Desire Caught by the Tail  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Desire Caught by the Tail (1941, French: Le Désir attrapé par la queue) is a farcical play written by the painter Pablo Picasso.

In 1956 Méret Oppenheim designs the costumes and the masks for this piece, directed by Daniel Spoerri.

Jean-Jacques Lebel staged it at the 1967 Festival of Free Expression in Saint-Tropez, France. The cast included stripteaseuse Rita Renoir.

Contents

History

In the winter of 1941, soon after the Germans had occupied Paris, Picasso while ill spent three days writing a play. Written in French, the piece was entitled Le Désir attrapé par la queue, which translates literally to "Desire Caught by the Tail." However, it was not until 1944 that it had its first audience when it was given a reading in the Paris apartment of Michel Leiris. There the parts were read by such local literati as Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Valentine Hugo, Raymond Queneau and Picasso himself. Albert Camus directed the piece.

The Living Theatre made the play a part of their first critical success, when three poetic plays were staged at the same time. It was called An Evening of Bohemian Theatre at Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village, 2 March 1952, and also included plays by Gertrude Stein and T.S. Eliot. In June, 1959, Lorees Yerby Dutton directed a version of the play at the Coffee House Positano in Malibu, California. It premiered as a full staged production in 1967, in St. Tropez, France. The show, which was rumored (falsely) to have actors urinating on stage, was protested despite the town’s generally tolerant reputation. The central prop was a large black box, which served as a bathtub, a coffin and a bed. Desire Caught by the Tail was restaged in 1984 (with David Hockney acting) by the Guggenheim Museum. It has been rarely produced since.

Description

Described as "surrealistic" and "simply weird," the play is rarely produced due to sheer incomprehensibility. There is no plot to speak of. The play has abstractly named characters: besides the protagonist Big Foot and his love interest Tart, there are Onion, Round End, the Cousin, the two Bow-wows, Silence, Fat Anguish, Skinny Anguish and The Curtains. And the stage directions are highly impractical: the transparent doors light up and the dancing shadows of five monkeys eating carrots appear. Complete darkness.

While the narrative is nonlinear and the meaning nearly impossible to decipher, the work has been praised despite (and sometimes for) its lack of message. Bernard Frechtman, who translated the work from the original French, writes in his Foreword, "It says nothing of human destiny or of the human condition. In an age which has discovered man with a capital M, it is gratifying to advise the reader that Picasso has nothing to say of man, nor of the universe. This in itself is a considerable achievement."

Noteworthy productions

  • Eye and Ear Theater, 1984. Two day production in New York.
  • Envision Theatre, 2002. Produced as a radio broadcast in the U.K.
  • Banished? productions, 2006. D.C production featured characters portrayed by dancers and puppeteer-powered toilet bowls

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Desire Caught by the Tail" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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