Peter Handke: Radioplay

Peter Handke: Radioplay

Peter Handke: Radioplay

Austrian writer Peter Handke, born 1942, wrote many plays during the 1960s and ’70s, like Kaspar, 1968 – about Kaspar Hauser‘s acquisition of German language –, a play that typifies Handke’s project of: questioning everyday language ; denouncing manipulation through speech ; disconnecting what is seen and what is heard via creative use of sound effects. Radioplay, another play from 1968, is in the same frame of mind.

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Peter Handke’s radio play Hörspiel, was originally produced by Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR, West German Broadcasting) in 1968 and subsequently issued on LP by Deutsche Grammophon in 1973. An English version by US translator Michael Roloff was published under the title Radioplay (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NYC), presumably in the late 1970s. It was adapted as a radio drama in 1980 by Theatre For Your Mother, an experimental theater company founded by director Mark Lutwak in Santa Cruz, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lutwak relocated to the East Coast in the late 1970s and resumed the Theatre For Your Mother activities in NYC, producing several Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett plays for the stage and documenting them on LP, like their take on Beckett’s Cascando and Words and Music, released on LP in 1979 and available on UbuWeb. An accordionist and keyboardist himself, Lutwak first heard Wayne Horwitz play piano in California and the two went on to collaborate on a number of projects (“two dozens”, says Lutwak in the liner notes), with Horwitz contributing accompanying or incidental music to Lutwak’s theater plays. Later on, Lutwak got in touch with other NYC avantgarde jazz musicians and produced LPs by and with Denis Charles, John Zorn, David Sewelson, Bill Horvitz, etc.

In Radioplay, an array of 5 Interrogators harass an unnamed Respondent, played by James Zitlow, with a continuous barrage of questions resorting to every tricks an interrogator is supposed to: menacing, pretending, joking, psychologizing, etc, with all the nuances in between. Actress Y York is especially remarkable as the main interrogator, at times pleading, cajoling, laughing or feigning. The Respondent occasionally answers, though usually not in synch with the last question – more often than not, he seems to answer his own questions instead. It would be easy to be hypnotized by the litany of questions, were it not for their arresting, nonsensical aspect and by the quirky noises that constantly interrupt the flow: sounds of all kinds, like everyday objects, street noises, outdoor sounds, purposeless Foley art, or music instruments like violin, harmonica, guitar, accordion, electric organ, ocarina, all conceived by Wayne Horwitz. These sounds, completely disconnected from the situation as they are, perfectly mirror the non-sense of the dialogues, while serving as a counterpoint to the dramatic situation.

01 Part One (25:40)
02 Part Two (27:00)

Total time 52:40
LP released by Theatre For Your Mother, ref. TFYM 006, NYC, 1980

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