The reality of the reality

Andreas van Dühren/Melanie Manchot

AvD: Getting back to Opening Night after a long time (also, a long time of neglecting Cassavetes) I was surprised that this film, all too easily connected with the world of theatre, almost immediately made me think of landscapes. My first explanation was that the frame – defining the take – didn't seem to be supposed to match any setting, even less any stage; it didn't seem to be »supposed« at all. Instead, the take seemed to just refer to something given, something like nature – trying to follow the movements of some creatures, plants, mixed-up elements.
MM: Perhaps your sense of nature is called up by how the camera moves and holds, how it observes and defines, inevitably creating the parameters for how we can read the images it produces. The opening scene is fascinating to me, as the three characters, Myrtle (played by Gena Rowlands) along with her wardrobe and prop assistants burst into the room and literally stumble, trip up. It feels like the film opens with a rupture, it immediately points to the potential for vulnerability and failure. Originally, Cassavetes had wanted that opening scene to be a long tracking shot that would move through a succession of backstage spaces, corridors, the toilet, onto the stage and out through the front doors into the city. Throughout the film, we are constantly indoors – even when we leave the theatre, the characters immediately bundle into cars. So there is an insistent interiority, perhaps to point towards the interiority of the main characters. It is an interesting question whether the camera follows movement or to which extent it leads the movement, whether it pulls or pushes it, or in fact gets pulled by it. Cassavetes proposed that one way of creating loneliness visually is through the long take, particularly if that is cut with close ups on a character. Perhaps this is something you are getting at when you point out that the frame follows movement.
AvD: Taking the risk of getting petty, I want to point out that my key word was »landscape«, and that I was talking about »something given« (... like nature), also that I sensed the frame – perhaps playing with words too much, that is the relation of take and what's given – were trying to follow the movements of some creatures ... already suggesting that there is an almost constant gap between the approach (capturing the movement, taking »movement« for »emotion«, »emotion« for »life«) and what can really be grasped. It's interesting that you have the impression of an insistent interiority, as I remember that in the same year Opening Night came out Woody Allen shot Interiors, which I think actually concentrates on what the title suggests, but with a strict concept of mise en scène and carefully composed single shots – and because my impression here is quite different: that Cassavetes decided to respect – or rather, to insist on – the more or less manic exteriority of this extraordinary, perhaps representative species: human beings, following some curse (if not the most gracious distinction) of exposing themselves – weakness and power hardly to be distinguished – and, by that, figuring out themselves as human … »by that« also meaning: by trying out several personae, masks, gestures, allures, dictions. Another key word here might be »openness« – usually associated with vulnerability, it should as well be seen as frankness; both featuring the actor as a monstre sacré ... My notion of the frame »trying to follow ...« was especially referring to the scene when Ben Gazzara is on the phone with Gena Rowlands, while his wife (just ready to seduce him, the minute before, and now excluded from what's going on) somehow saves herself by obsessing about an increasingly absurd pantomime, while I think your observation of a certain loneliness, visualized by long takes cut with close-ups on the concerned character, is particularly evident when Gena Rowlands has her conversation with the playwright, who suddenly wants to know what this »having that young girl« really means, if she is present, right here in this room: the close-up of Gena Rowlands (perhaps unfortunately accompanied by music) almost indicates someone's entering madness. I believe we should take seriously the conception of emotion, as true as possible right under the surface, and of the stage as just the most explicit (test) condition for figuring out the inexplicable. But perhaps I am a bit obsessed myself – by the concept of the human being, defined by the task of elaborating itself by enacting its possibilities (virtual manifestations), and that the most honest person is inevitably a perfect actor.
