Oliver Henzler took a break from rehearsals to answer our 6 Questions. You can read them here:
The idea was brought to me by my colleague and collaborator Laura Townsend. Upon reading it, I was astonished by the force of the play - the power that Genet generates in the interaction of only three characters. I was drawn to the great need all three have to find their way, their voice, to free themselves of the shackles of dependency, be it financial, social, familial dependency. The question that fascinates me is: how do we as humans truly individuate? In the midst of our intricate enmeshmeshments, how do we stand tall and maturely express and live who we are? Genet's “The Maids” speaks to the strength and courage that is required to achieve this goal.
2. In what way(s) do you think the play still speaks to audiences in 2017?
The play certainly echoes themes that will remind many of our current political climate and social discourse: twitter-like blame and victim language, narcissistic obsession with appearances and representation, the cry for change and revolt - but maybe more pertinent and important than all, the play speaks about the deep desire and need for connection.
3. You are directing a French language production in NYC, how has that effected the way you are approaching the production?
First off, I love the French language and so it has been a treat for me delve into Genet's original words and hear them brought to life by native French speakers. Working in a foreign language has sharpened my ear to the theatrical language on stage. The goal: to understand the world of the play in a visceral way without understanding every spoken word or reading the translation in the supertitles. Of course, it has also widened my empathetic sensibility to our vast multi-cultural city of New York. The appreciation of another language, another culture in our midst and the opportunity to providing the space and time for it to be experienced and appreciated by the community as a whole.
4. Who has influenced your work?
I grew up in Germany and early exposure to Goethe, Brecht and Büchner are certainly part of my theatrical DNA. Teachers such as Anne Bogart, Niky Wolcz and Andrei Serban were wonderful guides along my journey of learning about the theater and its mysteries. British performer and educator Nila Aalia taught me her theater approach called Synapsing. It helped me unlock my creative resources and is the foundation of the work I use in the rehearsal room. My two artistic inspirations are Mark Morris for his discipline, grace and mischief, and Peter Brook for his simplicity, magic and wisdom. As Brook likes to say, the word for acting in the German (‘spielen’) and French language (‘jouer’) is 'to play.' This is the root of my process: play to create and to connect.
5. What is the last good book you read?
Intelligence in the Flesh: why your mind needs your body much more than it thinks by Guy Claxton. As a Feldenkrais practitioner, I'm very passionate about advances in neuroscience and how it can help us prove the importance of the body's intelligence. Claxton elegantly and humorously explains how pervasive and outdated the Cartesian mind-body dualism is and how we can learn to understand ourselves as the wonderfully complex holistic system that we are.
6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
It is a true privilege. I am deeply touched by La MaMa's support and dedication to the artist. It is disarming to have the LaMaMa family put their trust in us as we build our work. And of course, I am very aware of the incredible history of this place. I am proud and humbled to be able to work here with this wonderful ensemble.
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