Week 7: Demon’s Nun & Body Indian

Please post your responses here for these two plays (feel free to write about one or the other). If you have time, here is a video of FOMMA’s La Bruja Monja (The Demon’s Nun) provided by the Hemispheric Institute’s Digital Video archive.

9 thoughts on “Week 7: Demon’s Nun & Body Indian

  1. In Body Indian, I’m interested in how the definition of naturalism can shift through different cultural and class lenses. The instructions on dialect given at the beginning of the piece belie how easily the claim to a naturalistic depiction of a marginalized person can provide cover for stereotyping—the author is very careful to ensure that while dialects are used, they are not overdone, and is rigorously specific about the physical act of drinking in order to avoid cartoonish buffoonery. It’s interesting to me that these instructions seem to have been written with the assumption that the roles would not be played by native people.
    I also wonder how audiences of different classes or cultural backgrounds would assess the plausibility of one of the central actions of the play—a group of people stealing money from a drunk man’s artificial leg. This central action reminds me of the murder of the father in Playboy of the Western World; the very action seems an absurd challenge to commonly held values, but the reaction of the community shows how much those values and assumptions vary according to culture and context.

    –Jack Dwyer

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  2. It was interesting to read the intro to The Demon’s Nun before reading the play. Although the intro summarized the entire plot and I knew everything that was going to happen I still had strong reactions to the violence. I’m also surprised by how much information and action successfully takes place within four pages of text. So much happens and quite a bit of time passes (especially at the end jumping forward suddenly to the masked twins) and yet somehow Petrona and Isabel have created what I found to be an incredibly specific and clear story. After reading the intro I was expecting to find much more humor in the play (which I’m sure is created through the performances). Reading the text, however, I just found the play very sad. I would love to know more about the history of cross-dressing in Mexican and Native theatre. The intro stated that even men have enjoyed Isabel and Petrona’s performances and representations of themselves, “humorously distanced through cross-dressing.” This surprised me after everything the article said about women’s experiences within their culture. I would be interested to read more about the different ways in which their performances are received.

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  3. While reading the comments that Elias makes towards his then wife concerning her state of Catholicism, I can’t help but draw a line Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”. In that play, it is the woman leaving the man although the man is the instigator of the departure. In both plays, the author(s) aim to tear the mask of idealism off of the face of realism. Characters are concerned, and indeed revel in the case of the end of “The Demon’s Nun”, with the overbearing opinions of the general public. Always concerned with that other people will think or talk about, the characters show their worst selves and propagate their tendencies through the end, showing little change. The plays are meant to show the audience the horrors inflicted by society. It must be distinguished, however, that in Demon’s Nun, the horrors are more culturally specific where as Ibsen aimed to make Doll’s House more universal. In both cases, the mask is difficult to tear off. We are indeed still grappling with the issues that Ibsen wrote about over 100 years ago as evidenced by seeing the same ending scene in many works of pop culture and art (ex: House of Cards). This may be why Cruz Cruz and Juarez aim for the humorous. Their implication of cross dressing adds distance so that even men can view the performances without feeling directly attacked. It was Robert O’Hara, after all, who said, “it is when the audience’s mouth is open with laughter that a spoonful of truth can be fed in”.

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  4. The characters in Body Indian have a one-dimensionality that is commonly used in redface. Bobby’s family and friends have simplistic psychologies that push the play into symbolism. His relatives seek wine and money while Bobby, despite his perpetual state of half-consciousness, grabs for sobriety. Bobby’s character is slightly more complex in that he is the only person who actively fights his addiction (saving money to go to rehab), but, ironically, his inanimate body provides the means to facilitate addiction. Alcoholism becomes a character in the story, and it literally rips Bobby apart piece by piece. By the end of the play, his leg is detached and destroyed. Alcoholism’s contra force appears as a train. It is a menacing harbinger of how little time Bobby and his family have left. Geiogamah emphasizes the external forces governing the characters’ actions. The effect is an ominous mirage in which both the actors and characters are self-aware but ultimately powerless.

