EUGENE TRIVIZAS' THEATRE,
- Takis Tzamargias,
- Yiorgos Lymperis, Dramaturg
Eugene Trivizas appeared in the literary landscape in the 1980s and even though he has been involved with most literary genres, he is undoubtedly one of the most important playwrights for young audiences in the world. He has studied law and economics and is a professor of criminology in the UK but at the same time he is the inventor of the Electric Suctionscope, the Bathtub with twelve holes and the Retrospective mirror. Eugene Trivizas is not only a scholar but the author of some of the most important stories for children. His works have received awards from the Academy of Athens, the Greek Literary Union, the Greek Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) as well as the Women’s Literary Team. He was honored with the Parents’ Choice Amazing Accomplish Award, both in the UK and the United States, the Hudson Massachusetts Children Choice Award, the Arizona Library Association Young Readers Award and the California Peace Education Fund Children’s Book Award.
Despite their ongoing publishing success and their inevitable, subsequent commercial exploitation, his works, highly respected and established in the consciousness of readers and viewers of all ages, are considered groundbreaking and characterized by exquisite quality and innovation, elements that can not only be traced in the unique themes featured but also in the way in which those are expressed. This recognition may be a direct result of the author’s stance, “…that the messages of optimism and those of imaginary worlds created by an author, can serve as motives that can potentially alter the reader’s paradigm of reality” (Trivizas, 2011). By blurring the lines between the real and the imaginary world, comes a need to change the circumstances of our reality (Gramatas, 1996). Being acutely aware of the infinite possibilities available when writing theatre for children and the unique identity of his audience, Trivizas identifies imagination as the only source of innovation and creativity and the only means to expose the dual nature of reality that is frequently obscured or pushed aside by the narrow perception of adults (Seretis, 2007. The Land of Now. 157) Trivizas constructs the visions of society and exposes reality to children and poses diachronic, cultural requests and themes corresponding to the reality of today’s world. His universal and current themes, devoid of any nationalistic or moralistic intentions, focus upon the social and moral values of a modern world plagued by environmental issues and feature aspects concerning identity and otherness, the moral dimension of money, what is fair or wrong.
His aim is to entertain the psyche of children and activate their conscience. For Trivizas, communication is the active involvement and interaction with one’s surroundings. His works appeal to an active children’s audience, works that carry with them the author’s own psyche and personality. At the same time, Trivizas is utterly respectful towards his audience, not only treating his viewers as equals but as potentially capable of anything possible. (Gramatas, 1996). His educational approach is unique, as he employs any means available, even those of a negative nature or connotation, in an effort to approach and provoke his audience’s imagination. Through distorted depictions of people and situations, in an extremely grotesque fashion, the audience is no longer confined to its passive role, but is urged to experience and eventually become part of the story, since Trivizas creates the need to guide and be guided in the universe of each narrative. Based on his own experience and judgment, the viewer is now able to make informed decisions and choices not only concerning himself but the society of adults and man in general.
As a whole, Trivizas’ dramaturgy represents a place where, devoid of any didactic nature, imagination constitutes the main driving force. The characters’ acts and thoughts carry messages and values to the audience, without being the mouthpiece of the dramaturg, but the result of a child’s own reflection and evaluation of the story.
The young viewer can easily identify with the situations in which the hero finds himself in, in order to reach his goal and the urge to recreate the world appears as the only solution. Trivizas is anything but clear as to how a hero has to solve his problems. On the contrary, the resolution of any problems that arise comes as a direct result of meaningful conflicts, granting the viewer the opportunity to help the hero using his imagination. The message of each story is realised by participating in the game and through experience. The viewer’s ability to contribute to the resolution of the problems is assumed by the author, since he is treated as mature enough to do so.
