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DRAMA FOR VOICE AND STRINGS Hanne Tierney o talk about my theatre, which I usually describe as an abstract theatre or a theatre without actors, inevitably means talking a little bit about a particular theatre history. For the last hundred years the theatre, or, to be precise, the avant-garde theatre, in keeping with the times, has concerned itself with the concept of abstraction. This made sense, given the desire on the part of the innovators to convey, theatrically, spiritual and therefore universal truth. In the theatre, this most interesting and difficult art form, three perceptions need to be coordinated into a unified experience; sight, sound, and time. On the surface the conventional theatre does this quite well. Within a given length of time a narrative unfolds, illustrated by the gestures and expressions of the actors. The perceptions need only to register, the information is explicit enough not to require the complicated detour through the imagination into the unconscious. It seems to me that this detour became the rallying cry of theatre theoreticians at the end of the last century. Realism had told the spectator what to feel, but it could not make him feel it. For the theatre this meant thatas long as human actors portrayed them, no hidden and unobservable emotions could ever be revealed on the stage. The Belgian playwright and poet Maurice Maeterlinck wrote in 1888 in Lajeune Belgique: "The staging of a masterpiece with the help of human elements is a contradiction. Every masterpiece is a symbol, and the symbol will not tolerate the active presence ofMan. The absence ofMan on the stage seems unavoidable... In place of Man I envision a shadow, a reflection, a projection of symbolic form, or some being with all the appearance oflife though not actually living." Maeterlinck's ideas became a leitmotif in the manifestoes and declarations ofthe New Theatre. The human presence on stage underwent many disguises. Maeterlinck himself swaddled it in gauze, the Constructivists hid it in elaborate, geometric costumes, Meyerhold turned it into marionettes, and even now Robert Wilson's actors are moving objects on an abstract stage. Something, however, has remained unresolved. In my work I have chosen to push this theory of abstraction to its inevitable conclusion. I start out by isolating movement and gesture as the essential 58 E Dramafor Strings in Three Movements. Photo: Courtesy Hanne Tierney. TIERNEY/ DramaforVoice andStrings U 59 ABOVE: IncidentalPiecesfor Satin and Strings. Photo: Richard Termine. BELOW: A Play CalledNot andNow. Photo: Richard Nonas. 60 N PERFORMING ART JOURNAL 46 The Seagull.Photo: Richard Nonas. TIERNEY / DramaforVoice andStrings U 61 elements actors contribute to the theatre, and then ask the question: Can these elements be provided by some other means? And ifyes, will it be an improvement, or at least a positive change? By using materials such as fabric, rope, pipe, etc., to articulate gesture I believe that I can focus the attention of the audience on the gesture rather than on the incident that it describes. This allows the gesture to become a universal expression. It also truly presents realism in the theatre: it is the gesture of a construction rope being a construction rope, and not the gesture of an actress pretending to be Catherine the Great. This lack of illusion works quite contrary to what one expects. The gesture becomes a symbol; the imagination is permitted its own interpretations, and that in turn creates a much richer experience for the spectator. Another aspect ofearly modernist thought on the theatre that has fascinated me was expressed by Edward Gordon Craig in TheArt ofthe Theatrein 1909: "What is that infinite beautiful thing dwelling in space called movement? The theatres ofall lands have developed from movement, the movement of the human form; and the human being has assumed the grave responsibility of using his own person to be the instrument through which this beauty should pass. To me there is something more seemly in man when he invents an instrument which is outside his person, and through that instrument translates his message." It is through tools and instruments that art has always achieved its impact. The sufferings and joys of a lifetime that can be seen in the...


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