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Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

READING ENSEMBLE/ READING AS PUBLISHING: A SCRIPT FOR A COLLABORATION

In Uncategorized on January 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm

 

 

On January 22nd, at the Galway Arts Centre, my collaboration with Jennie Guy was performed as part of DAS SPLINTER, an evening of art and performance, curated by Economic Thought Projects. Jennie asked me to provide some texts for the performance, which was part of her READING ENSEMBLE project.

When we first discussed the project, Jennie gave me the image of a filing cabinet from which she would remove texts, handing them to the audience at the Galway Arts Centre to read. In response to this image I put together the following script. Jennie then worked on the details of the performance itself, such as what instructions (if any) to give the readers.

More info on the performance will be posted here soon. Below is the email in which I outlined my thoughts about the project, and the script itself.

*

Hi Jennie,

I decided to make something out of all the things I had been reading over Christmas and the New Year. I was interested in the filing cabinet as some sort of archive of reading, that each drawer contained a different set/ category of texts. I’ve also been thinking of the Reading as Publishing idea: that this is an archive of reading moments, that this performance/ reading will publish. In the filing cabinet they are sort of inbetween, in limbo, awaiting activation, uncertain…

I’ve been thinking about your role as performer/ enacter/ instigator. How do you see this? I’ve been imagining it almost as conductor – giving out texts and taking them away, listening to people, making taking sheets back, tearing off small bits of text and  giving them back to people, collaging texts, highlighting, taking sheets away from one person and giving them to another, either invitingly or tactlessly or or or – I’ve been thinking about what would be a real/ genuine/ active relationship to this filing cabinet and these texts… what you yourself might say/ read as part of the composition…

All of these texts are translations, that will be further translated by the difficulties of reading them aloud. If there are phrases which are stumbled over that, too, could be a source to work from.

At the moment I imagine three sets of texts. Three folders. One in each of the drawers of the filing cabinet. Each section of the texts printed here – separated by * – is on a separate sheet of paper. The texts are distributed to the audience in order to make the composition. Prior to opening each drawer, there is text that you read as a kind of prelude. Perhaps these texts are on a clipboard that you bring with you when you come onto the stage.

I imagine each folder being the basis of a distinct choral/ musical/ vocal composition, before the next drawer/ file is opened and the new composition begin (whether each section ends with sheets gathered back in, or is allowed to continue but hushed or not, I think depends on the moment). In the moment of performance, you might want to hand out just one or two of the quotations, or all of them, or none!

Text sources and notes are listed at the end of the script.

Jennie Guy, Reading Ensemble, Market Studios Dublin, 2010

THE SCRIPT

Before opening the filing cabinets you read the following text aloud.

JENNIE: This afternoon, I heard a lecture on “The Function of Art and the Artist” by Anais Nin: she is very startling – pixie-like, other-wordly – small, finely built, dark hair, and much make-up which made her look very pale – large, questioning eyes – a marked accent which I could not label – her speech is over-precise – she shines and polishes each syllable with the very tip of her tongue and teeth – one feels that if one were to touch her, she would crumble into silver dust.

FILE 1

Will you please read what’s written above the score?” the lady asked.

“Moderato cantabile.” said the child.

The lady punctured his reply by striking the keyboard with a pencil. The child remained motionless, his head turned towards his score.

“And what does moderato cantabile mean?”

“I don’t know.”

A woman, seated ten feet away, gave a sigh.

“Are you quite sure you don’t know what moderato cantabile means?” the lady repeated.

*

The child did not reply. The lady stifled an exasperated groan, and again struck the keyboard with her pencil. The child remained unblinking. The lady turned.

“Madame Desbaresdes, you have a very stubborn little boy.”

Anne Desbaresdes sighed again.

“You don’t have to tell me,” she said.

The child motionless, his eyes lowered, was the only one to remember that dusk had just broken out. It made him shiver.

“I told you the last time, I told you the time before that, I’ve told you a hundred times. Are you sure you don’t know what it means?”

