BELLONA, DESTROYER OF CITIES
JAY SCHEIB & CO.
Samuel R. Delaney’s Dhalgren is a difficult work-I maintain, Dhalgren is something singular. It took me a long time to read it. I struggled with it and slowly realized that even that experience-the struggle of reading-was somehow also part of the book. I wanted this struggle of seeing and perceiving to a central part of the experience of being present at a performance of “Bellona, Destroyer of Cities.” In the course of adapting the novel for performance I have read it seven times cover to cover. I return again and again to the pages of this book-machine and am continually surprised, appalled, brought to laugh, moved. Re-reading it, I am continually frustrated by finding passages that I have no memory of having ever read. And so this is my problem. “Bellona, Destroyer of Cities” is an ongoing reflection-one that could not, for me, be thought purely through the space and the grammar of the theater. I turned to a combination of cinema and performance: Live Cinema.
Eight cameras are placed throughout the playing space. In the bar, in the bathroom of the bar, in the bedroom, in the living room, and in the bathroom of the apartment. These cameras are then processed and mixed back to a large thin screen at the center of the stage. The actors performed for the audience and for each other, both through the cameras and live. This disorienting process carried with it a kind of Verfremdungseffekt that I find very interesting. The actors were visible through the window of Teddy’s bar but they were also visible in close-up on screen. This technique allowed for us to create specificity within an otherwise wildly chaotic landscape.
After the premiere in 2010, the production was rewritten and remade for Maison des Arts Creteil (MAC) Exit Festival, Paris (March 16-18, 2011) followed by a run at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (May 12-14, 2011).