The Performances

(photographs by Katrin Dettmer)

Director's Note

From the very first, Coriolanus has struck me as a play about theatre machines. Apart from its very own textual negotiations of the theatre of politics, it has also inspired a variety of other theatre texts, which wrestle with the complex power structures depicted on and off “stage” in Coriolanus. We have invited these texts by Brecht, Müller, Grass, and Bernhard to challenge Shakespeare and be in turn challenged by Shakespeare. The deconstructed and hence re-constructed text, both of the script and the performance, are inviting you, the audience, to investigate your own assumptions of what theater is and should be. This production wants to speak of the dynamics and tensions, the work and the labor, which are invested into the theater process itself – by the performers, but also by the audience. As much as Coriolanus is a play about how politics work, the production itself will disclose its own politics in terms of producing and destroying of theater and making it thus visible as theater – a theater that is not removed or without consequence, but a theater that is immediate and visceral, producing and reproducing, sabotaging and fixing itself, a machine that includes actors, crew, and audience.

Katrin Dettmer

Impressions From A Rehearsal

Dramaturgical Note

Questions of body and voice, performative and non-performative, are central to the drama of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, and thus of course to our own production.  From the play’s earliest moments, when the patrician elder Menenius utilizes Aesop’s fable of “The Belly and its Members” to figure the Roman gentry as the life-giving center of the restless plebeians, the political and dramatic power of Shakespeare’s text is located in the corporeal bodies of its actors.  Conflict is found in the way they control and manipulate their own and one another’s beings and voices.  Thus Coriolanus’ fame as a war hero is essentialized in his bodily wounds; the democratic power of the plebeians is conveyed through their “voices”.  And in the drama’s climactic moment, the fate of Rome is secured by a mother’s bodily supplication.  These are actions of character, motivated and plot driven.  And yet, as is the subtle genius of Shakespeare’s dramatic ability, the actions of his characters are consistently problematized and questioned.  Caius Marcius is unwilling to bare his wounds to the common folk, to twist his voice and body to gain the votes of “Hob and Dick”.  The plebeians are unsure in their power of decision, allowing their elected officials to maneuver their voices against Marcius.  Thus questions of power, of ownership and responsibility, are complicated in the original text, as in our production. For what happens when one voice becomes many?  When one body is spread over five?  How can our staging here today further illuminate these innate textual complications?  Such are the questions we, Shakespeare, Müller, Brecht and even good old Thomas Bernhard pose to you, questions of staging and creating performance that remain beautifully, delightfully unanswered.

Jessica Goldschmidt

Impressions From Early Rehearsals

(photographs by Jessica Goldschmidt, Tori Harvey, and Katrin Dettmer)

Robert Creeley, Some afternoon


Why not ride

with pleasure

and take oneself

as measure,


making the world

tacit description

of what’s taken

from it


for no good reason,

the fact only.

There is a world

elsewhere, but here


the tangible faces

smile, breaking

into tangible pieces.

I see


myself and family,

and friends, and

animals attached,

the house, the road,


all go forward

in a huge

flash, shaken

with that act.


Goodbye, goodbye.

Nothing left

after the initial

blast but


some echo like this.

Only the faded

pieces of paper



Please join us tonight for our premiere!

Shakespeare - Brecht - 
Müller - Bernhard

A super theater evening! A massive theater concentration!

Thursday, 23 April 2009, 6 p.m. - Lincoln Field

A Word from Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett, Play (1963)
Directed by Anthony Minghella for Beckett on Film (2002)
Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliet Stevenson, and Alan Rickman

A Word from Antonin Artaud

"The stage is a concrete physical place which asks to be filled, and to be given its own concrete language to speak. I say that this concrete language, intended for the senses and independent of speech, has first to satisfy the senses, that there is a poetry of the senses as there is a poetry of language, and that this concrete physical language to which I refer is truly theatrical only to the degree that the thoughts it expresses are beyond the reach of the spoken language. These thoughts are what words cannot express and which, far more than words, would find their ideal expression in the concrete physical language of the stage. It consists of everything that occupies the stage, everything that can be manifested and expressed materially on a stage and that is addressed first of all to the senses instead of being addressed primarily to the mind as is the language of words...creating beneath language a subterranean current of impressions, correspondences, and analogies. This poetry of language, poetry in space will be resolved precisely in the domain which does not belong strictly to words...Means of expression utilizable on the stage, such as music, dance, plastic art, pantomime, mimicry, gesticulation, intonation, architecture, lighting, and scenery...The physical possibilities of the stage offers, in order to substitute, for fixed forms of art, living and intimidating forms by which the sense of old ceremonial magic can find a new reality in the theater; to the degree that they yield to what might be called the physical temptation of the stage. Each of these means has its own intrinsic poetry."

Antonin Artaud, The Theatre And Its Double,
1958. pp. 37f.

A Word from Robert Wilson

Die Dreigroschenoper
by Bertolt Brecht, music by Kurt Weill
directed by Robert Wilson
Berliner Ensemble

A Word from Michaël Borremans

Michaël Borremans, Earthlight Room, 2008

A Word from Stephen Greenblatt

"I began with the desire to speak with the dead."

Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England.
University of California Press, 1989. p. 1.

A Word from Heiner Müller

"One could say that the basis of theater and therefore also of drama is change, and the ultimate change is death. The only thing you can get an audience to agree about, the only thing they can agree about, is the fear of death they all share. And the effect of the theater depends on this single instance of communality. In other words, theater is based on symbolic death."

Heiner Müller in conversation with Alexander Kluge,
in Kalkfeld, ed. Frank Hörnigk et al. (Berlin: Theater der Zeit, 1996), 138.

A Beginning

Ludwig van Beethoven
Coriolan Overture, op. 62

Das Bayrische Staatsorchester München
conducted by Carlos Kleiber

The Tragedy of Coriolanus

by William Shakespeare

23 - 26 April 2009
Lincoln Field

Cast List posted!!!

Thank you again to everyone who auditioned for CORIOLANUS and worked so enthusiastically with us during callbacks. We are genuinely thrilled by your enthusiasm for experiment and play. It was very hard to make decisions but here is the cast list at last:

William Herrmann

Jessica Laser

Sean Patrick McGowan

Paolo Servado

Jen Therrien

Congratulations to all of you! We will have a Meet & Greet of cast and crew to introduce everyone and discuss our rehearsal schedule on

Thursday, 12 March 2009, at 9 p.m. in Wilson 106

This meeting should last about an hour. If you have conflicts on this day, please email Katrin as soon as possible. We are looking forward to seeing you!


Are you a creature of the theatre?
Are you a detractor of the stage?

Audition for:

We are looking for an ensemble cast of 7 people.

Auditions will be held on
Sunday, March 8th: 5pm - 8pm @ Wilson 101
Monday, March 9th: 7pm - 10pm @ Wilson 103

Callbacks will be held on 
Tuesday, March 10th: 7pm -11pm @ Sayles 306.

(raw material)

"Enough, with over-measure."

The Play

The Tragedy of Coriolanus (1608/09) is Shakespeare’s last political play with a strong background in the contemporary political and economic issues of Shakespeare’s time. With the reign of the new king, James I, the once stable political status quo was questioned by all classes, which sought to assert themselves against each other. Hard winters and poor harvests resulted in a famine, which culminated in the Midland Uprising of the peasants in 1607/08. While it is easy to draw a parallel to our reality, especially in the terms of political change and the current recession, I interpret the play to be negotiating issues that are always ongoing. 
The political aspect is discussed first and foremost as the contest between the individual and the society. Shakespeare’s text explicates that the personal and the social are always intertwined: they are linked in a complex fashion, causing each other and being effected by each other. Thus, we are faced with a dialectic, visible in both word and gesture, that speak both to the responsibility of the individual toward society as well as the power society has on the individual. 
The economical context is not only installed by the grand opening scene of the uprising citizens, who fight for their survival, but also through the language of the text itself. Shakespeare favors short lines and blunt retorts, especially in the case of Coriolanus himself. Action itself is seen as an economy to attain a certain objective and is thus in contest to rhetoric and public debate. In this way, the play confronts us with the process of decision-making and its economy: what must we invest in order to come out with profits? The dialectic between the word and the body is of course nothing less than the dialectic of theater per se, which has to make something out of something. 
Both dimensions, the political as well as the economic, find their resonance in the image of the belly: as part of the “body politic” and the recipient of food. The belly of the text, identified by one character as the “Roman state,” can also be interpreted as the “theater machine,” which needs to be fed with words and actions and will in time disclose its members as well as itself.

The Script

Coriolanus is the second longest of Shakespeare’s plays and demands extensive cuts to meet a 90 minutes running time. Nevertheless, I believe that the play will not only forgive these cuts but will reveal itself to be the very focused affair it sets out to be. I have started to edit the script and during this process I have been time and again surprised how well Shakespeare’s text lends itself to a deconstructive approach. The fact is that Shakespeare’s rhetoric, especially in this piece, is always already critiquing itself. Especially the character of Coriolanus is a masterful construct of language, battling speech with his actions and stony silences. Yet, when he speaks, he does so with a vengeance on language itself. Although Shakespeare’s language here is rather prosaic if compared to Hamlet or Macbeth, it is nevertheless very dense, displaying concentrated imagery and a wonderful rhythm. 
The production script will not only be generated out of cuts but also of additions. My main addition will be excerpts from Bertolt Brecht’s conversation on Dialectic Theater and his interpretation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. Not only will these inserts open up the distance to the text but also to the theater practice of the moment, thus creating a dialectic moment for the audience without dictating a certain reading of the text or a specific experience of the play. Rather, the deconstructed and hence re-constructed text, both of the script and the performance, will invite the audience to investigate their own assumptions of what theater should be. Another addition will be small excerpts from Thomas Bernhard’s Peymann-dramolettes. These vignettes are satirical insights into the theater machines, which recycle Shakespeare time and again, with Claus Peymann, the quasi-inheritor of Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble, as the antagonistic protagonist. In this way, the script will offer a genealogy of the Shakespearean theater market as well as the never-ending investment of the theater-makers to “make something out of Shakespeare.” The three text components will coexist in disharmony, yet the play with them will be fluent and voluble, showing the “textness” of all text. 
Coriolanus has been staged as tragedy, satire, and comedy. Since the text allows for all these varieties of staging, I would like to embrace all of these possibilities. This production will eventually be a black comedy of deconstruction - deconstruction of text, of genre, of body, of voice, of opinion, of theater - in order to bring back the theater as theater.

