The idea to translate the structure of “Divine Comedy” by Dante into CONTEMPORARY SYMBOLISTIC THEATRE LANGUAGE is rooted in the understanding of Jungian “COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUSNESS” as a base on which a “universal” symbolic language can be developed. We believe that in this way a DYNAMIC CHANNEL OF COMMUNICATION can be created; marked by the constant, paradoxical, exciting activity of symbols in their “living” function of transforming the Reality.
The “SYMBOLISTIC LANGUAGE” in “MIRACLES NOW” will be derived from COLLECTIVE archetype-imagery, and will relate to CONTEMPORARY MYTHOLOGIES.
It will not represent a “personal” expression, but a “collective dream”.
“…When Satan had been flung out of heaven, he was supposed to have fallen like a flaming comet and, when he struck the earth, to have plowed right through to its center. The prodigious crater that he opened thereupon became the fiery pit of Hell; and the great mass of displaced earth pushed forth at the opposite pole became the Mountain of Purgatory, which is represented by Dante as lifting heavenward exactly as the South Pole…” J.Campbell: Myths To Live By
Labyrinth / Wandering
The “didactic” aspect of the structure of “Divina Comedia” is rooted in medieval religious imagery, and it says that “up” is good and “down” is evil. A man is supposed to be “in between”, or in the best case to pass the strugg¬ling process of “elevation” from “down” to “up”.
The (simplified) concept of worlds’ hierarchy has a little in common with a contemporary spectator. The system of values has changed: what is “up” proved too often as “bad”; and on the other hand, “bad” is presumed to have its positive sides. So, the basic meaning of Dante’s structure needs to be adapted, “modernized”.
Following this idea, in “MIRACLES NOW”, the symbol of LABYRINTH will be recalled.
The symbol of LABYRINTH is close to the symbol of CITY: being lost and found again; with the accent on “wandering”; a cyclic process rather than plain “progress” along the line from “down” to “up”.
SOME MYTHS TODAY
The Wheel Of Fortune / Apocalypse / The End of World
The “fatalistic” concept (involving questions like: “Am I really a creator of my own Destiny, or is it “something” that makes things go as they go?’) is a part of “collective” archetype imagery, and it expresses itself in different forms in every culture and time.
The imagery of WHEEL OF FORTUNE; The symbolism of Wheel of Fortune: playing with Destiny, challenging Destiny, is an attempt to answer this question. It is present today, in the form of games of chance, gambling, modern TV Quiz, etc.
The myth of THE END OF THE WORLD is constantly present; only over the past decade it already several times changed its “shape” from Nuclear disaster to Global warming panic.
New Myths are emerging and being embodied in reality over and over again; “Living” myths that influence our culture in one or another way are one of the subjects of “MIRACLES NOW”.
“Myth” is understood here not as a “story” or “phantasm”, but a powerful symbolic structure which corresponds, influences and – even – creates reality.
THE FUNCTION OF MIRACLES TODAY
A man has always had a need to experience, to witness a MIRACLE. In Dante’s time “miracles” were in hands of church and religious mind. Where does a man turn – in his need for miracles – today? How does a “modern man” – individualized, sceptical, confused as he is -satisfies his “urge” for miracles – within a culture where religion doesn’t always function any longer as a powerful mythological system?
Our “modern man” turns – only in his need for “miracles”- to “alternative” sources. The activities where miracles are still expected (present) in a more or less obvious way are without doubt mass-media productions; entertainment; TV (as a media) along with the world of advertisement, propaganda, design; and the context of politics, sport, art.
It seems miracles are unavoidable in our life. In one way, they are often used as a “channel” for manipulation – in hands of Politics, Economy or another powerful system. (The whole context of “consumer culture” is based on manipulation with the human need for miracles).
On the other hand, both in art and science, “miracles” have been pro¬duced in the process of pioneering, “alchemic” research and marked the pro¬gressive path of human experience. In other words: a term “discovery” always had something of a “miracle” in its meaning.
Why are the miracles so important experience to a human being? Is it only a need that has to do with the fulfilment of a naive and superstitious, prejudiced mind?
By a “definition” from Dictionary, a Miracle is: “…A marvel; a supernatural event; a wonder; a dramatic representation exhibiting the lives of the saints, or other sacred subjects.”(formerly).
We would add here following ex¬pressions which can describe the term “Miracle”:
-Impossible becomes possible;
-Invisible acts on us like¬ Visible;
Keeping in view (just mentioned) etymology of the term “Miracle”, we can imagine that categories like “sensationalism”: and “new-by-all-means” are implicated. It is easy to understand now why “miracle” has become a powerful mean of cultural manipulation.
