamiez's
Catholic captor, Rodrigo de Narvaez.
Although Zachary Taylor does not appear in The Jesuit, "Old
Rough and Ready" is a powerful and present force nonetheless, terrible
in his victories over his foes but magnanimous in conquest. When
Effingham ftnally meets Timulte's commander under the flag of truce
negotiated by Taylor in Monterrey, the two drink to the "gallant General's
health": "The annals of our country," the naval officer proclaims, "hath
70 Ibid., 349, 238, and 441.
71 Whitley, The Jesuit, 242.
72 Members of the Effingham family appear prominently in The Pioneers (1823),
the first novel in Cooper's "Leatherstocking" books, and in Homeward Bound and its sequel,
Home as Found (1838). Thomas R. Lounsbury noted chat Cooper's published criticism had
inflamed the animosity of conservative Christians in New England, former Federalists,
the people of Boston (for a variety of offenses), the merchant class of New York and the
growing cities, the educated, the press, and the general public (for their putative coarse-
ness and vulgarity) Uames Fenimore Cooper [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1882), 171-75).
46 BRYAN
not a brighter name inscribed upon its pages. In war, always victorious
and humane; in council, wise; in action, energy personified."73 The
armistice that follows affords Effingham and Zarifa the opportunity to
meet again. Like Narvaez in E/ Abencerraje, Taylor's heroism and chivalry
frame the lovers' story. In both The Jesuit and E/ Abencerraje y Ia hermosa
Jarifa, the young warrior is obliged to the hero of a frontier war.
Abindarraez is prisoner of the Christian Narvaez, conqueror of the
"Moorish" city of Antequera; Effingham is subordinate to the legendary
"Rough and Ready," conqueror of the Mexican stronghold of Monterrey.
Each young warrior is permitted the opportunity to reunite with his
Jarifa/Zarifa as a consequence of the conqueror's uniquely honorable
conduct. Despite his charge from the prince to defend the frontier
against Muslim incursion, Narvaez paroles Abindarraez so that the young
warrior may seek Jarifa. And, against the orders of his superiors, Taylor
famously agreed to an eight-week armistice with General Pedro de
Ampudia and allowed Mexican troops to withdraw from Monterrey with
honor. Foster's Siege of Monterey dramatized this for New York audiences
and, indeed, it was the stuff of legend as quickly as popular biographies
could be published.
Like Hentz's use of the Lara name, the provenance of Whitley's
melodrama of a frustrated love between Zarifa and her warrior was cer-
tainly not unknown to reading audiences. Variations of the star-crossed-
lovers story featuring Jarifa (or Zarifa or Xarifa) are common in early
modern Spanish literature and in subsequent English translation and
adaptation. In the U.S., multiple versions of the tale were published dur-
ing the early nineteenth century, including, most popularly, "The
Abencerrage; A Spanish Tale," by Washington Irving, writing under the
pseudonym, "Geoffrey Crayon."
74
And, as John Esten Keller, twentieth-
centur y English translator of Villegas's sixteenth-century Abencerraje,
points out, Cervantes' popular Don Quixote, returning home after his
initial adventure, "felt transfigured into Abindarraez and imagined his
lady was Jarifa."7S
73 Whitley, the jesuit, 445-46.
74
See, for instance, "The Abencerrage; A Spanish Tale," The Knickerbocker 13,
no. 6 Qune 1839): 487 -94; the piece was reprinted, and credited to "Geoffrey Crayon," in
The Literary Geminae 1, no. 2 Quly 1839): 35-44.
75 Keller, "The Abencerraje as a Work of Literary Art," AtJtonio de Villegas' El
Abencerra;e, 31. See Don Quijote, volume 1, chapter 5 (translated by Burton Raffel [New
York: W/.W/. Norton & Co., 1996]), 27.
"CRUS.'\DE OF CONQUEST" 47
"Effingham," too, was not an obscure name in U.S. literature in
1850. Having introduced the Effingham family in The Pioneers (1823),
Cooper returned to his earlier characters' descendants in Homeward Bound
(1838) and Home as Found (1838), the latter novel largely a critique of pop-
ular culture in the United States. Cooper himself became so identified
with the latter-day Effinghams of Homeward Bound and Home as Found that
during the period of his libel suits against Whig newspaper editors in the
1840s, the author was known in both friendly and unfriendly newspapers
as "Effingham." But the Democratic press-including the New York
Herald and the Democratic &view, as well as Whitley's own Hoboken
Gazette-remained cordial reporters on Cooper and his work.
If Whitley intended The Jesuit's Effingham to be, in the words of
historian Richard Slotkin, a figure of "Cooperian mythology," it was cer-
tainly a reference to the Effinghams of The Pioneers.76 In the novel,
"Oliver Edwards," later revealed to be Edward Oliver Effingham, is the
young woodsman companion of Natty Bumppo. Called a "half-breed"
by the townspeople and dubbed ''Young Eagle, Child of the Delawares"
by John Mohegan (or Chingachgook), the young man is, in fact, the
Anglo-American grandson of "Fire-eater," Major Edward Effingham,
Chingachgook's adopted son and the benefactor of Bumppo's youth.77
The young Effingham is a figure of romantic, and hybrid, American iden-
tity, blending the Englishness of his grandfather, the Cooperian savage
nobility of Chingachgook, and the adamic qualities of "Leatherstocking"
himself. In the incipient new America of conquered Mexico, under the
protection of the U.S. nineteenth century's greatest conqueror, a figure of
Cooperian myth unites with Adams' "Moorish Spanish Mexican
American," a heroine of mixed Spanish and non-European heritage with
an Arabic name. But unlike the miscegenation melodrama of Hentz's De
Lara, the literal union berween the rwo does not concern Whitley; indeed,
the play ends happily rather than tragically. The conquest of the
"Moorish Spanish Mexican American," however, is complete. In a vul-
nerable village in coastal Mexico, the U.S. military officer dominates his
76 See SIOtkin, The Fatal Environment, 81-106, for his discussion of the
" Leatherstocking Myth" in U.S. culture. Sla tkin argues that the image of
"Leatherstocking" and "Cooperian   broadly was a powerful influence on later
writers. "Using the terms codified by Cooper," Slatkin writes, "succeeding generations of
historical romance writers, historians, and dime nm:elists elaborated the Myth of the
Frontier into a myth-ideological language system, rich in symbols and types that could be
deployed as political or literary occasions seemed to require" (1 00).
7
7 Cooper, The Pioneers (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1880), 154 and 201 -3.
48 BRYAN
enemies and takes from the wicked Castilian Jesuit and his bravos, Zarifa,
her child, her property, and her fortune.
The Democratic New York Herald, indeed likely Whitley himself,
praised the "ascendan[cy]" of The Siege of Monterry and the "Bedouin
Arabs" in the autumn of 1847, declaring that "nothing so much shows
the spirit of a people as the character of their amusement."78 Islamicist-
orientalist discourse has long been associated with the amusements of
the early republic. Centuries of orientalist art and literature in Europe,
coupled with the young nation's naval conflicts with Muslim north Africa,
conspired to create a popular mode of demonstrating the virtues of a
comparatively new settler culture in relief against an allegedly exotic,
predatory, and tyrannical enemy. But, in the decades of debate over
expansion, during which many in the U.S. anticipated a war with Spain or
Mexico, southern dramatists (and, in Whitley's case, a mid-Atlantic
Democrat) deployed these marginalizing images and narratives in order
to champion the putatively charitable condition of American slavery and
to demonize Catholic Spain and Mexico. Unlike the nationalistic, self-
congratulatory, and anti-slavery dramas that have been popular subjects
of recent scholarship, these islamicist-orientalist dramas present an alter-
native and anti-progressive amusement that both debased the cultures of
the Islamic world and advocated for imperialistic territorial expansion, the
subjugation of the indigenous North Americans, and the endurance of
slavery in the United States.
78 "Theatrical and Musical," New 1'0rk Herold, 7 October 1847, 2 (AHN).