MM: This trajectory between a concept of the human being as permanently enacting versions of self and the actor is very powerful. It alludes to the constant performativity of subjectivity. Considering that Opening Night circulates around a set of characters, each in their respective ways deeply committed to ideas of narrative, fiction and representation, I wonder whether the idea of manic exteriority and these human beings exposing themselves is not potentially linked to forms of interiority, if interiority refers to an idea of selfhood, of subjectivity. Perhaps the idea of exposing the self can be seen as a complex process of negotiating surface and performance, presence and reality. I think you are pointing to a crucial node of humanness with your notion of personae: not just the theatre actors, that might seem more evident, perform a range of different personae – all the characters do. They test out tonalities, perhaps in a double game of trying out how they will reflect in the mirror of a given situation and in the reactions of other characters. Yet I would suggest that they also test how a different nuance reflects internally, for themselves, in their own evaluation of a possible self. To stay with the telephone scene you are talking about, Ben Gazzara enacts slightly different nuances on what he considers to be his duty, his role in this conversation, he plays or acts support, understanding, care, even love. His wife's pantomime refers to a series of stock gestures, archetypes of movement. This is a bit of a speculation, but I wonder whether these gestural archetypes, such as the swinging of the fist to box herself off the bed, are actually meant to indicate that she is reading her husband's telephone performance and putting on a parallel show in which she displaces herself from her position as his wife. A couple of other scenes might be of relevance here: In the title section, we hear Gena Rowlands' voice over a static image of herself with her arms outstretched, superimposed over a crowded theatre auditorium: »When I was seventeen, I could do anything, it was so easy, my emotions were so close to the surface. I am finding it harder and harder to stay in touch ...« You talk about this already, the conception of emotion right under the surface. Gena's character, Myrtle, repeats these lines later on in the film and I wonder how you read those two performances of the same text. To me, the first one is almost setting the scene, indicating some core questions the film might be engaging with: age, emotion, the self and how to gain access and then stay in touch with it. When Gena/Myrtle repeats those lines (55 minutes into the film, almost half way through), they run like this: »When I was eighteen I could do anything. My emotions were so close to the surface, I could feel everything easily. But now ...« This second rendition of these lines situates them as the centre of the conflict of how to make the stage character, Virginia, come alive, how to make her mean anything, how to make her relevant to someone in the audience, no matter who they are, no matter what their age. These lines are now at the centre of the conflict how to give a character a reality while allowing it to transcend that reality, the boundaries of the specific self.
AvD: »But now, this is years later – plays later, years later ...« I think this also belongs to what you understand as the centre of the conflict. And here one may agree with Gena Rowlands: It's not about age. In my opinion time is only the most obvious mode of differentiation – objectifying, realizing, unfolding, executing and transforming oneself. So, aging may bring upon the danger of alienation – concerning the same self which, at the same time, is supposed to become more and more clear and save. Any normal person may, step by step, find some comfort in self-delusion; an actor is, by profession, always challenged to question any save manifestation – being a professional person, it's much harder to fool oneself about a certain, existential indefiniteness, but also harder to profit from this disposition. The great advantage of youth is that, despite of all the insecurity you'd like to overcome, there is a notorious revolt against definition, whatever might frame you (the richness of virtuality) all too early; one almost internalizes the future, even more as one cannot see it: it's not much more than an open field, and oneself a brilliant mirror of possibility – which, in the view of an aging actor, is something like a lost gift. Referring to your key word, interiority, I think what drives anyone's exposing himself (or, at the first state, expressing oneself) is the wish to figure out an identity. (I don't quite believe in subjectivity as performative, as I think subjectivity, as an uncircumventable point of view, is merely a principal sense, like a tool or an instrument. It works rather instantly, and it works all the time. It's nothing one had to achieve, although one may say that this instrument can fail, even getting severely damaged.) But identity is something one has to elaborate constantly, or over and over again – and while trying to make the present self-image match any previous ones would lead into horrible deception, any true identity derives from the ability of distinguishing oneself from former versions of oneself, and balancing as many versions as possible ... Identity results from this check-and-balance method; and you definitely can call this »performative«. And, again taking the risk of only playing with words, one may say that integrity is a well-mastered, yet ongoing montage. Perhaps this is why film seems to be the perfect medium of identification.
MM: Exactly, it is years and plays later – it is time and experience and characters and roles and realities later. It is not about age as such, but possibly about the conditions for being in time, being present and real in time, even if that reality is a fictional one, a played one, a role. So this leads me to think about notions and definitions of personhood and contested ideas of continuity. Many philosophical approaches to personhood and/or identity look at notions of psychological and biological/physical continuity to arrive at definitions of personal identity. I was reading about these positions some time ago in a different context and arguably, and until recently, John Locke's relational memory criterion was one of the most popular and sustained views, that is, the idea that »... the criterion (or principle, or thing) that makes someone the same person over time is consciousness. Just as long as someone retains consciousness (i.e. memory) of some past action, the one remembering and the one remembered are one and the same person«. This assumes that, as long as I clearly remember the person that carried out a particular set of actions say 10 years ago, and that person 10 years ago remembers the child of 6 performing a set of activities, then I am that same person as the child. So in this view memory and consciousness of previous forms of self are constituent of identity; hence your comments on true identity form an interesting relationship with that, the idea of balancing many versions of self. I would agree completely and to my – perhaps generally to a contemporary – understanding of identity, this is where the performative aspect of the self resides. In terms of my own coming-of-age in understanding identity, writers like Judith Butler are immensely important: I would argue that according to Butler (and some other excellent theorists) notions of identity can no longer be pinned down and secured, that they are always contingent and only become temporarily stabilized through performative acts and gesture. Perhaps this also arches back to your earlier comment: the idea of the most honest person being a perfect actor. I need to admit to my instantaneous attraction to your expression: »integrity is a well-mastered, yet ongoing montage«. I'd like to come back to that, to the idea of film and identity, and bring in some thoughts on early artists' film and video. But before that, could you tell me a bit more about your use of the word integrity and how in your understanding it relates to identity or notions of self?
