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Memory by Daniella Vinitski

As a young scholar I was drawn to the Modernists: I found their edgy revolution of style, their rejection of failed past traditions, and their sense of nostalgia, wit and dark poetry to be inspiring. The Absurdists most compelled me because of their unusual circular structure, their appropriation of the colloquial and use of meta-theatrical conventions. The Absurdist form epitomizes art as a reactive function to a world tainted by war. I recently revisited Martin Esslin’s doctrine, The Theatre of the Absurd, and was struck by Camus’ excerpt from The Myth of Sisyphus. It reads:

In a universe that is suddenly deprived of illusions and of light, man suddenly feels a stranger. He is an irremediable exile, because he is deprived of memories of a lost homeland as much as he lacks the hope of a promised land to come. This divorce between man and his life … truly constitutes the feeling of Absurdity. (Esslin 5)

In Memory, the characters do not know who or where they are. However, over the course of the unfolding drama it becomes evident that they are indeed in some sort of a “promised homeland.” While Esslin explains his use of the word “absurd” to mean “out of harmony” (as opposed to “the ridiculous,” as it has generally come to be known), the absurd quality within Memory is located in the characters’ previous life experience: one divided by warfare. If their lives were in discord, their post-life existence is reflective and peaceful. Thus it is not the universe that proves meaningless, but war itself. The images the characters share are directly derived from a mythical war, apocalyptic in scope. While the actuality of their experiences remains inarticulate, their sensory memories reveal a truth of experience beyond conventional language.

Memory is my attempt to borrow some facets of the Theatre of the Absurd, such as its play on language and broken Aristotelian structure. Like Absurdist drama, meaning is derived from not dialogue alone, but the accumulating musicality of pause, voice, and silence, and the evolving imagery it presents.

Memory was workshopped at the Mid-American Theatre Conference in 2009 and published in the 4.1 volume of Ecumenica Theatre Journal. They play was also produced as part of a larger 2012 production, Carnivals and Snowstorms, at the University of Colorado ATLAS Institute.

[Revised from original publication, Ecumenica Theatre Journal 2012]

Work Cited:
Esslin, Martin. “The Theatre of the Absurd.” New York: The Overlook Press, 1973.