File puptcrit/puptcrit.0810, message 392


Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2008 08:44:03 -0700
To: puptcrit-AT-puptcrit.org
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Dealing with tragedy and tragic shows/Bruno


Thanks Alan, for the thoughts about Dr. Schnadt, but I don't find fault in
Bettleheims success with his "Uses of Enchantment"-- the book deeply
effected me when I read it long ago. He was just one who's ambition and luck
outmatched the others who had similar thoughts. But these ideas are not
terribly original. the point is the message of how (and maybe why) these
tales have hung around in our Western Culture for so long. There is a
relevance -- that is why. Folk Tales give us a palette to communicate the
mine-field of our youthful emotion.
Also, when doing shows just for kids, it is wise to be more sensitive and do
a question/answer or some sort of de-mystification at the conclusion of the
show, if possible. When kids are sitting with their parents at a show-- it
is great, because they are shielded from some fear by the comfort of the
parent (ideally). Sometimes parents used to call my kid's show THE GIFT
(hand show with Mr. Punch) a bit scary. they were referring to the show's
intensity and if I sensed a wave of fear in the audience I could tone down
the performance or even alter it-- because that was the type of show it
was-- a lightly scripted show that was improvised. One Sunday morning I did
a kid's BD show in the house of Persian Jews. the TV was on in the room next
door filled with adults crying watching the news that Rabin had been
assassinated. The entire house was in shock.
The kids were not directly aware of the tragedy going on around them but
they sure could feel it.
I did the show as best I could knowing that I was a joyous distraction from
the world events-- and somehow part of of healing or coping process and
necessary. The few adults who saw the show agreed too.
-steven Ritz-Barr




On Wed, Oct 29, 2008 at 5:36 AM, <puppetpro-AT-aol.com> wrote:

> It saddens me to hear this story about Bettleheim, but I'm not surprised.
> So many things that have come into the mainstream have been promoted by
> people who have little or no ethical standard. It doesn't make the ideas any
> less relevant, but it tarnishes their delivery.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> I also really like the work of Joseph Campbell (who some say was
> Anti-Semitic)..though I never got any hint of this from his writings....
>
> My other favorites in the field of myth & fairy tales & their uses include:
>
>
> Robert Graves.....Marina Warner.....Jack Zipes....
>
>
>
>
> Rolande
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
>
> From: Alan Cook <alangregorycook-AT-msn.com>
>
> To: puptcrit-AT-puptcrit.org
>
> Sent: Wed, 29 Oct 2008 1:45 am
>
> Subject: [Puptcrit] Dealing with tragedy and tragic shows/Bruno Bettleheim
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> Bruno Bettleheim's "Uses of Enchantment" was very popular among puppeteers
> and
> grade school teachers when it came out in print. Bettleheim sadly (and
> tragically) was a bit of a plagiarist and a con artist.
>
> In Chicago he set up a clinic which blamed mothers of kids (I think it was
> autistic kids, but would have to recheck that.)
>
> He caused much misery for many families while making money (big money) as a
> psychiatric expert.
>
> While "Uses of Enchantment" points out the meanings behind fairytales, his
> claim
> to have "discovered" this was simply not true.
>
> When I was a college sophomore, I was fortunate to have art history classes
> with
> Dr Alois Schardt, who was a leading figure in German Art Museum work before
> Hitler and personally had known leading modern German painters. He had a
> lovely
> original painting by Franz Marc on the wall of his home in Claremont CA. He
> also
> corresponded with Feininger and had small carved wood houses by Feininger.
>
> The Art History course I took was  in Medieval Art, and it was so
> outstanding
> that suddenly even chemistry majors signed up for it. I regret that the
> college
> did not extend Dr. Schardt's time on our campus (he was a visiting
> professor)
> for I wish we could also have heard his approach to modern art. Students
> petitioned the administration to retain this amazing professor to no avail.
> It
> was a major error by the Administration. Well, students at Immaculate Heart
> College in Los Angeles did get the benefit of his wisdom after he left
> Pomona
> College.
>
> Anyway, Dr Schardt invited me for a chat because of my interest in
> puppetry, and
> he spoke primarily about Fairy tales and their meanings, why they were good
> for
> kids, helping to understand the problems, the good and evil we may
> encounter.
> And while these stories are often retold to children in the form of puppet
> shows, or in the collected tales written down by the Bruder Grimm, they
> were
> Folk tales, enjoyed not just by children, but by older folk as well.
>
> This conversation was pre "Uses of Enchantment".
>
> ALAN COOK
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: puppetpro-AT-aol.com
> Sent: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 2:25 PM
> To: puptcrit-AT-puptcrit.org
> Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Dealing with tragedy and tragic shows
>
> Your thoughts remind me of Bruno Bettleheim's "Uses of Enchantment" -- a
> classic
> !
>
>
>
> Rolande
>
>
>
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Christopher Hudert <heyhoot-AT-mindspring.com>
> To: puptcrit-AT-puptcrit.org
> Sent: Tue, 28 Oct 2008 4:20 am
> Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Dealing with tragedy and tragic shows
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> On Oct 27, 2008, at 10:09 AM, puppetpro-AT-aol.com wrote:
>
> > I would also add that most great stories have substance that lasts
> > beyond the sadness or horror or tradegy.
>   I would add that most great stories also have substance that lasts
> beyond the joy and laughter, and that there is - more often than not -
> a mixture of all of the above which is a large part of what makes them
> great stories to begin with. Rarely can you have a decent, much less
> great, story that does not contain various levels of emotion. The
> contrast and journey from one to the other draw us in.
>
> > We all have different things we remember -- and really great stories
> > keep being remembered on different levels as we age.
> >
> > Childhood isn't all sweetness and light, and children know this.
>   Gee, just childhood? Life is not all sweetness and light (nor is it
> all sour and darkness), but if we learn this as children we'll be
> better equipped to deal with it as adolescents and adults.
> >
> > Years ago I told a story that included Baba Yaga to a friend's
> > children, ages 4 and 6. I purposely left out the part about her eating
> > children, though I did mention that she sharpened her teeth -- at
> > that, the six year old asked if it was because she ate children?
> >
> > I simply nodded.
> >
> > Her father was aghast that I would tell such a tale to his children!
> >  Like the Buddha's father, he wanted to protect his children from all
> > things sad, ugly, and evil.
> >
> > But introducing children to the "truth of human behavior" is much
> > safer in a fairy tale than letting them find out later in reality.
>   I firmly believe in using what I call a healthy fear in shows. It's
> far different than the use of gratuitous or graphically violent scare
> tactics, or undue exposure to dangers or evils. Bad things happen, and
> a healthy fear is one that creates suspense and teaches that there are
> dangers and threats in the world, AND that there are consequences in
> how you deal with them. There is learning in dealing with them properly
> and wisely, and learning from the mistakes of dealing with them
> incorrectly or foolishly, and even learning from ignoring or not
> dealing with them. There is a fear for the safety of a character we
> care for, and the fear of the character representing the threat. In my
> mind it is far better to learn many of these things through stories
> than to be exposed to them firsthand. When we sanitize a story too much
> (usually because we fear it will harm the child, or that someone might
> object) we remove the threat and often the whole underlying point of
> the story. This is counterproductive, because not only do we not teach
> how to deal with problems, but we also leave the threat loose in the
> world as it has neither been defeated nor redeemed. We (not just
> children) want to feel that the thing we fear has been conquered and
> will no longer be a threat - at least for a while. We want, dare I say
> need, good to triumph over evil, even if that means that the good guy
> dies as well. He/she dies a hero, but has still vanquished the evil.
>   To coddle a child, to attempt to keep them from all harm - real or
> imagined - is to do them great harm as not only will there be a rude
> awakening one day, but they are unprepared to deal with problems in a
> healthful way, have not learned alternative solutions from other's
> behavior (real or in stories), and have no real resistance to the
> infection of the evils of life which exist. How do you even teach a
> child right from wrong if they are "protected" from all aspects of life
> that may be sad, ugly, or evil? How will a child take chances and
> risks, and push the boundaries in life, if they are not even allowed
> near the fence? They will have a very limited ability to use their
> imagination to create anything with such a "safe" existence. If they
> don't do it as a child, they surely won't do it as an adult, so they
> won't have solutions to problems, creative or otherwise, much less come
> up with the next great invention.
>   And I think it is important to impart that sometimes the bad or sad
> thing is a matter of perspective and understanding nature. When talking
> post show with children about some of the threats in the stories that I