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN DRAMA AND THEATRE 21, NO.1 (WINTER 2009)
Eco-EPIC THEATRE: MATERIALITY, ECOLOGY, AND THE
MAINSTREAM
Miriam Kammer
[Nature as] metaphor is so integral a feature of the aes-
thetic of modern realist-humanist drama, that, paradox-
ically, its implications for a possible ecological theatre
are easy to miss. It's very ubiquity renders it invisible.
1
The artist who is a realist ... exposes all the veils and
deceptions that obscure reality and intervenes in his
public's real actions.z
In 1938, in the midst of America's Great Depression and on the eve of
world war, Antonio Artaud wrote the following lines:
Never before, when it is life itself that is threatened, has
so much been said about civilization and culture. And
there is a strange parallelism between this generalized
collapse of life, which is the basis for the current
demoralization and the concern of a culture that has
never merged with life, and which is made to dictate to
life.
3
These words, spoken by a presumed madman, echo through the decades
and are amplified by our growing environmental crisis-specifically the
struggle over energy that has transcended the realm of rhetoric and is
materially impacting nations and landscapes far from our own. The dis-
course of the ownership of natural resources and the call for ecological
accountability are complex sites where multiple political and economic
ideologies meet. When artists intervene at flash points such as these, the
1 Una Chaudhuri, '"There Must Be a Lot of Fish in That Lake': Toward an
Ecological Theatre," Theater 25, no. 1 (1994): 24.
2
Sarah Bryant-Bertail, Space and Time in Epic Theater: The Brechtian Legary
(Rochester: Camden House, 2000), 1.
3 Antonio Artaud, Theatre and its Double, translated by Mary Caroline Richards
(New York: Grove Press, 1958), 7.
50 KAMMER
distinctions between activism and performance blur. A number of the-
atres of social change have adopted epic theatre tactics, and the growing
field of ecodrama is one among them. This paper will focus primarily on
two ecodramas from the corpus of mainstream theatre produced in the
last few years, David Marner's The Water Engine: An American Fable (1977)
produced by the Strawberry Theatre Workshop in Seattle, Washington,
and Larry Loebell's Girl Science (2004) staged at the Earth Matters On-
Stage Playwrights' Festival in Arcata, California. These plays center
around the theme of water, and both employ epic theatre methods to
expose and critique layers of myth and address the need for safe, renew-
able sources of energy in the face of political and corporate hegemony.
Each of these texts effectively addresses environmental issues
within a conventional theatrical framework; i.e., acts are divided logically
into scenes, story-lines are based on discernible cause-and-effect, and
characters are approachable, realistic figures who could fit comfortably
within the proscenium arch of almost any LORT stage. Because these
plays function within the parameters of traditional theatre, they are more
accessible to a number of audience types, from liberal to moderate to
conservative, or to the simply unaware. Plainly put, works such as these
do not merely preach to the converted. They reach the audiences that
need to be reached.
Overview: Ecodrama, Eco-Marxism, and Eco-Epic Theatre
In a special issue of Theatre Topics, Theresa ]. May writes, "it took a hur-
ricane to demolish the popular conceptual binary that di stinguishes
between 'nature' and 'culture.' ... [In the] twenty-first century we humans
will come to terms with our relationship to the natural world, come hell
or high water."
4
This statement is one among many in today's environ-
mental discourse on production and pollution. Such matters of man and
environment are charged with debate, and opposing camps are forming
behind economic, political, and social lines. Individuals must seek out
information in an understandable and preferably memorable form, and
herein lies the power of ecodrama. Unlike the nature writing of Thoreau
and Emerson or the landscape painting of Thomas Cole and the Hudson
River School, ecodramatic performance-like most forms of theatrical
performance-is a palpable, embodied event. Ecodramas draw both sub-
4 Theresa J. May, "Beyond Bambi: Toward a Dangerous Ecocriticism in Theatre
Studies," Theatre Topics 17, no. 2 (2007): 95.
ECO-EP!C THEATRE 51
ject and spectator into a conversation in the same time and space,s and
they engage their audience's imaginations and motivate spectators to
action.6 As a genre, "ecodrama" encompasses plays that subtly illustrate
the bond between the human and non-human world as well as those that
directly deal with environmental concerns. When such plays undertake
topics that speak economically and/ or on a communal level, principles of
Eco-Marxism often move to the fore.
Eco-Marxist artworks expose and interrogate any of the myriad
ways in which man has used nature against man. The Eco-Marxist cause
is overtly political, decries the mystification of ecology, and demands
rational inquiry and argument.
7
In Eco-Socialism: From Deep Ecology to Social
Justice, David Pepper delineates Marxist principles pertinent to discourse
of environmental justice. These .include:
- Emphasizing basic human needs for communality and
production.
- Opposing crude determinism, materialism, and
economism, but also opposing idealism.
- Taking a dialectical, materialist approach to history
and social change, which acknowledges the .importance
of ideas, subjectivity, and spirituality, but also relates
them to economic contexts.
- Having a structuralist perspective which particular!J thinks
about hmv surface appearances manifest under!Jing class relations
[and understanding] absolutely how morality is cultur-
ally and historically constructed.8
Offenses that undo the notion of a nature-culture split can be
more easily identified and challenged, such as the inequitable parsing out
of space and the corruption of the body, when one applies an Eco-
Marxist lens. On the stage, as in life, these conditions, which are all too
5 Theresa May, "Greening the Theatre: Taking Ecocriticism from Page to
Stage," in Coming into Contact: New Esscrys on Ecomtical Theory and Practice, edited by Annie
Ingram, Ian Marshall, Adam Sweeting, and Dan Philippon (Athens: University of Georgia
Press, forthcoming), 3.
6 Arjun Appadurai, Moderni(Y at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 7.
7 Greg Garrard, Ecocriticism: The New Critical Idiom (London: Routledge, 2004), 28.
8 David Pepper, Eco-S ocialism (London: Routledge, 1993), 218. Emphasis mine.
52 KAMMER
often taken for granted as natural and immutable, become subject to an
ecological and semiotic critique. For example, can you afford a house
near the beach, or near a landfill? Does your child play on grass or on
asphalt? Do you live upriver or down? Our answers to these questions
distinguish us socially and economically and too often mark us physic-
ally. In the play Heroes and Saints by Cherrie Moraga, eco-social inequality
is played out on the characters' bodies. Inspired by the struggles of the
United Farm Workers movement, Heroes and Saints is a fable of
Chicano/a life in a California cancer-cluster town. The protagonist
Cerezita, a teenager poisoned inutero by industrial waste-water, is born
without a body. Her mother's life in a polluted housing tract has damaged
her daughter to the extreme-she is literally compressed into a head.
Theatrically, Cerezita's physical image is a metaphor for her oppressed
economic station.
Some plays take up Eco-Marxist concerns more subtly, however.
For instance, Tom Stoppard's Arcadia exhibits man's desire to organize
nature into geometrically-pleasing parks; Shakespeare's As You Like It
rehearses the prejudice that rural spaces are home to uncultured brutes
while urban areas sport only elites; and Samuel Beckett's Endgame con-
fronts physically damaged individuals trapped inside a tiny house sur-
rounded by a wasteland. Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit, a dramatization of the
real-life Sleepy Lagoon Murder case, reveals how socio-economic preju-
dices are manifested environmentally. Unable to swim in "white" water-
ing holes or park in "white" lovers' lanes, Mexican youths prized the area
they called the "lagoon"-an "old, abandoned gravel pit" that served as
their urban refuge.9 So precious was this scrap of nature that turf wars
turned deadly one evening, a young man died, and a prejudicial trial
ensued.
Two scripts under scrutiny here, The Water Engine and Girl Science,
demonstrate that Eco-Marxist principles and epic theatre tactics go hand-
in-hand. Brecht and Piscator, the founders of the Epic tradition, based
their model on Marx's philosophy of historical materialism. Key to their
theory is the clear connection of staged events to spectators' personal,
tangible situations.
