Below, find a copy of the slides presented at first rehearsal by the dramaturgy team.
Below, find a copy of the slides presented at first rehearsal by the dramaturgy team.
During our first rehearsal, director Steven Bogart shared these initial thoughts about each of the songs, and their thematic threads.
Read the text of the original Hoffman verses (the inspiration for these songs) in our previous post about the source material.
Feeding children with our shame and fears. Trying to control their tastes, their physical needs and emotional needs. We insist on what goes into the minds of children.
The rebellion is we see in Augustus is the rebellion of the ignored and abandoned child. The abandoned child within us crying out for attention.
A kid we all hate. We hate his rage at us. He is a monster, separate from ourselves, who gets what he deserves.
He is not us, he is outside of us. He’s the child we send away.
The adults sit back and watch Frederick bleed to death. He deserves it. When he dies, we are rid of the monster.
As we watch this child bleed and die, what becomes of us?
The hunted become the hunters, the hunters become the hunted. The abused become the abusers.
Violence leads to more violence.
The Hare is female. She steals the Hunters gun, kills the hunter, his wife, her own baby and then herself.
We have seen these horrific stories in the news.
This story creates a hopeless world begging for an answer to the question; Can we escape the cycle of emotional and physical abuse that we perform on each other and ourselves. What has happened to us?
How do we nurture?
SHAMING from the parents or the adult regarding the child’s physical and emotional needs creates the monster that disgusts and embarrasses us.
If the child can’t be controlled, they must be die.
Killing the child is the metaphor for repression. But there is no escape from our own fears as the consequence of our adult behavior festers in our unconscious.
7. THE BULLY BOYS: if you do not toe the line you will be killed
At first this may seem like a cautionary tale to children who like to pick on others.
But when we consider of the character of Agrippa, the ruthless Roman General who put down rebellions during the reign of Augustus, the boys become figures that refused to behave as the culture or government demands.
The rebellious spirit must be crushed.
The kid who won’t sit still. We see them in the schools, in restaurants, coffee shops, movies, supermarkets.
We bring shame on the ‘bad’ parents who can’t control their little monsters.
We must control the artists or they will float away into oblivion and drag us with them.
We are drawn to the power of nature. A child’s passion for meaning and a profound connection with nature frightens us. It’s dangerous and should not be encouraged. The lessons passed on from one generation to the next. Don’t be frivolous, don’t risk failure.
The children can not feel the vitality of life and become timid, frightened adults who live in fear of change and death. We obsess about children playing ‘carefully.’ We don’t let them fall or fail because their failure reflects on us.
We hate losing more than we love winning.
11. FINALE: the adult infant reaching out to all of us for help
Steve read this document to the cast, creative team, and guests at the first cast meeting and read-through on November 25, 2014.
Some First Thoughts & Impulses: Notes from SHOCKHEADED PETER 1st Rehearsal
— Steven Bogart, Director
We’ve abandoned our children, we’ve abandoned ourselves, we’ve abandoned our inner child; suffering emotional trauma and fear of abandonment. Shaming and critical self talk. The angry/defiant child. The vulnerable child.
The inner child has gone into hiding deep inside. In other words, it has been repressed or disowned by the subconscious mind in order to protect us from the pain and fear of the abandonment it carries.
The main problem with repressed and disowned parts of self is that they don’t stay repressed…they get triggered just like any other part of the self. When they do is when we have “reactions” that are grounded in the fear of abandonment.
An excerpt from The Uses of Enchantment (1977) by Bruno Bettelheim:
“A child needs to understand what is going on within the conscious self so that he/she can also cope with that which goes on in the unconscious. Understanding, however, is achieved NOT through rational comprehension of the nature and content of the unconscious, but by becoming familiar with it through spinning out DAYDREAMS—ruminating, rearranging and fantasizing about suitable story elements in response to unconscious pressures.
“The child fits unconscious content into conscious fantasies, which enable her to deal with that content. The unconscious is a powerful determinant of behavior. When the unconscious is repressed and its content denied entrance into awareness, then eventually the person’s conscious mind will be partially overwhelmed by derivatives of these unconscious elements or else he/she is forced to keep such rigid, compulsive control over them that her personality may become severely crippled.
“But when unconscious material is to some degree permitted to come to awareness and worked through in imagination, it’s potential for causing harm—to ourselves or others—is much reduced; some of its forces can then be made to serve positive purposes.
“However, the prevalent parental belief is that children must be diverted from what troubles them most: their formless, nameless anxieties, and their chaotic, angry, and even violent fantasies.
“Many parents believe ONLY conscious reality or pleasant and wish-fulfilling images should be presented to children—that they should be exposed only to the sunny side of things. There is a widespread refusal to let children know that the source of much that goes wrong in life is due to our very natures—the propensity of all humans for acting aggressively, asocially, selfishly, out of anger and anxiety.
“Instead, we want our children to believe that, inherently, all humans are good. But children know THEY are not always good; and often, even when they are, they would prefer not to be. This contradicts what they are told by their parents, and therefore makes the child a monster in her own eyes. The dominant culture wishes to pretend, particularly where children are concerned, that the dark side of man does not exist, and professes a belief in an optimistic meliorism.”
Shockheaded Peter is a hallucinatory expression of our fear of monsters, born from the abandoned child within.
The story is of the abandoned child, literally and metaphorically repressed, thrown into the basement of our adult psyche, motivated by shame, and the pathological cycle of abuse.
A manifestation of the abandoned child, crying out a warning to our adult selves. Repression, repressed impulses, feeling thoughts, desires, etc., cannot remain hidden.
The physical expression of the play through the design elements, the band, and various juxtapositions of acting styles contributes to the unconscious dream state in which the abandoned child-within lives.
The physical space of the play is the place of nightmares and the ID. The place where we have locked away our inner child. It is the inner abandoned child’s prison playground.
Another element is the plays absurdity and satirical effect, which is achieved by combining playful humorous rhymes of childlike lyrics with the gruesome punishment and outcome of each story.
All these stories illuminate behavior that stems from obsessive parental control, shame, and fear of abandonment. In this case, the fear of abandonment is two-fold.
The child’s fear that they are monsters in their parents eyes and will be thrown away, tossed out, discarded, punished and in Shockheaded Peter—killed, or left to die.
Motivated by shame, adults fear disapproval, rejection, and ostracism by the dominant culture which includes religious and spiritual expectations; the child represents all that is good with the world, all that is godly and one of the entrances into the afterlife. If the child is good, the gates to heaven are open to us.
There is a third major tension running through Shockheaded Peter; In the original Hoffman stories, the children were punished but not killed. In this case, the stories were used as cautionary tales to enlighten parents and children to proper behavior.
Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott wrote Shockheaded Peter partly as a critique of the Hoffman stories. Our perverse delight in the outrageous treatment of children reflects a deep concern for their welfare by drawing attention to the crazed manner in which adults want to save the young from themselves by destroying curiosity and adventurous spirits.
The appropriateness of Shockheaded Peter is, ironically, what Shockheaded Peter is about, then: a warning, if not a wild expression to the dominant culture about over-protective practices in education, motivated by a culture of fear that silences and seeks to control wild unchecked imagination.
As we work to stage Shockheaded Peter, we struggle with our need to protect children and ourselves from the theatrical violence of the stories. But the piece itself is a monster of our own creation; an expression of our unconscious festering needs, desires, and fantasies that scream for freedom.
The musical of SHOCKHEADED PETER is based largely on Heinrich Hoffman’s 1845 German children’s book, Struwwelpeter. In 1848, the first English edition was published, complete with Hoffman’s original illustrations. To see a full facsimile of the earliest English version, click HERE.