Note From The Director (Larry Biederman)

When I told people I was directing LA RONDE, most people said, "Oh, the one with all the sex scenes." It's an interesting reputation the play has, considering the fact that if there is one thing decidedly omitted from the play, it's the sex. But I know what they mean. Clearly the play, written in the age of syphilis and Freud, is preoccupied with the pursuit of the sexual encounter.

But I prefer to defy this idea, to rebel in fact, and to say that no, it is NOT a play about sex. The primary theme of the play for me is the pursuit of false substitutes for love. My hope is to show the characters overwhelming need for love, approval, validation, attention, happiness, and all the other reasons people pursue sex as an impatient way to compensate for a kind of love that really doesn't exist outside of oneself.

Sex happens to be that substitute. After the sex, the characters are left to confront that sex did NOT do the trick...no matter where you go, there you are. The need is still there, and they are left to try to manifest someone else to compensate for what they lack.

The best way to show this is to strip the characters of everything, so they are constantly left with nothing, and therefore there is nought to do BUT to look at themselves. Using costumes, props, sets, chairs, lights, sounds, they try to convince themselves of one reality, to suspend their own disbelief, but they are repeatedly redirected toward their actual truth.

The audience on the other hand is "in" on the experiment.


History Of La Ronde

LA RONDE (1900, Hands Around, also known as Der Reigen) is among Schnitzler's best-known dramas. It is a skilfully constructed play in ten dialogues, in which the characters are seen after sex as well as before. Love making is marked by asterisks in the written text:

SOLDIER: We're all alone.
PARLOR MAID: Then let's find some --
SOLDIER: Who needs them? Marie! We need -- come on. Come on. (He laughs.)
PARLOR MAID: No -- no. Mr Franz, no. Please. Listen! If I'd -- if I'd -- Oh! Oh! Yes!

* * *
SOLDIER: [blissfully]: Oh! Don't stop. Don't -- ah -- ah --
PARLOR MAID: I can't see you.
SOLDIER: Who cares.

(from La Ronde, translation by Carl R. Mueller)

Beginning with the seduction of a Soldier by a Prostitute, each subsequent dialogue is related to its predecessor to form a cycle. The character number ten, the Count, makes love to the Prostitute, and closes the circle. Schnitzler's work caused one of the greatest scandals in the history of the German theatre and provoked anti-semitic riots in Berlin. A six-day obscenity trial resulted in an acquittal, but the author banned any performances of the play in Europe until after his death. La Ronde was not performed until 1920.


About Schnitzler

Arthur Schnitzler (Playwright) was born in Vienna in 1862 and was a celebrated Austrian doctor, playwright, novelist, and critic who dealt with the theme of illusion and reality in many variations. At age 16 he visited a prostitute, and when his father heard about it he showed his son an illustrated treatise on sexually transmitted diseases. Schnitzler's early literary reputation was largely gained through his plays, starting with ANATOL (1893), about the "sexual neurasthenia" of a young man. His works were often controversial, both for their frank description of sexuality (Sigmund Freud, in a letter to Schnitzler confessed "I have gained the impression that you have learned through intuition, everything that I have had to unearth by laborious work on other persons") as well as their strong stand against anti-Semitism. Schnitzler meticulously kept a diary from the age of 17 until two days before his death in 1931. Schnitzler's response to critics who claimed his works all seemed to repeat the same subjects was, "I write of love and death, what other subjects are there?"

Quotes From La Ronde:
"We could be dead tomorrow." (Carpe Diem, popularly translated as "seize the day" but interpreted as an existential cautionary term, much like "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die," with emphasis on making the most of current opportunities because life is short and time is fleeting.)

"WE NEED..."
"There aren't many couples who after five years can still remeber their--their Venice."
"Why blame it on the wine?"
"Why are you looking at me like that?"

Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle
Sigmund Freud wrote in a letter to Schnitzler: 'I have gained the impression that you have learned through intuition – though actually as a result of sensitive introspection – everything that I have had to unearth by laborious work on other persons.'

