German dramatist Peter Handke's notorious play, Offending The Audience, is the latest production by Off-Off-Broadway's Bat Theater Company, May 21-June 21. Resident company director Simon Hammerstein, grandson of the famed lyricist, directs.
With Offending The Audience, written in 1966 (Handke's first play), the intention is to do exactly what the title states, not by the "shock" effect of many playwrights, but by having the actors tell the audience exactly what this production will not do. In a barrage of shot-down possibilities, the piece actually emerges into more of a message than a strict narrative, with the message insisting that the theatrical performance is a reality unto itself; it doesn't mimic an everyday situation.
Thematically, many of Handke's plays explore the relationship between language and behavior, relaying a belief that what one can think is dictated by what one can say. Other plays include: Kaspar, The Ward Wants to Be Warden (or My Fool Tutor), and The Ride Across Lake Constance.
Director Hammerstein told PBOL (May 20), "My approach to the piece, was to get all eleven actors to memorize the whole thing, enabling me to entirely change the performance each night. One night a certain actor begins the play, the next night another...never knowing when they will begin picking up each others lines. It allowed me to attack the conventions of performance, in many of the same ways that Handke attacked the theatre with this play." Hammerstein's work has been seen at numerous NY locations including: Soho Rep, Joe's Pub (at The Public Theater), House of Candles, The Actor's Studio, E.S.T. and The Pantheon Theater.
Performing Handke's text will be The Bat Theatre's resident acting company, The Furballs, named after a certain demonic species in Mac Wellman's play, Sincerity Forever. The Bat Theater Company was formed in late 1997 as a group of veteran theatre artists acting as producers. The "Bat Pack" includes: Jim "Chairman of the Board" Simpson, Mac Wellman, Kyle Chepulis, Eduardo Machado, Jan Leslie Harding, Mike Nolan, and Laurie Stone. Previous Bat productions have included: Simpson's adapted kabuki play, Benten Kozo, Herman Daniel Farrell III's Bedfellows, Karen Finley's Return of the Chocolate-Smeared Women, Rogelio Martinez's They Still Mambo in Heaven, The Black Hole serial, and the adobe theater [sic] serial, Larry and the Werewolf.
For tickets ($10) or more information on Offending The Audience call (212) 226-0051.
-- By Sean McGrath