Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Star-Spangled Banner

I was reading the paper but the conversation between the two guys behind kept me from concentrating on anything but their words.
One is a journalist, the other guy's occupation is not clear. The journalist (I will later learn that his name is James) is explaining that he finished an interview of the widow (sister?) of one of the pilots of the planes hijacked on 9/11. She recently published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and in her interview with him, she apparently said things that she somehow regretted later. People do that in interviews. They relax and forget that an interview is not a discussion but an interrogation. She was more careful in writing but speaking can be deceptively free-flowing.
James is describing precisely the choice he made to air (publish?) the result. He repeats twice that she knew what she was doing by talking to him, that this was an interview, that he is doing his job. In the grand scheme of things, whatever she told him and she now regrets will be forgotten by everybody and all what will stay will be the bitterness in her attitude toward the press and a vague feeling of having failed to be compassionate (if even that) from the journalist. I've always wondered why some people think this is worth it.

The conversation is getting really interesting with discussion of the prisoners in Guantanamo but right then, my friend M. shows up and I can't listen to the conversation anymore: I have to be part of one. We talk about the play we are about to see in this small experimental theater, an adaptation of "Amerika" by Franz Kafka, another of my favorite authors.

The play was a bit incoherent. It is a hard book to adapt for the theater and the story does not come together in a cohesive way. Sometimes,the two actors on stage simply lose the public's attention. It does not help that this is held in a small space, which holds a maximum of 30 people and that it is incredibly hot.

In the middle of the first part, as one of the characters is singing the American national anthem, one person, a young blond woman wearing a short skirt and a lycra top, stands up. She is the only one standing in the crowd and all the eyes are on her. I hear someone snickering behind me. The actor finishes singing and she sits down. Although I would not stand for the French national anthem, I admire the strength of her convictions.
Then the anthem is sung again and this time she does not stand up. Not this time, and not toward the end of the play, when it is sung yet again, this time in a distorted way.
I'm not sure if this is because she feels that she has done her duty the first time or if it is because she could not confront people stares. Even in the dark.


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