 

from the New York Times: Dissecting the Era of Virgins and Satyr

By DINITIA SMITH, Published: November 10, 2001

....Then there is Mr. Gay's five-volume study, ''The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud'' (Oxford University Press and Norton, 1984-1997), which took apart clichés about the bourgeoisie of that time. The bourgeois image of prudence, chastity, sobriety, he wrote, is far from true. Using diaries, letters, sexual surveys, Mr. Gay showed that bourgeois life embraced eroticism, that mutual sexual satisfaction was part of marriage, that women were not entirely subjugated and that the feminist movement had its origins in the period.

Next week, Mr. Gay will publish ''Schnitzler's Century'' (Norton). In many ways, it is a summary of his five-volume study of the bourgeoisie, but it is also a continuation. The book is based on the Viennese writer Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931), who portrayed the sexual anxieties of his age in works including ''The Round Dance'' (which David Hare adapted in his 1998 play ''The Blue Room'') and ''Dream Novella,'' the basis for the 1999 movie ''Eyes Wide Shut.'' Schnitzler was a meticulous chronicler of his sex life, and his diaries, in which he listed the number of orgasms he had with each mistress, proved a gold mine, Mr. Gay said. From 1887 to 1889, for instance, Schnitzler recounted that he had made love 583 times with his mistress, Anna Heeger. Freud, who was Schnitzler's contemporary, once called Schnitzler his double in his avid investigations of the human soul.

''I didn't like him very much,'' Mr. Gay said of Schnitzler with a little smile. ''I used Schnitzler as a witness.'' Schnitzler embodied the contradictions of bourgeois culture. Though he professed to despise the stodginess of bourgeois life, he dutifully followed his father into medicine. Though he was a satyr, he liked his mistresses (who were usually from the petit bourgeoisie) to be virgins. And, Mr. Gay says, Schnitzler's women were not victims. Mr. Gay grants them a degree of emancipation, arguing that their sexual dalliances with Schnitzler were a means of escape from the monotony of their impecunious existences and boring husbands.

The book opens with Schnitzler describing his rage that his father read his diary without permission when he was 16, discovering his son's lively sex life in the process. The consequence was a stinging rebuke from his father, who forced him to read Moritz Kaposi's treatise on syphilis and skin diseases, complete with gory illustrations. But this explosive scene illustrates the central role of privacy in bourgeoisie life, Mr. Gay writes; privacy was a relatively new concept, and imaginable only as the general population could afford separate bedrooms for children. Privacy gave the child a separate domain, contributing to the modern cult of the self, the notion of a self distinct from parents, from society, from the state.

LE CHAMBRE SEPAREE - LYRICS by TACO
Contessa, of Tridessa
Frequented clubs of bad taste
In disguise she mine the hunter
Only to play with her brain

Her husband at home without a notion
Led a dull, secluded life
Tell the night he ???
Now he hunts her night and day

Trivialities and fate, with a pinch of spice and vice
Has changed the lives of small and great

La chambre separe, that lusty hideaway
Has many little secrets who tell of yesterday
Some trivial, some trite, some oo-la-la's in white
Some rendezvous made history or ended in a fight

Napolean Bonaparte
Was fooled, went out on a spree
Girls amused him in the chamber
There was no way he could flee

His generals, ??? conspired
France was ready for a little break
They dethroned their ruler
Locked in the ???

Trivialities and fate, with a pinch of spice and vice
Has changed the lives of small and great

La chambre separe, that lusty hideaway
Has many little secrets who tell of yesterday
Some trivial, some trite, some oo-la-la's in white
Some rendezvous made history or ended in a fight


For Further Reading

www.sash.net/ website for the advancement of sexual health
www.sexhelp.com website for Patrick Carnes, a guru on sex addiction
essay9.pdf essay on sexuality in America
Sex-Art-American-Culture-Essays by Camille Paglia, who was all the rage for a while in the 90's as a theorist on sexual identity.