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The title of Thomas Bernhard’s play “Ritter, Dene, Voss” comes from the surnames of the three actors who premiered the roles in 1986: Ilse Ritter, Kirsten Dene and Gert Voss. It is worth noting as well that Ritter means “knight” and Voss is an aristocratic surname from the fourteenth cenutry. This is significant because “Ritter, Dene, Voss” is a play about the death of the Viennese ideal of urbane aristocracy and the horrible, beautiful flowers that bloomed in the rotting dung heap of post-World War I Austria.
On a darkened highway in upstate New York a cute, fuzzy bunny is transfixed by the glare of headlights and the roar of an internal combustion engine. The poor rabbit’s eyes widen in horror, and his lip quivers uncontrollably as the car swerves. The innocent lapine wanderer is struck hard by two tons of steel and rubber, but it’s only a glancing blow; and though his back legs are crushed, his heart, still hammering with fear, has survived. The car screeches to a halt, and a woman gets out. She’s pale and trembling like the rabbit. She picks him up gingerly, and tells him it’s going to be alright. She wraps him in a towel, puts him in her car, and speeds off, into the night.
Kids live in a world full of problems. Who can help? Mom and dad have their own problems. Heck, sometimes they are the problem. Best friends are fickle, especially in those crucial years between the halcyon innocence of deep childhood and the flowering of full adolescence. Tell your friend a shameful secret in confidence, and when school starts again after summer break, your best friend has a new best friend, and the whole class is sniggering about you behind your back. You might as well tell your troubles to Mr. Chips, your fat, black lab, the soul of patience, or a sock puppet. At least Mr. Chips won’t talk back.