|Since 1986 at the Burstein Family Stage||Home of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama|
THE MISSION by Jules Tasca
Notes from the Playwright
The Mission is a tragedy in the broad sense. I say in the broad sense, because when we think of the genre, tragedy, we think of classical drama or neo-classical drama. These works had structures (one act and five acts) dictated by the stage fashion of the culture from where they emanate.
In a Sophoclean tragedy, for instance, we can be sure that the tragic flaw will be overweening pride. In a Shakespearean tragedy, we can see some pernicious emotion or deadly sin breaking down man's reason. Ibsen invented domestic tragedy and devised a way to make the rigid Victorian code of conduct a tragic flaw that brought down families.
In a few plays that I have written, I hit upon the idea of using religion as a tragic flaw and to my surprise, the plays worked as I wanted them to work, but many of the audience members did not perceive the conceit of using something ordinarily deemed benign as a poisonous defect in human conduct. In The Mission, I attempted to do something similar with gender.
To most, gender is a simple concept exposed on a sonogram as male or female. Later people discover that this or that member of his or her family is a boy but... or a girl, but... straight... gay... and bi-sexual complicate simplistic categorization. But how many look on gender as an ontological module in human behavior that can be as damning as pride or jealousy or adherence to an outworn social code.
But it can be so. Gender can be a guide through life and bring enormous happiness, or it can become as confining and destructive as prison bars holding a person in solitary. It all depends on who, when and where you are.
In The Mission, Joe and James are Iago and Othello to each other. Father James Corcoran, trusting and Christian is drawn into the heart of darkness of the prisoner, Joe Conte. It is impossible for James to know, until that darkness extinguishes what was an important part of his make-up as a person and as a priest of Christ.
The constant clash of Joseph Conte's homosexual orientation and his middle class upbringing has pounded his soul into a savage steel blade. It causes Joe to deify the Borgia's, the ruthless Renaissance Italian rulers who kill or torture for personal gain, like today's Mafia. Personal, social and family pressures have been too great to soften Joe's heart of metal now. James, the priest, tries. Is Joe's desire in the play merely to demean a priest? Or does Joe's mean-spirit manifest a profound self-hatred and self-destructive force. And why?
Whatever the analysis, the play attempts to explore how gender drives us-all of us, at times, to the edges of our being. Just as pride, ambition and Ibsen's Victorian Code, visited devastation on Antigone, Macbeth and the Helmers, so does gender, when out of control, result in tragic catastrophe.
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