1
0 Writes Sarah Bryant-Bertail, Epic Theatre seeks to
reveal the "operation of social, economic and political forces by showing
how certain orders of reality had developed historically and were perpet-
uated."!! A tool of a number of theatres of resistance and social change,
9 Luis Valdez, Zoot Suit and Other Plays (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1992), 38.
10 Bryant-Bertail, Space and Time in Epic Theater, 2.
11 Ibid.
Eco-EPIC THEATRE 53
such as post-colonialist, African-American, and gay and lesbian perform-
ance, 12 the epic tradition has proven so effective in pursuit of environ-
mental justice. This marriage of ecological activism with Brechtian stag-
ing principles gives rise to a sub-genre of theatre- the eco-epic theatre.
Oil and Water: T1r Wata- EI1fi1r
Pieces such as Mamet's The Water Engine and Loebell's Girl Science--both
approachable playtexts suited to a range of audiences-seek not only to
stimulate an emotional response but also to engage spectators' critical
faculties. These two missions are the hallmarks of the epic tradition. As
we watch The Water Engine unfold, we consider its discourse critically, not
passively: Could an engine really run on water instead of fossil fuels?
Could pumping disasters and oil spills become news of the past? Could
such technology already exist? Eco-epic theatre works to expose such
possibilities by dispelling culturally constructed myths. In his Mythologies,
Roland Barthes speaks extensively on the myth as the vehicle by which
history is turned into nature. Says Barthes, "every object in the world can
pass from a closed, silent existence to an oral state, open to appropriation
by society, for there is no law, whether natural or not, which forbids talk-
ing about things."l3 Man, machines, and environments are no exceptions.
In this play about the struggle over an invention that would free workers
from the drudgery of industrial life, Mamet separates out myth from real-
ity and points clearly to the inequities that shape American social order.
For instance, The Water Engine echoes the Eco-Marxist principle that it is
useless to try to solve ecological problems through the continued use of
capitalist models because these are the systems that caused the global
environmental crisis in the first place.'
4
The play thereby addresses the
connections between corrupt corporate practice and environmental
exploitation-how can earth's resources be owned by a privileged few
who manipulate what has naturally been given?
The action of the Water Engine centers around Charles Lang, a
young, poor factory worker from 1933 Chicago who invents an engine
that runs on water-a safe, renewable, and freely available resource. "Big
Business," embodied by two men who purport tO be lawyers named
12 Ibid., 66.
13 Roland Barthes, Mythologies, translated by Annette Lavers (New York: Hill
and Wang, 1972), 109.
14 Theresa May, "Notes on Ecocriticism," 3.
54 KAMMER
Gross ("excessively large'') and Oberman ("over-man"), learn of the
engine when Lang seeks out Gross to get the patent that he needs for
legal protection. Instead of protecting Lang as they were hired to do,
these lawyers try to force him to sell the rights to his creation. As oil con-
sumption makes much more money for power suppliers than water, they
plan to destroy the engine and its plans. Soon Lang realizes that his
engine, his life, and the life of his sister are in jeopardy and at the mercy
of these coercive interests. Despite this heavy opposition, Lang chooses
to fight until his end with the limited tools at his disposal.
Given the deepening, global need for alternative forms of ener-
gy and the grassroots calls for a break in corporate fuel hegemony, Water
Engine's 2007 Seattle production was a timely staging of a piece written
over thirty years ago. The Strawberry Workshop produced the play at the
Richard Hugo House Theatre (a standard proscenium space of about
140 seats) in a manner that highlighted the text's epic use of space and
time which kept the play's Eco-Marxist themes at the fore. Unlike the dra-
matic theatre which aims to lull the spectator into an imaginary world,
epic theatre troubles illusory realism to expose the apparati of history at
work, drawing attention to the ideologies that have shaped our past and
present.
1
5 Key to this is the V-effect (or Alienation Effect) where situa-
tions are "made strange" in order to engage the spectator critically by
short-circuiting her emotional response. States Bryant-Bertail, the V-
effect "gives a hopeful sense of active agency ... [and] connotes move-
ment around a static, central entity."16
This V-effect is employed throughout the Strawberry
Workshop's production, and is especially discernible in the scenic com-
position. Designers split the stage into two opposing levels, the stage
floor where the "story" took place and the raised, upstage platform that
stood for both a radio station's recording studio and the newspaper
reporter's office. This set-up highlighted two key principles in the text:
the power the media holds over our culture, and the strategic stratifica-
tion of citizens into classes. These opposing sectors also emphasized the
distance between spectator and spectacle-audience members watched
the radio station workers witness the spectacle below from their strategic
position above. In this system, the audience is encouraged to critically dis-
cern the economic and environmental implications of the play. We can-
not merely empathize with the play's characters.
This mental engagement is re-enforced by the production's epic
15 Ibid.
1
6 Bryant-Benail, Space and Time in Epic Theater, 19.
ECO-EPJC THEATRE
55
use of the body as sign. The manner in which the actors moved and posi-
tioned themselves in and around the space reified their characters' rela-
tionship with each other, setting each moment apart ideologically instead
of blending beats into a continuous sweep. In this manner, these actors
seemed to "write" the story themselves, for their characters' choices and
subsequent actions remained prominent while their personalities
assumed a secondary stance.17 Each actor played multiple parts, crossing
upstage to portray radio and newspaper workers and downstage to
embody characters in Lang's life. Even the actors portraying Lang and his
sister played multiple roles, highlighting the fact that persona is cultural-
ly constructed. In this epic style of acting, the actor and his/her charac-
ter remain separate.
1
8 Gabriel Baron's portrayal of Lang and David
Goldstein's embodiment of Bernie, the shop-keeper's son, are two exam-
ples. In portraying Bernie, Goldstein's adult body raised its voice,
slouched its frame, and used child-like facial expressions to signi fy a
youthful persona- we literally watch him shift from adult to child. In
Gabriel Baron's active "writing" of Lang on-stage, he presents his char-
acter as one in process as his circumstances shift. We perceive Lang's spir-
it being run down by Gross and Oberman, for Lang seemed in continu-
ous motion as if the two were pushing him around the space, although
the actors' bodies never touched.
Gross and Oberman do not need to physically manipulate the
inventor, however, because their empowered position allows them to do
so discursively. While workers such as Lang may make the world, they can-
not take hold of it, for that is the task of the mythmaker.
1
9 Here, the myth-
makers are the lawyers Gross and Oberman and the pervasive and inva-
sive corporate interests they represent. They are, according to Barthes,
the "linguistic oppressors," while Lang is the linguistically "oppressed."ZO
The oppressed is nothing, he has only one language, that
of his emancipation; the oppressor is ever ything, his
language is rich, multiform, supple, with all possible
degrees of dignity at its disposal. ... The oppressed
makes the world, he has only an active, transitive Ian-
17 Ibid.
1
8 Ibid.
19 Barthes, Mythologie.r, 148-9.
20
Ibid., 149.
56
guage .... The oppressor's language is Myth. The lan-
guage of the former aims at transforming, of the latter
at eternalizing.2t
KAMMER
Having bought into their own universalizing myth, Gross and Oberman
underestimate Lang, for Lang proves to be intelligent and effective in the
only manner he can be-by the use of clever tactics.
In his essay on what it means to walk in a city, Michel DeCerteau
explains that most individuals must operate each day underneath the
watchful eye of those in power, situated in their towers above, who have
strategically laid out pathways for those who live below. Sometimes, how-
ever, the pedestrian can work as a tactician by cutting across the maze that
strategists have built, forging a bit of his own road. The "tactic," then, is
"an art of the weak," and the tactician must seek out opportunities for
resistance and subversion whenever possible.
