The Blackmailer

 

This surrealistic play concerns the relationship between Her Uncle and His Niece.  In the context of 20th-century European history, His Niece becomes swept up into a fascination for Her Uncle’s artistry and charisma.  But his increasing possessiveness of His Niece brings Her Uncle to make unreasonable, even criminal, demands of her.

 

The 24 Scenes illuminate His Niece’s curiosity about Her Uncle’s passion for insects, architecture, health, guns, and His Niece’s submission.  In contrast, the 9 Interludes glimpse the Uncle alone or confronted with the opinion of the “Eminent Murderable,” the Narrator who plays the multiple semi-anonymous men who are frequently murdered by Her Uncle – who himself afterward always washes in order to become newly clean like a “newborn babe.” 

 

Repetition circulates through the play, in Her Uncle’s repeated requests to make drawings of His Niece, as well as in His Niece’s persistent questioning and in her quest for greater freedom.  His recurring experiments with beetles, and his construction of ever-grander architectural models, threaten to crowd out the little space His Niece has made for herself.  Finally, Her Uncle’s success in avoiding responsibility for his repeated crimes, combined with His Niece’s growing resistance to his maniacal behavior, lead him to turn his favorite weapon upon her.  Even his eventual death will not free her or us from his tyranny, for at the end of the play, Her Uncle’s voice still seems to resound from beyond the grave.

 

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Play Structure:

24 Scenes, plus Prologue, Epilogue, and 9 Interludes

Cast size:

3, plus optional women

 

Gender:

1 female, 2 male  (plus extra females optional)

Period:

1930-31

Location:

Uncle’s apartment, plus various related netherworlds (cemetery, etc.)

Set:

An empty stage with sparse utilitarian furniture, such as folding chairs.

Technical:

Lighting crossfades should signal change of scenes within acts.  A screen upstage should accommodate video and overhead projection.  Various sound effects.

 

 

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Production History

 

The Blackmailer received its premiere presentation by Theatre Babylon at the Union Garage in Seattle, Washington, on July 29-31, 2000, in its “Mae West Fest”.  The presentation was directed by Catherine L. Johnston; the stage manager was Rebecca Sommermeyer; the architectural model was designed and constructed by Amy Hartwell; and the play was performed by the following cast:

 

 

His Niece

Kate Swenson

Her Uncle

Nathan Nies

 

 

The Blackmailer received its second presentation as part of Live Theatre Week, hosted by Theatre Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington, on October 17, 2006.  The presentation was directed by Elena Hartwell, and the play was performed by the following cast:

 

 

His Niece

Kayti Barnett

Her Uncle

Dan Niven

Narrator

Meredith Ott