Answer to Lisa’s comment (Nora)

This started out as an answer to Lisa’s comment, but I think I got carried away a little bit. And this might be interesting for all of you, so I figured I’d just post it.

We keep talking about how the audience reacts differently and how the sleeper lines (loving the expression btw) steal the show and so on. That’s what makes it so exciting: With all the planning, with the intuition we have about how the audience is going to react – it is never fully certain how our audience will respond to this play. It’s an experiment and I guess that it’s easier to produce our bilingual shows in Germany, given that our German audience is used to hear and to speak English.

On the other hand we can make no concession to intolerant people who want to be just entertained or who aren’t open for new things. As this production is new and strange in many ways, people will have to be open-minded about it. Some might not like the mixing of the two languages. Some might not like the way Cory or I used the fairy tales in our plays. In my experience there have always been people in the audience who loved something about the show that others hated. It depends on your backround, your expectations, your mood during the show, – well, on so many different personal and less personal things. In my opinion, a good play shouldn’t be liked by everyone in the audience. It should create friction between people.

In Germany, theater shows demand a lot from their audience. You have to know a lot about theater, about literature, about texts, and about cultural and social developments. I believe that’s why German theater is often considered elite and snobish, in a way. Still, if a person in the audience with no knowledge about theater and culture whatsoever is able to sensually enjoy what he/she sees, and, at the same time, a person with a lot of background information is also able to enjoy it, the production becomes a success.
I guess it’s easier to just entertain people with a light play  in their own  language, but, in my eyes, you don’t need to go to a theater show to watch something like that. You can go to the movies or watch TV. Theater is more than that: Theater shows are supposed to break open role patterns in a society, or to create alternative worlds, to activate your brains, and, at the same time, your emotions. Theater should play with their audiences’ levels of expectations and break through these levels in order to set new and different levels. Again, I’m referring to literary theories like the hermeneutic circle and Iser’s and Jauß’s The Act of Reading.

It’s fascinating how close theater productions and the reading of texts are connected…


2 thoughts on “Answer to Lisa’s comment (Nora)

  1. yes, well, i think the reading of texts also is central to some American theater. Some plays, it seems to me, can;t even be staged — they are written to be read, not performed (Thornton Wilder is a good example — what’s the play where the stage is all cockamamie?)
    Anyway, I wonder if you might be able to address that when you bring your plays here. Maybe several ways (I’m just shooting from the hip here…) : you could make copies of the plays available beforehand to allow people with a smattering of German a chance to do some homework in advance and puzzle out the German parts; you could offer a “crash” course an hour before the show to familiarize non-German speakers with key phrases or scenes or context they would need to have a clue what’s happening; you could write intros to the plays in the program that include basic plot outlines that people could follow along, kind of like the synopsis you get when you go to a ballet or opera in a different language — it could be written so as not to be a spoiler; you could put together kind of a “traveler’s guide” to the plays that includes key words or phrases in German and translates them into English. You might even have a real-time translator of some sort projecting translations on a screen or written into the plays as a beneficent narrator who helps the audience make sense of it. Maybe you wouldn’t need to do this for the plays to succeed in Germany. Maybe you would for them to succeed in Pittsburgh.

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