the theater is a blank page

Premiere: 
April 2015
Location: 
Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio

the theater is a blank page is a collaboration between SITI Company and the visual artist Ann Hamilton, winner of the National Medal of Arts. This immersive and interdisciplinary performance installation uses the entirety of the theater, leading the audience from the balconies to the production shops to the wings and onto the stage itself.

Throughout the performance, a “Reader” delivers text from Virginia Woolf’s modernist masterpiece To the Lighthouse. The production premiered at the Wexner Center for the Arts, and won the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Artistic Excellence Award. Richard Sanford of Columbus Underground called the theater is a blank page “a tribute to life, a paean to sensation fully experienced, a howl into the void, a sensual expression of a deep love of language, and a diamond-hard burst of light,” and “one of the most moving theatrical experiences I’ve ever had.” Its early inspiration was a product of SITI Company’s involvement in Anne Hamilton’s massive installation work, the event of a thread at the 5th Ave Armory in New York City in 2013.

Notes from the Directors:

Throughout history the theater has been useful in specific ways at particular historical moments. Tragedy, for example, was invented in ancient Greece to provide a space and time for citizens to absorb the new concept of democracy and to consider the ramifications of democratic law and hegemonic order. In another context, say during the reign of a totalitarian regime when freedom of expression is repressed, the theater, via metaphor and allegory, can allow communication through indirect allusion. Currently we inhabit a culture in which busyness and distraction have become not only the baseline of modern existence, but also a subject matter of great confusion and, concurrently, of great urgency. The theater is in a unique position to offer alternatives to the fast pace and panic of our times. One of the most powerful aspects of the theater is the artists’ ability to alter the audience’s sensation of time by consciously changing the time signature. We can change the experience of time by first paying attention to how time passes.

– Anne Bogart

In silence or in sound, reading and being read to are forms of touch. The words of poets and writers stir us. When this happens we may be compelled to note, copy, or underline, and often to share that touch – by passing the book from hand to hand, by reading out loud, or by sharing the page. The distance between author and reader and reader and reader diminishes as the capacity of words to compel recognition travels from contact to contact, screen to screen, and perhaps from hand to hand. The condition of the book connects the far away found inside its covers to the window light, the cloth on the table, the wood of the chair, the objects near at hand – just as a thread passing through cloth appears and disappears, binding the surface of what is visible above to what is invisible below. The words text and textile share the same root. The relationship between a line of writing and a line of thread are that both have a recto and a verso. The words allow us to travel and the tacit threads keep us here – the rhythmic exchange of one reeling out and the other pulling in. Cloth is the hand that is always touching.

– Ann Hamilton

More information.

the theater is a blank page from SITI Company on Vimeo.

the theater is a blank page

Directed by Anne Bogart & Ann Hamilton

Created & Performed by SITI Company

Text from To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Cast:
Akiko Aizawa
Molly Bernard
Gian-Murray Gianino
Leon Ingulsrud
Ellen Lauren
Samuel Stricklen

Reader: Rena Chelouche Fogel

Costume Design by James Schuette

Lighting & Scenic Design by Brian H Scott

Sound Design by Darron L West

Production Stage Manager Ellen Mezzera

Assistant to the Director Christopher Murrah

Project Assistant Jamie Boyle

Executive Director Michelle Preston

SITI Company and Ann Hamilton’s the theater is a blank page was commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University under the auspices of its Wexner Center Artist Residency Award program.