“The chasm between contemporary art and theater is a topic of perpetual amazement to CiNE. Theater does not have much appeal to visual art audiences, who are put off materially by theater’s admission prices and aesthetically by theater’s insistence on the suspension of disbelief. But today’s theater audiences don’t think much of contemporary art, either; they are put off by its obscurantism, its resistance to narrative, and by what they consider its amateurish approach to performance.”
These 76 words from the 16-page portfolio Re-Public written by David Levine and his company CiNE in fall 2005 gave birth to our company, peoplmovr. As we sought to reconcile our theater practice with interests in art and design, we found a fellow traveler in Levine.
Levine recently emailed us about his new project, in which a US actor, David Barlow, would train to portray a German farmer in a Heiner Müller play. Barlow would prepare in New York for a month, then fly to the Biorama-Projekt in Brandenburg to work two acres of land, 14 hours a day, for two weeks. The last line of the email hooked us: “Bauerntheater will culminate in . . . approximately half a ton of harvested potatoes.”
Later, in a refurbished warehouse, Levine told us more. It’s Stanislavski upside down: the play won’t even be performed. Barlow will enact the farmer role outside the play. Working the land, he’ll “experience” the life of the character.
As we left, Levine and his actors stepped into a dirt pit—the "farm"—and literally got their hands dirty rehearsing. Bridging the art and theater worlds is messy work. Bauerntheater’s scope alone should help it transcend detractors. If not, there are always those potatoes.
—Geoffrey Scott & Aaron Cedolia
Documentary footage was screened at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, New York, in Fall of 2007.