The production grew out of one of Anne Bogart’s [the
director and Talijancic’s teacher at Columbia] seven-minute deconstructions
in which you focus on a character in a play and do a series of tableaux
that summarize the play. I
did Nora at Columbia and used this in the Doll
House in San Diego. I
wanted to unearth the secret life of the characters.
When you read Ibsen, it seems first as though it’s naturalistic,
but there’s something else there.
I read Brustein’s introduction to his translation of When We Dead Awaken for
the Robert Wilson production where Brustein says that Ibsen was
not the realist everybody supposed, but a poet.
So this made me realize what a symbolist Ibsen really was
and it made me wonder why he never went further.
he wanted to go “further,” as you say, after When
We Dead Awaken, but he was ill while he wrote it
and became very ill just after he finished it.
He said that if he wrote anything else, it would be in a
very different medium, but we don’t
really know what he meant, and of course by then, it was
too late. - So how did you do A Doll House?
It was a very symbolic production - expressionistic, I guess - but
I kept most of the text.
Did you use a realistic set?Talijancic: No, I skewed the sense of
scale - I scaled it down, a kind of Alice in Wonderland
thing. The furniture was tiny. Also the main playing area
was a white room four feet high. Nora was trapped inside here.
was too big for the house?
Yes, so she couldnt get out. There was a platform
on which Torvald and Dr. Rank loomed over Nora’s area. At the
deepest part of the stage - upstage - was a red curtain. This was the place of Nora’s sub-conscious nightmares.
There was Krogstad, whose hands are covered in black stuff,
Christine gyrating - all Nora’s fears and suspicions.
- I also physicalized Torvald’s abuse of Nora.
He struck her and the lights went out and a door was heard
slamming, a foreshadowing. Also, in between each act there was a visual
sequence of Nora’s nightmare visions.
Templeton: Was this the only Ibsen you had done prior to Lady?
This fortified me, in a way, and taught me to look underneath
the surface, not the “everyday life” aspect.
Templeton: O.K. Now let’s get on to what you wanted to
do with Lady.
Talijancic: The way the production came about was that having
a year to work on something was a great luxury. I could look for people with whom I wanted to
work and we could have a completely uncensored exploration of what
the play and the themes of the play suggested.
I wanted to encourage the other collaborators to work intuitively,
pressure, but at the same time at the end I wanted
us to have some kind of production.
Templeton: Who were the collaborators?
The actors in Workshop 1 [the production in November 2000]. We concentrated
on several week-ends. And I came up with a list of what I was interested
in pursuing as departure points, or strong polar axes, I should
say: the tension between ultimate freedom and ultimate confinement,
the conflict between the open sea and the land, the house, and so
carp pond and the sea.
mainly the unattainable which one wants to pursue but cant
have- the horizon - the seafarers and explorers always going toward
the horizon, which doesnt really exist, so the horizon becomes
a metaphor for the unattainable. The attraction to the sea
versus the terror of it, also. Maybe this is a stretch, but
I also saw an environmental issue in the idea of the force that
gives life away and takes it. The sea people know this very well.
The same sea that gives life can also take it away. The Stranger
is an obvious a symbol as you can get of the sea - one has to give
it to it
course she doesnt, in the end, does she?
Talijancic: No, but I feel there that the
whole play goes downhill, and that the ending is a happy ending
to avoid a scandal.
never tried to avoid scandals. Au contraire,
he caused them deliberately and thrived on them. They inspired him to become even more scandalous.
Talijancic: Yes, that’s true, but I feel all the same that
the ending of the play is a cop out - “family values” and all that.
Templeton: Love isnt "family
No, but the end of the play doesnt work for me
It doesnt work for a lot of people, maybe even most people
these days, who have difficulty believing both in Wangels
transformation and in Ellidas acceptance of it. We
live in a cynical age.
Talijancic: I think that Ibsen, who was steeped in mermaid
lore, meant the play as a parable. This
sea creature can find her freedom only in the sea.
Templeton: So logically she should have gone off with the Stranger?
Talijancic: I don’t know.
But she belongs to the sea.
It’s a way for her to find freedom.
Templeton: In the installation, you don’t dramatize - or
should I say show - her death. Did
you mean to imply this in the “death of a mermaid site?
Talijancic: There’s no real narration, of course, but this
is what is being suggested. But
the performance wasn’t meant to be
comprehensive - it would have been end less.
Yes, also because the performance is so free-wheeling and because
theres no chronology, we dont have the idea that it
is offering an argument against Ibsens ending.