Monday, 24 July 2017

The Last Dramaturgy of Mexico: Chris Davis @ Edfringe 2017

The Last Emperor of Mexico

written & performed by Chris Davis

directed by Mary Tuomanen

A historical comedy exploring the rise and fall of Maximilian I, the last Emperor of Mexico.

Maximilian I has recently been declared the Emperor of Mexico by Napoleon III. But his administration soon comes under attack by the revolutionary Benito Juarez. 

He is confronted with one of the greatest dilemmas an Emperor has ever faced; to shave his beard, or to die by firing squad.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

I lived in Mexico for 3 years, and specifically Mexico City for two of them.  I was in the center of the city near one of the biggest parks in Mexico called 'Bosque de Chapultepec.'  In this 'bosque' at the very top of a hill was a castle.  

This castle is called the Castillo de Chapultepec, and it was here I first discovered the story of Maximilian I, of Mexico.  The more I read about him, the more I was fascinated by the rise and fall of his own empire, and life.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Yes, you can just get away with so much more.  You can put subvert people without them realizing it is happening, change minds without them closing down, catch them off-guard and infiltrate the soul.  Performance can really reach an audience in a way nothing else can.  For that hour or so, these people have to live with you, whether they like it or not.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I've always loved to do performances, but about five years ago I fell into solo-work.  It liberated me from a lot of the excessive fees, has allowed me to travel around the world with my shows, and meet so many people.  I still perform with other people, but the portability of solo-work has astounded me.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

With this show I really just followed the historical narrative of Maximilian I.  I read as much as I could about him online and excerpted the portions of his life that I thought fit a narrative arc.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

I have a number of shows about Mexico, the culture, and life there.  This fits with them thematically.  The first piece I brought to Edinburgh was called Drunk Lion, and it was about a guy drinking with a Mexican lion in a cantina and talking about love, life, and alcoholism.  

This show is different, but it manages to touch on some similar topics, but also goes a bit further into politics and power, how we view ourselves, and how other people view us.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

This is a fascinating true story about a guy that was put into a job that he was completely unqualified for, a guy who was full of egoism and self-importance and yet put progressive reforms in place like abolishing child labor, a guy that refused to shave his beard and instead chose to be shot to death by a firing squad.  

I think he encompasses many dualities, masculinity heroics and childish ambition, he is blustering and yet charming, funny and petty, with some obvious parallels to many current politicians we are dealing with.  If anything you realize that incompetence and power go hand in hand, and that throughout history people have been dealing with idiots declaring themselves 'emperor' of a sort.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

This show has a lot of solo-tricks I like to do, direct address, imagined people as focal points, prop-gags, third-person narration, it follows an arc but it also leaves its own story to go on tangents about beards, then returns to its overall narration.  I think it's a fun way to spend an hour at midnight, and you learn a bit of history in the process.  Better yet, you can still how that history is still alive today.

In addition to The Last Emperor of Mexico, Chris brings his "tour-de-force" hit fringe show One-Man Apocalypse Now to Sweet Venues at 16:20 (4:20pm).  

Chris is a writer and performer residing in Philadelphia, PA.  Other projects Alias Ellis Mackenzie (Thaddeus Phillips), The Post-Show (Berserker Residents, Edinburgh Fringe).   

The Last Emperor of Mexico by Chris Davis
Venue: Counting House - Lounge (Venue 170)      

Tickets: Free, unticketed
Date:  Aug 3 - 27 (except tuesdays)                         Time: 00:15 (12:15am) (50 min)

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