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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 31 | volume VI | March-April, 2003



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                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 31March-April, 2003
Theatre Theory

Interculturalism and Iconophilia in the New Theatre

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Andrzej Wirth

     It seems that for the first time in human history we have the chance for global cultural understanding. Air travel and the media-created impression that we all are inhabitants of a global village enforce such a conviction. Is this conviction correct as far as theatre is concerned? Or, to speak in the terminology of Victor Turner, are we witnessing a “new transcultural communicative synthesis through performance?”
     Contemporary presentational aesthetics are changing the proportions be­tween theatre and performance. The development is moving in the direction of less theatre, more performance. This strengthening of the performative element occurs at the cost of diminishing mimetic, dramatic, and narrative elements. Literary theatre (generated from a verbal text) and live performance (on the “scripted” stage as dance, song, sculpture, etc.) do exist presently as a mixed form. To answer the general question about the role of transcultural communication in the new theatre it might be best to proceed analytically, limiting ourselves to a few pertinent paradigms. Those paradigms I have chosen are Robert Wilson, and as points of comparative reference Ariane Mnouchkine, Peter Brook, Eugenio Barba, and the Polish theatre group (now in exile), Teatr Osmego Dnia.
     The interculturalism of Robert Wilson can be discussed on many levels, such as the aesthetics of production and re-production, performance aesthetics and theatre reception. This would apply not only to such obvious examples as the unique multi-national project of CIVIL WarS (from 1982 on), but applies equally on different levels to the majority of his works from the beginning. (Black performer Sheryl Sutton; Freud, Stalin as stage figures; Shiraz as location for (The KA Mountain and GUARDenia Terrace project, etc.—the period of 1969-1972).
     Wilson's interculturalism in terms of its production process has to be seen in the context of the geographical dissemination of his projects. An American, he works with the same ease in New York, Boston, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Minneapolis, Washington, Los Angeles, as in Amsterdam, Shiraz, Paris, Avignon, Lyon, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Berlin, Cologne, Munich, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Milan, Rome, Tokyo.
     Since 1979 West Germany with its opulently subsidised state and city theatres has become an operating base for Wilson. He didn't become a German director, but he is surely one of the most outstanding directors working in German theatre in the last decade. Indeed, he has established a new intercultural model in theatre work. Unlike Peter Brook, an Englishman who works in Paris with an international






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