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Robert Wilson and the Idea of the Archive Dramaturgy as an Ecology BonnieMarranca The Forest Freie Volksbuhne, Berlin (1988) Brooklyn Academy of Music IN THE TWENTY-FIVE years since he first began a life in art, Robert Wilson has created an extraordinary amount of works in theatre, opera, video, furniture design, sculpture, painting, and drawing. Yet most of his theatre productions of the last decade or more have rarely been seen in the U.S., outside of New York and Boston, and more recently, Houston. He spends the greater part of each year in Europe, producing works in the different media for its major theatres, opera houses, and museums. No contemporary theatre artist's work travels from country to continent with such frequency or assurance. The dislocation of contemporary artists and artifacts is duplicated in the lives of texts, increasingly at home on these transcontinental routes, dispersed from their own cultures. By that I mean the dispersed texts from lost civilizations, those of unknown or forgotten authors, the texts of books languishing on library shelves, exiled or censored texts, world classics. They are always at risk of becoming endangered species of writing. Time erodes their historical meaning; or, they can literally crumble and fall into pieces, like ruins. But there are those that find a home in today's 66 world, preoccupied by preservation and travel. If the idea of the "dispersed " describes the lives of texts, Wilson's own manner of living and working in so many cultures and languages only stylizes the contemporary condition of relocation in literature. Today the natural state of writing is translation. In elegant figures of speech Wilson has formalized a dramaturgyof the dispersedtext, "dispersed" because the word suggests not only the feeling of "pieces" that travel and socialize, but the migrations of human populations . This cosmopolitan dramaturgy is especially evident in the making of a recent work, The Forest (1988), for the 750th anniversary of the city of Berlin. Structured in 7 acts, with music by David Byrne, it draws on themes from the first part of Gilgamesh, and intermixes texts by authors extending from the pre-Columbian period upto the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including the writings of Charles Darwin, Jean-Henri Fabre, Edgar Allan Poe, George Lichtenberg, Fernando Pessoa, and Hans Henny Jahnn. Both in Berlin and later at the Brooklyn Academy of Music where I saw the production, it was performed in German and in English, with translations from the several languages of the literary sources. The texts ofWilson's productions have not been explored as persistently as his staging, though he had brought modernist theatrical interests in language, sound, and the voice into them more than two decades ago. Already in 1970 fragments from his first large production The King of Spain were published in New American Plays, in 1974 he made his first DIA LOG pieces and the text rich A Letterfor Queen Victoria,which was initially published in France before appearing in my anthology The Theatre of Images (1977). The text of I Was Sitting On My Patio This Guy Appeared I Thought I Was Hallucinatingaccompanied the London production in 1978, and was printed a year later in PAJ 10/11. When Wilson made The Golden Windows (1982) for the Munich Kammerspiele the text was published in the theatre program, as it was in Berlin for the Schaubuhne 's DeathDestruction& Detroit (1,1979; 11,1987), and for The Forest premiere (1988) there at the Freie Volksbuhne. It is not necessary to trace Wilson's entire publishing history to underscore that even before the elaborate programs of texts, interviews, drawings, and dramaturgical materials prepared for the European productions , from the start of his career he published his texts. Moreover, it is worthwhile to note that if Wilson entitles many of his works "opera," a 67 significant number are designated "play." One result of the lack of attention to Wilson's texts is the fact that though the CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down was the unanimous choice for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1986, the Pulitzer Board would not grant him the award, in large part because no conventional text existed for the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 66-79
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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