One thing I learned from last night’s performance of I Am America was that 80 minutes of Allen Ginsberg is an awful lot of Allen Ginsberg.
Workcenter, founded on the principles of Jerzy Grotowski, performed I Am America, based on Ginsberg’s writing. (I wrote about the Workcenter at Stanford here.) Much of the script is taken from Ginsberg’s poem “America,” which begins “America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing…”
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I’m sick of your insane demands.
I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.
See what I mean? The show was high energy, the performers are vibrant and accomplished, the singing of the African diasporic songs are simply astonishing, but again … a little of Ginsberg goes a long way.
Mario Biagini told me:
When I see something living, something starts to live in me. When I do this job, it helps me to live,” he said.Part of the search for something alive led to Ginsberg, and Ginsberg’s fiery, apocalyptic visions. Timely, said Biagini, in a world of environmental catastrophe, terrorism and nuclear meltdowns.
“These times are interesting, peculiar. Every day something shows us that the future is completely unknown. It needed a practical reply,” he said – a reply to “the arrogance of reality, the arrogance of life.”
Mario spoke to the audience after the small show, and told me something I didn’t know … or perhaps knew only peripherally, the way you know things in the back of your mind and then forget. Ginsberg’s papers are at Stanford. The library bought them, he said, for “a fabulous sum of money.” Where did it go?
“A lot of it went to taxes,” he said. “A lot of it went to a very, very beautiful apartment in New York City.” It’s now home of the Allen Ginsberg Trust.