AvD: In this context I use »integrity« in a neutral, rather formal sense – of »completeness and correspondence«; not in the moral sense of »constant honesty« or »reliability«. The former refers rather to consciousness, the latter rather to responsibility; one being rather a matter of »I«, the other rather of »you«.
MM: I would like to take you on a brief excursion into another film and your clarification is useful in this context: this afternoon I went to see Tacita Dean's new film Event for a Stage which was screened as part of the current London Film Festival. It was not only excellent, it was acutely relevant to our discussion. Without going into great detail about the film itself (it could be described as a theatrical performance for live audience and for camera, which centers on a portrait of an actor, Stephen Dillane, while also creating a portrait of the actor as a professional). One section of the film particularly struck me in relation to Gena Rowlands and Opening Night: it proposes that the actor is ultimately responsible for maintaining the membrane that separates spectacle and life. So in theatre this is perhaps symbolized by the fourth wall and by extension the equivalent in cinematic narrative in relation to cameras. It further suggests that when and if this membrane is ruptured, life seeps into spectacle (and possibly vice versa) and this can be dangerous. Whilst compelling as an idea I was wondering in which way this rupture produces danger, and I would speculate that this is because both theatre and film create safe spaces for the audience to relive, think through, debate the complications of life – the classic idea of catharsis. In Opening Night, Gena Rowlands on a couple of occasions ruptures the codes of theatre: she addresses the audience and offers moments of self-reflexivity, particularly in her discussion with Maurice, played by Cassavetes: »We must never forget that this is only a play.« Both screenwriter and director implore her to stick to her lines, to play the text at hand. In Tacita Dean's film today, the actor proposes that an actor's role or duty is to embody a text skillfully for an audience, yet also that an actor inhabits the space between different types of texts and that this leads to a compromised identity. So here I want to swing back to your thoughts on integrity: If being an actor, living between different texts, between different roles, compromises your identity, could that mean that the integrity, the completeness of that identity is challenged? Or in fact, is this precisely what you call the well-mastered, ongoing montage: if you do achieve a balance of living between different types of texts, then you can achieve an integral identity, a conscious self.
AvD: I think we should try to figure out how the understanding of the term »integrity« (that is, not in a moral, rather in a formal sense), as we have elaborated it so far, may lead us to a substantial and contemporary definition of the term »image«.
MM: Before we move on, as I mentioned it above with regards to early artists' film and video: in 1973 Rosalind Krauss published the first art historical analysis of video art, Video: The Aesthetic of Narcissism. Many early video artists, Bruce Nauman or Vito Acconci for example, turned the camera on themselves (or those close to them), presenting a set of gestures, an act, or simply their presence, to the recording device. With reference to psychoanalysis Krauss discusses the camera's ability to mirror the subject, which might be seen to offer the possibility of self-knowledge. Krauss however disallows self-knowledge originating from this engagement between camera and subject, describing it instead as »a weightless fall through the suspended space of narcissism«. I wanted to mention this briefly as I think it potentially offers another route to thinking through notions of self and identity, as well as the actor in relation to both stage and camera. Back to your suggestion: how about you begin this investigation on how the term integrity may lead to a specific definition of the term »image«.
AvD: One crucial step is the transposition of psychoanalysis into phenomenology or: from one genre of literature to another, one ignoring, the other one more naturally accepting that it belongs to literature – which, again, leads us to the problem of the specific. The next step may be the notion that any concept (as to be distinguished from conception) is something like an objectification of the subject – the latter term to be taken in both senses (something which our famous fellow R.K. had always her difficulties with). Then we might come close to the insight that the formal integrity of a picture does not depend on any coherence (which is always referring to some kind of content), nor its composition – which is (almost) always graphical; but that this formal integrity works as the secret anticipation of what is going to be the most concrete perception, the latter figuring out the image, as different from the picture. The mastering of this effect may be called »art« – if you insist on using that term.
