Écrivain, peintre, metteur en scène

Theater of the ears

Création novembre 1999, Los Angeles
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 visage Valère Novarina
Direction Zaven Paré and Allen S. Weiss
Set Design and Puppet Zaven Paré
Translation and adaptation Allen S. Weiss
Sound design Gregory Whitehead
joints Christof Migone
backbeat/mastering Scott Konzelmann at the Chop Shop
Puppeteer Mark Sussman
Co-producer Carol Bixler

marionnette Mark Sussman, voix Gregory Whitehead,

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