The theatricality of Trivizas’ works is achieved through the use of dramatic characters, as believable and autonomous entities, and through the occurrence of various conflicts. The heroes in his stories are anything but stereotypical characters and prepare the audience for specific behavioral patterns, reversing what we, as an audience, conceive as a norm. The conflicts between the characters arise from reasons of different nature; ideological, psychological, emotional, physical or metaphysical. “Conflict, the essence of drama, is a key element in his works” (Moudatsakis, 1994). The heroes struggle with themselves or with problems arising by external factors while the existence of various conflicts, in nature or intensity, reinforces theatricality. The situations that the heroes find themselves in are not static, but come as a result of a coalescence of relationships, intentions and circumstances.
Various folktale elements in Trivizas’ dramaturgy are indicative of his influence by written tradition. The panpsychism as well as the heroes’ transformations are thoroughly exploited, adding up to the vitality of the stories and are at the same time innovative in their use, in the sense that we are unable to be associate them with previous occurrences in literature, resulting in modern and extremely interesting creations (Malafadis, 2006). Animals and traditionally inanimate objects become sources of action in his works (such as the Magic Pillows of King Arpatilaos, which have the ability to turn people’s dreams into nightmares).
The productive utilization of motifs and patterns in Trivizas’ works leads to a unique and distinctive marking of various objects. Polysemy is an endless source of creating a humorous effect in his dramatic texts. Laughter constitutes a major resolution in tough situations his characters are dealing with and humor is frequently combined with other dramatic elements (tragic, lyrical or erotic). With allusive humor being a major driving force, the minor viewer can be confronted with even the most delicate or painful themes. The grotesque yet not mockery element in his works is used to expose the malpractices or wrongdoings of the real world.
Onomatopoeia, another frequently recurring element in his works, sometimes functions descriptively (in the case of the protagonists in The Scarecrow’s Dream) and is sometimes responsible for the creation of “…unheard beings, which derive their existence from their names” such as balloontrees, helicoptercrocodile, prisonbound, Ridiculius, Boulimius (Esslin, 1996). Trivizas, however, takes it one step further and names heroes and places by merging words (King Arpatilaos), confirming his unique aptitude in creating new language (Babiniotis, 2011). Puns, wordplays and the exploitation of etymologies increase interest on a dramatic level, enhance satire and parody and signify an innovative proposal regarding the ways in which language can be used. The majority of his works is dominated by an advanced language development with an exceptionally sophisticated vocabulary and… daring verbal combinations in unexpected compositions, to such an extent that it can sometimes result in a narcissistic exaggeration, as it has been aptly observed by various scholars (Sereti, 2010. The Land of Now. 248).
The morphological, structural and stylistic traits which comprise his works as a whole are structured in an “open” environment, not only because the author seeks the mediation of the director, the actor and all those involved in the creation of the show, but because he consciously presents us with a playful text in a direct and obvious manner, open to various approaches and alterations consistent with the judgment of an underage audience.
The main elements of his dramaturgy are surprises and plot twists. He defies and alters classic motifs in order to enrich them with modern references and indications. His works widely challenge typical role models and stereotypes by employing subversive irony and humor as a form of criticism, with irony and humor regarded as the only weapons in a child’s artillery and as the only way to cope with the demands of modern societies. Manichaistic symbols representing good and evil are blurred and modified, escaping the norms. Following in the footsteps of another great storyteller, Gianni Rodari, the act of committing mistakes is productively and creatively taken advantage of by Eugene Trivizas and are successfully used to undermine and overturn the plot. Trivizas parodies his patterns and reconstructs them in order to create original drama. The directness and appeal to the young audience is reinforced through the re-creation of situations and emotions widely experienced by children today. The information given upfront to the viewer, information which the heroes are unaware of, emphasizes the comical irony through its confrontation with tragic irony (Trivizas, 1994).
Eugene Trivizas introduces the young viewers to an imaginary world that opposes the stern, harsh reality. With no intention of being didactic and by using humor, imagination, sensitivity, an appealing plot and his unique manipulation of language, he manages to make us a part of his multidimensional stories, where tough situations do not discourage the viewer, but rather give him strength and hope to carry on.