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  • In Memoriam
  • Michal Kobialka

What does it mean to write about Herbert Blau who is known to all of us as the author of essays on contemporary dramatists, such as Brecht, Beckett, Pinter, Ionesco, Whiting, Arden, Dürrenmatt, and Genet; or who has published many award-winning books?

What does it mean to write about Herbert Blau who has taught all of us in theatre how to think about, of, through theatre about the issues connected with ontology and epistemology of not only the theatre, but, and maybe more important, of the mind and the life itself?

The more I think about this question, which has haunted me ever since he died on May 3, 2013—the day of his birthday—the more I believe that to write about Blau is an intimate encounter with both that thought and that emotion which make me seek words to witness myself witnessing what I have not. It is an act of homage and an irrepressible desire to capture and materialize in logos, even if for a split second, that unrepresentable thought, emotion, and being. ". . . The words are slipping. The words fly up, the body remains below, always bereft, always feeling there is some kind of inadequacy to what I just said." But the same words push us towards the horizon of the thinkable; to that open and dynamic field where the words and concepts need to be wrestled away from the stable structures of thought. . . .

Blau's life-long narrative itinerary was his ceaseless deconstruction of the structures that inhabit his thoughts and his practices. The Impossible Theatre Manifesto, his work with the Actor's Workshop of San Francisco or with KRAKEN, his CALArts and Lincoln Center experiments, and, later, each subsequent book eloquently change the way one thinks about theatre praxis and theory.

Blau's words made him consider, reconsider, reflect upon, and consider anew the future of the humanities by bringing to the fore some of the arguments he first so clearly enunciated in The Impossible Theatre—the need for relevance, radical repositioning of thought, self-reflexive nature of the impulse to form and transform the archive, a techno-mimicry of performance, Beckett's vertigo of nothingness, Viennese Actionism, rhizomatics of theatricality, methodical indeterminacy in performance, thinking history/history thinking, and, the reality principle.

Blau's relentless words marking the vanishing point, blooded thought, the eye of prey, all appearances, nothing in itself, sails of the herring fleet, and what of reality remains today in reality principle provided us with a tour-de-force heterology—that is, an encounter with the Other in which the Other forces the Self to acknowledge and to reflect upon her/himself. . . . Blau made unsuspected depths visible. . . .

"The words are slipping again, or somebody is playing around."

You will be missed Herbert Blau. [End Page 1]

Michal Kobialka
University of Michigan


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