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Authority and Anti-Authority in the Production of Mexican Festival Drama

央視國際 (2005年02月11日 17:39)


Richard Bauman

  Indiana University, Bloomington

  Central among the ritual events in festivals celebrated in the municipality of Allende, Guanajuato, are nightlong performances of the traditional Nativity play, or coloquio, Tesoro Escondido (Hidden Treasure), a folk drama that dates back to the sixteenth century in Mexico and has roots even earlier in medieval Spanish drama. Tesoro Escondido is a traditional shepherds' play (called pastorela in other regions of Greater Mexico), which centers on the journey of a group of shepherds to Bethlehem to adore the Christ child and the efforts of Luzbel (the devil Lucifer), eventually vanquished by San Miguel (St. Michael), to keep them from doing so. Each community that wishes to produce a coloquio must have a script. The scripts are prized, protected, and maintained with considerable respect. The coloquio is composed in verse, and runs to more than 8,200 lines.

  Coloquio performances in Tierra Blanca, a community in which I have done fieldwork, are lengthy and elaborate productions, twelve to fourteen hours in duration, involving forty-three actors, six hired musicians, and a corps of other functionaries (curtain pullers, special effects people, etc.). The play is produced each year by a shifting group of men, los encargados (persons in charge), who take on the task voluntarily as a communal and devotional responsibility. One man serves as the primer encargado (first encargado) and is primarily in charge of organizing the production. In addition to the six official encargados, there is an additional individual who directs the rehearsals and serves as prompter during the rehearsals and the performance, offering the actors their lines when necessary.

  The production process begins in early November, around All Saints' Day, proceeds through the selection of actors, the distribution and learning of the parts, a series of five to seven rehearsals (ensayos) ending with the ensayo real (grand or true rehearsal), and culminating in the performance on January 15th. This process establishes a complex field of textual production and reproduction in which the text of the coloquio undergoes a series of transformations. For the overwhelming majority of the participants, the scripted text (el libro 'the book') serves as an authoritative frame of reference for the play. Participants and community members alike maintain when asked that the words are to be memorized, learned “completely by memory,” exactly as they are in the script. As observed by the primer encargado, “Everything runs by exact phrases.” These principles articulate the official ideology of intertextuality in regard to the coloquio, stipulating how a succession of texts should be related.

  Notwithstanding this professed ideal, in actual practice there is a significant amount of slippage from this ideal standard. For example, the copying and recopying of generations of scripts by people not well practiced in the skills of literacy has introduced a notable degree of scribal distortion into the script. The primer encargado and the prompter speak of words being cut off or missing, parts of the script not being well written, and so on; these flaws may be corrected or they may be allowed to stand. In addition, the language of the script is considered by the people of Tierra Blanca to be somewhat alien; they hear it as archaic, elevated, occasionally obscure. The script is far from incomprehensible but some words, phrases, and passages are difficult to understand, which leads individuals to make adjustments. Still further, in rehearsals and performance, actors are subject to lapses of memory or even occasional bouts of inebriation that makes for textual distortion. And so on. The point I wish to make here is that the standard of strict fidelity to the scripted text is an ideal one, a construction that is able to sustain a certain degree of relaxation in practice without undermining or compromising the framing of the script as authoritative. There is no felt contradiction on the part of participants between insisting at one moment that the parts should be memorized exactly as written and allowing in the next moment that the script has some flaws that call for repair. Still, almost all participants profess to subscribe to the ideal of exact fidelity to the scripted text throughout the production process--in copying the parts, learning the lines, rehearsing, and performing the play--and make at least some effort to achieve it.

  There is, however, one notable exception to the pattern, namely, the Hermit who accompanies the shepherds on their pilgrimage, an aged holy man who is at the same time a blatantly burlesque character. For the Hermit in the production under examination, the verbal field represented by the production process is markedly different from that of the rest of the cast.

  It is important to note that the actor playing the Hermit in this production is illiterate. He is a generation older than the rest of the cast and grew up in the period before compulsory primary education brought at least marginal literacy to the community. Accordingly, written scripts are of less direct use to him. Moreover, he made no special effort to learn his part before rehearsals, unlike the rest of the cast. Thus, for this Hermit, the immediate process of reanimating the coloquio text toward this particular performance began with the rehearsals, though in a broader sense he had, like the other participants, a lifetime's experience of other performances to draw upon. In the rehearsals, and in the performance as well, he relied on the prompter to feed him his lines one by one from the script in the characteristic fashion. This gave him the opportunity, as we will see, to talk back to the script line by line.

  As the rehearsals progressed, the Hermit learned some of his lines through practice. In his shorter speeches, when he did not require prompting, he tended to deliver the lines pretty nearly as they were given to him, in the manner of the other actors. In his longer speeches, however, he departed in a highly significant way from this standard practice, introducing a distinctive transformation of the text into his delivery.