*

The child decided not to answer. The lady looked again the object before her, her rage mounting.

“Here we go again,” said Anne Desbaresdes under her breath.

“The touble is,” the lady went on, “the trouble is you don’t want to say it.”

Anne Desbaresdes looked again at this child from head to toe, but in a different way from the lady.

*

“You’re going to say it this minute,” the lady shouted.

The child showed no surprise. He still didn’t reply. Then the lady struck the keyboard a third time, so hard that the pencil broke right next to the child’s hand. His hands were round and milky, still scarcely formed. They were clenched and unmoving.

“He’s a difficult child,” Anne Desbaresdes offered timidly.

The child turned his head towards the voice, quickly towards his mother, to make sure of her existence, then resumed his pose as an object, facing the score. His hands remained clenched.

*

Jennie Guy, video still, Livestock Reading, 2010

FILE 2

JENNIE: He chatted with eminent grace between takes, then went over to stretch out again (upon a tarpaulin laid down out of camera range) on the floor of the quarried-out cavern in rock, lit up eerily by the floodlights, to be the transpierced poet—a spear through his breast (actually built around his breast on an iron hoop under his jacket). The hands gripped the spear; the talc-white face from the age of Diderot became anguished. Lunch was preceded by a cocktail, mixed by the famous hands, which he had learned to make from a novel by Peter Cheyney: “white rum, curaçao, and some other things.”

TEXTS IN FILE:

The gaunt, fine hands on the thorax; evacuation of the chest; a great breathing out from himself

*

two beautiful, thin, coupled wrists

*

shrugs  a few moments later

*

He stood—rather tiredly—he was very slight, quite small…

*
… and he went with slow steps to an end table. And he took up a tube of silver cardboard or foil, which made a cylinder mirror upon its outside. And he placed it down carefully in the exact center of an indecipherable photograph which was spread flat on this table, that I would learn was Rubens’s “Crucifixion” taken with a camera that shot in round. Masses of fog blurred out in the photo; elongations without sense. Upon the tube, which corresponded in some unseen fashion with the camera, the maker, the photograph was restored —swirls became men. Nevertheless, the objective photograph remained insane.

*

his voice loses its vibrant timbre—it “bleeds out.” His voice was exceptionally young; here it becomes faded.

*

One feels sure he recognizes the imputations for the art of writing in the decision not to correct;

*

resignedly

FILE 3

JENNIE:  These things happened to me in 1938. I feel the greatest uneasiness in speaking of them. I have already tried to put them into writing many times. If I have written books, it has been in the hope that they would put an end to it all. If I have written novels, they have come into being just as the words began to shrink back from the truth. I am not frightened of the truth. I am not afraid to tell a secret. But until now, words have been frailer and more cunning than I would have liked. I know this guile is a warning: it would be nobler to leave the truth in peace. It would be in the best interests of the truth to keep it hidden. But now I hope to be done with it soon. To be done with it is also noble and important.

TEXTS IN FILE:

the tiny imperceptible interactions between people—the little games of aggression and retreat, the miniscule battles that constitute the present state of the psyche.

*

the interior movements that precede and prepare our words and actions, at the limits of our consciousness.  They happen in an instant, and apprehending them in the rush of human interactions demands painstaking attention.

*

I knew it seemed impossible to me to write in the traditional forms. They seemed to have no access to what we experienced. If we en- closed that in characters, personalities, a plot, we were overlooking everything that our senses were perceiving, which is what interested me. One had to take hold of the instant, by enlarging it, developing it.

*

I felt that a path was opening before me, a path that excited me. As if I’d found my own terrain, upon which I could move forward, where no one had gone prior to me. Where I was in charge.

*

Because it’s difficult. Because I plunge in directly, without giving any reference points. One doesn’t know where one is, or who is who. I speak right away of the essential things, and that’s very difficult. In addition, people have the habit of looking for the framework of the traditional novel—characters, plots—and they don’t find it; they’re lost.

