Keith Mayerson


A Child is Being Beaten


I wrote and directed plays when I was an undergraduate at Brown University, studying under Paula Vogel in addition to being a Studio Art and Semiotics major. I had success with this work, and truly enjoyed it, but in addition to being the campus cartoonist, realized I could bring up narrative ideas aesthetically as a fine artist. One of my best classes at Brown was taught by famed theorist Kaja Silverman, about Fassbinder. The reading list was as excellent as the films of this master, who was able to incorporate both Marx and Freud into his melodramas, which captivated as much as they provoked intellectually and emotionally—a true artistic model for me as he is for so many others. One of the texts we read was Freud's "A Child is Being Beaten", his meditation on the origins of masochism. I was going through my own post-adolescent, still coming out as queer angst, and the article was as potent to me as his movies, and I wrote a play based on that narrative in a way that I could suture into. Fast forward to the future, I would take my NYU senior students (reading Buchner's Woyzeck!) to Richard Foreman's theater, where he generously would do a Q and A afterward. The class was about creating a post- post modernism, where you could "have your cake and eat it too" making work that was about something outside the hegemony of the work itself, have political and otherwise content, but also leave room for feeling and transcendence, a path that I have been on since college. Richard and I became friendly, and he invited me to present in his "Blackboard" series of self-directed plays in the summer, and I gladly joined in, directing the first half of the play that I had wrote long ago in college, a life dream to have "off off Broadway" (actually the play soon after college was directed and brought to BAM back in the early 90's by David Savran, a professor at the time and friend of Vogel). This was a great experience for me, and to get into the mode of the family of characters, I rendered these expressive works from my imagination, that I lived with for years on our own walls.