Characters:

Fritz Lang: German Filmmaker

Frank O’Hara: Poet, NY School

Marlene Dietrich: International Film Icon

(aka1 Dr. Mabuse / aka2 Joseph Goebbels)

Karen Finley: US Performance Artist

(also, just briefly, as Führer der Nation)

Bill Maher: US Comic / Anti-Pundit

 

(Video stream pops on: clips from The Testament of Dr. Mabuse or Metropolis or Destiny make a back-drop.  Perhaps, also, something from Morocco, no?

We must never forget the marvelous

ambiguity of Morocco!)

 

(Fritz narrates the central story embedded in (in fact, actually responsible for) his therapeutic process, the fountainhead of all his demons, self-described as “sucking at his brain like a popsicle.”  Here, he has permission to stride, flail, gesture, rail, etc.  Such is the stuff of really bad dreams.  Or recurrent PTSD. )

 

(During the narration process Mabuse reverts to Marlene using the same makeup Fritz applied to his own face earlier.  If she loses her place, she can always look up and revive her inspiration with her own image in Sternberg’s film. 2 beats.)

 

(I never said Morocco.)

 

(Very muted, almost subliminal audio track: one possible suggestion, Kraftwerk’s Fun, Fun, Fun on the Autobahn.  Another possibility: Peter Lorre’s obsessive murder theme from M.)

 

Fritz:

So then I invented the next Mabuse:

Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse.

And I said: now I am finished.  I am killing him.

I put into the mouth of a mad killer all the Nazi slogans.

Schluss! Aus! Fertig!

 

(Fritz and Frank do a version of call and response during this narration.  Leave the fully embodied narrative to Fritz, Frank. Remember, poets are supposed to stick to words, phrases, fragments, figments, erasures, interiorized ironies, and assorted contrapuntal moves, etc.)

 

Frank:

A container of images, actions, punctured like skin

 

Fritz:

When the picture was finished, some henchmen

of Dr. Goebbels came to the office

and threatened to forbid the movie.

That’s rich, I thought.  I laughed out loud.

I was very short with them.

If you think you can forbid a picture of Fritz Lang’s…

Fritz Lang, Fritz Lang, Fritz (“Freakin’”) Lang,

and I know you know what that means in Germany …

if you think you can do that, well …

go right ahead with your stupid plan.

(Pause.)

And so they did.

Frank:

And so this next virus achieves its own release

 

Fritz:

I was ordered to go see Dr. Goebbels.

My “interview” was held in the new Ministry of Propaganda.

It was frightening and very disagreeable.

 

Frank:

Dial me up a lens against

 

Fritz:

You go down long, wide corridors of gray flag-stone, etc.

Your steps scuff against the stone and echo, etc.

As you come around the corner – any corner will do –

you meet these hard men in pairs and clusters.  

They sneer and play with their lugers, and shivs, etc.

 

Frank:

Missionary myopia, down for a little fucking vertigo

 

Fritz:

You begin to sweat.

You come to a first desk.  A second, then a third desk.

And finally, a little room

where they say:

 

Frank, Karen, Marlene / Mabuse (with Bill Maher in the wings) all shout:

You! Wait here!

 

Fritz:

Later, a door opens on a long, spacious office

of burnished hardwood.

At the very end of the long office is Dr. Goebbels.

He smiles.

 

Frank:

Pleasure or avoidance, inscape or erasure:

unity, again

but only for the Pure

 

Fritz:

And so he says to me:

 

(Bill Maher goosesteps upstage and stops next to Fritz.  Bill Maher speaks to the audience in an exceedingly lame, “Hogan’s Heroes” sit-com German accent.  Perhaps, the actor speaks through a Bill Maher tour poster featuring Bill Maher’s face.)

 

Bill:

(To audience:)

Meine damen und herren

(To Fritz:)

Mein herr, look, I am terribly sorry

but we had to confiscate this picture …

 

Karen:

Bill, do you have any clue how dumb and corny and patronizing that sounds?

 

(Pause. Karen Finley is pent up and primed to tangle with Bill Maher.  They have some unpleasant history which will soon manifest.  Something like this: du bist wirklich der Beweis, dass nicht alles was zwei Backen hat, ein Gesicht sein muss!”)

 

This act is supposed to be a representation BUT

What you’re doing isn’t art.

 

Bill:

Karen, this schtick, in case your coloring book

is shy a few dots, is not about art.

And while we’re on the subject:

Explain to the rest of us squares how this

low-rent, shuck & jive-ass séance

could ever be art.

 

(Bill pauses to enhance his extra-daily technique

and dilate his stage presence.)

 

Or what we are missing when they, like,

saw a cow in half on stage … and then that’s art too?

 

Karen:

Well. Let’s go to Michelangelo with, I think,

The big dead art is Jesus,

The cadaver on the cross for the “Pieta” which is …

 

Marlene / Mabuse:

(Short (but not dismissive), decisive (but out-of-love with power), imperious, irresistible, and totally inevitable, the Blonde Venus accepts a loathsome role to move the action forward.  

What a trouper!)

 

I’ll do “Dr.” Goebbels.  I knew the man once … and, well,

he had strong opinions on art, and decency.

(Marlene now channels Joseph Goebbels:)

Look, I am terribly sorry, Mr. (Pause) Fritz Lang

but we had to confiscate this picture.

It was the ending we didn’t like.

A picture such as this must have another ending.

The criminal’s insanity is not

punishment enough for his crimes.

He must be destroyed by das Volk.

 

Fritz:

He didn’t say anything about the real reasons:

hare-brained Nazi philosophy and Nazi gutter-buzz words,

unmindful stupidity and willful ignorance

pouring from the mouth of an insane criminal

totally addicted to mind control and violent passions.

I could only think: how do I get out of here?

I wanted to get my money out of the bank.

I wanted to run.

 

Frank:

X’ed, dist’ and dumped … and now: who’s next on the slab?

 

Fritz:

Finally, he said to me:

 

Marlene / Mabuse

(as Joseph Goebbels:)

Der Führer has seen your pictures and he has said:

 

Karen:

(Just briefly, as Führer der Nation🙂

“Heir den is den Herr das uns

die grosse Nazi bilder geben wired.”

 

Fritz:

Yes.  (Pause.) Here is the man, indeed.

The man who will give us the big Nazi pictures.

And Goebbels splays his arms out:

Blooming, just like this … like a belladonna flower.

But no remedy in this one, just an assassin.

And he wants to know what I have to say to all that.

 

Frank:

Give me Vertigo or give me Demerol?

 

Fritz:

So I said, I am tickled-pink, Herr Minister.

What could I say?

I said yes to everything.

But at one point, I also said to myself:

This is the last moment you can ever be sure

of getting out of Germany, alive.

 

Karen, Frank and Bill:

Or of dreaming all your children back into being

dreaming all your children back into being

dreaming all your children back into being …

© 2017, John Sullivan (This is an excerpt from his play Hey Fritz, Looks Like You Lost It All Again in the Ghosting)

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