*

No, what is difficult is being on the surface. One gets bored there. There are a lot of great and admirable models who block your way. And once I rise to the surface, to do something on the surface, it’s easy, but it’s very tedious and disappointing.

*

There are always instants. It takes place in the present finally. I’m concerned with these interior movements; I’m not concerned with time.

*

I’m immersed right inside, and I try to execute the interior movements that are produced in that consciousness.

*

Each time it didn’t interest me to continue doing the same thing. So, I would try to extend my domain to areas that were always at the same level of these interior movements, to go into regions where I hadn’t yet gone.

Jennie Guy, Questions and Answers, 2009

 

SOURCES

“This afternoon I heard a lecture…”: Susan Sontag, Reborn: Journals & Notebooks 1947-1963 (FSG, New York, 2008), 17.

Marguerite Duras, Moderato Cantabile (trs. Richard Seaver, OneWorld Classics, 2008 [1958]), 3-5. The extract here is the opening of the novel.

“He chatted with eminent grace…”: Jean Cocteau: The Art of Fiction No.34. Interviewed by William Fifield. Appeared in Paqris Review Summer-Fall 1964 no.32. Online here. I have extracted interpolations by Fifield, mostly descriptions of Cocteau’s physical deportment.

“These things happened to me…”: Maurice Blanchot., Death Sentance, in  George Quasha ed. The Station Hill Blanchot Reader: Fiction & Literary Essays (Station Hill, 1998, trans. Lydia Davis), 131.

Alain Robbe-Grillet The Art of Fiction No.91 interviewed by Shusha Guppy. Spring 1986 No.99. Online here.

Nathalie Sarraute, The Art of Fiction, No.115. interviewed by Shusha Guppy and Jason Weiss. Spring 1990, No. 114. Online here.  I have extracted texts unfolding Sarraute’s notion of “tropisms”, but excluded reference to the word itself.

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JUST PUBLISHED: NEW VSK CHAPBOOK: BULLETINS by Mary Yacoob

In Uncategorized on January 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm

VerySmallKitchen announce the publication of BULLETINS by Mary Yacoob. This latest VSK chapbook is now available, for online consumption and PDF download here.

BULLETINS collects 19 individual bulletins that were Mary’s contribution to VerySmallKitchen’s long distance residency at the AC Institute, New York City, in September-October 2010.

Bulletins were sent each week from London to New York, where they were printed out and displayed as part of the DEPARTMENT OF MICRO-POETICS.

The project continued an ongoing strand of Mary’s practice, and several previous collaboration with VerySmallKitchen.  Two other drawings from the project were included as part of The Department of Micro-Poetics exhibition, and a wall drawing was enacted for Writing/ Exhibition/ Publication at The Pigeon Wing.

Mary provided the following statement about this project:

Mary Yacoob’s work centers on drawing and visual languages. Her works are systemic in nature, using rotation, repetition, line and geometry as triggers for ideas. Listening to the radio as she works on her ‘doodle’ drawings, Yacoob draws a letter of the alphabet or number repeatedly until a structure or city emerges. She invents a set of rules to determine the size of the unit drawn and its color (when the verse changes, the size changes, when someone on the radio speaks, the color changes).

These works are related to another project in which she extrapolates a logic from within a photograph of a building and extends it through systemic drawing, creating a proposal for alternative realities. In other works, she appropriates diagrammatic to notate overlooked traces of everyday life, such as bumps in the carpet, or house sounds.


BULLETINS begins with an index, a listing of times and places these drawings took place, a record of trusting the moment, the form, the line, and the emergent structure.

Find out more about Mary’s work here. The template for the bulletins was designed by Marit Muenzberg. For a full list of VerySmallKitchen publications see here.

