Dual Productions of The Ridiculous Darkness by Wolfram Lotz in Porto Alegre Theatre as an Instruction Manual for Reality

Titles of both productions
Titles of both productions | Photocollage: Cordula Flegel/Photo: Gerson de Oliviera, Pedro Mendes

For the first time, The Ridiculous Darkness by Wolfram Lotz will be staged twice in Brazil. For the 2017 Palco Giratório theatre festival, the directors Camilo de Lelis and Alexandre Dill are each putting their interpretation of the play on stage in a first for Brazil.

The Ridiculous Darkness exposes our inability to accept those who do not live according to Western standards. As Sartre said, “Hell is just – other people.” Can the problem be solved and can theatre help solve it?

Wolfram Lotz: I think so. But I guess it’s not helpful to think that it’s just a matter of understanding others. When we focus on understanding as a solution to the problems, on emphasizing commonalities, then we create an increasingly violent relationship to these actually “foreign” things. That which cannot be resolved through understanding in some form of commonality must then be combated all the more. I believe this problem is much underestimated.
In my opinion, – and this is what the play points out – it is about better learning how to deal with what is left in the dark for one’s self, what simply cannot be appropriated through understanding. This darkness must be accepted. In The Ridiculous Darkness this is played out from the great global level to the tangible interpersonal level, and ultimately it is also about the relationship to oneself. We often feel “foreign” to ourselves, as well. I tried to illustrate this in my play. I don’t know if it will have any results, but I hope so.
 
The inspiration for The Ridiculous Darkness was the 2010 trial against ten Somali pirates in Hamburg. It was the first trial of its kind in 400 years. Is reality getting more and more like fiction?

Lotz: Reality and fiction have always been very close, at all times. It seems much more important to me that such a trial is absurd because in order for a court to condemn a person it must pretend that it understands the condemned.
 
Do you watch the productions or at least the video recordings of the productions?

Lotz: Yes, on principle always, if I can. I understand theatre as an artistic conversation. With the production, the theatre is responding to my writing, and in order to take this form of conversation seriously, I have to listen to the responses! Regardless of whether I expected the responses or whether I liked them.
 
The Ridiculous Darkness is actually a radio play, although its theatrical potential is obvious. What freedom do you grant directors when they stage one of your plays? Are there limits?

Lotz: No, there are no limits for me. I understand the theatre as a social place, and I want things to be done there in the same way as in the society that I am imagining, for that is what art thrives on. If an actor decides not to speak a monologue from my play because she considers it flat wrong and instead speaks her own, then that is much more in the sense of my plays. The only bad production for me is when I realize that the participants did not really grapple with the writing.

In your “Speech on the Theatre of the Impossible” you say, “Theatre is the place where reality and fiction meet, so it is the place where both lose their composure in a holy collision.” Is this what enables the theatre to make the supposedly impossible possible?

Lotz:A play is a kind of instruction manual for reality. I try to take this relationship seriously in my plays. This also goes so far that I may demand the impossible in the stage directions. By demanding the impossible, the constraints and limitations (whether physical or social) once again show themselves in a special way, and by wording it and demanding it again and again, a longing is created that makes the future possible at all – indeed it’s the only way to create a space for the possible.
 
The interview was conducted by the journalists and theatre critics of AGORA Crítica Teatral.
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