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Culture

US Director Creates Novel Work for Dutch Theater Festival

Acclaimed American director Robert Wilson has combined landscape and live art in his latest work for an experimental theater festival where participants are taken on a silent, four-hour walk of a Dutch island.

Terschelling Island

The Dutch island of Terschelling itself serves as the set

Wilson's latest work, "Walking," is a meticulously planned, silent four-hour walk through the dramatic landscape of Terschelling Island, off the northern Dutch coast. It's part of the 2008 Oerol Festival, a site-specific experimental theater event.

The work "is a little bit like going back to the roots of my work. So that is interesting for me," said Wilson. In the 1970s, he produced "Ka Mountain and Guardenia Terrace," a continuous seven-day silent play staged on a mountaintop in Iran.

Renowned for producing elaborate and evocative stage sets, exhibitions and installations, Wilson's works are noted for his use of very slow movement and extremes in space or time.

"Walking" is a collaboration between Wilson and two Dutch artists, Theun Mosk and Boukje Schweigman, where festival participants walk at a slow pace through the striking landscape of Terschelling's pastures, woodlands, sand dunes and beaches.

Participants become the actors

Robert Wilson

Wilson is known for experimenting with extremes in time and space

The walkers are asked to hand in their watches, phones, cameras, and any devices they may have that tell time, before they are taken to stand alone in a black box. Then they are guided to a large wooden room with a deep circle dug into the ground. Slow music plays in the background.

Finally, a field guide leads them out to a field and sets the pace for the remaining four-hour walk on the island.

Clearly, "Walking" pushes the boundaries of traditional theater. It serves as a combination of both an interactive landscape installation and a theater production: The walkers are the actors and the landscape provides the backdrop scenery for the work.

Experiencing time in a new way

Wilson said he was drawn immediately to the dramatic landscape on the island and wanted walkers to maintain a deliberately slow pace to heighten their observation during the walk.

"Our perception is different if we take more time to do something," said Wilson. "We begin to hear and see what is there in a different way. We begin to smell things in a different way. There is time to reflect."

In the early 1970s he won international acclaim for "Deafman Glance," a silent opera created in collaboration with Raymond Andrews, who is both deaf and mute.

Wilson worked together with composer Philip Glass on the opera "Einstein on the Beach." He also collaborated with musician Tom Waits and writer William S. Burroughs on the musical fable "The Black Rider."

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