From a Spectator's Glance: Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Respectful Prostitute

Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Respectful Prostitute theater production performed at Bilkent’s Theater Salon on 11th March. The director of the performance is Musa Arslanali and the performance included six talented actors and actresses. Most of the actors and actresses are Bilkent students while a few are professional performers. The actors and actresses included Zeynep Koltuk as Lizzie, Haluk Kaya as Fred, Tansel Aytekin as Senator, Baran Can Eraslan as the Black man, Barbaros Efe Türkay as James and Koray Alper as John. The auditorium was fairly large and consisted many seating arrangements. However, it could not fit all of the attendants and the late comers had to sit on the steps next to the seating arrangements of the auditorium. Therefore, the auditorium was very full and not large enough to arrange seats for all the viewers. The stage design completely connected with the theme of the performance. The viewer could immediately understand the theme of the performance by only observing the stage design because it is only the colors black and white which reflect the theme of racism between the black and white’s. 
            The writer of The Respectful Prostitute Jean-Paul Sartre is a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. His works were influenced by philosophical and sociological aspects and are fluent in his literary writings. Jean-Paul had a very unique and genuine character demonstrated when he declined the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature because he believed that literature should not be institutionalized. He was also a leading figure in 20th century French philosophy and Marxism and also in the philosophy of existentialism.
            Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Respectful Prostitute is a 1962 play about a prostitute who is involved in the racism events of the racially afflicted tense American history.  The performance takes place in the 1930’s of America when racism is at its peaking point. Its main plot revolves around a rich white main in the higher class who falsely tries to blame a black man for murdering another person. The audience later realizes that the murderer is falsely accused because the murderer is not the black man but actually the white man whom is accusing others. The white man, known as Fred, is conducted by his family to sleep with a prostitute who has also encountered the falsely accused black man in the scene of a crime. However, she believes that the black man is innocent and should not be sent to prison. Fred sleeps with the prostitute and manipulates her to accuse the black man as the conductor of the crime. The prostitute, Lizzie, is reluctant to testify falsely about the innocent black man and refuses to obey Fred’s words. Later on, Fred’s family members come and persuade her to testify against the black man and manipulate her to agree on testifying against the black man. The peak point of excitement is the scene when Fred’s family members persuade her to testify against the black man. That scene is the peak point because the family finally achieves to falsely prove Fred innocent although he is guilty.
            The major themes in the production consisted of various subjects such as racism against blacks, prejudice and social class. The main significantly evident theme is racism against blacks because the plot of the performance is the false understanding of a black man just because his skin color is black. Prejudice is another theme because the society does not observe the evidence and crime scene which could prove that the black man is not guilty for the crime. The reason for prejudice is because the higher white social class is more manipulative and has more consent from the society. Therefore, the higher class in society is more superior and almost always achieves their aims even if it is false truth. The messages consistent in the performance are the contradictions of racism and the upper hand of the white social class controls the lower black class. This message is demonstrated as Fred controlling the court decision of the Black man by persuading Lizzie to testify against the Black man.  The actors acknowledged the presence of the audience in a representational style throughout the performance. This is because the character is not in interaction with the audience and is only reflected on the existence of their characters. The characters do not acknowledge the existence of the audience and act as if they are living in their own world.
            Regarding the performance in my perspective, I thought that the scenery and the decorations were very creative because they closely suited the themes and plot of the performance. The acting was surprisingly well especially because most of the actors were still students. My favorite character is Lizzie because she tried to defend herself against the control of the higher class even though they had significantly more power over her than she had over them. Her actions reflecting opposition against the higher white class surprised me because opposition is usually not recognized in that specific time period and the women were not as reluctant as Lizzie is against the powerful high class. I was not disappointed in any of the scenes regarding the scenery or acting. However, I was disappointed with the main plot regarding the power the higher class has over the lower class.
            To conclude, the setting is very effective throughout the performance because all of aspects of the scenery are connected to the theme of the performance. The colors of the setting are mainly black and white which represents the theme of the contradictions between the white and black people. The mood and the stage do not significantly change at the end of the performance because the colors of the scenery are the same and the mood still revolves around the contradictions between races. 
 Serap Selma Bıyıklı (ELIT II)

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