Roland Schimmelpfennig on Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God
As the Africa Trilogy Series continues, there will be a number of conversations between Maev Beaty and Tony Nappo, two actors who have been involved in the project from the intial workshop in 2008. To have a full understanding of what they will be writing about, this post describes the show they have both been working on, Peggy Pickit Sees The Face of God, and some ideas from the playwright, Germany’s Roland Schimmelpfennig.
Set in an unidentified Western city, Peggy Pickit begins with a white married couple arriving at another white couple’s house for a reunion. All four were best friends at medical school. All are now 41. Two have just returned from crisis work in Africa –escaping a particularly violent flare-up. They have been gone for six years. The other two stayed at home, had a child, and made a lot of money. Each couple looks at the other with envy. Both marriages are in trouble. The returning couple left behind a local child in Africa that the other couple was sponsoring. The fate of that child is unknown, but we learn she is dependent on drug therapy, and without treatment, she will likely die.
The evening turns into a post-colonial version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf . Accusations, pain, anguish and bitter comedy are used to explore damage/guilt in the West. The title refers to a small plastic doll intended as a gift for the African child – a child whose only representation on stage is a small wooden carving.
- There are things that are too big, too cruel, too complicated to be transformed into dramatic art.
- There seems to be almost no acceptable way to show the disaster of AIDS in Africa on a theatre stage. But I am sure there is one, and I have tried to find it.
- The focus of dramatic art is always on the human being. Theatre deals with people. Theatre is not that good at dealing with theory or with global economic structures. Theatre is good at giving these things a name and a human face. In the first draft of the play I am writing for the project, it is the face of a little girl. Or the faces of two little girls: Annie living in an unidentified African village, and Kathie, living in an unidentified Western city. We see these girls – but only through the lens of four Western adults grappling with impossible decisions, and through the figurines these girls play with.
- From my personal point of view, as a writer (as far as I can say it by now), this subject needs a very clear and striking transfer to a western context. And that is why I want to write the play and take part in the project.
- In the end there will be three points of view on a more than complex matter – as far as the writers are concerned. More creative minds will be involved: directors, actors and others. The result of all these people’s effort will be a rare and powerful experience. It will link people. It will raise attention.