ted witzel // blog

a bunch of disparate writings and thoughts on theatre:

some are articles i've written for other publications.

"postcards from berlin" is an exercise i invented for myself to digest a bunch of work i've been seeing.  

there was also that time i went to serbia to see a 24-hour meat orgy and ended up with a lot of facebook watching along with me.  

et cetera.

postcards from berlin #18 [collage is no excuse]

QUEERIOUS. DIE GEBURT DES VULKANS. (r. sauer) @ maxim gorki theater berlin


here’s where i get to sound like a curmudgeonly old man, suede elbow patches and all.

i see it all the time, more often in devised work but it also happens in new texts and even directors interpreting/adapting classics.  works that might be full of exciting ideas but with no real container to hold them.  patch-works that feel like a splatter of inventiveness but that lack a sense of a cohesive whole.  


this piece has a lot going for it.  a bunch of young (24 and under) queer performers wrestling with how to unite a community defined by difference.  a few of them really hold the stage.  a chaos of different styles and performance tones.  a few really moving images.  

but they don’t hold together.  

in this case, it seems like the attempt to define a common experience dissolved into uncommon identities, and the group couldn’t find a manifesto or polemic together.  which is fine—if the shape of the evening reflects it, guides me through that process of inquiry and failure.  but this piece maybe didn’t manage to get there—and what we got was a bunch of pieces of material put beside each other.  


i often see this work by young creators, work with a strong impulse, even sometimes radical ideas to back it up, and find myself wanting to teach courses on genre and form.  

because it’s fine, great, even ideal to see artists trying to break out of tired story structures, but they have to really understand those story structures to upend them, to rebel playfully and meaningfully against our expectations.  sarah kane and heiner müller and howard barker, they knew their revenge tragedy, they knew their modernism, they knew their epic dramaturgy and detective novels.  and that’s why they could turn them inside out.  


our attention is guided by the storytelling rhythms we’ve been acclimatized to.  we learn a pace of digesting narrative or information or image, we learn about rhythmic clues to where our attention should be placed, and the size of units of meaning within an aesthetic trope.  a sense of rhythmic play gives a storyteller a chance to create a reversal that creates new meaning.  

if you don’t give us something to grab onto, you can’t take us with you.  and you can’t take it away.  


for more on the show click here.