Dogs, Wolves, Coyotes
STAGE VIDEO WORK A collaboration with the writer Shane Anderson. A production between theater, music and installation. Moving pictures merged with rhythms and acting.
A production between theater, music and installation. With a unique form of poetry, layers of abstraction and moving pictures getting merged with rhythms and acting.
A collaboration: Written & Directed: by Shane Anderson . Stage Design/Video: Ger Ger
"what about if we recorded the voices, actually separated the voice from the body? then we could nail the rhythm etc. once and then all they have to do is simple movements which elucidate the ideas expanded. the women walk, sometimes rather erratically, the men -jean and johannes- count stacks of money, pills, etc. john still fights to get away from the wall, but it takes on a more important fascinating dimension when it's the only thing he has to concentrate on.
this would be better for the films because it's already set.
this would be better because then no one can sabotage it.
this would be better because we can bring out some more of the rhythmic interesting elements without forcing these actors to do things they either can't or aren't comfortable doing.
this would be better because it would make it a hundred times easier.
what do you think?
then the only moment when there is speaking, is my dream. a nice change of pace?
is this possible? is this interesting?
it makes it more like an installation..."
In a way, I think the text should be read and performed as if you've never seen it before. As if you have no relationship with the text, the character or their particular predicament. That is to say, I believe the text should be read without emotion or emotional attachment. I do however believe you should perform the text with understanding. Understanding of the rhythms, the pauses, the poetry.
Another way of looking at it: try to separate your voice from your body. Don't allow these words coming out of your mouth have any effect on you as a person as a character. These are words to be used, tossed around, exploited for their musical qualities. These are words that have been used in a different context with a different meaning and it's our job to rob them of this meaning. As such, i believe the words themselves will then look mildly ridiculous, and this is desired - though it needn't be a focal point, rather the ridiculousness will come out in so far as you treat these really emotional things as entirely banal, as something which is just material for something else - i.e. the sound composition aspect.
Another way to look at this problem is to say, like Henri Chopin, the 'body is a sound factory.' your voice, produced by your body and it's particular movements, is a tool.
you may however ask, why separate the body from the voice?
There are i believe a couple of ways to answer this question.
One is rather personal. When i had my scoliosis surgery (one of the most important things that has ever happened to me and something which informs this text in many different ways; indeed, i wrote this after the surgery and was always thinking/talking about it during the year i wrote this thing) my vocal chords were damaged due to problems with my breathing tube. Consequently, for many months thereafter -aided and abetted by clinical use of heroin for up to four months-, I felt like my voice wasn't my own; it was scratchier, weaker, slower and gave out quite often. Though I became very aware that i am only my body (no mind brain separation in these books, especially when you can feel every bit of your body due to extreme pain), I also felt like certain parts of me weren't my own. My feet at first, my control over my arms when grabbing things not my immediate vicinity and then of course my voice. I think this left a really strong impression on me and my understanding of the text - and thus the production - is very much informed by this.
In a way, this play deals with handicaps of a different sort. It may be helpful, then, to consider you as voice as a handicap in and of itself.
Another reason why to approach this is theatrical:
when you consider yourself as voice as an instrument and not as a personification of an idea or world view, your attitude changes. You no longer consider your words as something urgently important but rather as material as a wave crashing on the shore. Remember, no wave breaks at exactly the same point, in the same way with the same consequences. Similarly, each thing a voice says will ebb and flow differently, will awaken other (dead) voices, will set off a sequence. A sequence and not a response. Philosophy and arguments are a thing for texts and not the theater. There it's all about experience and receiving/making impressions. Let's separate them even if the text tries to force you into a philosophical moment. I realize there are moments of 'beauty,' etc in the text and there has been quite a bit of resistance as to my wanting to deprive them of their beauty, or importance. I'm telling you now, that i do want to rob them of their meaning. I'm trying to create an experience in the theater in this production and this is the experience that makes the most sense to me. One retort would then be, then why didn't you write nonsense. My answer is i wanted to write something which is open enough for many different interpretations and uses. I would love to see this text operate as a real theater piece, as something for puppets, as a full blown maze installation and even as songs. There is possibility for all of this and indeed there is some interest from others to do some of these things. However, in this version, in my understanding of it, it functions like music. The voices, the actors as voices as instruments then in my production function like violins - there's nothing remotely emotive about a violin, rather it's the player who adds the emotion, and in this case the director is the player. The violin's capability for staccato for long drawn out tones for waltzes and polonaises will be explored. Remember, some of the most banal moments in musical history have become some of the most significant and or memorable. Example: Johnny Greenwood's attempt to sabotage 'Creep' by Radiohead. His sabotage, his boredom is the defining moment of that song.
