Great to have guestblogger Lee Trull on board today, and hopefully, in the future. Lee is Associate Artist with the Dallas Theater Center, and a member of the Kitchen Dog Theater Company.
Two years ago when my co-adapter, Leah Spillman, and I first set out to adapt Titus Andronicus for Kitchen Dog Theater, our first task was how to tackle the violence. We decided to amp it up. Having transposed the play to ancient Maya, our “vocabulary of violence” was instantly expanded. The ritual sacrifices (organs drawn from the proudest war captive), the terrifying weapons, and, most importantly for our play, the eating habits, provided stage moments that made the ancient Romans seem shy. Now that it has been produced there’s a new question: is the violence supposed to be funny, scary, or gross? Or, are we allowed to laugh? Lawson Taitte in the Morning News wondered if Shakespeare’s audience laughed as much as Kitchen Dog’s. Knowing what we know about his audience, of course they did! Mark Lowry at Theater Jones wonders if we at Kitchen Dog might take this play seriously. Of course we do! (Both of those reviews were wonderfully generous and fun, thank you both!) The violence in this play evokes laughter because it rolls out at a relentless pace and to extraordinary extremes. The sick joke is that the tragedy plays out like the famous duet in Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun” — anything you can do, I can do BETTER! For the most part the violence in this play is nothing you won’t find in Darfur, or Iraq, or right next door in Juarez. Oh, who am I kidding…in Dallas. The ancient setting of Titus isn’t meant to illustrate how violent things USED to be, but to illuminate how little things have changed. Doesn’t sound funny? Perhaps Titus puts it best when asked why he would laugh at such atrocities — “Why I have not another tear to shed”.