When I was a sophmore at Cornell I lived in the arts dorm, Risley, which was in the shape of a castle. I had a spacious room with a turret.
I loved going to dinner there had many friends, and starred in a Eugene O’Neill play in the castle’s theater. I saw a poster that was a manifesto against theater. Intrigued, I auditioned.
Hakan, the director, was a Turkish Communist. The audition consisted of Hakan interrogating me.
“If an actor kills another actor onstage, does he kill another man in real life?”
I interpreted this to be a trick question. When I asked later on why I got the part, Hakan said, “I thought you were cute.” So he was more Hollywood than alternative.
He cast three women. Each night we met to read Marxist books. I was the only one who understood them and could answer Hakan’s questios. When no one answered correctly, he would yell the answer at us. “It’s the Marxist dialectic as opposed to the Hegelian dialectic!”
There was no script, and we all began to get worried. There was no acting, no blocking, no costumes. Finally, in the last week, we were giving a strange script with no plot, no characters, just meaningless sayings that were non-sequitors. One of my lines was,”Satan is a terrifying orgasm!”
I decided the best way to memorize these lines was to read then in a hushed voice into a tape recorder and play it back.
My roommate and best friend were concerned. My roommate reported to the R, A. that I was speaking like a devil into the tape recorder.
The blocking consisted of us moving from point to point on a triangle and reciting our nonsense. We wore men’s clothes and were heavily made up with red lipstick and blue eyeshadow.
“I’ve invited the professor of Intellectual History. I just know he’ll come.” Intellectual History, as opposed to stupid history?
Then Hakan had a brainstorm. The show would begin with us lying on the ground, feet first, with our legs spread apart, tied up by ropes. It was very uncomfortable and made my legs hurt.
Hardly anyone was in the audience. My mother, best friend, ad roommate were there,. When the curtain opened, there was a gasp.
The Professor of Intellectual History did not show up, but a reviewer did.
The review said we looked “dowdy” and that the show was about as interesting as “opening an empty refrigerator and staring at the light.” My best friend gleefully read the review out loud and erupted into hysterical laughter.