The Production

I do have a vision of this production as reinstalling pure theater. This does not mean that I am looking for a historical original but rather for a digging through theater histories, traditions, and rituals to get a glimpse at what theater is and can do: a playful engagement with ourselves and our times that does not deliver answers but questions. In this light, I do appreciate the fact that Shakespeare on the Green offers a very stripped performance apparatus: actors and text. 
I am often frustrated with productions of Shakespeare’s plays when actors are rushing through the text, out of time issues or insecurity, thereby losing the text for themselves and the audience. I would love to work intently with the actors, partly referring to Kristin Linklater’s book Freeing Shakespeare’s Voice, to generate a specific articulation of the text as text that is not only understandable but also productive of the performance itself. The text will be the maker of the actors, who I see in neutral costume, playing through text rather than through character. 
One of the striking images of Shakespeare’s text is the belly, which speaks of the visceral quality of the text itself. Thus, the bodies of the actors will be of utmost importance to the production. I am very interested in exploring how text is uttered through the body and how a “physical” utterance influences the text. In addition to this, I am continuously fascinated by the concept of the ‘decided body’ and its implications for scenic work. I would love to trouble the understanding of the audience in terms of their expectations of the expressive body. Furthermore, the bodies of the actors in the performance space and also especially in relation to the bodies in the audience will finely disturb the imagery of the body/belly presented in the text, based on one of Shakespeare’s sources for Coriolanus

Aesop: The Belly and the Members 

One fine day it occurred to the Members of the Body that they were doing all the work and the Belly was having all the food. So they held a meeting, and after a long discussion, decided to strike work till the Belly consented to take its proper share of the work. So for a day or two, the Hands refused to take the food, the Mouth refused to receive it, and the Teeth had no work to do. But after a day or two the Members began to find that they themselves were not in a very active condition: the Hands could hardly move, and the Mouth was all parched and dry, while the Legs were unable to support the rest. So thus they found that even the Belly in its dull quiet way was doing necessary work for the Body, and that all must work together or the Body will go to pieces. 

Thus, I hope the production can speak of the dynamics and tensions between the individual and society, the work that is invested into these relations as well as into the theater process itself. Focusing on text/voice and expression/body, I want to open up the performance for a Theater-Theater. Not only will we be working through the play Coriolanus but also through that very same work. This work will be highlighted in instants with the help of three devices: selected props (that will be identified and worked with as props), half masks (that will expose the actual masks of the actors’ faces and our own), and citations (both textual as well as physical, entering into the recycling mechanisms of our routines in the theater). As much as Coriolanus is a piece about how politics work, the production itself will disclose its own politics in terms of producing and destroying of theater and making it thus visible as theater – a theater that is not removed or without consequence but a theater that is immediate and visceral, producing and reproducing, sabotaging and fixing itself, a machine that includes actors, crew, and audience.
Finally, these are after all questions. My vision of the production may already seem quite comprehensive in terms of what our possibilities are. Nevertheless, I am aware that this process will be just that: a process. I do not have answers to my questions but am very curious what obstacles we will meet and how we can use them to expand our thinking on what theater does.

The Director

I am giving my official debut as a director with Coriolanus. Although I have never directed before, I do have experience in making theater. My greatest foundation as a theater practitioner is my work as the dramaturg for Hamletmaschine, directed by José Enrique Macián in 2008. This was a momentous experience for me because we were working with the text, with the bodies, with ourselves through a very intimate and open process. Currently, I am acting dramaturg for Sock & Buskin’s Cabaret, the biggest production I have worked on so far in terms of cast, crew, and budget. It has been a challenging but also an extremely enriching time for me thus far, as it taught me how to interact with a variety of departments and connect the pragmatic work behind the stage with the creative work on the stage. My philosophy of theater making and also directing derives largely from this past inspiring year of theater practice. 
I would like to make the rehearsal and performance practice for Coriolanus as candid and as deep as possible. I believe in dialectics and thus in the process of discussion, examination, and candor. It is only in hearing all voices that a plenteous interpretation of a text and of the theater process as such can be arrived at. For this reason, I will strive to make the rehearsal process a productive, generative, and intense experience for all involved, cast and crew, by cutting down hierarchies and making my own position as the director available for discourse. I see my mission as the director in the opening of doors and the challenging of opinions and I hope that I will be challenged in my opinions in return. In this way, I hope that our production will let the process of production speak itself and be an educational experience for everyone involved, including myself.