I asked Scalise this question (over email) after finishing his book. He’d never heard the term “patient role” but championed the performance aspects of illness encounters. “Medical interactions are theater,” he wrote back. “They are, in so many cases, very rehearsed on the doctor’s side, but also on the patient’s side, too. The ‘medical crisis template’ is so widespread in popular culture as a genre, and has been for so long, that its influence on real life patient-hood is pretty deeply ingrained. In that sense, slipping into that ‘role’ of ‘Medical Patient’ can feel almost reflexive. The transfer of control to the hospital staff, the ‘strong face’ one is expected to put on, the opinions about the food, the long-form small talk with your patient ‘roommate’ – it can feel stagey or rote in the way that being a commercial airline passenger can, which is unsettling, because you’re typically at a hospital for a very vulnerable, intimate, and (to you) unique reason.” He followed up on that answer: “My instinct as a patient has always been to destabilize role expectations between my doctors and me – sometimes in good ways, sometimes in ways that definitely did not work at all – if only to try and get us to something a little more human.”
The story of the First Thanksgiving seems so innocent and hopeful… so what on earth happened at that Second Thanksgiving to make it all go wrong?
Matt Mullican’s two-part performance at The Kitchen this past Friday and Saturday, “That Person and That World,” was a powerhouse production in two major respects: its presentation of an alternate consciousness, i.e., the “he” who inhabits Mullican after hypnosis; and Mullican’s post-performance acknowledgment of how little this alternate consciousness is welcomed in the art (let alone “real”) world.