MM: I wonder whether you would agree on clarifying some terms here please: what do you mean by the proposition that »... any concept is something like an objectification of the subject ... in both its senses ...« – how do you define the two senses of subject in this context? And perhaps you could also expand on the difference between image and picture and their respective relationship to the term »art«. As you referred to the discipline and language of phenomenology, I came across this quote a couple of days ago, referring to Merleau-Ponty: »... that we have already met time on our way to subjectivity, we are not just thrown into the stream of time, we make it. It is the essence of time to be in the process of self-production and not to be completely constituted.« Perhaps this is what Myrtle/Gena experiences in playing the role of Virginia in Opening Night.
AvD: According to a nomenclature which I hope is not just my personal mythology, »concept« means »formulated conception« (turning what has been the passive/intuitive state of theory into the active – performing – concretion/manifestation/facticity), by that turning the subject (the internal) into some subject matter or: the being into some artifact; by that, the subject (sujet) into some piece of work. The distinction between »picture« and »image«, the way I insinuated it, may be a bit arbitrary; at least it's rather simple: the picture is what is to be seen, the image is what we see. Coming back to Opening Night, I'd assume that it is that very transformation (killing the person which you are, in order to become someone else, perhaps more complete, authentic ...?) which is frightening any artist, but this actress in particular, as she experiences a rather profane transformation: an overwhelming »stream of time«, questioning her ability to perform. There is hardly anything as alienating than the confrontation with a self stronger than yourself. But this leads us back to psychology again. Please feel invited to think of the Ridley Scott movie ... Officer Ripley may have saved her life and even achieved a certain emancipation by ejecting the perfect monster (or: the monstrous example of perfection); but she might have become an artist, if she had given in.
MM: Your use of terms raises the question of art in relation to such notions as artifice and artificiality – and, by turn, how these conditions might engage with your suggestion of authenticity. Fiction and reality, or even the contentious idea of truth, attach themselves here. »Verisimilitude is fiction's truth«, says Lynne Tillman in her essay on theatre, entitled Play for time. Cassavetes' films have a complex relationship to narrative: his films are not structured around plot lines or conventional story, they circulate around forms of being, multiple, fictitious forms of acting out being. Characters don't develop through the logic of a well structured fiction, they develop through a gradual and layered form of display. Transformation and performance are clearly central to both self and role, in life, in cinema and on stage. Historically, theatre is the first apparatus for demonstrating how fiction operates towards an audience, presenting the differences between impersonation, imitation, acting and being. In older forms of theatrical presentation an actor was considered more authentic the more clearly he demonstrated his process of impersonation, the more obviously he was acting a role and the less he showed of himself. In contemporary acting, and in particular screen acting (which in itself is of a different dimension to stage acting) – say for example in method acting, this idea of authenticity is defined and considered very differently: the degree of realism and believability – verisimilitude – of the act might be measured by how little we see the act of acting. In Opening Night, perhaps, a number of different forms of being and acting conflate and that is what makes Gena Rowlands so mesmerizing – as herself, as Myrtle and as Virginia. By eschewing traditional narrative fiction Cassavetes forgoes the strategy to create coherent parallel worlds that resemble ours but in which intentions are clear and causal relations explained. However, perhaps he offers something instead that strives towards realism closer to experience (or life): that we see the display and transformation of characters in all their messy complexity, their non-sequiturs and conflicted desires.
AvD: I think you have noticed a certain aim on my side – to figure out film/video as one discipline of photography, and photography just as another visual art (which only seems to be trivial: the whole world would look different if this could be taken for granted). I may be blamed for stressing this aspect a little bit, especially when I try to neglect the narrative resp. dramatic element, while pointing out the frame (as the specific form of realization) and its connections (as the most crucial criterion for any expression). In the context you just elaborated, I would ask whether fiction is exclusively connected to the narrative. In my perspective it is any framing (detailing reality) which we could understand as fictionalizing – and any image we would have to accept (and perceive) as fiction. Of course, concerning Cassavetes we are easily tempted to pay attention mostly to a kind of movement which is defined by acting. But, what if this acting is just another way of applying paint – or: some gesture of Gena Rowlands only the specific brush stroke? And of course, this would make much more sense, if we could maintain a corresponding point of view: that any part of a painting by Tintoretto were just another way of framing. We would then figure out an understanding of montage, different from the concept of horizontal editing ...? I admit, I may rely on some tricky provocation too much.
