Performing the Hybrid of Frank Castorf’s Judith & Rebecca Schneider’s “Performance Remains”

Photo Credit: Thomas Aurin, Volksbühne Berlin

In a seven-minute performance, The Camel, I performed the hybrid of Frank Castorf‘s Judith and Rebecca Schneider‘s “Performance Remains” on April 19, 2017 at Tufts’ Balch Arena Theater.

Inspired by Schneider’s “Performance Remains,” I argue that the in/animacy of an audience body is performance. During the action of sitting, a metaphysical performance takes place in the minds of audience members. The theatre audience gets aroused, thinks, becomes critical, views other audience members, laughs, cries, shouts, or even leaves the auditorium during the performance taking place on stage. Through these actions, while viewing a performance, audience members also perform audienceship.

Whenever I think about audienceship as performance, the first thing that comes to my mind is my own experience of viewing Castorf’s production of Judith at Volksbühne Berlin in February 2016. This five-hour performance has impressed me for many reasons. Castorf’s productions are quite challenging to view because he is not concerned with trying to please the audience as he states in his interviews. Instead, Castorf pushes the boundaries of the conventional understanding of not only theatre-making but also of being an audience member.

In the first part of my performance, I performed my memory of viewing Castorf’s Judith. I situated myself among the audience members in the auditorium in the darkness to pretend that I was viewing the performance. While I was sitting in the darkness—having a spotlight directed on me—my pre-recorded voice was also playing to illuminate my thoughts during the performance of Judith. This part was the tangible representation of my metaphysical performance.

In the second part, I performed an instructor, teaching a directing class in which I shared my experience of viewing Castorf’s production with my students. During this time, I performed on stage, and the audience members sitting in the auditorium represented the students taking the class. I told my students what I was thinking during the performance, which I reenacted in the first part. I shared with them what remained in my mind. What remained in my mind was the performance of my audienceship. Thus, I performed a slightly different version of my pre-recorded speech that was played in the first part of my performance.

By saying, “If Castorf—a stage director—brings an alive HUGE camel to the stage and the actors act with the camel, what you want to try out on stage while directing your plays is not impossible,” I ended my performance.

“If we consider performance as a process of disappearance, of an ephemerality read as vanishment (versus material remains), are we limiting ourselves to an understanding of performance predetermined by our cultural habituation to the logic of the archive?”

-Rebecca Schneider, “Performance Remains,” 2001.