Saturday, November 7, 2009

Notes on Class

I've been following Professor Matthew Isaac Cohen's blog about his course on Bread and Puppet Theatre at Royal Halloway, University of London, with interest in part because my essay "Breaking with Bread and Puppet" which is both a narrative of my decision to stop working with the troupe as well as a critique of the imagery that prompted my decision (for which I've gained a small amount of notoriety.) The main focus of the course to have the students investigate the theatrical techniques most closely associated with Bread and Puppet. Despite any political falling-out with B&P founder, Peter Schumann, I strongly endorse theatre-makers drawing upon these techniques. In fact, despite the fact that Total War is primarily written in a naturalistic style, I do incorporate many of these techniques I learned as well.

This past week, Cohen's class was assigned to use what they were learning to parody the political and racial stances of the far-right, and arguably, neo-Nazi, British National Party. One group of students was assigned the instruction:

Using a ringmaster, explore the idea that the BNP deny the Holocaust.
Which I found particularly ironic since the argument of "Breaking with Bread and Puppet" was that Peter Schumann had deliberately misrepresented the history of the Warsaw Ghetto, and by extension, the Holocaust, in order to misrepresent the West Bank Barrier Wall, and was thus engaged in what can be termed "soft-core" Holocaust Denial.

In my view, the BNP provides too easy a target, now if they were assigned to parody the controversy around the attempted boycotts of Israeli academics by the British University and College Union, that would have been edgy.

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