  To comprehend what the Hermit is doing, it is important to bear in mind that he is given his lines one by one by the prompter and that the prompted lines are audible to the onlookers at the rehearsals and to much of the audience at the performance. Having been offered a given line, the Hermit exercises one of two options. First, he may repeat it faithfully or with slight enough deviation to count as faithful, as with the other characters. The second alternative, and by far the most frequently chosen option, is to respond with a parodic transformation created by incorporating elements of the existing text in a manner that creates a conscious contrast arising from the juxtaposition of two unlike approaches. Close examination of the rehearsals and performance make it clear that Hermit is improvising anew in each instance, though with some persistent elements as we shall see. Nevertheless, there are certain consistent patterns that characterize his parodic productions.

  An effective vantage point on the Hermit's parodic counterstatement is offered by a consideration of his line-by-line dialogue with the text in terms of the twin concepts of cohesion and coherence. As employed here, cohesion has to do with the formal linguistic features that tie a discourse together. Coherence depends upon whether the interpretive effort yields comprehensible meanings. In these terms, then, cohesion is a formal relationship, coherence an interpretive, semantic one. The tension between the two endows the Hermit's speech with much of its comic efficacy.

  The principal device employed by the Hermit in his transformation of the script is parallelism, constructing lines that retain certain features of the scripted (and prompted) lines while varying others. More specifically, his parallelistic rendering of the lines given him by the prompter rests on lexical and phonological ties. The lexical ties include repetition of words and grammatical variants of the same word. The phonological parallelism takes a number of forms: assonance, alliteration, rhyme, and punning.

  In addition to the lexical and phonological ties linking the Hermit's lines to those offered him by the prompter from the script, there are other formal correspondences as well. As a general tendency, the Hermit's lines are of relatively equal length to the scripted originals in terms of syllables and the intonation pattern that is characteristic of coloquio performance marks both the prompter's offering and the Hermit's delivery.

  Now all these formal ties between the Hermit's lines and the prompter's lines establish marked formal cohesion between the two. Nevertheless, the Hermit's transformations at best require an interpretive struggle to make sense of, while at worst they make no apparent sense at all to members of the audience. There is ample cohesion but far less coherence. Examination of the transcripts of the Hermit's speech reveals that in the great majority of cases the Hermit's lines represent a significant departure from the sense of the scripted lines fed to him by the prompter. Perhaps more importantly, they are semantically disjunctive with his own preceding lines, all the more so because his speech as delivered is a mix of lines from the text--those he repeats as prompted--and improvised transformations of the scripted lines of a very different style.

  Notwithstanding the quotient of incoherence that I have just outlined, however, the Hermit's transformations of the coloquio text are not without a certain broader consistency that endows his production with a measure of subversive coherence. The basis of this dimension of coherence lies in the saturation of the Hermit's speech with inversive, carnivalesque images and themes that sustain a powerful symbolic dialogue with the scripted piety of the text. The most prominent of these carnivalesque elements employed by the Hermit is bawdy sex. The Hermit's delivery is replete with sexual symbolism and sexual innuendo and references to his sexual liaisons--or ambitions--in irreverent opposition to normative expectations for an aged, supposedly celibate holy man whom the speech as scripted calls upon to be reaffirming his religious vocation. Many of his puns, rhymes, and other verbal harmonies turn on the names of women who are his implied or explicit sexual partners. These allusions are rendered all the more comically effective in that some of the names the Hermit employs are those of women in the community. Beyond the bawdy allusions and sexual innuendo, the Hermit employs a further range of carnivalesque resources: grotesque images (I almost burned my protruding lips); reference to bodily emissions (such as saliva); animalization (punning on “my body” as “my pig”); beating; and incongruous rhetoric.

  Thus, the Hermit's transformations of the word talk back to the authoritative text in a number of dimensions, challenging its authority by a complex set of interrelated subversive devices: speech play, parody, carnivalesque humor, and a significant coefficient of incoherence. The first dimension of challenge we may identify is the speech style of the coloquio script, the coloquio register. As I have noted, the speech style of the coloquio has a certain alien, distanced quality to it, archaic, elevated, often magniloquent. As a ritual speech style, it claims sacred authority; the ritual integrity of the coloquio is seen to depend upon its use and the stated ideology of the production is that it is not to be tampered with. Here, then, is the first target of the Hermit's subversion. Where the language of the coloquio is archaic, he renders it current; where it is elevated, he debases it; where it is magniloquent, he makes it coarse. In addition to subverting the authoritative language of the text, the Hermit's parodic transformations undermine the textuality of the script by rendering the discourse incoherent. Semantic coherence is only one foundation of textuality, but it is a powerful and primary one, considered the sine qua non of textuality by many commentators.

  In refusing to submit to the style and textuality of his speech as scripted, in contesting their authority, the Hermit is at the broadest pragmatic level introducing a centrifugal, decentering counterforce to the centripetal force of the production process itself as a process of actualizing the coloquio text in performance. The contest is played out in plain hearing every time the Hermit renders the speech: the authoritative text maintains its presence in the voice of the prompter and those lines that the Hermit does recite as prompted, and it echoes in the Hermit's parodic transformations, which are parasitic upon it. And in larger scope, after all, the Hermit's parody is surrounded and submerged--at least in quantitative terms--by recited speeches that submit to the authority of the scripted text. Nevertheless, a certain openness remains, revealed by the differential evaluations of the Hermit's transformations of the word offered by members of the community.

