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A Conversation with Robert Wilson and Heiner MUller ARTHUR HOLMBERG Robert Wilson and Heiner Muller collaborated for the first time in 1983 on the Cologne section of the CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down. Much of the material for Muller's text came from the earlier play Gundling's Life Frederick ofPrussia Lessing's Sleep Dream Scream. Wilson conceived of the CIVIL warS as a twelve-hour multilingual epic, exploring the theme ofcivil war from many different cultural perspectives. Wilson worked on the CIVIL warS for over six years on three continents. Sections premiered in Japan, Minneapolis, Rotterdam, Rome, Marseille, and Cologne. Wilson intended to present the entire work at the Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles in 1984, but the project was cancelled for lack of funds. In February, 1985, Wilson and Muller came to Cambridge, Mass., to restage the Cologne section at Robert Brustein's American Repertory Theatre. The Cambridge production, a multi-media phantasmagoria, explored the problem of civil strife by juxtaposing images from the life of Frederick the Great of Prussia with scenes from the American Civil War. Muller's kaleidoscopic text embedded fragments from such diverse writers as Racine, Shakespeare, Goethe, Kafka, Holderlin, Empedocles, the Brothers Grimm, the Bible, Hopi Indian prophecies, and Frederick the Great. David Byrne, Philip Glass, Frederick the Great, and Franz Schubert contributed to the sound track. Wilson and Muller have collaborated on two other productions at the American Repertory Theatre. In 1986 Wilson directed Euripides's Alcestis using Muller's DESCRIPTION OF A PICTURE as a prologue and interspersing Euripides's text with fragments of Muller's. When this production was presented at the Festival d'Automne in Paris in 1986, it won the French Critics' Award for best foreign production ofthe year. In 1988 Wilson directed Muller's QUARTET at the ART with Lucinda Childs as the Marquise de Merteuil. On 28 February 1985, Wilson and Muller discussed the American Robert Wilson and Heiner Miiller 455 production of the CIVIL warS with members of the audience wbo bad just seen the piece and wbo were invited to direct questions at eitber Mr. Wilson or Mr. Miiller. The artists were seated on two futuristic cbairs Wilson bad designed for the production. The conversation that follows is drawn from tbat discussion. QUESTION What is your view of the social role of your work? Do you intend your theater to preacb, to change our minds, to cbange the world? WILSON No, I'm not trying to preacb. I'm not trying to cbange the world with my theater. Maybe it's different with Heiner. MOLLER I think we both want to cbange the tbeater. Maybe that's possible. What do you think, Bob? WILSON Yes ... maybe that's possible. QUESTION Do you think the world can be cbanged and that theater can belp it cbange? MOLLER It's cbanging anyway, with or without the theater. But I think tbis is too general a question for the beginning of our conversation. QUESTION What is tbe role of the audience in your theater? WILSON The audience has the same role as the author, the director, or tbe actor. All of us are engaged in the process of asking "What is itT' We don't try to say wbat it is or wbat it means. So we're all the same from that point of view. Our theater is an open-ended form, and the audience has tbe responsibility to bring an open mind. QUESTION You bave stated that all an actor has to do is be able to count, that actors sbouldn't interpret. You choreograpb your movements meticulously. So it seems to me that you are in control. WILSON It's only wben we are completely mechanical that we have tbe cbance ofbeating a machine. So it goes beyond being in control. It's being automatic. At that point freedom begins. QUESTION I didn't understand tbat. (Audience roars with laughter.) M()LLER Maybe I could try to say more, and also go back to the previous question about if we think we can cbange the world. There is a problem between man and macbine. Changing the world...


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