MM: The process – or: act/gesture – of framing certainly entails a form of fictionalizing, most poignantly perhaps with regards to the camera's frame, whether still or moving. When discussing my own practice, I often refer to the agency of the camera as an organizing principle, an apparatus that conditions the scene it observes. Hence framing is never neutral but always constitutive or constructive – even in observation, it constructs the event to be seen. Your suggestion that any frame, in selecting and omitting, creates fiction is alluring: Is this not in some way a reflection of your distinction between image and picture? Framing then becomes the process of transformation that creates the image. If horizontal editing has a clear relationship to time, perhaps even the fiction of linear time, does the term »montage«, even in its etymology, then indicate a verticality, a sense of accumulation or spatiality?
AvD: Of course. This is what I was driving at: montage is, first of all, setting up, constructing, building. But also time is not necessarily bound to the horizontal (narration may be so), and history can be understood in terms of spatiality as well – which becomes more evident when we think of the German term »Geschichte«, and even more when we distinguish history from historiography. The crucial question here might be whether »image« – the way I suggest it – suppresses the historical approach to a certain degree; or, whether an image, the more it is constructed, contradicts a certain tendency towards understanding itself – at least as long as we are used to a mode of understanding which is mainly defined by that historical approach, and as long as the latter is mainly defined by narration. In order to understand, we try to explain; in order to explain, we use words in a certain order – which, as long as we depend on grammar, is linear. Of course, saying »we« means a certain kind of human being, as it has been developed so far; and »so far« means, to be exact, the generation we both belong to. By the way, a dream doesn't know any grammar, and its impact is mainly owned to its rejecting any immediate explanation. That's why it is so difficult to tell a dream without interpreting it, without turning it into a story. On the other hand, it is strange that at a time when history becomes more and more vague (almost vanished – when we think of a generation which is grown up with the digital age), story-telling has become so overruling; at least, explanation has. One may think that a film like The Age of Ultron (the latest Avengers installment) relies mainly on overwhelming visuality; but, of course, it is the overwhelming visual effect, accompanied by rather trivial explanations: this kind of film could not depend on the mere phenomenal. Sometimes I check this, when I'm on a plane and just watch that kind of movie without putting the headphones on: you don't miss much of the story, but you cannot really perceive it anymore; you see almost nothing but its construction, and you stay in the position of a director. In a conversation between Scorsese and Coppola both agree on the observation that the digital age didn't promote much of a progress; that we are still on a level of 7 % (of the possibilities film could offer), and that 4 % had already been achieved at the end of the silent film era.
MM: The logic of your analysis of language and grammar as (perhaps ontologically) linear is compelling, however I would suggest that narration (like history) does not necessarily imply strict linearity: it can be circular, scattered, ruptured, temporally layered – as long as our idea of narrative does not primarily seek to explain and we accept heterogenous forms of understanding and meaning. Having said this (in order to keep a back door open for more inventive and innovative forms of narrative) I agree that narration and story-telling have recently gained currency and significance across a range of practices and cultural forms of expression. There are fascinating parallels to the social conditions which precipitated the emergence and rise of the novel as a cultural form, which sociologists refer to in terms of the disintegration of social and cosmological coherence of the classical world. Elena Esposito's book on fiction and probability, Die Fiktion der wahrscheinlichen Realität, may provide a parallel frame of reference here, in particular in how she brings in another category – that of contingency. Perhaps we can speculate then that the ever increasing speed and fragmentation, the pervasive contingency of our lived experience brings to the fore a desire for narratives that create more coherent parallel worlds, realities where cause and effect have a higher logical urgency and stability. Fiction might then act as a mirror in which society reflects its own contingency. In the contemporary art world story-telling and fiction have proliferated, which is noteworthy in particular when seen against the long-standing suspicion with which visual art used to regard narration. There has been a marked increase of video-art that circulates around narrative structures, at times radically re-imagining its grammar yet often employing fairly conventional structures of narrative fiction. Artists writing fiction, transforming fiction into film, using existing fiction films in re-enactments and employing actors to construct imaginary world ... Voice-overs are a prevailing theme, in particular if set to a montage of disparate images reflecting the low attention span of internet viewing, images overlapping, seeping or cutting into each other. I wonder whether montage here could be seen to speak to both accumulation and erasure, to layering and building up while simultaneously supplanting.
