a : a narrative composed from personal experience b : autobiography —usually used in plural c : biography
“Memoir.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2015. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/memoir>.
In Jon Robin Baitz Other Desert Cities, the subject of “memoir” is the crux of the characters’ dilemma. In the play, questions quickly arise in which family members’ loyalty, appreciation, respect, and decency is belligerently and unapologetically cross-examined.
In Baitz’s play, Brooke, the play’s protagonist, writes a stirring memoir which liberates her emotionally, yet threatens to decimate her family’s legacy. Using her memoir as a catalyst, Brooke blatantly seeks vigilante justice while demanding answers for past discretions. In an unprecedented quest for recompense, Brooke risks thrusting her family into a media limelight they fought diligently to escape.
As a result, Brooke’s family, forced to contend with her fragmented memories, are inadvertently caught in a crossfire in which divergent truths are challenged. The familial internal tension, which has been building for decades, finally erupts. As Brooke is determined to liberate her conscience and destroy her parents ersatz piousness, her father pleads earnestly:
Please don’t do this. I can not embarrass those people. They’re, some of them, alive still –! You can do what you like after we’re gone! Do you understand that? It’s simply good manners. It’s as simple as that (Baitz, 41).
… there’s something so vicious about what you’re doing here, Brooke, don’t you know that? (Baitz, 53)
… If you understood what you were doing, you would hang your head in shame (Baitz, 54).
Likewise, Polly, Brooke’s mother and the family matriarch, emphatically concludes,
This is beyond repair. You insist that we publicly relive the worst time in our life, in a book and a magazine, and I am supposed to buckle because one is supposed to do anything for one’s child, whatever one can to make them happy, to save them. THAT is indentured servitude. (Baitz, 54).
After perusing the memoir, Trip, Brooke’s younger brother, is propelled to comment. He tells the family,
…–the people in this book are not the same as the ones who brought me up. …They are different people than the ones I am looking at, totally (Baitz, 55).
Brooke, although dejected and discombobulated, is unrelenting in her crusade. An intransigent heroine, she is valiantly searching for vindication for perceived past crimes. Her quest for justice is vigilant, yet her perception of the past is collectively devalued. Undeterred, she faces her family and exclaims:
You are asking me to shut down something that makes me possible. Your arguments for suppression mean I would die. (Baitz, 57).
This is the paradigm in which the emotional intricacies of the play is built. Hence, who has the power and/or authority to tell a story in which another person’s narrative is interwoven? Similarly, whose perspectives do we value? Is a story complete without the voices of variant perspectives? Should a story be shared publicly without the blessings and/or support from the unanticipated supporting characters? Join Triad Stage February 11 – March 1, 2015 as the characters continue to discover and confront the stagnant residual effects from emotionally open wounds vicariously left unattended.
Want to dig deeper? Read the article below.
By Artistic Associate Tamera N. Izlar