Theater of the ears

de Valère Novarina
mise en scene Allen S. Weiss

Performance in (13 to 24 september 2000)
La Mama E.T.C.(Little Theater)
74A East 4th Street (between 2nd Ave. and Bowery)

Text and visageValère Novarina
DirectionZaven Paré and Allen S. Weiss
Set Design and PuppetZaven Paré
Translation and adaptationAllen S. Weiss
Sound designGregory Whitehead
jointsChristof Migone
backbeat/masteringScott Konzelmann at the Chop Shop
PuppeteerMark Sussman
Co-producerCarol Bixler
A play for recorded voice and electronic marionette

This production has been generously supported by The California Institute of the Arts, the Services Culturels Français of New York, the Association
Française d’Action Artistique, and by an Étants Donnés grant from The
French-American Fund for the Performing Arts. We also wish to thank
Travis Preston and Richard Foreman for their inspiration. A selection
of Valère Novarina’s writings has been published in English as The Theater
of the Ears (Sun & Moon Press, 1996), edited and translated by Allen
S. Weiss.

Valère Novarina is one of France’s leading playwrights, whose works are regularly produced for the Festival d’Avignon, the Festival d’Automne, and internationally. His writings include Le Drame de la vie, Le Discours aux animaux, Le Théâtre des paroles, Vous qui habitez le temps,Pendant la matière, Je suis, L’Animal du temps, L’Inquiétude, La Chair de l’homme, L’Espace furieux.

Zaven Paré is a painter, designer, author and scenarist. He has worked internationally in the theater, and has recently been associated with the Théâtre Ubu, for which he created the decor and the costumes for Woyzzek and Les trois derniers jours de Fernando Pessoa ; he also created the decor for a production of Don Giovanni at the Opéra de la Bastille in Paris.

Allen S. Weiss is the author of The Aesthetics of Excess, Mirrors of Infinity, Shattered Forms, Perverse Desire and the Ambiguous Icon, Unnatural Horizons, Phantasmic Radio ; he has edited Experimental Sound & Radio (a special issue of TDR) and produced the CD Voice Tears. He teaches in the Departments of Performance Studies and Cinema Studies at New York University.

Gregory Whitehead is a writer, audio artist, vocal performer and radio producer. He has produced over a hundred radio plays, essays and performances, notably Dead Letters, Pressures of the Unspeakable (Prix Italia), Shake, Rattle, Roll (Prix Futura), and in collaboration with Allen S. Weiss, L’Indomptable (France Culture). He is co-editor of Wireless Imagination : Sound, Radio and the Avant-Garde.

Christof Migone is an audio, radio, performance and installation artist based in Montreal, Quebec City and New York, and working internationally. He has most recently produced a CD of his works based on écrits bruts, Hole in the Head, and a CD inspired by Beckett, Artaud, Deleuze, Le troisième Degré.
His writings and audio work have been widely anthologized. Mark Sussman, performer, puppeteer and performance scholar, is a founder of Great Small Works.
He directs miniature "toytheater," object performance, outdoor processions, and parades, and has worked with Janie Geiser & Co., Bread & Puppet Theater, Chinese Theater Workshop, Barnard College Theater Department, AntennaTheater, and Mabou Mines.

Strange anatomy : the mute face of Novarina, the manifold voices of Whitehead,
the electronic borborygmi of Migone, the cosmic hands of Sussman, the
cruel eye of Paré, the hermetic ear of Weiss. Who’s there ? A monster,
of sorts. No phantasms, but frozen mutations of language, following
Novarina’s declamation, "articulatory cruelty, linguistic carnage."

Loosen the tongue, fracture speech, worsen the word through a logological
proliferation, through an incantatory drunkenness, through an onomastic
Seek an impossible private language, and you shall find a universal
expression. Eschew communication, indicate the hapax ; ridicule narrative,
celebrate solecism.
Allen S. Weiss

On the Ventriloquist Theater
And the advantage this puppet would have over living dancers ? The advantage ?
First of all a negative one, my excellent friend ; namely, that it would
never be affected. For affectation appears, as you know, when the soul
(vis motrix) is found at any point other than the movement’s center
of gravity.
Heinrich von Kleist, "On the Marionette Theater" (trans. Roman Paska,
in Fragments for a History of the Human Body, Zone Books, 1989)
On the occasion of the Grand Prix of Brazil, a sports commentator described
the city of São Paulo as being, "romantic as a dead dog." In fact, this
definition was utilized, by extension, for a number of things, including
a recent installation entitled, "An Actor is as Romantic as a Dead Dog."
The apparatus projets the image of a dead dog on a rag doll resting
on the bottom of a black wings curtain.
The descent towards the disincarnation of the word recalls the carcass
of that dead dog, the carcass of the actor. Following Valère Novarina’s
letter to René Farabet on The Theater of the Ears (Sun & Moon Press,
1996), can we not imagine that the actor exists at the exterior of the
body, without corporeality, and outside the world, since language exists
at the exterior of the body, without men, and outside the world ? Can
we forego the contour of the human being, since it is the border of
the material world ?
Actors must be dead. However, a collective suicide would sensationalize
them. The antitheater of Valère Novarina’s "Letter to the Actors" advocates
a more silent and anonymous solution, one where the actor would be autodeterminate
just like a language machine makes words. But the death of the actor
is always sad, and for that reason the texts of Valère Novarina provoke
fear. They are an antidote to the compassion aroused by the eliminated
actor. This project was born to work within the space of the announced
and dissected actor. How can the actor continue to exist, since he must
be dead ?
In the case of the dog, the idea to commit the crime was to work in
the margins, in obscurity, there where the actor does not appear, in
silence, there where we do not hear him. It was as if it were necessary
for this to occur nowhere, there where he does not exist, backstage,
outside the stage, in the margins of the text.
In The Theater of the Ears, the idea to commit the crime has its paradoxes :
the prescribed act is perfect when, alone backstage, the actor gets
killed by his double. Once dead, his ghost can come on stage, after
having stepped over his own corpse laying on the floor somewhere in
the wings. The play and the existence of the actor become a continual
exercise of accomplishing this murder, continually recomposing the ghost
of a dog that speaks.
Zaven Paré

How to give voice to a Theatre of the Ears ? Novarina replies : forget
about it, language is not a tool. Yet blood still flows, even when the
throat is cut. A Manifesto is nothing but a heart with lungs and a larynx.
For the performer, who must find a voice, even one exhausted by ideas,
this strange puppet spells the most maddening, magnificent kind of trouble.

My response ? Take a gulp of breath and burrow into deep matter : not
into the one voice, but into the many.
Gregory Whitehead

The in-betweens of the text are occupied by miniatures. These are compact
fragments made for another ear theater, a theater of the in-between
ears, the ear-betweens theater. These are Novarina’s characters all
passing through, emitting a cry, a whimper, a silence and then scurrying
past. They are what’s left after you leave the theater (or after the
theater leaves you). Microcosms meant to be misunderstood, wort salat.

Christof Migone