PRESENTATION for BEYOND TEXT: MAKING AND UNMAKING TEXT JAN 27-29 2011

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2011 at 11:30 am

On Jan 27-29th 2011 I am taking part in Beyond Text: Making and Unmaking Text across performance practices and theories, curated by Becky Cremin and Ryan Ormonde. They describe the event as follows:

Beyond Text: Making and unmaking text across performance practices and theories is a three day participatory event which looks to expand the notion of the academic conference, by asking participants to present and respond. We hope this direct and primary response-led work will open up discussion and offer productive cross-discipline exchange. We will be providing a performative academic forum: to explore the place of text in practice; the making and unmaking of the text; and the questioning of academic protocols by this destabilising of the text. We hope participants will see how text functions in different practice-based disciplines and how to contextualise different notions of textuality.

I am currently working on a presentation entitled THE CHARACTER OF A PROPOSITION. I sent the following description in response to the open call for participants:

My proposal unfolds from the following quotation by Norma Cole:

Characters are propositions of a new knowledge which constructs feelings and imaginings as characters.(Norma Cole, To Be At Music, 144).

I will use this quotation to think through “character” in relation to an ongoing process of making and unmaking text. There are several processes here which interest me:

(1) The development of ideas into a condition we might call a “character” ; (2) The use of a “character” – or “figure” – to research and explore ideas, make and un-make text; (3) The inevitable failure of that “character” and how its partiality, incompleteness and embarrassment figures in its use.

Two personal projects inform this investigation: (1) Dog Man: a character that, throughout 2010, appeared in installation, short fiction talk, poems, and essay; and (2) Writing/ Exhibition/ Publication: an exhibition I curated at The Pigeon Wing in London, exploring how writing moves (or not) between different spaces/ communities/ forms.

Rather than focussing on these projects, I would like to make a 15-20 minute performance lecture exploring character in relation to the themes of the conference.

How does character figure (!) in these translations and negotiations? How can it be a way of negotiating acts of textual making and unmaking? Here my thoughts are informed by Ann Lauterbach’s comments on Joe Brainard’s figure of Nancy, and how it enabled Brainard to negotiate/ perform his presence as an artist in New York:

The sense of crisis was everywhere, and yet Brainard seems to have been almost inured to it, as if for him a world might be made that was free from these currents of political and social unrest. That he might have found a kind of refuge in a fictive character, one who lived in a world of cheerful buoyancy and ingenuity, such as that inhabited by Nancy, seems plausible.

Nancy could travel with Joe from his humble roots in Tulsa to the bright complexity of New York City; she could be his virtual companion and side-kick as he negotiated the sophisticated, charged world of such figures as Warhol and O’Hara. Nancy could be inserted into this world, instantly stripping it of its formidable aura, transforming it into an accessible, intimate realm. Nancy could be the agent of an accommodating, domestic nearness and hereness. Both the troubled, earnest pathos of the times and the overwhelming grandeur of “high art” might be resisted, or converted, by Nancy’s ubiquitous  smile. The monumental scale of events could be kept in check by  a handheld postcard, a line drawn around an image. (Joe Brainard, The Nancy Book, 13)

Joe Brainard, If Nancy Was An Ashtray, mixed media, 1972

*

I’m currently working on the presentation, thinking also through The Fluxus President, a project first published as part of the publication for Pursuit: Failure symposium in Berlin.

I’ve also been reading Heriberto Yépez’s essay “On Character” in which he writes:

whose character? Always some ❘ body else, character is always ‘us’ – in a way it’s never just us. character can be identified (partially) with the writer, each character has some characteristics (secret or announced) that the writer has – i.e., characteristics s❘he supposes are hers or his. but are not. characters are part of the writer’s life, but are never him or her, nor any person in particular; they cannot be separated, nor are they fantasy. characters are the author’s psychical family, society’s trail of doppelgängers in its course through time. imagination cannot happen. fantasy is impossible. reality pollutes everything. imagination cannot escape completely from the here and now of material/ historical/bodily circumstance. ‘fiction’ wanted to escape from history – the possibility of a realm made exclusively of fantasy – a critical illusion it has always pursued, only to leave evidence of failed fugitives. who’s the character? no one, but many. anyone’s double. including, of course, the other side, the so-called readers, somebody else (too) many. characters operate in the field of indeterminacy, of multiplicity. (i hate names. names are in favour of being-just-one.) writing a character (packages) we do not respond to the question who am i? but to this the interrogation who else am I? a question that cannot be responded to. a character, a failed attempt to know ourselves. (159-60)

SOURCE: Heriberto Yépez “on character” in Mary Burger et al eds. Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative (Coach House Books, 2004), 158-168. Full text online here.

