Adam Seelig: Ritter, Dene, Voss
Your company, One Little Goat Theatre Company, is presenting the New York premiere of Ritter, Dene, Voss and you are the director. Could you give us a brief synopsis of the play and why you find it of interest to direct?
Ritter, Dene, Voss involves the Worringer sisters — both Viennese actresses — preparing for their brother’s return from a mental institution, where he has been a patient for some time. The older sister is the driving force behind an attempt at reintegrating him into family life while the younger remains skeptical. When the brother, a tormented genius (loosely based on last century’s great, idiosyncratic philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein), finally appears, his desire to stay is questionable. The play takes place before, during, and after lunch (three acts), unfolding through caustic dialogue in what could be called a "misanthropic comedy." The text, like all of Thomas Bernhard’s plays, is entirely unpunctuated — Bernhard uses only line-breaks to indicate cadence — and stage directions are sparse, so the play is a kind of score for the director (and actors and designers) to interpret. There’s freedom.
This play was produced by your company in 2006 in Toronto and in Chicago. What was the impetus to bring it to New York at this time and how were you able to collaborate with La MaMa as a co-presenter?
For nearly half a century, La MaMa has frequently been the first to introduce international theatre to New York, so it seems right that they’d be the first to bring an Austrian play performed by Canadian actors to NYC.
You were born in Canada, but worked and founded One Little Goat in the US. Why did you return to Canada as home base for both you and the company?
It’s true, I founded One Little Goat in New York and then moved to Toronto! The beauty is that I’ve found obscenely talented artists to work with on both sides of the border.
One Little Goat is described as "North America’s only theatre company devoted to modern and contemporary poetic theatre" and your tag line is "towards a poetic theatre". Can you explain what you mean by this and how do you translate this into actual theatre?
"Poetic theatre" is a term I’m developing as I go along, moving "towards." Based on the work I’ve directed with One Little Goat, here’s what I can say about it so far...
Poetic theatre attempts to find clarity through ambiguity. It’s not verse theatre or prose theatre or journalistic theatre. It’s theatre that treats the text as a score (as with Ritter, Dene, Voss) and treats the gap between actor and audience not as an obstacle to bypass, but as a medium through which multiple meanings can emerge. There’s a difference between shining a light directly into the audience’s eyes, and having it pass through a prism.
You are also a playwright and you seem to always direct your own work, too. Can you talk a bit about the type of play you enjoy writing and why you feel they are best served by your directing them?
I write and write and follow what I write, cart-before-the-horse-like, until I feel I can start to shape it, maybe even lead it somewhere. So I guess I write theatre that’s less a type of play than a type of energy pushing through the medium in an attempt to go beyond it, however impossible that may be. Maybe the ‘beyond’ is the stage, where actors make the writing theirs. And that’s how I direct: I give it all to the actors. In the end, whether my plays are well or poorly served by me as director, I can’t say; what’s certain is that the actors are consistently amazing. I contribute to making the play, sure, but ultimately they are the play.
What does the near future hold for you and the company?
For me: a new book called Every Day in the Morning (slow), which is either a short novel or long poem involving a composer named Sam. For One Little Goat: enjoying this run of Ritter, Dene, Voss!Published on September 22, 2010