22
In this spirit, factory
worker Lang employs quick thinking throughout the story as he cleverly
preserves his environmentally-friendly engine from destructive forces. He
metaphorically and literally takes advantage of little ruptures in the fabric
of the city, such as sneaking out the back-door of a candy shop, allowing
him to quickly and quietly wind his way through the neighborhood while
evading the watchful eye of the policemen in the pay of Gross and
Oberman. Mamet's stage direction in this scene in act 2 is chilling: "The
cops are circulating."23 Also exemplary of this strategy-tactic dichotomy
is a moment in act 1 when Oberman meets Lang in a park at night. While
he and Lang walk through working-class Bughouse Square, Oberman
quips he "should get here more often."24 In the Workshop's staging of
this scene, the Oberman-actor looks around incessantly, as if he has just
descended from on high to an unfamiliar place.
Eco-Epic theatre shows that both spectators and characters have
choices. We are not merely at the mercy of fate but must apply our fac-
ulty for reason and choice in difficult situations. This is what Lang does
throughout the play, from his first steps into Gross's office to his mailing
the blueprints to the shopkeeper's son so that Gross and Oberman would
2t Ibid.
22 Michel De Certeau, The Practice tf Everydqy Life, translated by Steven Rendell
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 36-7.
23 David Mamet, The Water Engine (New York: Grove Press, 1977), 53.
24 Ibid., 31.
Eco-ErlC THEATRE 57
be unable to find and destroy them. In both Mamet's script and the
Workshop's staging, each of the characters are defined by their present
actions, not their personal back-stories. Though Lang's choices drive the
dramatic action of the play, we learn very little about him. He is devoid
of a past, for he is completely of the present. He is a true protagonist in
an epic sense, for he "knows no objective but only a finishing point ....
[Its] course need not be a straight one but may quite well be in curves or
even leaps."25
The question that is placed before the audience of whether
human beings truly possess free-will or are ruled by fate is further
addressed by the the physical passage of the chain letter from character
to character. The letter is a tangible, nodal point where conflicting dimen-
sions and ideologies meet.
2
6 The chain letter appears to be a typical one-
if you choose to do X, something good will happen; if you choose not
to do X, something bad will. The Chain letter speaks out loud through the
actors' voices and reveals its own contents to the characters and specta-
tors. By the end of act 1, however, the tone of the Chainletter shifts-it
seems to become more desperate as Lang's situation grows worse. The
Voice of the Chainletter states, "make sure you send the letter on to
someone who you trust will send the letter on. All people are connected."2
7
Even without this spoken text, the manner in which the letter is passed
physically from actor to actor is epically gestic, for it actualizes the social
relationships between the characters.zs From the first moment the letter
enters the mimetic space of Lang's life, it is given dialogic voice:
The door bell ;ingles.
Mr. Wallace: Bernie?
Bernie: Yeah, Pop.
Mr. Wallace: See who just came in.
Mailman: Mailman! Anybody want a letter?
Chainletter (voice over): Do not break the chain.29
25 Bertolt Brecht, Brecht on Theatre, translated by John Willett (New York: Hill
and \X'ang, 1964), 45.
26 Bryant-Bertail, Space and Time in Epic Theater, 22.
27 Mamet, The Water Engine, 42. Emphasis mine.
28 Bryant-Bertail, Space and Time in Epic Theater, 22.
29 Mamet, The Water Engine, 7.
58 KAMMER
In this exchange, man's ability to choose is set off against a sense of
inevitability, and this juxtaposition is embodied in one material object.
The mailman's line is carefully worded as a question of choice; the
Chainletter's admonition is imbued with fear and fate. Throughout the
play, the voice of the Chainletter interrupts the flow of the scenes, pro-
ducing a V-Effect that purposely makes these moments seem jarring and
strange.
In his 1956 essay, "The Tasks of Brechtian Criticism," Barthes
contends, "Brechtian theatre is a moral theatre, that is, a theatre which
asks, with the spectator: what is to be done in such a situation?"30
Throughout the play, characters, actors and spectators alike are present-
ed this same query. In The Water Engine, "Bughouse Square" is a staging
ground for discourses contrary to the prevailing cultural view. Here one
may listen (shouJd one choose) to the speeches of the "Soapbox
Speakers." One particular monologue is a haunting reminder of Walter
Benjamin's thesis, "all efforts to render politics aesthetic cuJminate in one
thing: war."31 Says the Soapbox speaker, free-flowing, passionately:
What is there so attractive in these t e   i f u ~ pomp filled cere-
monies? What is so seductive in them? They support the
torture of the ages. The Great War, the pogroms, the
Crusades, the Inquisition (may God Bless us all) "My
Country Right or Wrong"-in nomine patri, fillii, spiri-
tiis sancti. Let us go and free the Holy Land .... We sup-
port these things, friend, you and I. The power of the
torturers comes from the love of Patriotic Songs. We are
the Hun.32
Quickly, a character called "Watcher" shouts his reply: "Go back to
Russia." Brecht's was a theatre concerned with politics, and clearly this
play is shaped by politics, too. For Mamet's characters in Depression-era
Chicago, it is the possibility of communism that looms large; for the
spectators watching the 2007 production, it is the motivation behind the
30 Roland Barthes, "The Tasks of Brechtian Criticism," translated by Richard
Howard, in HBJ Antbology if Drama, edited by W.B. Worthen (Fort Worth: Harcourt
Brace, 1983), 555.
31 Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical
Reproduction," in 11/Hminations, translated by Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books,
1978), 241.
32 Mamet, The Water Engine, 26. Emphases mine.
Eco-EP!C THEATRE
59
Iraq War.
Accordingly, The Water Engine includes a seemingly patriotic song
that is actually imbued with irony, reprimand, and a call for ecological
integrity. It is a piece of gestic music-the type that invokes contradicto-
ry meanings, and the audience discerns and contemplates them both.33 At
the beginning of the script, Mamet includes this song for the actors to
voice as a group, followed quickly by a decree from the radio station's
announcer, touting the Chicago World's Fair, the Century of Progress
Exposition, and its Hall of Science. The lyrics proclaim:
By the rivers gently flowing,
Illinois, Illinois,
Let thy prairies verdant growing
Illinois, Illinois.
Til upon the Inland Sea
Stands Chicago, great and free,
Turning all the world to thee,
Illinois, Illinois.
This unnamed song is replete with idyllic nature imagery. Here, the
singers give voice to the land in an ecological fashion, but this portrayal
is directly opposed to reality. It is ironic and contradictory because this
vision of progress, "gentleness," and "freedom" is proved false through-
out the play. Strawberry Workshop chose to repeat this song at the end
of the performance, just after we learn of Lang's and his sister's death
and Bernie's receipt of the plans in the mail. Instead of all of the cast
members gathered together, singing in cooperation, only one woman
sang at the end. In that moment, the song signified something complete-
ly different from what it did in the beginning. It shifted from an anthem
to a funerary dirge, but one with a charge to the audience to forge a bet-
ter standard of life, environmentally and politically.
River, Coal, and Girl Scierre
As in The Water Engine, environmental wisdom and corporate practice col-
lide in Larry Loebell's Girl Science, a play replete with epic tactics designed
for a conventional playhouse. Girl Science is a piece of historical fiction
rooted in the material past of the anthracite region-a swath of land in
eastern Pennsylvania that once was the largest provider of hard coal on
33 Bryant-Bertail, Space and Time in Epic Theater, 21.
60
KAMMER
earth. It concerns the life of the character Johanna Vernon, an SO-year-
old scientist who has devoted over sixty years to the study of a
Pennsylvania river that she has lived near since birth. Her niece Lois, a
junior history professor, decides to make her mark in academia by writ-
ing Johanna's biography, for although her aunt has made major contribu-
tions in the fight against water pollution (Lois at one point calls her the
"EPA's go-to-gal"
34
) she feels that Johanna, as a woman, has not received
the critical attention she deserves. In the process of writing her book,
Lois uncovers Johanna's long-silent secret that her first love died while
skating on the river in front of her family's estate. This was the first
instance in memory when the river did not completely freeze, for
Johanna's father's coal mining company secretly dumped waste into the
river, altering the water's chemical composition and raising its freezing
point.
