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French Director Roland Auzet - Koltès' Play

For the conference "The Sense of Sound" organized by NYU-Center for French Civilization and Culture, French director and composer Roland Auzet directs In the Solitude of the Cotton Fields by BM Koltès with two American actresses (Oct 5 & 8 at NYU Skirball). He speaks of his approach to the text and his experience.

Nicole:  What attracted you to the text of In the Solitude of the Cotton Fields by Bernard-Marie Koltès, as a director, and as a composer? 

Roland: At the theatrical level, and in line with the legacy left by Koltès’ view of the world, I would say that we are today, “after the bacchanal,” “after the orgy,” in short: after the explosive moment of modernity Koltès’ writings represent.

So, what to do? Throughout La solitude des champs de coton (written in 1985), Koltès proposes to reinvest in questioning one’s relationship to the other: two presences, different, where the central question of desire plays out and is negotiated. A dialogue of two solitary figures confined by the underlying question in every exchange: what do you want from me? Each person lives in a trap that he/she sets for the other.  As Baudrillard said, “everyone wants his other.”

Within Koltès, the opposing logics of supposition and plausibility unite in a dance of death that is nothing more than pure jouissance regarding the end of the other. For the desire of the other is also always the desire to put an end to the other.The sole question is to know who will have a better grip, in occupying space, speech, silence, the interior of the other; the world of Koltès is a trap that functions perfectly.

At the level of the music and of the composition, I had been interested in developing a project around the tradition of “Hörspiel” with the possibility of creating music that will make its way through the intimacy of Koltès’ words with the use of a headset as a device for each spectator. 

Nicole: Could you tell us more about this sophisticated sound system and headset built by La Muse en circuit for the play and the reason behind your choice of public space? 

Roland:  The choice of the headset is part of the scenography, a choice born from reflecting on the presence of intimacy in public space: Bernard-Marie Koltès’ text is buzzing with rhetoric and retraces the progression of the body and of discourse on the periphery of social ties, of the desire and the rapport with the city.

It can only take place in an agora, in a circle, where the private meets the public space. The scenography of the project is built upon the dealer and the client’s desires.

Public areas are characterized by a tension between predictable and unpredictable, between confidence and instability, whether bad or good and with uncertain results. Koltès’ text speaks of this “in-between.” A site like a mall or a supermarket is the perfect place for the deals expressed by the two characters.

Besides, the project questions the role of today’s public spaces: they could appear extremely secure or disconnected. Maybe the intimacy of In the Solitude of the Cotton Fields could become a resource for the public to express and emancipate one-self in a privileged space.

The headset enables us to access this site-specific situation; it offers everyone the possibility to create his or her own path within the public space. This is what the project is. 

Nicole: So far, only men have performed the play. You chose to work with two actresses in the role of The Dealer and The Client. (In the U.S., Oceana James and Tory Vazquez and in France, Audrey Bonnet and Anne Alvaro). Could you tell us more about this choice?

Roland: Yes at the beginning, two men; well, more exactly two beings with desires. With two women, it feels like strangeness leading to clarity, like a path to the secret of the play. It is somehow going farther than Koltès’ context of the 80s, but with Koltès’ words.

Together, the two women add an ambiguity of genre that brings another powerful understanding of the relationship. It goes beyond social conventions as if impossible to tame.

Nicole: For this U.S. premiere you are working with Tory Vazquez and Oceana James. What are the main challenges you face working with them?

Roland: Working with American actresses is like a new vision of the play. It is not so much the language that is different but more about understanding how the questions raised in the text are being expressed in a different language. In addition the American actresses bring different theatrical traditions. The language of the body and the relation to it is different. It is exciting to understand the mechanisms they use to question the text.

For a director to interrogate the text using different languages is a rich and unique experience. Next year, the National Theater of Taipei has asked me to direct the play in Mandarin. The intimacy and this question of desire in Asia will be another rich adventure. 

Interview conducted By Nicole Birmann Bloom (Program Officer, Performing Arts)  in September 2017 in New York