On contrary, the “true” meaning of “miracle” must be related to meaning of a Symbol: a “bridge” between known and unknown, poetical “explanation” of that “unexplainable”. And the need for miracles is, in fact, a need to grasp (in a flashlight) the “other side” of reality. A miracle is a very intense experience of a Symbol; a possibility to throw new light on existing believes end per¬ceptions.
Starting from the point that theatre is by its essence a “collective act”, and presuming that “miracle” has a “collective potential” as well, a term “Miracle” will in case of our performance signify an attempt to speak in language of “collective images”; by upsetting enrooted mages, it will try to open new channels of perception.
“The point of illusion is in disillusion”. Performing an illusion, one is upsetting established picture of Reality. Suddenly, it shows that Reality is not fixed; that it can emerge in thousands of images. The spectator, who believed in an established picture of Reality, now loses his confidence. His perception is shaken.
Through this game he might learn something about relativity, or – if he doesn’t want to participate in the game – he might feel “tricked”.
Similar “illusionistic” game occurs in art, and an artist can be identified with “magician” or with his counterpart – the “trickster”. It all depends on our readiness to leave behind the “comfort” of our established beliefs, and readiness to participate in a new experience.
SEVERAL NOTES ON DANTE’S “DIVINE COMEDY” AS BASIS MATERIAL FOR PERFORMANCE “MIRACLES NOW”
In the language of archetypes, the “wanderer” means – a man himself. The concept of “wanderer” (main cha¬racter who travels through world and witness or participates mira¬cles from one episode to another) is often present through literature and art. It represents archetype -idea of a gradual process of self-integration.
The reason why we have decided to base our performance on Dante’s”Divine Comedy” structure of “wandering”, and not on some other work from literature, is that in Dante’s masterpiece the “wandering” is given as a “mythological path’; as a struggle in the process of forming” one’s personality – within a given cultural/historical context.
The concept of WANDERING / VOYAGE in “Divine Comedy” is – more than “adventuristic” concept of Odyssey, or “utopian” concept of Don Quixote, or “intellectualistic” concept of Faust -the concept of an ARCHETYPAL JOURNEY, and that is precisely what the performance “MIRACLES NOW” intends to be.
-an idea about characters as a personification of contemporary “Gods” and “Demons”, magicians and mannequins.
Their “archety¬pal” function and meaning will be translated into contemporary images; so, there will be an ana¬logy for principles such as, for ex. Health, Wealth, Power, Beauty, Fame, Succes, Love – and their counterparts . Characters will have a stage-appe¬arance of show masters and “TV per¬sonalities”, but they will resonate the archetypal powers and instincts.
Characters in Miracles Now will be carriers of the action, a plot – composed as a series of “scenes”, fragments, creating an atmosphere similar to that of a dream. In a surrealistic context, characterized by contrasts, unexpected “turns” in action, humor and grotesque will certainly be produced.
The characters are inspired by:
– historical and contemporary personalities;
– directly inspired by literature such as: Woland, from ‘Master and Margarita” by Bulgakov; Illusionist from “Midnight Children” by Rushdi; Dream Hunter, Princess Ateh, etc.from ” Khazar’s Dictionary” by Pavic, etc.
Costumes will signify a combination of (historical) theatre and show costume, different types of (archetypal) uniforms and modern fashion and design. Masks will embody (in a hyper-realistic way) the archetypal qualities of a character.
We are living in a world which constantly produces Myths. All our activities are related more or less to a certain cultural (“mythological”) context.
“Mythological” values (often created in the form of “miracles” and as a product of manipulation and propaganda) influence our life, and in relation to them one is supposed to function: either streaming to reach the offered model of “perfection”, or – opposing it.
Taking the context of Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, where the individual is being realized in the process of wandering – entrapped in archetype- and religious mythological imaginary, the performance “MIRACLES NOW” visualize the “set” of cultural values in contemporary terms.
The “contemporary Olympus” and the “contemporary Hell”, inhabited by ideals, ideologies and anti-ideals will be depicted.
These images will emerge within a new, paradoxical, grotesque context, what will open the door for “true” traveling – similar to one from Dante’s masterpiece- a contradictory process of rejecting and compromising, a process of synchronization of one’s own personal potentials with those of culture /time.
“MIRACLES NOW” should be understood as an attempt to “demythize” the “official” enrooted perception, opening – in an ironical/poetical/humoristic way – new opportunities.
Iva Kostovic-Mandick & Petar Mandick