Our experience with the audience
It is amazing what "ALMA" makes to the audience, and how the audience reacts. And what kind of an experience it gives to the audience. They can choose their angle of observation, their distance from the object, move around, move in and out, zoom in and out during the scene, follow an actress throughout the scene, sometimes travel with her, and so on. And it influences the way of acting also. It´s a new way of acting. It has nothing to do anymore with any imitation of life or any "method acting" or any projection which we have in the theatre. Or any respect of a frame, that we must have when we are shooting a film. Nothing of all that. It is like really living in a certain intensity, which is more than ordinary life. It is living a moment, and letting others peep into it or observe it. It creates a new kind of reality. It has nothing to do with the illusion of theatre or with cinema. It has nothing to do with the aesthetic distance. There is almost no aesthetic distance when you watch the scenes. You are so close to the actors, you are in the room with them, you are sharing the space with them, there is no fourth wall. And yet you are not there for them, for the actors. It is amazing. I am not capable to describe or to define all the aspects of that experience, but it seems to me a very, very meaningful experience in the dramatic arts.
It is so unusual that some people can´t cope with it. They sit there like petrified since they are not used to take responsibility for their own interests and instincts. They are used to their seats as a subscriber, they are used that the lights go out, and somewhere in front of them, something takers place, in one of that old, not contemporary spaces which the most of our theatres are. They are not from our time, they are overworn, they are not very useful for most of the subjects we are obliged to tell nowadays. That is another experience. Therefore some people are really petrified by the offer of that evening.
What surprised me, I must say, was the fact that the "Polydrama" was recieved by the crushing majority of the audience with great enthusiasm. I was expecting much more reserved reception on the part of the audience. I was afraid. I must say that I had these apprehensions in the beginning when we were talking about that form, and it was absolutely unclear how they were going to react. I could imagine an audience falling back, and saying: "No, no, no, I am not going into that kind of experience, I don´t want it!" Also I didn´t know how the audience will react to the situation where they are taken. They are deprived of the illusionistic attributes of a stage, when they are deprived of the aesthetic distance. I didn´t know how they will react. And yet, what I see is: They are ready. They are ready to take it. And they are watching it with great fascination ? I was watching the audience, too. I think we are going a way beyond what Brecht was dreaming with the "epic theatre". It has a feeling of "epic theatre" in a way: We are telling a story, quite a huge story. We are using all kinds of means to tell the story. There are the actors, there is the smell, there is the food being cooked. There is the feeling that so many things are happening at the same time, which you cannot watch. And that is also an experience. You become aware that you are not omnipresent. And if you are not omnipresent, you are not omniscient, and you are not omnipotent. You have very strong experience of your own, you become very humble, because you realize that you will never see everything at the same time. And you will never see everything. And even if you see, if you go many times, you will never have the same combination of scenes, which also ends up to a certain meaning.
I had the night before yesterday a special experience. I followed Werfel at a certain point, and came out towards the end of the first act, the first half - and all of a sudden I saw for the first time the burial cortége, you know, Mahler´s funeral, walking at a distance there, in field, and the lights of the torches showed through the windows of the house, of the walk.
It was of such serial beauty that moment! And all of a sudden I saw old Alma standing there in the field, hardly lit, and I realized that Mahler was standing opposite her, at a distance of some fifty meters or so. And it was raining outside. And that was an event of pure beauty all of a sudden within all that experience. It had no text, it had nothing - it was an event.