by Andrew Massingham
Apologizing/or having 'made rather merry' the night before (but looking and sounding quite hale and healthy), actor Robert Fulton and actor/writer Samantha Swan tucked into coffee and conversation at the Senator Cafe. The topic was Swan's new play, Star.
Harold: How does the explosive dynamic of Marlene Dietrich, Nazi Germany and the exploiting of Aryan features lead to the "Escalating of human behaviour", as you've put it in your press release?
Samantha: And you're sitting there thinking, "It's tantalizing, but is it really just a load of crap?" To begin at the beginning, the idea came from the fact that I had worked as a model for years, and loved it at times. But I was very disturbed by some of the really exquisite treatment I received, because it had very little to do with me being human, and everything to do with being iconographic. When you're placed on that pedestal there's only one place you can go.
S: You fall off the fucker. The woman in my play, Stella, worked as a model at the same age I did, in young, developing womanhood. At that time we are all vivacious, we are all eating life to the fullest. What did that mean in Nazi Germany? And what did it mean to be Jewish and blonde? If you were like Stella, you exploited that in order to survive. She wanted to stay on the pedestal, to be the girl that all the girls wanted to be, and the girl that all the boys wanted to bed.
H: How did she exploit herself?
S: She saw herself as Marlene Dietrich. She was obsessed with jazz, and really believed that that was her destiny. She completely disassociated herself from her Jewishness, as her whole family did. It's tragic, but she became a star. She was a Catcher. She turned for the Gestapo, and gave up Jews left, right and center, even pulling a gun on an old school friend.
H: Is she still alive?
S: Alive and presumably well, living in a Berlin suburb.
H: What would she think about this show?
S: I think she'd be absolutely fucking delighted. Not a nice woman, really, is she Rob?
Rob: No. It's not a feel-good play, really.
H: What is it then, and how do you fit in?
R: Should I talk about me Sam, or should you?
S: You, please, I'm making a mess of this, I'm afraid.
R: Altogether there are thirty roles in this play, human and non-human, divided amongst six actors. I'm playing four roles. That's how I fit in.
S: Tell him about Rolf.
R: Rolf was her-
S: -Second husband.
R: He was a Jewish artist who forged papers. He loved the fact that people had to seek him out so they could hide. We're talking about young people here, nineteen and twenty. They loved power. Rolf didn't even try to hide himself. He dressed up elaborately in public; a dandy we've called him.
S: They were actually called "The Catching Couple." Both acted like movie stars. They did this horrid job with panache. I've heard this term lately, "thinging"; to render someone a thing in order to depersonalize or do your job more effectively. And that way lies madness.
H: Or Hollywood. How are you staging such a play?
S: We're trying to make this play an essence. Although we have Gestapo agents, interrogations, time travel and cafes, we've got to keep it one girl's story.
|STAR, by Samantha Swan. directed by
Christopher Comrie, with Swan, Howard
Davis, Gloria Saesura, Athena Reich,
Robert Fulton and Giles Hodge. July 11
and 12 at 5 pm. July 13 at 6:30 pm. $8.
Poor Alex, 296 Brunswick. 534-5919. Rat-
Star is a play that fails in such in-
teresting ways it is almost a success.
Playwright Samantha Swan
plays Stella, a callow young woman
in prewar Germany who dreams of
becoming a star like her idol, Mar-
iene Dietrich. Instead, through col-
lision of historical chance and her
gift for self-preservation, she be-
comes a Jew who betrays other
Swan's theme is the banality of
evil, a subject tackled by many
works on the Nazi era, including
Klaus Mann's Mephisto and Fass-.
binder's Lili Marleen. This ambi-
tious Fringe script, a distillation of a
larger work, is crammed to bursting
with undigested facts, and the fram-
ing story of a pair of elderly survi-
vors never feels integrated into the
Still, the messy script has a spark,
the cast is never less than wholly
committed and the inventive physi-
cal style of director Christopher
Comrie's staging — reminiscent, at
its best, of the work of Theatre de
Complicite — gives the narrative a
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