The history of the area where Girl Science is set is one of social
and environmental tragedy, but also one of endurance and integrity. In
1914, 100,000,000 million tons of rare anthracite coal were pulled from
the land by 180,000 boys and men. Primarily from poor, immigrant fam-
ilies, these workers endured appalling job conditions and fought hard for
unionization. 35 Over the next several decades cheaper fuel sources
became available, and by the 1960s the anthracite industry's collapse near-
ly destroyed the area's economy. As of today, the average annual output
from these mines is a fraction of what it used to be--down to 5 million
tons or roughly 1% of the country's entire supply,36 a positive step for
human safety and local ecology, but also a bringer of unemployment and
socio-economic decline. In these postindustrial years, culm banks still dot
the landscape, rivers remain unsafe for swimming, and smoke and fumes
from mine fires below continue to break through the earth's surface.
Since the 1970s, and after a period of "understand[able] collec-
tive amnesia,"3
7
a number of plays have been written chronicling the dif-
ferent facets of life of these so-called anthracite people, GirlS cience being
3
4
Larry Loebell, Girl Science, Ecodrama Playwrights Festival performance script
(Arcata: Humboldt State University, 2004), 5.
35 See John Bodnar, Anthracite People: Families, Unions and Work, 1900-1940
(Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1983).
36 Philip Mosley, ed., Anthracite! An Anthology of Pennsylvania Coal Region Plays
(Scranton: University of Scranton Press, 2006), vii.
3
7
Ibid.
Eco-EPIC THEATRE 61
one among them.38 Two of these scripts include Coaltown Breaker (1975)
by Michael Cotter, which recounts the 1963 Sheppton Mining Disaster
where two miners were rescued alive after being trapped in a mine for
two weeks, and Jack McDonough and Bob Schlesinger's The Fire Down
Below (2002), which presents a historical study of the key figures of the
Great Anthracite Strike of 1902. Perhaps most well-known is Pulitzer
Prize winner Jason Miller's first work, Noboc!J Hears A Broken Drum. Drum
was originally staged Off Broadway in March 1970 and revived in 1998
in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania at the F. M. Kirby Center, a historic,
proscenium theatre only a short distance from where Girl Science is set. In
both content and form, Broken Drum honors a collective, cultural memo-
ry and deconstructs its historicity by foregrounding the economic factors
that oppressed a people and damaged their land. The piece depicts every-
day life in an Irish coal-patch (company-owned town) in the late nine-
teenth century and illustrates the community's constant fight against
social injustice. The plot telescopes the history of the Anthracite Region,
and includes the birth of miners' unions, the people's conflicting views
on immigration and patriotism, and a critique of the actions of the local
Catholic Church.
Miller's text, like Loebell's, borrows heavily from the epic theatre
tradition. For instance, Drum is written as a series of shifting vignettes in
which ten actors play nineteen roles, enacting clearly constructed per-
sonas in each scene. In its New York production, designers forewent real-
istic scenery, utilized a scrim, and apportioned the stage into five distinct
areas set apart by lighting.
39
Girl Science, set near the southern end of
Pennsylvania's anthracite fields, employs a similar, epic use of space and
representation of time. Utilizing the V-Effect, Girl Science juxtaposes
moments from the past with events in the present, comparing and con-
trasting historical and contemporary signs. In the play, the actors por-
traying Young Johanna, her father, and her friend Will Dayton in 1925
exist in the same space as those who play Lois, Peter, and the older
Johanna of 1990. In the 2004 production, the stage was divided into four
interconnected areas: upstage right, the Vernon's family gazebo; mid-
stage left, Lois's apartment; wrapping around the stage lip, a long, black
sheet which signified the river; and at center stage, an unmarked cross-
roads where characters of the present and the past transcended bound-
anes, and gestically wrote the play as they moved between temporal
38 See John Bodnar, Anthracite People.
39 Mosley, Anthracite!, xv-xvi.
62 KJ\MMER
worlds.
4
0
In addition to its symbolic designation of space, Girl Science
rejects illusory realism and exposes the contradictory ideologies that have
shaped our present and past through its use of the body as sign, particu-
larly through juxtaposed representations of Johanna. In demonstrating
the material implications of choices made, paths not taken, and the
resultant residues that shape human beings, "Johanna" is physically split
into two persons estranged from each other, as one actor is scripted to
play Young Johanna and another to play the older. In this way, not one
but two bodies become focal points at which cultural mores are strictly
delineated and confront one another materially-precocious girl against
professional woman, young lover against old maid. Instead of character
and actor blending into a fluid whole, each remains conspicuously sepa-
rate; the actors' bodies never recede, and so their characters' historical
constructedness cannot either.4
1
The human body can function as an emblem of most any insti-
tution that sees itself "under threat," including class systems and socia-
lly-structured conceptions of gender.
42
This is revealed not only with the
protagonist's double body, but perhaps more so by the broken, frozen
body of Will, Young Johanna's boyfriend. Will is a working-class boy
from the town; Johanna is a wealthy child from the riverside. They reach
out to each other romantically (as such characters often do), but the con-
sequences prove disastrous. Will freezes to death in the polluted river, and
Johanna honors his memory by forgoing marriage and devoting herself
to a life of science in which she tries everyday to undo the damage
wrought by her father's coal company. Both Will and Johanna become
indelibly marked by profit-driven, ecological disaster-one by death, the
other by a guilt-ridden life.
As it is set primarily upon a riverbank that is portrayed on-stage,
Girl Science further demonstrates the power of theatre's "place-fullness."
The force of the river-as historical entity and stage-subject/ object-is
unmissable and illustrative of a basic tenet of ecodrama. As described by
May, "the representation of place-on-stage can be more than the back-
drop against which human action is played out." Place can "drive" the
40 Bryant-Bertail, Space and Time in Epic Theater, 22-3.
41
Ibid.
42 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion o/ Identi!J (London:
Routledge, 1990), 24.
Eco-Errc THE.\TRE 63
action, at times becoming a character with its own sense of agency.43 As
it operates within a Brechtian system, the river that claimed Will is more
than a scenic element; it becomes a character in the play. Throughout the
piece, the river is dialectically presented as a living entity to be studied and
cherished, but also respected and feared. Lain clearly before spectators, it
is a gestic object where ideologies dash-Johanna and her science, and
her father and his power company's unethical practice. In the introduct-
or y scene and throughout the play, Young Johanna, already invested in
environmental science, takes her pail and thermometer, crosses down-
stage to the river-sheet, and records the temperature of the water. Her
love of her home and this river is palpable. For a large part of act 1,
Young Johanna and Will sit on the bank and watch the water while Lois
and Johanna remain in the gazebo, gazing out at the river but from much
farther away. The pastoral nature of these scenes is later contrasted in act
2 when the river, made sick from industrial waste and now incapable of
supporting Will's weight, opens up and swallows the young man into its
depths. Young Johanna throws herself onto the icy surface, kicking and
screaming as she tries unsuccessfully to rescue him. Perhaps because she
will one day save it, the river spares her life.
The "Other Way," A Textual Passage
In Utopia and Peiformance, Jill Dolan writes, "live performance provides a
place where people come together, embodied and passionate, to share
experiences of meaning making and imagination that can describe or
capture fleeting imitations of a better world."
4
4 Epic theatre, accordingly,
aims to instill in audiences of various backgrounds "a constant nervous
recollection of familiarity, a shudder of recognition" of the tangible cir-
cumstances of life, no matter how ideologically-driven or occluded by
myth they may be.
4
5 This epic tradition coincides unmistakably with the
Eco-Marxist interrogation of the interplay between social inequality and
ecological exploitation, and accessible Eco-Epic playtexts such as those
described above are born of these complementary, investigative systems.
The Water Engine and Girl Science both present historical situations that res-
43 Theresa May, "Greening the Theatre," 16.
44
Jill Dolan, Utopia in Peiformance: Finding Hope at the Theatre (Ann Arbor:
University of Michigan Press, 2005), 2.
