On Tulpa, or Anne & Me

Thursday, March 24, 2011 3 comments

“be careful. this might bring out things you might not be ready for.”

Playwright Shawn C. Harris (aka RVCBard) asked me to write a response to her play Tulpa, or Anne & Me. Having seen the staged reading directed by Flux’s Heather Cohn and featuring Flux collaborators Raushanah Simmons, Lori Parquet, Antoinette Broderick and Katie Hartke; I was pleased to add my thoughts to the fascinating discussion of the play already happening here.

“it’s it’s too big. too deep. too much.”

The plot of Tulpa, or Anne & Me is as simple as it is unique. White actress Anne Hathaway crawls out of a television and into the life of [Name], a Black lesbian web comic book artist. Through a series of visitations, Anne and [Name] draw closer until Anne’s racism explodes at the end of act one; in the visitations of act two, they deal with consequences of that explosion, reaching through pain to the possibility of legitimate intimacy.

The simplicity of the play’s plot is made thematically complex by two fascinating elements: the series of role-playing games that define the action, and the concurrent instability of identity for both characters.

In Tibetan mysticism, a tulpa is a thoughtform, a manifestation of mental energy. According to anthropologist Walter Evans-Wentz:

“A master of yoga can dissolve a Tul-pa as readily as he can create it; and his own illusory human body, or Tul-ku, he can likewise dissolve, and thus outwit Death. Sometimes, by means of this magic, one human form can be amalgamated with another, as in the instance of the wife of Marpa, guru of Milarepa, who ended her life by incorporating herself in the body of Marpa.”

The illusory nature of identity, and the desire to dissolve oneself into the Other as a form of intimacy is essential to dealing with the slippery meanings of Tulpa, or Anne & Me. Is the role of Anne the real Anne Hathaway, or rather the manifestation of [Name]’s mental energy? Or is Anne real, and [Name] a manifestation of her desires? Because [Name] remains on stage, and Anne comes and goes through the TV, it’s easy to assume the former, but the play frequently slips out of any easy definition.

It does so most thrillingly through games, story-telling and role-playing. Both with her GABs (acronym for Guardian Angels of Blackness) and with Anne, [Name] acts out variations of her fears and desires. Those games escalate until Anne invites [Name] to follow her through the TV, where “there is no flesh to hide behind here. here there are no lies to clothe us…it all comes out here.”

They both want that perilous intimacy of dissolving (at least for a moment) into the other, but there is an important difference between their desires. [Name] wants to feel what it’s like to be wanted, believing “i’m a hard person to feel like that about.” Anne wants [Name] (boy, does she ever want [Name]!) but pivotally, that desire is as much about power as it is about mutual connection.

“i want…i want to devour you…it’s your brilliance your beauty your hopes your dreams your love your wonder all that good stuff inside i wanna eat it all up…because if i take the goodness in you the badness in me might go away”

They fall into role-playing Master and Slave, but when [Name] backs out of the game, Anne retaliates with a ‘Dr. Laura’ moment. The rest of the play concerns itself with what is possible after such a moment, and one of the daring possibilities the play considers is that such an ugly moment actually creates space for legitimate intimacy.

“i hate her so much I ain’t give her no name”

That painful quote comes from [Name] describing a Black doll her mother gave her as a child, and it extends to her own uncertain identity in a world where “there’s only so much humanity y’all can see in me.” And while the role-playing between them leads to heartache, it also shatters the silence where Anne doesn’t have to think about her own racism, and creates the possibility for genuine dialogue and even forgiveness.

Tulpa, or Anne & Me suggests that we often see tulpas – creations of own unconscious fears and desires - instead of the real flesh and blood human beings in front of us. To exorcise those spirits, we must be willing to really listen, take full ownership of our actions, and not turn away when we dig up the mandrakes of our souls. The play seems to believe it’s possible, ending on that sweetest note of hope, a kiss; not of devouring, but of tenderness.

Tulpa, or Anne & Me is receiving a staged reading from Crossroads Theatre as part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festival. You can learn more and support the project here on IndieGoGo.

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Spectacular Browne

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 1 comments

(Photo: Tiffany Clementi. Pictured: Travis York, Raushanah Simmons, Corey Allen, Antoinette Broderick, Brian Pracht, Elise Link, Isaiah Tanenbaum, Mychael Chinn, Matthew Archambault, Mike Mihm)

Sparkle, sparkle! A huge thank you to Judson, Brian, Antoinette, our actors and the amazing packed house who made our 8th Food:Soul of Spectacular Browne so moving. If you were there, please leave your thoughts on the play and event in the comments below; and enjoy these rehearsal shots from our Arnie/Announcer/Foreman extraordinaire, Isaiah Tanenbaum.
(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Corey Allen, Mychael Chinn)
Maurice teaches a barely willing Charlie to shoot a basketball (Charlie hopes this will be in exchange for Mo playing Super Star Diva Magic...he may wind up disappointed).
(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Travis York, Matthew Archambault, Mike Mihm)
Bad boys, bad boys, what you going to do? What you going to do...when they appear in artsy sepia shot?
(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Mychael Chinn, David Crommett)
It appears Charlie may have been successful in convincing Max to let him sing at the bar.

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Travis York, Elise Link, Mychael Chinn)
Offstage focus on what appears to be a very serious scene.

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: the cast and our intrepid director)
Every good play deserves at least one dream dance sequence...
(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Brian Pracht, Antoinette Broderick)
Happy director, thoughtful playwright.
(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Bread.)
At this particular Food:Soul, there was no shortage of bread (including some crazy good home made loafs!) So, leave your thoughts below, and see you at the next Food:Soul.
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Food:Soul #8 - Spectacular Browne

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 3 comments

Food:Soul features good food, good company, and a fully staged reading of a play Flux is passionate about developing and sharing with you - all for free! SPECTACULAR BROWNE is also presented as part of Judson Memorial Church's Bailout Theater series.

by Brian Pracht
directed by Antoinette Broderick
featuring: Corey Allen, Matthew Archambault, Mychael Chinn, David Crommett, Elise Link, Mike Mihm, Raushanah Simmons, Isaiah Tanenbaum, Travis York

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Dinner begins at 7:30pm
Reading begins at 8:00pm
(Food will be provided, but feel free to bring a dish as well. Please note: food is served on a first come, first serve basis with the doors opening at 7:30PM. For a guaranteed seat, RSVP at tiffany@fluxtheatre.org. Reserved seats are limited.)

About the play:
Charlie and Maurice are two brothers growing up with big ambitions in a small town. Their mother Carolina does her best to keep them from harm, but Charlie's insistence on singing - and dressing - like a woman raises the threat of violence. When things take a bad turn, Maurice is forced to abandon his chance at hoop dreams and protect the brother he doesn't understand.

Want to learn about past Food:Souls?
#7: Miss Lilly Gets Boned by Bekah Brunstetter, directed by Heather Cohn
#6: Hearts Like Fists by Adam Szymkowicz, directed by Keith Powell
#5: Lickspittles, Buttonholers, and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens by Johnna Adams, directed by John Hurley
#4: VolleyGirls by Rob Ackerman, directed by August Schulenburg
#3: Narrator 1 by Erin Browne, directed by Scott Ebersold
#2: This Storm Is What We Call Progress by Jason Grote, directed by Kelly O'Donnell
#1: Pretty Theft by Adam Szymkowicz, directed by Heather Cohn
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