neworldtheatre: “Adventures in Shockery ” <font size=2>by Kate Ratcliffe</font> May 17, 2007
by Sara E
As an individual who makes an attempt to follow current events (sifts through the news for actual information, reads books, watches documentaries, etc.), mockery is an essential component to my mental stability. I have a theory: part of the reason it bestows such a wave of relief is because the stomach muscles employed for the purpose of laughter are the same muscles used to vomit. After reading something truly shocking and horrifying, I’m either reaching for my little picture of Jon Stewart lovingly cut into the shape of a heart with my very own scissors (saying "please – tell me you’ve noticed – please make fun of them – hold my hand"), or for a bucket wherein I might remove the contents of my stomach.
Last night’s show was a fine production, at times hilarious, sobering, and consistently outrageous. As it moved from comic shock to providing some unfortunately very real information, my mind retreated from its involvement in the production for a moment to embark on a tangent: "I know all of this. I know most of the people I know here know all of this. It does bear repeating, but will anything change with the repeating? I wonder if people don’t already know this, will they think they’re joking? I hope they don’t think they’re joking." After the show, my friend Anna dreamed aloud of gathering a few groups of people we know who might benefit in a very special way from a mandatory field trip to see this production. It’s a delectable dream, but I fear we can’t actually force them to attend, and too often the targets of satire will conveniently choose to not look.
That being said, the entire (I’m going to boldly assume chiefly liberal, open-minded) audience was a target of the satire in a way. Judging from my own reaction and the responses I saw and heard around me, there are times when it’s comfortable to laugh and moments when a gut reaction prompted me to spit out "no!" when I felt the performers had thrown themselves bodily over the line, rather than merely crossing it.
The subject matter of last night’s performance might not be new to me (or the bulk of the people watching), but in my case it served as a reminder to continue looking for what the administration/media is not showing. It also left me thinking about the issue of how mockery transforms into accusation. Does it depend on the tactic of the performer, or does it depend on moments of discomfort when the viewer knows he/she can rightfully be accused?