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  5. So the demon’s Nun, I am very excited to actually finish seeing it having just read the play and the small article on the two theatre makers responsible. Cruz Cruzz and Juarez Espinosa seem to be doing a lot of revolutionary things by the mere act of taking so many personal stories that deal with abuse of women , particularly of abuse of women in indigenous communities. The play alone Demon’s Nun how its in nature supposed to be improvised and not be absent of humor is still chilling and practically disturbing with how honest and dark it is in its representation. There is no sugar coating or any excess dramatic set up, they merely expose the sad facts that have becomes staples in many narratives dealing with abuse.I was surprised however to find that the article mentioned that humour is indeed used as a tactic of story telling , especially with the moment of Elias complaining to the Priest about his wife not sleeping with him and the priest character sympathizing that that is a woman’s duty. However the fact that the play is written and performed by two women , one of the women playing the priest also playing Domitila, is very refreshing because even if the theatrical tactic to approach the issue is humor the issue itself is dealt with seriously and candidly. That is to say if you the audience are watching this play and are unfortunately yourself a victim of abuse but are not able to see the wrong in the actions of your abuser perhaps a very frank and almost light representation of a very overt action is a way to find healing and validation. All in all I am filled with inspiration, respect and love for the way these two women seem to just handle with all the sides of the issue and not back away or sugar coat from the nuanced realities that go hand in hand in these situations. What would it be like to hear the last scene between Domitila and the Priest where you had gone through a similar situation with a male authority figure? Would it be healing? Would it be worst? Could one even answer such a question ? Is such a question even worth asking ?

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  6. I am having such a problem with this play. I’m trying to figure out if Domitila wins or if she as loses.
    1. Her life is ran by Men.
    2. Where is her power?
    3. She was sexually assaulted
    4. She becomes an alcoholic
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    I see that this play is used to challenge audiences in being aware of the abuse of Women and Women in these subcultures, but I longed to see recovery or hope in the end of this play.

    Now that I think of it, “happy endings” in reality isn’t everyone’s sense of reality… Maybe this is a happy ending to what Domitila’s life was.

    I Shenyse, personally JUST wanted justice for her.
    Maybe Petrona and Isabel achieved their goal.

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  7. Reading “The Body Indian” left me in a depressed and drunken haze. When the other characters first started searching Bobby’s leg for money, I immediately sensed a larger, sinister force at work in this dramatic piece. I got the sense that these characters were trapped in an endless cycle of alcoholism, drug use, abuse, and poverty. For me, the play relentlessly pushed negative Native American stereotypes to the forefront without creating a rosy picture of the modern Native American experience. It was depressing, and it seems that the playwright intended for the audience to have a depressing experience. By the end of the play when Bobby’s leg is stolen in exchange for alcohol, I wanted to know what the playwright felt was the solution to this endless cycle of misuse and abuse, if any. I also found it interesting that the notes before the play indicated that it was not important to determine the individual tribes from which each character hails. This seemed to run counter to our class discussions of how to accurately and respectfully label a Native American individual. Does this note mean that the play is intended to represent a universal, cross-tribal Native American experience? Or is it meant to convey something less realistic–something more abstract and nightmarish? Either way, reading this play created a very visceral experience for me, and I am interested in learning how pervasive this type of situation truly is in Native American culture.

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  8. Cultural generosity came to mind when reading Body Indian by Geiogamah. I was struck by the contrast between the stage direction on page 11, “They all laugh lightly and exchange Indian women greetings,” and the first line of the Author’s note, “The first scene should immediately establish the mood and tone for the rest of the play.” Juxtaposed, these sentences respectively reflect a distrust and trust the author holds towards the reader or collaborative performer. For example, I have no idea what is meant by ‘exchange Indian women greetings,’ whereas the mood and tone would be established immediately given the proper execution of the setting. Since this is a culturally centered play, why does Geiogamah go out of his way to explain generic and arguably obvious building blocks of a play, while he simply does not explain how certain specific rituals, such as greetings? What does this sentiment of distrust and trust convey to a reader trying to find out more about indigenous culture?

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  9. Well now I have the opportunity to respond to the video.

    Wow. So different than the work we often see. In this MFA environment we strive for a clean approach to our work. Sanding down all the edges and making the performance surprising yet ultimately polished. Much of the theatre in the western world has this approach. Polished presentation. Many a procenium.
    These women were engaged in something else. They were simply telling a story. They weren’t trying to convince us we were witnessing real life. Or that we were spying on real events. Rather they were putting forth an important and complicated story that resonates within their community. There’s something so inviting about this work. I find it very accessible. How do we make work like this? Or help others make work like this? Or how do we incorporate this sensibility into our own work?

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