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Today's Inspiration

May 23, 2012

America Hurrah is a trilogy of short plays written by Jean Claude van Itallie, a Belgium native who immigrated to the states during WW2 with his family and educated by way of Harvard. The trio of plays— considered ‘experimental’— premiered in 1966 and it ran for 634 performances. The plays were as follows:

* * *

Interview-  Referred to as a ‘fugue for 8 actors’. 4 actors play unemployed job applicants: a house painter, a scrubwoman, a banker and a lady’s maid. The other 4 actors are masked, anonymous, job interviewers. Each question they hurl is meant to be more humiliating and invasive than the next. The interviewees struggle for their dignity. The play toggles between a subway station, a city street, and psychiatrist’s office (this is the scene Megan and Don were watching.)

* * *

TV- Three workers in a television studio glancing at monitors. They work and chatter while being utterly disconnected from the performers on screen. From the NYT review: ‘[The television performers] look like so many up-ended zebras - go through all the violent, cloying, synthetic motions that pass for entertainment on the national airwaves. But there is no relation between the workers and the work: a yawning gulf, big enough to drown us all, has opened between the real concerns of real people and the imaginary concerns of our imaginary archetypes.”

* * *

Motel - This play is done with actors in full face masks or sometimes puppets. An ‘excursion into theater of the absurd.’ A blonde and a man check into a nameless motel on route 66. The female motel keeper is the only person who speaks. She extolls of the virtues of self-flushing toilets and hook rugs, while the blonde and the man crawl around on the floor and scrawl obscene graffiti on the wall. Here is an excerpt: 

Motel Keeper’s Voice: Myself I know it from the catalogue: bottles, bras, breakfasts, refrigerators, cast-iron gates, plastic posies…

(In the motel room, the Woman doll opens her negligee and the man doll pulls off her bra. The Man and Woman dolls embrace. The Woman doll puts lipstick on her nipples.)

Motel Keeper’s Voice: Paper subscriptions, Buick trucks, blankets, forks, clitter-clack darning hooks, transistors and antimacassars, vinyl plastics..

 (The Man doll writes simple obscene words on the wall. The Woman doll does the same with her lipstick)

Motel Keeper’s Voice: …pickles, bayberry, candles, South Dakotan Kewpie Dolls, fiberglass hair, polished milk, amiable grandpappies, colts, Galsworthy books, cribs, cabinets, teeter-totters…

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