AvD: At this point it may be helpful to clarify that narration does not necessarily mean history, linearity is not bound to the horizontal line nor does it imply coherence, and fiction is not reduced to the literal ... Then, we also have to consider that narration has been reintroduced to the art world 40 years ago, when the official conceptual art had lost its original and most authentic impact and, strangely enough, when the Picture Generation entered the scene. The fact that story-telling has become more and more important in contemporary art (let's say, since at least twenty years) in my opinion is closely connected to the increasing need for context (mistaken for concept), which itself provides explanation, which itself provides sufficient cool stuff in order to make it easier to talk about art, that is – to sell the pieces. Finally, we have to distinguish montage, relating to homogeneous material, from collage, relating to heterogeneous material – the former needing a sense of grammar. It may be interesting to interpret the verb »to compute« here.
MM: Perhaps what I observe then is more of an acceleration of this drive towards narrative as I am referring to developments over the last 3-5 years. What seems important to recognize is that within this drive there are a wealth of very different approaches, many of them in fact presenting narratives that are more bewildering than explanatory. Think of Ryan Trecartin or Jon Rafman – or the narrations of Camille Henrot, that draw on mythology and anthropology. Okay, off you go with interpreting »to compute«!
AvD: (Perhaps I should have pointed out another distinction, that is between narration and gossip.) By inducing the verb »to compute« – and discreetly referring to a particular meaning: consistency and plausibility – I wanted us to keep in mind that, when relying on montage as a method, accumulating or sampling, blending or quoting is not enough. And again, montage is one of the oldest methods of any art (my crucial point seems to be whether the contemporary understanding of montage is really modern, or if it is rather reactionary). Considering that the »drive towards narrative« – as it occurred with the latest generation of artists (and, not to forget, with certain practices of their education) may be some side-effect of an over-tuned and misled contextualization, one may ask if that drive may not rather prove some lack of concept. I hope I don't have to make clear that I did not share that long-standing suspicion towards the narrative, you were mentioning; in fact, I always considered this as rather deplorable. But this is another story.
MM: One aspect pertaining to both the suspicion against and the drive towards narrative might be embedded in the complex relations between reality, realism and narrative, or in fact fiction. Would that be worth exploring? The realism of a given narrative situation might be more reliant on it being coherent within its own parameters then on its cohesion with the reality of lived experience. If we think back to Opening Night, Myrtle struggles with the reality of the narrative that she is being asked to play or to interpret, because to her cause and effect of the character's actions are not plausible nor consistent, they don't align with her sense of realism.
AvD: I think we should beware of mixing up narration and drama – the latter only being part of the narration the film establishes. Film, at least as long as there is something like a plot, is almost inevitably narrative. Still, film belongs to the visual arts. We have to accept any narration as part of this art, as we were used to any narrative as part of genre- or historical painting. In this sense, Myrtle belongs to the sujet, while Gena directs the eye of the beholder.
MM: One perspective onto the history of art, art theory and criticism over the last century would be to look at the continuous wrestling with contested relations of art and life, of artifice, imitation, illusion and reality. One could venture that 20th century art seems shaped by these opposing drives and theories, demanding on the one hand that art needs to engage with and be situated within real life and on the other that art can only develop its critical purchase when truly autonomous. During the 60s and 70s these debates seemed particularly charged and arguably there are parallels to the discourse in film studies and film theory during that same period of time: experimental film makers, artists and theorists critically examined film's narrative drive, its immersive quality and spectacle, the suspension of disbelief that the cinematic apparatus induces. There was a pronounced suspicion against spectacle and its collusion with the politics of capitalism, the manufacture of desire and product, offering means of social control. As an aside: one of the latest forms of spectacle and still a relatively recent phenomenon is Reality TV, that oxymoronic form, where spectatorial pleasure is derived from the specific coexistence between artifice and reality, performance and presence. The given framework, like a stage, defining what happens in real time and unscripted, seemingly allowing viewers to be as close as possible to this televised reality, to life. So perhaps Opening Night engages with these debates that were concurrent to its making precisely in interrogating over and over again the relations between life and theatre, reality and construction, being (a person) and playing (a role), the truth of fiction and art as an autonomous field. The autonomy of the text and its relevance to life seem one of the nodes that Myrtle, Virginia and maybe even Gena negotiate in seeking what you call »the reality of the reality«.