The birth of a new theater company is always good news. But do we really need another production of Woyzeck? That was my pained response to the announcement that Big Tank Project plans to inaugurate its season with Georg BYchner's unfinished play. Woyzeck was written in 1836; the manuscript, which consisted of 27 unnumbered and unsorted scenes, was discovered and published in 1879. Theater professionals have been sorting the scenes ever since, arguing that the play is a forerunner of expressionism or denouncing it as a mishmash that should remain in darkest obscurity. I called Artistic Director Donny Levit to ask the musical question, "Why Woyzeck?"
Levit insists that his interest in Woyzeck has most to do with his concern for the causes of violence: "Woyzeck explores the individual's relationship with a violent society. It doesn't take the victim's point of view. It asks why people do terrible things. BYchner intertwines violence and poetry. There is something beautiful about the play, in the way that Woyzeck tries so hard to explain himself. He always questions his actions. He holds on, always searching for answers." Levit's production is tied directly to current events. "Why do people blow up buildings, in Oklahoma or Israel or anywhere else?" he asks. "Woyzeck explores the question, 'Where does violence come from?' The play asks us to make sense of the world."
Perhaps because of all the news about Monterey Aquarium, I assume that Big Tank refers somehow to fish. Levit corrects my misconception, asserting that "tank" refers to the military vehicle, as in Sherman. "The live event is dying. It must be explored in a muscular way, with strength, with vigilance. We [members of the company] want to keep the battle up." Levit sees Woyzeck as a rallying cry. The play opens March 15 at Bindlestiff Studios in S.F.; call 974-1167.
Applications for the fifth annual San Francisco Fringe Festival are due in the festival office March 15. The festival organizers take pride in the event's "non-curated, non-censored" status; performers are chosen on a first-come, first-accepted basis. Call 931-1094 for an application. Artistic Director Christina Augello enthuses that "more than 500 applications have been sent around the Bay Area and the world. I can hardly wait to see the completed applications." If you're not quite up to appearing in the festival, you can support its fine work at "Oscar Night at the Exit" on March 25. For $5 you get to watch and nosh with your fellow theater enthusiasts. The party starts at 5 p.m. at Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy in S.F.; call 673-3847.