Acclaimed theater auteur David Levine premieres his latest reality-bending project, VENICE SAVED: A SEMINAR, beginning previews March 19th at P.S. 122. For this inquiry into the nature of democracy and the value of "political theater," Levine has eliminated the "audience" and gathered everyone around a seminar table peppered with cast members who may, or may not, be acting. The topic of this seminar is Simone Weil's unfinished 1943 play Venise Sauvée, an allegory of democracy and its overthrow, presented on the 100th anniversary of Weil's birth.
What do we want theater to do? VENICE SAVED: A SEMINAR is a groundbreaking, gleefully irreverent discussion of this question in 21st century America. By asking "How would Weil's play be staged today?," it touches on a range of topics on the minds of artists and audiences in 2009: performance art, torture, gift bags, Blasted, outsourcing, anorexia, Israel, the TCG, Rachel Corrie, Blackwater, free beer, Iraq, the financial crisis, Barack Obama, and why TV, contemporary art, and and movies kick theater's ass every time. On the 100th anniversary of Simone Weil's birth, this unique interactive event takes her unfinished play and asks American Theater, "What were you possibly thinking?"
For VENICE SAVED: A SEMINAR, Levine has assembled a team of acclaimed performers (including Colleen Werthman, James Hannaham, and Jeff Biehl--complete casting will be announced in February) who will join the audience at the discussion table. Playwright Gordon Dahlquist has provided the discussion topics, which will be illustrated by fully staged scenes from Weil's play. With all the righteous indignation of Mike Daisey's HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA, Levine and his crew invite the audience to reconsider theater's role in 21st century America.
Simone Weil (1909 - 1943) was a mid-century French philosopher and political theorist praised by T.S. Eliot as a "genius on the level of the Saints." She fought in the Spanish Civil War. She was also a Christian mystic. And an anorexic. And a Marxist. And a Jew who fled Paris with her family one day ahead of Hitler's armies. Like her compatriots Sartre and Camus, Weil wrote a play dramatizing the situation she, her countrymen, and indeed, the entire Western World faced during the second World War. The play was called Venise Sauvée, based on the same story Thomas Otway used for his tragedy, Venice Preserv'd. Venise Sauvée tells the story of a 17th century conspiracy to overthrow the Venetian Republic, Europe's only democracy, and deliver it into the hands of the Spanish Emperor. On the eve of the coup, one of the conspirators is seized with pity for the unsuspecting Venetians, and betrays his comrades to the Venetian authorities, who in turn betray him. The unfinished play about the ethics of democracy was discovered among Weil's papers after Weil's death in 1943. She died in exile in England, refusing to eat more than her countrymen were rationed in occupied France.
Best known for his 2007 performance project BAUERNTHEATER ("farmers theater"), in which an method actor played a German farmer on an open field, 10 hours a day, for a month. David Levine's work, which fuses performance, theater, and conceptual art, has been seen in Europe and the USA at Documenta XII, Galerie Magnus Muller (Berlin), Gavin Brown@Passerby (New York) and HAU2 (Berlin), as well as in Cabinet Magazine, The New York Times, ART/US, Bomb, Theater, Theater der Zeit, and the upcoming February 2009 issue of The Believer. He was awarded a 2007 Kulturstiftung Des Bundes grant for BAUERNTHEATER, the film of which has screened in New York, Berlin, Morocco, and Austria. He is the 2007 recipient of a NYFA Fellowship for Cross-Disciplinary/Performative work, and a 2008 recipient of the Etant donnés grant for VENICE SAVED: A SEMINAR. He has directed conventional theater at the Sundance Theater Lab, the Atlantic Theater, the Public, Primary Stages, and the Vineyard Theaters in New York, as well as more experimental work at Soho Rep, La MaMa, and Galapagos Artspace. He lives in New York and Berlin, where he is the Director of the Studio Program at the European College of Liberal Arts. He holds an MA in English Literature from Harvard University.
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Theater: P.S. 122
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