Robert Wilson | Lucinda Childs


By Charles Chemin, Associate director

I was sitting on my patio this guy appeared I thought I was hallucinating, written by Robert Wilson in the mid-1970s, is a hallucinatory collage of disparate words, of multitudes of little snapshot stories, a daydream more like channel-surfing where the realm of the acoustic imagination and associations of ideas weave together almost despite the text.

Robert Wilson devised the work as a solo, or rather in duplicate, as two solos. He played the first part, and Lucinda Childs played the second with an identical script. At the time, each one designed his/her own original stage score, the approaches differing, the meaning converging, producing a dramatic experience when viewing the same work performed twice consecutively.

More than forty years later, Wilson has a new original working of the piece for and with two new performers, Christopher Nell and Julie Shanahan, building on their distinctive features, and never having them set into the role as performed by their elders, for the very essence of the work is that there is no role. First there was a transfer when Robert Wilson and Lucinda Childs handed over their score to establish a basis to work on. With Christopher Nell, Wilson shared his recollections that were still present as if the work had been performed the day before, as well as the visual compositions and images he felt at the time. For Lucinda Childs, operating via Zoom for the first phase of the work with Julie Shanahan, the handing on of the work was done with great precision, using her notes taken at the time, and setting up the stage again at home so that she could show each and every original movement, position, and impulse. With Wilson and the actors we then endeavored to go beyond the replication of their scores to find their intimate relationship with the text comprised of intersecting stories where multiple inner personalities emerge, and also to find their freedom to speak the words as they resonate with the present. Using original elements such as video and audio material, sets and the spirit of the lighting at that time, we produced a new staging that may be seen as a re-creation to invent new meanings, abstract and concrete in turn, operating in contact with the new performers.

In 1977, when the work was first produced, Robert Wilson felt a need to change what he had been doing until then. After monumental works such as Deafman Glance, Ka Mountain, A Letter for Queen Victoria, and Einstein on the Beach, his ambition was to go beyond work as a company and find meaning in otherness, here both with himself plus his other inner selves, and with Lucinda Childs, the mirror partner, whose artistic interests along serial, geometric and minimalist lines resonated with his, albeit with a different approach. After a number of collaborations, including Einstein on the Beach, the association of the two, which forms the basis for this work, made it possible to challenge the intrinsic difference in the points of view perceived by two human beings, two beings together beyond the mirror, but playing very different scores based on the same material.
Wilson felt that he and other artists of his generation who had been so active and innovative in New York in the 1960s and 70s, had opened up the doors of stage performance, shaking up conventional stage codes, but he was afraid that they, in turn, may become a new type of school with canons as inflexible as those of their predecessors, and that their experimental works rejecting conventional stage-audience relationships, embracing reality, desacralizing the concept of character, could become new codes; and that those codes might somehow become part of the raw reality of the myth of the American land where it is often said that Abraham Lincoln was “simply” born in a cabin in the woods, that So-and-So started with nothing, or that Jackson Pollock “simply” used house paint for his canvases. As a reaction to that, Wilson wanted to take the illusion even further, and find an ever greater escape from reality. In I was sitting on my patio…, he has worked on the lighting as never before, exploring angles and sources to shape the present; he has designed the costumes and make-up for Lucinda Childs with glamour, unlike past practices in their artistic circles, and has reproduced an upper middle-class home with items such as a sofa, a tablet with a telephone, and a glass of champagne, shifting the esthetics and creating a different reality.

The work opens up a new field of experimentation in his work, but he is also extending explorations along the path of subjective abstraction, disturbing abstraction, with images and works that despite themselves will leave their mark and convey meaning, with elusive characters that do not match the roles of theater, and also with the ambition to make drama built on mysterious thoughts that haunt everyone, leaving scope for the audience to live out its own daydream.


Teatro Nacional D. Maria II
16-17 July 2022

ITALY / Venice
Teatro Stabile del Veneto – Teatro Goldoni
11-14 November 2021

[World première]
PARIS / France
Théâtre de la Ville-Espace Cardin
20 Sept-23 Oct 2021

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