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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the social uses of art

Knapp, Bettina L.
Notes and discussion: an interview with Romain Weingarten,   pp. 457-468 PDF (7.8 MB)

Page 457

Notes and
An Interview with Romain Weingarten
by Bettina L. Knapp
Professor of Romance Languages
at Hunter College, New York City
Interviewer's Note:
"Weingarten's truth is the truth of the night-
mare, a profound and living truth; the
universe revealed in his work is authentic
. . . naive and complete ... it is the
universe of that rare . .. lucid being, the
poet . . ." so wrote one of Weingarten's
most fervent admirers, Eugene lonesco.
Weingarten's first play Akara (1948) was
performed by the Jeunes Compagnies in
Paris and acclaimed by the avant-garde.
It revealed a totally new theatrical
language based on a series of concrete
images woven about in fascinating pat-
terns on stage. Its themes, which emanated
directly from the unconscious, attempted
to make a mockery of man's hypocritical
relationships. The Nurses (1960) and
Summer (1966) were equally well received.
Here too audiences were introduced to a
Surrealistic climate; a realm in which Men
and Women Cats invaded the stage with
their anguish, violence and acidulous
humor. Alice in the Luxembourg Gardens
was performed with great success this
winter in Paris. Weingarten's linguistic
virtuosity, the sensitivity of the acting tech-
niques used in the production, made for a
delightfully absurd evening in the theatre.
There is nothing "realistic" in Weingarten's
theatre. It is composed of a' medley of
"nonsens" and takes its viewers or readers
on a trip to that strange and fascinating
land where imagination becomes an ever
fructifying force.
Q. What was your background?
A. My father was Polish and my mother,
French. I studied philosophy at the
Sorbonne ...
Q. How did you choose the theatre as a
A. I composed only verse. Then, sudden-
ly, I wrote my first play, Akara. I dis-
covered the theatre through Roger   -
Vitrac's Victor or Children Assume
Power and also through Antonin
Artaud. You recall that both Artaud
and Vitrac were friends and had
founded a theatre together. In fact,
Artaud produced Victor: a play in
which the adult world was satirized
and considered stupid, inane, hypo-
critical; whereas the children's world
thought to be fantastic at times, was
astonishingly real and sincere. I was  I
profoundly impressed by this work.
Then I wrote Akara.
One enters the theatre as one does
religion: completely and totally. Some
people have labeled my theatre "Sur-
realistic." Yet, my plays are frequent-
ly in direct opposition to the "literary"
and "scientific" aspects of Surrealism
as explicated by both Andre Breton,
the founder of Surrealism, and
Antonin Artaud, one of its chief
Q. Can you tell us something about
Akara? It's a play in which your world
of fantasy or "madness" comes to life.
It features a Man-Cat and his guests.  ;
A. Akara was the first post-war avant-  1
garde play. I don't believe that this  I
first production-because of its timing
perhaps-ever had any equivalent.
Akara is a type of nightmare; one
which includes murder, bewitchment,  M
a type of "delayed" evocation of the
horrors which I experienced uncon-
sciously during World War II. When   I
lonesco first read this play, he spoke
of it so frequently that people have
associated me with the "theatre of the
absurd" group. But the theatre of the

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