45
Karen Laughlin, "Brechtian Theory and American Feminist Theatre," Brecht
Sourcebook, edited by Carol Martin and Henry Bial (London: Routledge, 2000), 219.
64 KAMMER
onate with current-day spectators in a critical and entertaining manner.
These plays are digestible, mimetic reminders that man and his environ-
ment are inextricably linked-physically, metaphysically, and socio-eco-
nomically-and that matters of conflict, pollution, and exploitation are
not fated, but are changeable through human agency. There is "another
way," and ecodrama can reveal such a choice. In the moment when Lang
first displays his engine, for instance, we can sensorially comprehend the
possibility of a better way of life. Lang tells us of his invention:
What you're going to see is like a sailboat. ...
This engine.
Pause
This engine, Mr. Gross, draws power from the Earth.
It draws power from the Earth ....
Sound Engine sparks.
There are no more factories.
4
6
46 Mamet, The Water Engine, 20-21.
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN DRAJ',IA AND T HEATRE 21, NO. 1 (WI NTER 2009)
REMEMBERING AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF CHRIST:
ADRIENNE KENNEDY'S MOIHERHOOD 2000 AND THE YORK
CRUCIFIXION
Leanne Groeneveld
In Adrienne Kennedy's Motherhood 2000, first performed as a staged read-
ing at the McCarter Theatre's Winter's Tales festival in Princeton, New
Jersey in 1994, the central character Mother/Writer recounts and, at the
end of the play, re-enacts for the audience her execution of a policeman
she believes viciously beat her son in 1991. She tells us that this execution
took (and in her re-enactment, it takes) place in the context of a modern
production of the fifteenth-century York play of the Crucifixion, a text
several characters, including a policeman named Richard Fox in the role
of Christ, came (and come) together to perform in the streets of New
York.
Elinor Fuchs, one of the few critics to comment (albeit briefly)
on Motherhood 2000, suggests that Adrienne Kennedy here "shatters the
Christian Passion Play with the central gesture of revenge tragedy."1 She
writes:
The extreme discordance of the two genres, mystery
play and revenge tragedy, itself becomes a dramaturgical
image of the moral chaos of the millennium that pro-
vides the setting for Kennedy's narrative. A moment ago
we trusted the narrator as our ethical norm in a racist
and collapsing world. Now morality is suddenly sus-
pended. There is an end, but no resolution. The play has
the density of stone.2
From this description, Mother/Writer at the end of the play seems a late
example of what Fuchs has elsewhere described as Kennedy's early
(1960s) "static" central characters, who are "doomed by their own guilt,
the crimes of earlier generations, and a sense of extrusion from the nor-
mative world."3 Mother/Writer resembles these early characters in that
I Elinor Fuchs, "The Apocalyptic Century," Theater 29, no. 3 (1999): 35.
2
Ibid.
3 Elinor Fuchs, "Adrienne Kennedy and the First Avant-Garde," in Intersecting
66 GROENEVELD
she is morally complicit both in her own and in another's victimization;
according to Fuchs, however, it seems that she is unlike these early char-
acters in the sense that Kennedy and Mother/Writer manage to effect
some kind of change: they "shatter" the Christian passion play by trans-
forming it into revenge tragedy. Presumably the revenge tragedy and pas-
sion play, in their characterization as "discordant," are presented as
incompatible, destructive doubles that annihilate each other when
brought into close proximity. The problem here is the presumption that
the genres are exclusive. Almost always at the center of the revenge
tragedy we ftnd the secular "martyr,"
4
while at the margins of the passion
play lurk those ready to exact revenge.
I would therefore like to complicate Fuchs's brief analysis of
Motherhood 2000, specifically of the text's suspension of morality, of
Mother/Writer's stasis, and of the presumed "discordance" between the
two early dramatic genres of passion play and revenge tragedy. First of
all, Mother/Writer, her moral dilemma, and her problematic resolution of
that dilemma appear more like than unlike the characters, dilemmas, and
resolutions in Kennedy's early texts. Fuchs writes of these early plays,
"The guilt of crime and sin, real or imagined, and the torment of unre-
solvable racial antinomies create a charged environment in which
Kennedy's essentially stationary characters obsessively repeat their titanic
conflicts."5 The impossibility of determining whether the actor
Mother/Writer kills in the year 2000 is indeed Richard Fox and the man
responsible for her son's beating complicates Mother/Writer's act of
re,renge, making it potentially more like a martyrdom. Mother/Writer is
not unaware of this potential, making her attack on some level a con-
sciously chosen symbolic retribution, with the actor as scapegoat or sac-
rifice.
Second, more than any of Kennedy's other texts, at least for me,
this particular play emphasizes static repetition. We are told about and see
before us the performance of the York play of the Crucifixion, a text rit-
ually repeated in historical fact for decades if not centuries (from some-
time in the late fourteenth century to sometime around 1569) and in
Boundaries: The Tbeatre of Adrienne Kennecfy, edited by PaulK Bryant-Jackson and Lois More
Overbeck (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), 78.
4
For example, in Thomas Kyd's Spanish Tragetfy, Don Andrea and Don Horatio;
in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, Bassianus and Lavinia and in Hamlet, old Hamlet; in
John Marston's Antonio's Revenge, Andrugio, Duke of Genoa; in The Revenger's Tragecfy,
Gloriana and Antonio's wife.
5 Fuchs, "Adrienne Kennedy and the First Avam-Garde," 78.
REMEMBERJNG AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF CHRIST 67
Kennedy's fictional exaggeration, for millennia, suggested by her use of
the adjective "ancient" to describe the restaged "miracle play."
6
Motherhood 2000, performed in the present, is a return to and re-enact-
ment of this literary text as well as a return to and re-enactment of past
moments in Mother/Writer's life. At first it seems that Mother/Writer
has made substantial changes to the script and to her present situation,
but on further reflection it becomes apparent that nothing really has been
altered, that Mother/Writer will continue to return to the moment of her
son's beating as well as to the moment she exacted her revenge. Cyclic
stasis is the stuff and manner of both the late medieval text and
Kennedy's meta theatrical revisiting/ revision of that text.
Finally, I will suggest that revenge tragedies and passion plays
have not in the past been and are not now necessarily "discordant";
rather, as I have suggested above, they tend to be interdependent. The
revenge tragedy makes a kind of martyr of its first victim, and the mar-
tyr is usually revenged. l'vf.otherhood 2000 remembers the connection of the
two genres' central actions and thus their complicity and collapse. The
suspension at the end and climax of the play is then merely the suspen-
sion between subsequent obsessive repetitions of a trauma and of a con-
flict still central to Western culture: between Christ (or his figure) and his
killer-the Jew, the racial "other."
Mother/Writer's act of revenge takes place in the year 2000,
when New York City is in a state of apocalyptic turmoil. As
Mother/Writer describes the situation, "you never knew when bombings
would occur .. . . City officials were constantly drowned near the Statue
of Liberty" (231). Across the Hudson, much of New Jersey was
destroyed by "civil strife," to the point where "Refugees ... arrived every
morning at the 79th Street Boat Basin where armies of people lived.
Riverside Park between 86th Street and 116th was dangerous: inhabited
only by gangs." More personally, Mother/Writer reveals that she was at
the time "often hungry." "Food was at the market on Broadway and 91 st,
but unexpected shootings on the street kept me fearful. I saved sacks of
potatoes so that in case of shootings I would always have something to
eat" (230).
Mother/Writer tells us that as she was emerging from her apart-
ment building one day, she was shocked to see Richard Fox and his
"disheveled" troupe of white actors (229), who called themselves the
Oliviers, performing "an ancient miracle play" (228) at the Soldiers and
6 Adrienne Kennedy, Motherhood 2000, in The A drienne Kennedy Reader
(Minneapolis: University of 1\Iinnesota Press, 2001), 228. Subsequent references tO this
work are supplied in parentheses in the text.
68 GROENEVELD
Sailors monument just outside her door. She explains that she immedi-
ately recognized Fox as the policeman primarily responsible for her son's
beating, even though she had never before seen him in person, because
her sister had videotaped the assault.
