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THE ARTSEMERSON BLOG

What did you think of Mies Julie

Thank you for attending Farber Foundry’s production of Mies Julie!

Thoko Ntshinga, Hilda Cronje in Mies Julie, pic by Rodger Bosch

Please take a moment to reflect on your experience by either sharing your thoughts or answering the questions before.

What moments resonated with you after the performance?

Do you see parallels between post-apartheid South Africa and your culture?

Are you familiar with Strindberg’s Miss Julie? If yes, did aspects of the adaptation challenge or expand your understanding of the original?

Did anything take you surprise?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

9 Comments

  1. The play was well acted and the content rich. However, I found the constant level of violence between Julie and John, and especially by Julie, to distract from the bonds and love of their upbringing together. Passion was as violent as hatred and prejudice and fear. That certainly can be true in life, but the nuance of love of a common black mother figure, of land and country was lost in the constant violent voice & movement of the characters. I felt that John reflected this nuance more than Julie.

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  2. I must admit that I really did not like the production. I am an Arts Emerson member, and have been for years. I was really looking forward to this play in particular. The set was great and the actors certainly gave high powered, seemingly exhausting performances, but I was left flat. How is that possible with all the high emotion on stage, the blood, spit, screaming, and sex? It wasn’t in spite of those things, it was because there were no pauses in the piece. The emotions were always on high charge and therefore came off as artificial and overwrought. I also was put off by some of the actors’ body language which seemed contrived, particularly Julie’s dancer-like walk, pointed toes, etc. This is the first production that I have actually disliked, so I guess that isn’t a bad thing, given the total number of plays I go to through Arts Emerson, but this one really didn’t do it for me.

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  3. I found Jennifer’s comments interesting since although most of what she said is true (I felt that there were many pauses in the piece at least one of which was too long, but I know that I have a different sense of time than many) I liked the piece.

    This was the second time I saw it with what I think is the same cast. I wanted to see it again to see if I found Julie’s demise more convincing this time — and I did.

    The sheer physicality of the performers made it credible, and the multi generational backstory made it tragic.

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  4. I have to say, I was also disappointed by the production. I am a member and really like ArtsEmerson productions. This one was not up to previous ones.The play started out very powerful, with an ancestor walking and singing on the stage, then with “John” and his mother taking us to their life as blacks in a post apartheid south Africa. When Mies Julie appeared things became much choppier, and much less interesting. The relationship that develops between the 2 main characters is so disconnected from the political context it claims to portray. John does a good job in his acting and in sustaining his character. Mies Julie is just acting borderlinish with no substance, really. She goes from drama, to crying, to yelling and as the play goes, her character becomes emptier and emptier. The last scene is almost laughable.
    We also thought that the sex scenes instead of sustaining the fire in the couple became more like a stereotyped way to try to bring passion on the stage. that is not good acting!

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  5. First, the good news: (1) the almost-ballet-like sequence towards the beginning between John and Julie that carried enormous resonance (non-verbally), and was subtle and provocative in ways that were virtually no where else to be found over the 90 minutes; (2) the final image of Christine scrubbing the floor. Second, the bad news: virtually everything else. I agree with Jennifer (above), and found the production — the script as well as the central performances — nothing short of bombastic; I was left wondering what would have happened if the performers had been given the opportunity to NOT scream, and had rather played it out as a less-than-explicit dance of death (Strindberg again!) and more as chess-players checkmating or circling each other. Granted, I’m not South African, but this production reduced history and contemporary events into a comic book, and to a large degree was truly insulting to both. (Seeing this a day or so after Mandela’s death made it all the more infuriating.)

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  6. I’ve never seen an audience so intent on what was happening onstage and so quiet. I thought the performances were incredibly alive and couldn’t get over the degree of physicality the main roles required. The actors did an amazing job of making their story come alive but I was struck by the lack of any real tenderness between them. They were, after all, raised by the same mother and their own affection and care for her was clear but even that wasn’t enough to save them from each other and the world outside. A troubling piece but glad I had the opportunity to see such a dramatic work.

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  7. Anne SerafinDecember 8, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    The production and performances of Mies Julie were stunning. The story, as adapted to South Africa, is relevant, powerful, and credible. Each of the actors was excellent. The audience at our performance remained silent for a moment after the lights went down; then an outburst of applause spoke of everyone’s appreciation. I found myself thinking about the characters, events, motivations, and results long afterwards.

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  8. Joan LancourtDecember 9, 2013 at 7:49 am

    I was completely mesmerized by the whole production. I had seen it in NY and this 2nd viewing had the same impact on me – only this time I could absorb more of the detail – the soft but disturbingly unsettling music that is playing from the moment you enter the theater, the mist that wafts and hangs on the stage, the slow circling of the griot – all combine to create a mood and suggest that what is about to happen transcends the literal and unfolds on a symbolic level. And the stylized sexual and emotional violence that permeates the play for me perfectly captured and mirrored the utter destruction wrought by the systemic violence of apartheid. It infected the very core of their beings, so that love had become impossible – even Chirstine’s mother love was no longer enough – powerless in the face of the rape of the human spirit. And the issues of power – who has power over whom – thread through the play, and when John dons the master’s boots at the end, symbolizing the step into power of the formerly powerless, it does not feel like a hopeful transfer. Violence breeds violence, and that is what has dominated John’s life, and a lifetime of suppressed rage does not auger well – vengeance is not a good foundation. I saw the play on the night of Mandela’s death, and it underscored his monumental stature – of having been able to rise above the rage, to be truly transformative. But the play elegantly and concisely painted a picture of the challenge he and future leaders still face. Whatever artifice there was was for me purposeful and necessary – lifting the play to a level of Greek tragedy, and the intense, almost relentless emotions were an appropriate scream of pain and despair. It said to me ‘this is not about intellectual issues’, and these lives destroyed are not a chess game to be cooly played out. There is no denying that intellect and strategy are ultimately a necessary part of the means for a transformation, but that was not what this particular play wanted to focus on. And I am so grateful to Arts Emerson for bringing this to Boston, as we do not have to go as far afield as So. Africa to find the destruction caused by our own system of structural racism. Hopefully, plays like this can play a part in reigniting the conversations and actions that we need to take here to transform our own society.

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  9. Carolyn GregoryDecember 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Powerfully wrought performance of a great play. Not being familiar with the original , I am not sure how it compares with Strindberg but for itself, it holds up very well. Minimal and haunting staging with persistent, suggestive music and misting over the stage, fine use of an ancestor ghost playing a stringed instrument but otherwise silent, the twirling of a bird cage at the side of the stage for emphasis at significant moments — all of this works very well without being heavy-handed. There are bursts of fine, emotional poetry and painful personal reflection, particularly on the part of the black African actors. The use of dance and the physical moves a lot of scenes forward dramatically. Certainly, there is profound violence which is a little hard to take on the literal level but on the symbolic level, it is perfectly appropriate. Very well done performance in every way including some fine acting.

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