> perform, I try to stress that the threat and danger is often a natural
> one. For instance, the wolf is not being mean when he eats the duck in
> Peter and the Wolf, he's doing what he would naturally do to survive -
> eating a small animal - and that it is not safe for Peter to go into
> the woods because the wolf wouldn't see him as a kid, but as a small
> animal and therefore potentially a meal. Yes, it's sad for the duck,
> but wolves do have to eat or they will die.
>
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: The Independent Eye <eye-AT-independenteye.org>
> >
> >> What do you all think about taking an audience through such a sad
> >> ordeal when there is nothing hopeful in the telling? Is  it jerking
> >> an audience around?  It is one thing to read a sad tale and another
> >> to take an audience there.  I really just don't know what to think.
>   Nothing hopeful in the telling? I would venture out on a limb and say
> that there is then not much of a story. True, it can end in tragedy,
> but is there nothing hopeful to learn in the tale? Is there nothing
> hopeful in the end of "Romeo and Juiliet" or "West Side Story" (same
> tale, different time period)? Can we not learn from their attempts to
> overcome the evils of prejudice? Can we not take hope in the fact that,
> although they suffered and died, they were able to overcome that evil,
> and that just perhaps, we too might be able to do the same if we tried?
> Is there nothing hopeful in the struggle of the lead character in most
> tragedies? Few really good stories are (IMO) truly defeatist, sucking
> the spark life out of the audience at the end of the show. Is there no
> hope in the life, stories, and plays about Anne Frank? There is no hope
> in her ending, but there IS hope in the story and the telling of it.
> Does telling or performing such a tale jerk the audience around? I
> think not if it is well done, but hopefully it does move them  to
> another place both emotionally and intellectually.
>
> > Really good question.  I think it's always been difficult, but
> > probably more so in recent years.  There are just periods in dramatic
> > history when tragedy is accepted, and others where it isn't.  Oddly, I
> > think there's been a reversal between film and theatre audiences.
> > Used to be, in the movies you'd have to tack happy endings onto
> > everything, whereas theatre was "more serious" and we could deal with
> > the immense sadness of the finale of DEATH OF A SALESMAN, for example.
> >  Now, it seems that anything goes in film, but in theatre
> > you either have to add a final uplifting chorus (e.g. the end of
> > SPRING AWAKENING) or make it some other race in a kingdom far away.
>   I don't know if I agree with this. I think that often we line our
> wagons up in a row, following the ones before us that have been
> successful. The happy ending brings in bucks as people go away feeling
> good. I think you can end in tragedy and still have people feel good
> (though clearly not the same kind of feeling good as a happy ending).
> Some of my favorite tragic shows end that way. I don't recall a happy
> ending being tacked on to the end of "One Flew Over the Coocoo's Nest"
> but it has been a while since I watched it. And although I did not care
> for "Titanic" I recall people coming out of the movie crying, yet going
> back to see it several times. I would agree that, due to the personal
> and present nature of theater (it's happening here and now, and we are
> sharing in it as an audience), we are more likely to want to experience
> something that is uplifting in some way than a tragedy. But there are
> lots of shows that are tragedies in live theater and are successful
> (though admittedly for shorter runs than the fun musicals). I think an
> audience allows the separation of the screen (be it big or small) to be
> an insulation from the action and will watch something more tragic than
> they will on the stage. I think that the ending of a good tragedy - be
> it book, stage or screen - leaves us feeling moved, challenged, and/or
> cleansed in some way.
>   As for making it some other race or in a kingdom far away, audiences
> (and storytellers of all kinds) throughout the ages have used the
> device of plausible deniability ("They're not really talking about US!.
> See, it's a kingdom far away.") to get the message across. No one likes
> the accusing finger of truth, particularly when it is an ugly truth,
> pointed directly at them. Those receptive to the message will get it,
> those who are not, well, at least we hope they are entertained and
> maybe some of the message will sink in eventually.
>
> > Most of our own recent work has involved very dark journeys with
> > redemptive endings, because right now for me the challenge is to try
> > to really *earn* those endings.  How indeed can we make resurrection
> > credible and not just frosting over the cow-pie?  And I have to say
> > that even so, I have friends who really don't want to see our work,
> > even the comedy, because the journey itself is just too rocky.
> >
> > But I don't actually think it has to do with the uplift of the ending.
> >  It's a question of what *is* energizing about the piece. When it
> > works, the act of the telling itself can be redemptive: in its energy,
> > its skill, its depth of perception, its shared humanity - certainly
> > that's what operates in any of the Hans C. Andersen stories.  If we
> > have a strong sense of the presence and the "voice" of the teller, it
> > can hold us in its embrace the way I held my kids when reading them a
> > bedtime story - and I read some hum-dingers, and they survived.
>   To me the most engaging stories and characters are ones that are full
> of flaws (as I can identify because I know myself to be full of flaws),
> but that also allow for the hope of victory and/or transformation.
> However, they need not be painful to watch or listen to. The stories of
> H C Andersen are based on a common idea of redemption through the
> struggles and suffering of a journey to a higher place. They don't all
> end in happiness, other than obtaining the transformation to that next
> plane. Yes, it is the shared humanity (even when it is shared with an
> ugly duckling or tin soldier) and the hope of their victory that brings
> us along in their suffering journey.
>
>   I don't think the idea of performing a tragedy is to put the audience
> through the wringer and hang them out to dry, nor is it to manipulate
> them into feeling the tragedy. To me it is more about taking them with
> you through a somewhat treacherous, and perhaps even a bit torturous,
> journey on the way to redemption, conquest, and a measure of defeat.
> Often it does not end well for the lead character or characters, but
> the tale leaves the audience someplace other than despair.
>
>   However, I think this tumultuous time - economic, political, and
> otherwise - may not be the best to attempt to sell a tragedy to an
> audience or a sponsor. I just can't see "Hey, come see a really sad
> show. You'll be glad you did." as a big selling point right now.
>
>   I have a couple of tragedies on my "To Do" list, but I think they
> will start out as vanity projects when I can afford the time and money
> as I can't see my current client and audience base as the target for
> those shows. Somehow I don't see a K-5 and/or family audience going in
> big for the tragic tear jerker. I can get by with a heart warming tear
> jerker, but I think it would require a more mature audience for the
> tragedies.
>
>   Well, that's about enough from me on this for now.
>
> Christopher
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-- 
FAUST PuppenFilm by Steven Ritz-Barr
"This is a fascinating piece which uses the visual-music aspect of puppetry
to make images as puppet theatre can at it's best."
-Dr. Kathie Folie, Univ. of Cal, Santa Cruz Theatre Chair and Professor

Classics in Miniature, LLC
Metropolitan Puppet Authority, Non-profit
www.lapuppet.com
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