  If the Hermit's parody is a kind of practical commentary on the authorititave aspects of coloquio production, it is a commentary that can be interpreted in a number of ways. Some community members are critical, condemning the Hermit for wilfully mangling the scripted lines, though it is conventional for him to do so. These people profess the fullest allegiance to the authority of the text and hold all members of the cast accountable for doing their best to adhere to this standard. They are the pious purists, who would not have their religion compromised by the carnivalesque, traditional or not. Others are accepting. They attribute the Hermit's deviations from the script to his aging memory and illiteracy and the difficulties of the coloquio language. For them, the critical frame of reference is that the reanimation process is difficult and the actors are fallible, some more than others. The Hermit misses more lines than anyone else and uses a different redressive strategy, covering his lapses by clowning, but breakdowns can happen to anyone. The rest of the community--the majority--goes beyond mere acceptance to approval. They consider both fidelity to the script and the Hermit's burlesque to be of value; both have expressive power, both enhance experience, both require a certain virtuosity. On balance, submission to the authority of the script is more effective in accomplishing the coloquio but the Hermit's clowning is thoroughly enjoyable and enhances the play, all the more so as his burlesque, in various guises, is an unofficial and nearly universal coloquio convention in its own right. Those who would have him behave otherwise are themselves defying tradition.

  The close examination of the production process by which Tesoro Escondido is brought to performance reveals two strongly contrastive orientations toward the authoritativeness of the script that have a formative effect on the process itself and on the performance that is its goal. The majority of the participants, both actors and encargados, accept the authority of the written text and subscribe to a standard of textual fidelity, of rendering the scripted lines “by exact phrases.” By its very nature, however, the production process demands a sequence of transformations of the word in the transition from written text to fully enacted performance as the lines are copied out, learned, rehearsed, and performed. These transformations involve intersemiotic translation from the written to the spoken (and sung) word, shifts in the contextualization of the constituent speeches, and differential framings of the enacted word from rehearsal to full performance. In the process, as we have seen, there is a certain degree of acceptable deviation from full textual fidelity and exact memorization, allowing for normalization of a linguistically difficult and sometimes garbled text. This margin of allowable deviation, however, is not seen as challenging or compromising the ideology of textual authority.

  For the Hermit, by contrast, the process is guided by a very different orientation, a blatant challenge to the official standard. Because he is illiterate and has no use for the written pages from which the other actors learn their parts, the Hermit enters the production process at a later point, beginning with the rehearsals. But illiteracy alone does not preclude the memorization of lines; there is clear evidence in the literature on the pastorela of illiterate actors memorizing their parts by having them read out repeatedly by others, and the Hermit in Tierra Blanca does in fact render some of his shorter speeches as scripted. The most marked transformations of the word in the Hermit's performance of his role stem rather from a different impulse, a carnivalesque subversion of the authoritative text, resting on parody, speech play, and the undermining of semantic coherence. The Hermit's participation represents a centrifugal counterforce within the reanimation process, not sufficient to break it down but certainly effective in maintaining an anti-authoritative dialogue with the voices of official order.

  In recent years, there has been a growing sensitivity in folklore, anthropology, and adjacent disciplines to such symbolic tensions between order and disorder, in work on festival, symbolic inversion, the carnivalesque. My investigations of the production of Tesoro Escondido in Tierra Blanca draws centrally on these lines of scholarship, but I would maintain that the analysis of the dialogic tension between authoritative and anti-authoritative discourse in the process of production enhances the study of this phenomenon in at least two significant respects.

  To begin with, past studies in the field have focused overwhelmingly on finished discourse, the textual products of full public performance, where I have concentrated my investigation on the discursive field represented by the production process, tracing the sequence of transformations of the word from the socially given text through the copying of the parts, learning of the lines, rehearsal, and performance. The end performance represents only one dimension of the engagement of coloquio participants with the authoritative text, whereas they are in fact differentially engaged with the text at each successive stage of the production process. Moreover, each stage of the reanimation process has a formative effect on those that follow, including of course the performance itself. If we are to comprehend the social life of discourse and the pragmatics of textuality in their fullest scope, investigation of the production process is essential.

  In addition to extending the scope of analysis beyond end products to the full field of discursive production, I have also endeavored to fill what I perceive to be a second analytical gap in the literature by providing a degree of formal specificity missing from most studies of authoritative versus anti-authoritative discourse carried out in structural symbolic terms. And performance, the functional efficacy of which rests so centrally on an intensification of formal reflexivity, memorability, and repeatability, offers an especially productive focus for investigations of this kind.




責編:郭翠瀟  來源:CCTV.com

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