“Two Thousand Six Hundred and Something”: a lecture about performing a text


Photo by Maria Baranova-Suzuki

Lecture performance, 110 minutes with intermission.

This lecture performance began with what I considered good journalism. In December 2015, American Theatre magazine hired me to write an article on the Goodman Theater’s adaptation of Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666. Robert Falls, who’d steered the project to fruition, told me a remarkable story about how it all began: On vacation in Barcelona in the mid-2000s, he saw posters all over the city with a photo of “pink crosses in the desert, and this mysterious number, 2666.”

As Falls recounted it, the posters, he learned, announced the publication of Bolaño’s posthumous masterpiece in paperback (the book having originally been released in 2004). I set out to find the image for the article–it’s a great story!–but didn’t have much luck until, eventually, I found an image meeting the description. The only problem? It wasn’t for a book, it was for a theatrical adaptation that pre-dated his own by a decade, from Spanish director Àlex Rigola.

The article I wrote for American Theatre was mostly concerned with translating Bolaño’s long, digressive, multi-part narrative into a script, but nagging me the entire time was a different question: What does it mean to translate the violence contained in the novel into a visual image, for the stage?

The heart of 2666 concerns the very real feminicide that’s been occuring in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, since at least 1993. But the novel is at least as much about how violence–feminicide or otherwise–is represented as it is about these events. Not only does the novel employ its own distinctive literary devices, but it delves deep into film, pornography, visual art, and literary depictions of violence. Its primary concern, in essence, is how we are to understand violence and interpret it in a larger frame, however seemingly oblique and obscure it may be in the present. In fact, this the best sense I can make of the novel’s enigmatic title (which actually occurs in a different Bolaño novel), as a future date of reckoning, a sort of vanishing point in the future, from the perspective of which that which is hidden in the present is revealed and knowable. Continue reading

Sister Sylvester’s “The Maids’ The Maids” Returns w/ the Working Theater

Photo by Maria Baranova

Photo by Maria Baranova

No rest for the weary, they say. It feels like only a couple weeks back that we were closing our revival of They Are Gone But Here Must I Remain at Under the Radar (according American Theatre, we’re an “always intriguing company continues to create unexpected, challenging work that approaches story and ideas from multiple angles and generates a thrill with unusual juxtapositions.”

Well, we’re already back at work, this time re-tackling our 2014 piece The Maids’ The Maids, which had its first presentation at Abrons Arts Center. We’ve torn the piece apart, reduced the cast, re-written substantial elements of it–basically took all the parts we loved and seek to make them work better. The occasion is an invitation we’ve received to present The Maids’ The Maids as part of The Working Theater’s 2016 Reading Series on April 4. The Working Theater is dedicated to “tell[ing] stories that reflect a diverse population of the working majority, that acknowledge their complexity and oft-denied power in an increasingly complex world, which we hope will unite us in our common humanity.” Which makes us a great fit with their mission. Our “reading” will be a “staged reading,” however, demonstrating the use of objects, movement, and so on, that are so central to the show.

The reading takes place at 6:30 on Mon., April 4 at the Dorothy Strelsin Theater at 312 West 36th Street. $10 suggested donation, RSVP available online–with limited seating I suggest you get your ticket soon! Continue reading

January Festival Season Is Around the Corner

Sister Sylvester's "They Are Gone But Here Must I Remain." Photo by Maria Baranova

Sister Sylvester’s “They Are Gone But Here Must I Remain.” Photo by Maria Baranova

Under the Radar and PS122’s COIL Festival have announced their line-ups for the 2016 festival season, and they come with pleasant surprises. First of all, I can’t help but plug the work I am myself involved in: Sister Sylvester is reprising They Are Gone But Here I Must I Remain as part of UTR’s Incoming! series. We’re pretty stoked about it. We go up on Saturdays January 9 & 16. It’s very exciting and we’re ecstatic to be part of the same festival as Toshiki Okada, whose God Bless Baseball is presented at the Japan Society as part of UTR. Kathryn Hamilton and I actually met at an afterparty back in January back in 2012 talking about Okada and how much we loved his work. I maintain he’s one of the most interesting theater artists working today, and worth checking out. Continue reading

Sister Sylvester’s “What’s Yours Is Mine (On a Beach At Night Alone)”

indexOur latest from Sister Sylvester is halfway through its run, and so we want to make sure you know about it. It’s strange even for us: A highly intimate (no more than 10 people per night) performance called What’s Yours Is Mine (On a Beach At Night Alone).

It starts with a story that may or may not be true, about finding a book on the night train to Lisbon. It’s about – and an experiment in – radical hospitality. It references Genet. And…other things happen.

Featuring a remarkable cast and what might be our most ambitious design yet, it takes place at Torn Page in Chelsea, the art space and reading room maintained by actor/director Tony Torn in the historic home of his parents Rip Torn and Geraldine Page, which is also the most beautiful spaces we’ve ever performed in (with all due respect to Abrons Art Center and JACK).

Kathryn came up with the parenthetical part of the title. I came up with the actual and I don’t think she actually knows what it’s from. So scroll down if you want to relive part of your childhood, Americans, and otherwise visit BrownPaperTickets to reserve a spot. We close this Saturday, November 21.

Continue reading