More to follow.

JUST PUBLISHED: NEW VSK CHAPBOOK lilmp by seekers of lice

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2011 at 11:30 pm

VerySmallKitchen announce the publication of lilmp by seekers of lice. This e-book is available for online consumption and PDF download here.

Some reading notes 06/01/11:

lilmp unfolds a poetics entwined in the materiality and soundscapes of its (own) language.  Try saying the title aloud. Not unpronounceable, but hard for the mouth and tongue to negotiate between that second “l” and “m.” Maybe this is a palindrome, but the way back poses even severer problems!

lilmp is improvisatory, diaristic, re-searching, close to home as it heads out, scouring through windows and along streets and riverbanks, adrift in its vocabularies…

… words break into pieces, warp and move under the pressure and impetus of their own morphemes…

The first word of most pages of lilmp is underlined. It makes a title, but not fully. A kind of emphasis. A line. A place to start, maybe retrospectively.

Lewdness. Vice money. Are the “titles” found texts?  Wormwound. Where would you find that? Found as made. Made as finding.

How do we relate word and image? Boundaries of play and pressure. What exactly is the mood and psychodynamics when language is worked in this granular way, shaped and edited with an awareness of its feel in the mouth, where it might also become stuck feathered flipping polyphemous calm don’t (say the title again).

lilmp language is often addressed to someone, sometimes quite directly, words forming, breaking and shaped by that unseen other:

have I turned you?

a thorn in yr side.
sharpness of the razor blade withering .
stupidity and dejection   .
lowering the bar   .
raised platform balance hake and oak   .

Those extra spaces before full stops (but not before the question mark).  Like words, punctuation, underlinings, scoring an emotion, making sure time is here, making everything sculptural, the other entering, although they only speak here on the texts own terms…

Why do I keep skimming over The Guardian photo of the boxers pinned to the wall, thinking it’s Joseph Beuys? It’s not. It is.

Sometimes – Pulled   out   &    washing    the     weeds –  is a distinct action described, but that is not principally the function of writing. Such acts become absorbed into an act of attentiveness, mattering in language, i-pod and hairy mac

If each page-theatre has its own autonomy it also knows/ senses the book/ poem it becomes part of, as tales, fickle perceived remedies/ puzzled sacrificed anxiety as in

clamour
pig’s snout glamour
grunt a
vocal-
isation      Who’ll call

senses of measuring, pairs, weight, caught out, compound

how things move, oozing, utter, vocabularies. Both paper towel dispenser and telemachus, search engine and sheenlack

Compare lilmp with the recent bookwork/poem notes/ohms.  Most seekers of lice books I’ve seen have several fragments to a page, run across pages, foreground a messy and potentially delirious act of reading over a quiet contemplation of white space and type

The same is true here: words fill the pages, but the format of these pages, like postcards, enables a focusing of attention, an isolation. If there is two words, they are printed large but is still two words proposed for out attention, underlining now close to the fractions dividing line:

ajar
flystyle

lilmp focus on the figure the ground takes care of itself is figure

lilmp isn’t the first seekers of lice work published by others – see The Bride of L’Amor-mor-l’amor in oneedit.  seekers (other) books have a distinct aesthetic of paper (often tracing paper), binding, shape, a degree of standardised format within which each writing/ project  terrapin   . harpoon. can perform…

What’s the e-book equivalent of tracing paper? Of  – as in  notes/ohms – painting over tracing paper, blocking its blurred transparency, and/or letting the layers of text bleed through?  If I think of lilmp as a vertical book-stack, it’s white card, transparency transferred into time, body, memory, heat sun-neck

A line flows on, but by the time you’ve made your way back to the left margin, so much has changed, or maybe not.

