Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

Pitiless moonlight

with 5 comments

..bathes the first advance Salome makes to molest John the Baptist; aghast, the orchestra blares outrage with a shiver of lust, as she grapples to feel his body..

“Lass mich ihn berühren deinen Leib.”

..-but Salome dismisses instantly the grave white flesh of the Apostle, and desires instead the black snakes of his hair..

“Lass mich es berühren, dein Haar!”

Jochannan spurns and hisses at Salome; crimson, the lips that condemn her, incite her instead..

“Lass mich ihn küssen, deinen Mund.”

The strings and woodwinds slink and shriek; the brass brays malediction; the orchestra is a swollen mass of depravity and desire; the music whips down a vortex, darker, murderous, worse..

In 1905, when this particular scene was first played onstage, some members of the audience fled the opera house; others, riveted in their seats, gasped, amidst the oboes, all gulping air, staving off the deepening swoon of rapture and connection. The carnality of the Judean princess was in every note of music; visceral, it clutched every ear and descended into every shocked soul..

This is the work Richard Strauss created; this is the creature he crafted. This is the masterpiece.

..laughter should not be the response. But when you have a portrait of Salome as a pouty, flouncy kitten of a thing, rubbing herself into ever more petulant poses, and jiggling spiteful proclamations to achieve her desires.. -what’s an observer to do?

Witness, is all in perception; Anne Midgette, of the Washington Post, fell under the lunar seduction.

..two views of the same event; there is no one view. This is what happens when individuals are presented with an artistic endeavor, or product: they make interpretation; the image, or event, resonates with something specific to each observer.

I have negotiated my way along that ravine for most of my creative life; as a playwright, I can’t expect an audience to come out of seeing a work of mine with a common impression, message, or thought. The best I can do is but succinct with how I present the journey, and know that the air that surrounds the work will produce its own currents, creating unexpected ripples, facilitating all kinds of unanticipated access for those watching the presentation.

And in all honesty, that is what writers wrestle with: the individual reaction, which cannot be dictated, and comes from visceral response. It may have nothing to do with what the individual has actually seen, or heard, but with what that person feels they have seen and heard.

As writer, I believe the best we can do is hone our tools, so that when we whittle out a work for presentation, it has the ‘bones’ of our intent; allow it to stand in complete scrutiny, and be willing to engage with the variety of perceptions we induce in the audience.

It is that dialogue which keeps me honest; I must be willing, not only to express myself, but allow the expression of all the many resonances that my work pricks forth..

Art is an interactive business; as it should be.


Written by tomminteroffthestoop

October 11, 2010 at 10:18 AM

5 Responses

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  1. “…and be willing to engage with the variety of perceptions we induce in the audience.” So true. I am still learning that whatever my artistic intention, each person’s perception is his or her reality. A reality that I must openly confront. Perhaps “confront” is too confrontational a word…

    Writing is a solitary art, so to expose a two-year labor of love to the eyes and opinions of others can be horrifying. Yet isn’t that why we write in the first place? This is a very thoughtful and inspiring post.


    December 19, 2011 at 12:45 PM

  2. Hey Tom! The difference in audience interpretation you write about reminds me of the play you did where you had two casts of different backgrounds perform and then you moderated the different reactions. lbb


    October 12, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    • Right, Lori -that was the workshop for Past is the present, Imperfect. The other layer of that workshop was directly related to race, and meant to investigate the premise that an audience often ‘hears with its eyes’; two casts, of different racial components, presented as family -both casts speaking the same script: would the audience respond to the families in the same way, or, seeing the differences, would the audience hear the dialogue differently? As you pointed out, in that particular experiment, the audience definitely heard with their eyes! It was a fascinating presentation by City Artistic Partnership, here in DC, and, if you remember, Voice Of America did a video piece on the workshop..

      I’ll see if I can find that clip..


      October 12, 2010 at 9:06 AM

  3. Very thoughtful. Even with all of those intelligent sentiments about different strokes for different folks, doesn’t it hurt just a little if someone trashes your play?


    October 11, 2010 at 2:55 PM

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