According to Mother/Writer's neighbor Judy, a casting director,
the Oliviers were "one of the groups who traveled from national monu-
ment to monument trying to find asylum" from the chaos overtaking the
city. Mother/Writer observes that the actors "seemed protected by the
soldier costumes they wore," despite the fact that these costumes were
"shabby" (231).
Mother/Writer tells us that night after night she watched the per-
formances of the troupe from the roof of her brownstone. One night
she left the roof and walked to the park. She talked with the actors and
"decided to join their company." After learning that she had worked as a
playwright and had taught at Harvard, the others asked her to become the
only Black member of their troupe and to "rewrite a section of the play''
(231).
The next night she arrived at the park and assumed the role of
one of the soldiers charged with crucifying Christ, who was played, she
tells us, by the policeman Richard Fox. At this point, the ending of the
play described in Mother/Writer's monologue is "re-enacted" on the
stage: the requisite other actors appear and, following the fifteenth-cen-
tury York text, the soldier characters (including Mother/Writer) describe
stabilizing the cross in its mortise with wedges, mock Christ/Fox for
claiming to be God's son and for predicting the destruction and restora-
tion of the temple, and gamble for his cloak. At this point in the original
text, the soldiers leave to report their actions to Pilate. But in
Mother/\X'riter's new version of the York play (her "New York
Crucifixion''), the ending (in the year 2000) and the time of performance
are changed. Breaking out of the dialogue, which is only slightly mod-
ernized from that found in the fifteenth-century play text, and reverting
to the past (narrative) tense, Mother/Writer tells the audience in an aside,
"I spoke my lines coughing, wheezing ... then found my place directly
before Fox and struck him in the head with a hammer." The stage direc-
tions that follow, in the present tense of performance, state simply "(She
does.) / (He falls)" (233). The play-within-the-play and the play as mem-
ory of that play conclude at the same moment; Mother /Writer does not
address the audience again and, presumably, the stage goes to black. The
manipulation of time here, the complicated temporal layering of histori-
cal event and of two separate moments of performance, is characteristic
of Kennedy's work as a whole. In her other plays time is dream-like,
REMEMBERING AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF CHRIST
69
multi-layered, prone to disorienting slippage, sped up or slowed down,
and even ignored as a structuring element.
7
The fact that Adrienne Kennedy's son Adam was arrested and
beaten by a white police officer in 1991 makes it tempting to read
    actions and the play as a whole as nothing more than the
playwright's personal revenge fantasy. \X'erner Sollors describes it instead
as a "dramatic rumination about the senseless beating that her son
received," which seems a more useful representation because "rumina-
tion" implies an obsessive return, but from a distance.s The beating of
her son and his subsequent threatened arrest for allegedly assaulting the
police officer is central to at least two other texts by Kennedy, "Letter to
My Students on My Sixty-first Birthday by Suzanne Alexander" and Sleep
Deprivation Chamber.9 The former, written in 1992 and described by
Kennedy as "a blend of fiction and nonfiction,"lO represents in greater
detail the events leading up to the trial of Teddy, Suzanne's son, by an
all-white jury for his alleged assault on the police officer. Sleep Deprivation
Chamber, a full-length play that gives voice to Teddy, Teddy's father David,
and Officer Holzer (among others) and dramatizes the trial itself, often
repeats entire passages from "Letter to My Students" while contradicting
it in a number of ways. In the former text, David disappears in the days
leading up to the trial while in the latter his uncle March wanders off, a
forgetful and forgotten icon of the civil rights movement; "Letter to My
Students" ends with the district attorney seeking and being granted trial
by jury instead of trial by judge, while Sleep Depn·vation Chamber ends with
the charges against Teddy being dropped, and by a judge, not a jury. Both
texts are very different from Motherhood 2000, with its single, unnamed
7
See Linda Kintz, The Subject's Tragedy: Political Poetics, Feminist Theory, and Drama
(Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1992), 143; Carla]. McDonough, "God and
the Owls: The Sacred and the Profane in Adrienne Kennedy's The Owl Answers," Modern
Drama 40 (1997): 386-387; Philip C. Kolin, Understanding Adrienne Kennedy (Columbia:
University of South Carolina Press, 2005), 139; and William R. Elwood, ''Adrienne
Kennedy through the Lens of German Expressionism," Intersecting Boundaries, 89.
8 Werner Sollars, "Introduction," The Adrienne Kennedy Reader, xiv.
9 Adrienne Kennedy, "Letter to My Students on My Sixty-first Birthday by
Suzanne Alexander," The Adrienne Kennedy Reader, 197-227; Adam P. Kennedy and
Adrienne Kennedy, Sleep Deprivation Chamber (New York: Theatre Communications
Group, 1996).
10 Adrienne Kennedy, telephone interview, published in Claudia Barnett, "'An
Evasion of Ontology': Being Adrienne Kennedy," The Drama Revie1v 49, no. 3 (Fall 2005):
163.
70
GRCJENEYEW
narrator/ central character, its apocalyptic setting, and its unsettling night-
mare quality.
If "Letter to My Students" and Sleep Deprivation Chamber are
"part-truth and part-fiction," Motherhood 2000 is something else, perhaps
something more like Kennedy's Fumryhouse of a Negro and The 01viAnswers.
Critic Ben Brantley distinguishes Sleep Deprivation Chamber from these early
texts in a 1996 New York Times review: "the location of what the author
once called the 'funnyhouse of a Negro' has shifted [in Sleep Deprivation
from a haunted interior landscape to a world that is crushingly
real."tt The world of Motherhood 2000 can certainly be described as
"haunted" and "interior." If it resembles anything in "Letters to My
Students" and Sleep Deprivation Chamber, it resembles Suzanne's recurring
nightmares-that Teddy, accused of murdering the "French king," is
"drawn in sunder and dismembered by five horses"
1
2; that Suzanne is
sleepwalking toward Yorick's grave; that her daughter is stripped naked
and forced to stand exposed in the Quad of the university.
Yet Mother/Writer is not Suzanne Alexander,l3 who in turn is
not identical to Adrienne Kennedy. Certainly all of Kennedy's characters
are and are not her: she has famously claimed, "autobiographical work is
the only thing that interests me, apparently because that is what I do
best."14 Mother/Writer's and Suzanne's memories are Kennedy's memo-
ries to an extent, since author and characters overlap.
1
5 But identities,
II Ben Brantley, "Righting a Wrong in a World Out of Joint," New York Times,
27 February 1996, C15, quoted in Kolin, Understanding Adrienne Kmnet!J, 161.
12 Kennedy, "Letter to my Students," 198; Kennedy, Sleep Deprivation Chamber, 6.
l3 Kolin refers to   as "Suzanne" throughout his analysis, assert-
ing that "Motherhood 2000 is primarily a monologue spoken by Suzanne Alexander"
(Understanding Adrienne Kmnedy, 167). Since the text itself does not equate the two charac-
ters, this conflation may be problematic.
14 Adrienne Kennedy, "A Growth of Images," Drama Revie1v 21 (December
1977): 42, quoted in Kolin, Understanding Adrienne Kennedy, 5, and in Werner Sollers, "People
Who Led to My Plqys: Adrienne Kennedy's Autobiography," Intersecting Boundaries, 13.
IS For discussions of the nature of this overlap, see Elin Diamond, "Mimesis,
Mimicry, and the 'True-Real,"' Modern Drama 32, no. 1 (March 1989): 58-72 and "Mimesis
in Syncopated Time: Reading Adrienne Kennedy," Intersecting Boundaries, 131-41; Claudia
Barnett, "'This Fundamental Challenge to Identity': Reproduction and Representation in
the Drama of Adrienne Kennedy," Theatre Journal 48, no. 2 (1996): 141-55, and '"An
Evasion of Ontology': Being Adrienne Kennedy": 157-86; and Elaine Aston,
"Imag(in)ing a Life: Adrienne Kennedy's People Who Led to MY Plays and Dead!J Triplets,"
Auto/ biography and Jdenli(y: Women, Theatre, and PeifOrmance (Manchester: Manchester
University Press, 2004), 58-75.