*

lilmp is here. More about seekers of lice here.

DEMOTIC ARCHIVES OF ART WRITING (4): KENNETH TYNAN AT THE BERLINER ENSEMBLE

In Uncategorized on January 5, 2011 at 11:27 am

In November, walking through Berlin on my first morning in the city, I unexpectedly came across the Berliner Ensemble. I had a strong response to the building, feeling, although I had stumbled across it by accident, that I had made some kind of pilgrimage to the theatre.

I unfolded a bit of this encounter as part of MY READING DID THIS TO ME, my talk at the Flat Time House in December. The building evoked vividly the experience of reading Brecht’s plays and journals, as well as the black and white photographs of Brecht’s rehearsals in the Ensemble – particularly one of Helene Weigel as Mother Courage. Also, the Theatremachine texts of Heiner Mueller, a later inhabitant of the theatre.

The space of those black and white rehearsal photos – not that findable on the internet, but available in the many books edited and translated by John Willett – suggested further spaces of working and possibility.

For a while  I thought my excitement at these images and texts was about the possibility of working in theatre. But, actually, my own response has been about translating that possibility and space into other fields of activity… into writing, reading, teaching, ????. Seeing the Berliner Ensemble building that morning in November made that very clear.

Still thinking through all this, I came across Kenneth Tynan’s description of a similar discovery of the Berliner Ensemble building. The following text is extracted from Tynan’s SUMMING-UP: 1959, which appeared in Kenneth Tynan, Tynan On Theatre (Pelican Books, 1964).

It also appears here as an intervention of this sense of theatre and rehearsal into ideas of art and writing.

KENNETH TYNAN: I have paid many visits to Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble in the five years since it took up residence at the Theater am Schiff bauerdamm, but whenever I approach the place, I still feel a frisson of expectation, an anticipatory lift, that no other theater evokes. Western taxis charge double to go East, since they are unlikely to pick up a returning fare, but the trip is worth it: the arrow-straight drive up to the grandiose, bullet-chipped pillars of the Brandenberg Gate; the perfunctory salutes of the guards on both sides of the frontier; the short sally past the skinny trees and bland neo-classical façades of Unter den Linden (surely the emptiest of the world’s great streets), and the left turn that leads you across the meagre, oily stream of the Spree and into the square-cum-parking-lot where the theatre stands, with a circular neon sign – ‘BERLINER ENSEMBLE’ – revolving on its roof like a sluggish weather vane. You enter an unimposing foyer, present your ticket, buy a superbly designed programme, and take your seat in an auditorium that is encrusted with gilt cupids and cushioned in plush. When the curtain, adorned with its Picasso dove, goes up, one is usually shocked, so abrupt is the contrast between the baroque prettiness of the house and the chaste, stripped beauty of what one sees on the expanses, relatively enormous, of the stage. No attempt is made at realistic illusion. Instead of being absorbed by a slice of life, we are sitting in a theatre while a group of actors tell us a story that happened some time ago. By means of songs, and captions projected on to a screen, Brecht explains what conclusions he draws from the tale, but he wants us to quarrel with him – to argue that this scene not have ended as it did, or that this character might have behaved otherwise. He detested the reverence of most theatre audiences, much preferring the detached, critical expertise that he noted in spectators at sporting events. Theatrical trickery, such as lighting and scene changes, should not, he felt, be concealed from the customer. In his own words,

… don’t show him too much
But show something. And let him observe
That this is not magic but
Work, my friends.

