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“Blind” Shows Maeterlinck, Artaud in New Light
Posted by: Official_Press_Release 05:37 pm EDT 03/15/17

THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY - Theater for the New City Executive Director Crystal Field presents “Blind,” a contemporary adaptation of a classic work in which 12 abandoned beings try to figure out their present and the future, but eventually submit to their fate.

At a time when many theaters fill with revivals rather than commenting on the drama playing out in politics, “Blind” unabashedly and even proudly looks at politics and art through this production that mixes Maurice Maeterlinck’s “The Blind" with Antonin Artaud's writings.

Audiences seeking an adventurous, interactive experience may do well to stop by and see this 70-minute production with no intermission being presented March 30 to April 9 at the Cabaret Theater, Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave.

Dennis Yueh-Yeh Li adapted and directed the show starring Leah Bachar, Brad Burgess, Chun Cho, Monica Hunken, Kevin Lynch and Equiano.

"'Blind’ is a contemporary fable and criticism of the modern society and theatre,” said Li, The Living Theatre’s associate artistic director.

He sees Maeterlinck’s “The Blind” as “a perfect fable to address the contemporary sociopolitical and artistic state.”

The show is designed as avant-garde theatre, exploring performance and “the power of audience engagement through its theatre aesthetics," Li added.

The production also is meant to be an answer to those who argue that “art is apolitical.” Theatre too easily becomes a tribute to the past, rather than a tool to look at the present and take action.

“The incessant recycling of Shakespeare, of Chekhov, the attention to either trivial or self-absorbing subject matters predominates in the theatre industry,” Li added. “The sociopolitical function of theatre is forgotten. Art is no longer a force to challenge, to push boundaries.”

Li sees avant garde theatre as a way of looking at the nature of reality rather than simply trying to recapture reality.

“I am always finding ways to challenge theatre as an art form, for instance, how silence can be staged, or how no action can be staged,” Li added.

He sees the passivity of characters in "Waiting for Godot" as a modern metaphor for people who watch the world around them, living on social media rather than in daily life.

“‘The Blind’ has the similar storytelling. However, ‘The Blind’ is written way earlier than ‘Waiting for Godot,’” Li continued. “People, aware of the global change with the uprising of the alt-right tend to just sit home talking, and posting on Facebook, rather than rolling up their sleeves and do something.”

Many members of the Living Theatre, the oldest experimental theatre in America, are also part of the production, to carry on the legacy of avant-garde theatre.

Theater for the New City co-founder and Executive Director Crystal Field was a good friend of Judith Malina and Julien Beck, who founded the Living Theatre in the 1950s.

“Living Theatre was doing a lot of poetic theatre works, such as Gertrude Stein,” Li said. “Later, Living Theatre turned to more collective works.”

They tried to create works as a collective to help the social change, collaborating John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and many others.

The group traveled and performed in Europe and Latin America, taking part in student protests and riots in May 1968 in France.

Members of the group were later arrested in Brazil following a performance before they were bailed out by Allen Ginsberg and other artists.

After Beck died in 1985, Hanon Reznikov and Malina ran the group, continuing to produce new works on and off stage.

“They brought performances to the street,” Li said, noting the group saw theater as a key part of the political debate.

After Reznikov died, Malina wrote many of the group’s plays as the Living Theatre pushed “further to actively engage the audience members,” Li said.

“The audience members often need to do things, have a conversation with the actors during the play,” he added.

After Malina died in 2015, the group proceeded without a single leader at the helm. “Now, instead of having one person leading the company, we return back to this very idea of collectivism,” Li added.

The artistic director and the associate artistic directors are the artistic team that decides the “direction for the company,” he said.

“We will finish a play that Judith left us, and we will continue to create works collectively,” Li said.

Blind, March 30 - April 9, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets $18. Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (212) 254-1109.
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