Listen again to the Lachenmann piece I gave you. Even if you understand German, I bet you drift in an out of understanding what the voice is saying. This is in part due to the fact that what he's saying can be rather convoluted, but also due to the sprechsang technique. What you however never forget is that the voice is constantly saying something, that it has a meaning, that his voice is a meaning making machine, and indeed it is rather interesting, important and beautiful what he's saying. But that's not the point in my opinion. Rather he is taking something that has a certain meaning and using it as material. Why doesn't it bother the listener to not know what he's saying here? Is this because it's music? Is this something that functions only in music? My answer is no, look at film, there are plenty of instances where images blend together and don't necessarily make much sense - look at the early avant garde, look at some of David Lynch, look at la jetee, etc etc etc. Is this something that theater has a monopoly on? Do moments always have to have a here and now meaning in theater? Is this necessary for effective theater? I would wager that it doesn't. As an example, I would take something like Beckett's 'Not I' which isn't always clear what he means - indeed, what does this figure mean who stands on a platform? Beckett denies the auditor being the super ego, and if this is true, what is it? A device? An idea which is necessary in any sort of way? Beckett says it is for him, but says, in a rare move, that it can also be ignored.
The reason why this piece is so strong is the impression it leaves on the viewer, the experience it creates. Here's a clip of it: http://www.ubu.com/film/beckett.html
Another very different example of creating an experience outside of the textual meaning would be Zholdak's 'Medea in der Stadt' that played at Volxbuehne last year. I didn't understand a word - though in using a classic, i had the faintest idea, though it often verged entirely from the myth -, but the images, the use of the body and rhythms of the repeating speeches left an indelible impression on me. Antastic. I recommend that all of you non-german speakers go see a play, preferably at the VB, or Berliner Ensemble or Sophiensaelle. Though i haven't seen it yet, a good field trip might be the probebuehne at Berliner Ensemble this Saturday to see a version of Selbstbezichtigung from Peter Handke. Listen to the voices, close your eyes, imagine what it is they could be saying, pay attention to the rhythms they're using, let the voices wash over you...
I believe it's useful in this production to look at this sort of idea but also to acknowledge that we're expanding it a bit. We should look at the musical aspect - something ancient greek performances worked with - we should look at the performative aspect -something which has been hot for years - and we should take a small glance at the theatrical. I think we should however expand the dimensions of the theater to include things it normally doesn't, namely sound installations (which i guess in a sense makes this whole thing a type of 'environment' as explored in the early 60's, but this is slightly different due to the context and the operating principles that we're working with). Others work with bringing in the 'everyday' into the theater and while this is interesting - though often philosophically motivated by a theory i have my doubts about -, it isn't what I mean. I'm interested in bringing a sound installation into the theater. To create an experience out of something that's meaningful but use this meaning as material for another level of meaning, one which sometimes overlaps and at times stands in stark contrast to what we expect. This is a bit of a challenge to the theater per se - I mean, there have been a number of other ways to challenge theater, but this one doesn't have the longest line of tradition -, this is a challenge to the audience member, the idea of an audience member, the cast ad nauseum... That's why we need to him them hard with the first scene. We need to make clear where we're coming from and where we're going. A clear break from the beginning.
Listen again to the Berio track I gave you. Listen to the voices there, especially the man saying 'page after page, KEEP GOING.' That's what i'm talking about. Straight. The slightest hint of emotion, but not giving in to it. We can make theater do this, even if it doesn't want to. I hope you too would like to keep going in this direction.