Always, as a director, he told his actors that the mere act of passing through a stage door did not make them separate, sanctified creatures cut off from the mass of humanity – hence his practice, which is still followed to som extent by the Ensemble, of allowing outsiders to wander into rehearsals, as long as they keep quiet. He abhorred the idea that the production of plays is a secret, holy business, like the murmur of some rare hothouse plant. If actors can spend their spare time watching ditchdiggers, he said, why shouldn’t ditchdiggers watch actors? Initially, the Ensemble actors were embarrassed by this open-door policy; later, however, they realized how much it had helped them to shed inhibitions. A cast that has rehearsed for weeks before strangers is unlikely to dread an opening night.

I arrived at the theatre this year during a rehearsal, and one that was loaded with nostalgia. The Threepenny Opera, Brecht’s first decisive success, was being prepared for revival on the same stage that had seen its première thirty-one years earlier, with the same director in charge – Erich Engel, now looking gaunt  and unwell, despite the jaunty cock-sureness of his beret. As I entered, somebody was singing ‘Mack the Knife’ with the tinny, nasal, vibrato that one remembers from the old Telefunken records. Engel and two young assistants interrupted from time to time, talking with the easy, probing frankness that comes of no haste, no pressure, no need to worry about publicity, deadlines, or out-of-town reviews. I noticed that Mr Peachum, a part usually given to a rubicand butterball, was being played by Norbert Christian, a slim soft-eyed actor in his thirties. Brecht, I reflected, would have liked that; he always detested physical type-casting. In Brecht’s theatre it is what people do, not what they feel or how they look, that counts. Action takes precedence over emotion, fact over fantasy. ‘Die Wahrheit ist Konkret’ (‘Truth is concrete’) was Brecht’s favourite maxim; for him there could be no such thing as abstract truth. Someone once asked him what the purpose of a good play ought to be. He answered by describing a photograph he had seen in a magazine, a double-page spread of Tokyo after the earthquake. Amid the devastation, one building remained upright. The caption consisted of two words: ‘Steel Stood’. That, said Brecht, was the purpose of drama – to teach us how to survive.

The rehearsal continued, the patient denuding process that would ultimately achieve that naked simplicity and directness on which the Ensemble prides itself. To encourage the players to look at themselves objectively, a large mirror had been placed in the footlights, and throughout the session photographs were taking pictures of everything that happened, providing a visual record that would afterwards be used to point out to the actors just where, and how, they had gone wrong. One of the most impressive women alive had meanwhile come to sit beside me – Helene Weigel, Brecht’s widow, who has directed the Ensemble since its inception ten years ago and plays several of the leading roles. At sixty, she has a lean, nut-brown face that suggests, with its high cheekbones, shrewdy hooded eyes, and total absence of make-up, a certain kind of Spanish peasant matriarch; her whole manner implies a long life of commanding and comforting, of which she clearly regrets not an instant. Her warmth is adventurous, her honesty contagious, and her sophistication extreme, and that is the best I can do to sum up a woman who would, I think, be proud to be called worldly, since a scolding, tenacious affection for the world is the main article of her faith. The Weigel – to adopt the German manner of referring to an actress – has no real counterpart in the American theatre; in appearance, and in dedication, she resembles Martha Graham, but a Martha Graham altogether earthier and more mischevious than the one Americans know. At the end of the rehearsal we exchanged gifts and greetings. I got a scarf, designed by Picasso in the company’s honour; a book about the ensembles seminal production, Mother Courage; a photographic dossier comparing the performance of Charles Laughton and Ernst Busch in the title role of Brecht’s The Life of Galileo; and – unexpectedly – a complicated game of the do-it-yourself variety, invented by Mozart to teach children how to compose country dances by throwing dice. The Weigel, alas, got only a cigarette lighter. Talking about the state of the company, she said, ‘When Brecht died, I was afraid this place might become a museum.’ Her fears have turned out to be unjustified. It is true that the Ensemble mostly performs Brecht plays, but the plays are acted and directed by people steeped in the Brecht spirit. Throughout the theatre his ghost is alive and muscular.  (251-2)