A Female Phaethon : Gloria by Ranko Marinković / Morana Čale. - str.
In 1955, about three decades before paying a tribute to circus by giving his book of essays on literature and performance the title Clown's Downcast Eyes, Ranko Marinković, one of the major authors of the Croatian 20th-century literature, had put at the core of his play Gloria: A Miracle Play in Six Images a female protagonist linking two seemingly incompatible and yet effectively interchangeable institutional hierarchies, i.e. the circus and the Catholic church with its rituals. A young Carmelitan nun, ex-trapeze aerialist, confronts the arduous task of impersonating the Virgin's statue: she has to employ her physical artistic skills, which enabled her in the past to accomplish movements beyond regular human abilities, in order to stage a paradoxically still performance of spiritual superiority, thus achieving a 'miracle' both in the sense of a sacred mission and in that of the medieval theatrical genre, which also casts an inverted metatheatrical implication on the play as a whole. Torn between two male-directed performance regimes, both concealing, behind a sort of 'family romance', issues of discipline and power, the female aerialist meets a tragic end in the circus arena. Beyond the veiled but sharp political allusivity, the peculiar way in which Gloria deals with the metaphorical potential of both circus and religion points to a number of cultural and ideological thematic knots which transcend the apparently realistic asset as well as the historical, national, social and political determinations of the play: the questions concerning the construction of individual, collective and gender identity, the representational foundation of the self, the dependence of the latter on the gendered gaze, the all-encompassing theatricality which undermines the western myths of identity, presence, truth, normality and their grounding systems of polar oppositions. The aim of my paper will be to study the play focusing on the impact of the cultural imaginary tied to the specific aspects of circus performance.