REMEMBERING AND REVENGING THE DEATH OF CHRIST
71
both fictional and autobiographical, are not only received (products of
context and history) but also performed, reinterpreted, and reimagined.16
"Letter to My Students," Sleep Deprivation Chamber, and Motherhood 2000 all
may be described as "ruminations" on the beating of Kennedy's son but
all work to very different effects. In Motherhood 2000 the attack on the
child becomes a kind of martyrdom as it takes on mythic importance.
And yet, despite the introduction of the mythic, the play does not estab-
lish as clear a distinction between innocence and guilt, between good and
evil, as do "Letter to My Students" and Sleep Deprivation Chamber.J7
In the act and theatrical representation of executing Richard
Fox, Mother/Writer at once exacts revenge on the man she thinks is
responsible for the attack on her son and rejects the traditional Western
Judea-Christian paradigm of passive, silent suffering embodied in the fig-
ure of Christ. She kills both the tormenter and the tormented, the sacri-
ficial figure held up as example to be imitated and followed. Initially this
might seem, as Fuchs appears to suggest, a complete rejection of the cen-
tral salvific event remembered and repeated in the York play of the
Crucifixion (and so a conscious use of revenge tragedy to annihilate and
move beyond the imitatio Christi imperative as represented in the passion
play and cyclically, therefore statically, repeated). Certainly the fact that
Richard Fox, who may have been a violent racist, plays Christ compro-
mises the latter figure, in a way familiar from Kennedy's early plays. In
Fum!Jhouse of a Negro, for example, a Jesus figure appears on stage as one
of the central character Sarah's selves or alter-egos. Jesus in this early play
is described in the stage directions as "a hunchback, yellow-skinned dwarf,
dressed in white rags and sandals."
1
8 Fuchs explains, "this Jesus is ... the Jesus
that was left after Sarah discovered that her loving relationship with him
16 See Kintz, The Subject's Tragedy, 143-5.
1
7 Claudia Barnett, in '"This Fundamental Challenge to Identiry,"' notes that
Kennedy's late plays seem to differ from the early plays in that the former contain sim-
pler and more assured assignments of "guilt." According to Barnett, in the early plays
"blame is fairly evenly distributed and earned. More often than not, Kennedy's characters
fall prey not to tangible, culpable oppressors, but to the hazy, consuming, uncontrollable
forces of birth. Their dooms are often self-inflicted, and then self-perpetuated by the
reproductive cycle" (146). In a note to this section of her argument, Barnett then writes:
"The Alexander Plqys may be an exception to this rule. Kennedy's most recent work seems
more polar in its presentation of good and evil; her writing seems to have shifted over the
years to reflect a more dichotomized world view. The anger expressed in the later plays is
coupled with blame, especially of white sociery" (146, n. 22).
18 Kennedy, Fum!Jhome of a Negro, in The Adrienne Kennedy Reader, 15.
72 GROENEVELD
was a lie."
1
9
Discussing what she describes as Kennedy's early (again, 1960s)
"symbolist" plays, Fuchs describes Kennedy's use of the "religious sign"
as "complex": "It can turn punishing and vengeful," she writes, "or its
affirmative power may be exactly balanced by a sign from another cul-
ture-the Virgin Mary by the Owl [a sign of female power), the pale Jesus
by the black [Patrice) Lumumba-leading to spiritual doubt and paraly-
sis."20 In Motherhood 2000, Richard Fox as problematic Christ figure seems
balanced or doubled by the more traditional and fully realized Christ fig-
ure of Mother/Writer's son, put to his passion nine years before the vari-
ation on the Crucifixion remembered and re-enacted in Kennedy's play.21
Mother/Writer tells us: "On Friday night, January 11, my son was
knocked to the ground and beaten in the head and face, kicked in the
chest and stomach and dragged in the mud by a policeman./ My son was
stopped because he had a taillight out." She continues, "my beloved son
was also a Rhodes Scholar and traveled the country giving speeches for
the causes of Blacks" (230) . The day of the week on which the son expe-
rienced his passion cannot be coincidental, nor his occupation or identi-
ty as itinerant speaker, nor his potential as liberator, even savior.22
Mother/Writer recounts happy memories of her life with her
young son, his affection for his turtle and pop tarts and his habit of
watching Rawhzde "with his cowboy hat on" (232). She admits that she
was (and reveals through her actions that she still is) "haunted" by her
son's attacker (228) and has thought of him "constantly since 1991"
(229). Mother/Writer is obviously the double of the Virgin Mary, appear-
ing at the foot of the cross in her rewritten version of the York
Crucifixion as the Blessed Virgin Mary in the original text very conspic-
uously does not. In the York play, the only characters present on stage are
Christ and his executioners. Mary's, the other women's, and the disciples'
absence strengthens the audience's affective response to Christ's body,
19 Fuchs, "Adrienne Kennedy," 82.
2
0 Ibid.
21 Kolin also notices that "The agonies he [Mother/\X'riter's son] has already
suffered at the hands of Fox and his cohorts sound very much like the Roman soldiers'
offenses against Christ," Understanding Adrienne Kennedy, 170.
22 Kolin notes that Mother/Writer's son is "Like Christ, who trumpeted the
rights of the poor and enshackled." His philanthropy distinguishes him from Richard
Fox: Mother/Writer's "son is not shamming holiness on a cross like Fox but saving oth-
ers in Washington, D.C., for the venerable cause of social justice." Ibid., 170, 171.
REMEMBERJNG AND REVENGI NG THE D EATH OF CHRJST 73
transforming this image of the Crucifixion from the historical to the
iconic, the timeless. A lack of specific context makes the York Christ on
his cross something more like a crucifix than a historical figure.
Mother/Writer, by reintroducing Mary, reestablishes context: the effect
of her son's agony, on Mother/Writer and not on the audience, is empha-
sized.
Given the centrality of her son's passion to Mother/Writer's
identity, her confession in the second half of the play, "My sons were
somewhere in Washington but I didn't know where" (231), seems sur-
prising and striking. We know nothing about her son's response to his
own beating, whether or not it remains as traumatically formative for him
as it obviously is for his mother. In a strange way, the son is central to the
play and completely incidental-as is Richard Fox, who never speaks and
appears only at the end just before his murder.
This is the point at which Kennedy's play becomes disturbing, in
very complex ways. All that remains of the son's attack is its narrative,
which Mother/Writer transmits and potentially revises and fictionalizes.
Mother/Writer informs us that she offered to "rewrite" the "ancient"
play for the Oliviers, though she didn't tell them to what effect. Most sig-
nificantly, her revisions seem to involve stripping Christ of his two
speeches in the original York play, effectively silencing him, ensuring that
we never get Richard Fox's side of the story. She silences Fox/Christ as
her son has been silenced- we know almost nothing about him except
that his court case against his attackers was unsuccessful- and as
Mother/Writer was silenced after her son's attack-she tells us, "I wrote
again and again: / Congressmen / The Black Caucus / The County
Manager / NAACP I Chief of Police" (230), all in vain, as no one
responded to her or even, it seems, acknowledged her calls for justice.
The religious sign next turns "punishing and vengeful" even as
its "affirmative power" is balanced.23 In Motherhood 2000, these effects are
realized in the figures of Mother/Writer as black Madonna and of her
nameless son as black Christ. Both imply stasis in this balance. That
Mother/Writer thinks (consciously or unconsciously) of her son as a type
of Christ and of herself as a type of Mary suggests the centrality of
these Western types to her own mythology and sense of identity: she
attempts to restore (consciously or unconsciously) these religious signs by
reinvesting them with affirmative power. Her attempt, however, is unsuc-
cessful. Her identification of her son with Christ and her self with the
Virgin Mary challenges the dominant image of these figures but also rein-
23 Fuchs, "Adrienne Kennedy," 82.
74 GROENEVELD
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