direction, set design and light design Robert Wilson
with Mikhail Baryshnikov
and Willem Dafoe
by Daniil Kharms
adapted by Darryl Pinckney
costumes and make up Jacques Reynaud
associate set design Annick Lavalle-Benny
light designer A.J. Weissbard
music curated by Hal Willner
sound designer Marco Olivieri
assistant director Lynsey Peisinger / Tilman Hecker
assistant costume design Micol Notarianni
stage manager Jane Rosenbaum
technical director Reinhard Bichsel
lighting supervisor Marcello Lumaca
stagehand supervisor Paolo Felicetti
company manager Simona Fremder
a Baryshnikov Productions, Change Performing Arts and The Watermill Center project
commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival, Spoleto56 Festival dei 2Mondi, Théâtre de la Ville-Paris/Festival d’Automne à Paris, DeSingel Antwerp
executive producer CRT Artificio
in English with Italian subtitles curated by Prescott Studio, Firenze
Pioneering theatre director Robert Wilson (Threepenny Opera 2008; Happy Days 2009; Krapp’s Last Tape 2009; Shakespeare’s Sonnets 2010; Lulu 2012) returns to Spoleto with his brand new theatrical production, The Old Woman. Developed with, and starring, legendary dancer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov, and co-starring world-renowned actor Willem Dafoe, The Old Woman is an adaptation of the work of the same name by Russian author, Daniil Kharms.
Born in St Petersburg in 1905, Kharms suffered through Stalinist rule for much of his life, eventually he was arrested, imprisoned and killed by Soviet soldiers in the Gulags at age 36. The shortness of Kharms’ life parallels the brevity of his absurdist writings, some of which stretch to little more than a paragraph. One exception is The Old Woman, an obscure, brilliant and slyly political novella written in the 1930s.
Carrying echoes of Beckett and Ionesco in its deadpan narrative, The Old Woman is perhaps the finest work by one of the great avant-garde Russian authors, following the story of a struggling writer who cannot find peace with himself.
An old lady is standing in the courtyard and holding a wall clock in her hands. I walk past the old woman, stop and ask her, ‘What time is it?’
‘You look,’ the old woman says to me.
I look and see that the clock has no hands.
‘There are no hands,’ I say.
The old woman looks at the face of the clock and says to me, ‘It’s a quarter to three.’
The New York Times described Robert Wilson as "a towering figure in the world of experimental theater." Wilson, born in 1941 in Waco Texas, is among the world’s foremost theater and visual artists. His works for the stage unconventionally integrate a wide variety of artistic media, including dance, movement, lighting, sculpture, music, and text. His images are aesthetically striking and emotionally charged, and his productions have earned the acclaim of audiences and critics worldwide. Wilson’s awards and honors include two Guggenheim Fellowship awards (1971 and 1980), the nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama (1986), the Golden Lion for sculpture from the Venice Biennale (1993), the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for lifetime achievement (1996), the Premio Europa award from Taormina Arte (1997), election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2000), and Commandeur des arts et des lettres (2002) among others. Together with composer Philip Glass, he created the seminal opera Einstein on the Beach. With productions such as Deafman Glance, KA MOUTain and GUARDenia Terrace, Life and Times of Sigmund Freud, CIVIL warS, Death Destruction & Detroit or A Letter for Queen Victoria he redefined and expanded theater. Wilson’s collaborators include diverse writers and musicians such as Susan Sontag, Lou Reed, Heiner Müller, Jessye Norman, David Byrne, Tom Waits, and Rufus Wainwright. Wilson has also left his imprint on masterworks such as The Magic Flute, Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Madama Butterfly, Dreamplay, Peer Gynt, The Threepenny Opera, Shakesepeare’s Sonnets and Krapp’s Last Tape.
Mikhail Baryshnikov, a native of Riga, Latvia, was born in 1948 and began studying ballet at the age of nine. As a teenager he moved to Leningrad where he entered the Vaganova Choreographic School, graduating from student to principal dancer of the Kirov Ballet in 1969. In 1974, he left the Soviet Union to dance with major ballet companies around the world including the New York City Ballet where he worked with George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. In 1980 he began a 10-year tenure as Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre, nurturing a new generation of dancers and choreographers.
From 1990 to 2002, Mr. Baryshnikov was director and dancer with the White Oak Dance Project, which he co-founded with choreographer Mark Morris. White Oak was born of Baryshnikov’s desire "to be a driving force in the production of art," and, indeed, it expanded the repertoire and visibility of American modern dance. In 2005, he opened the Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC), a creative home for local and international artists to develop and present work. Located in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, BAC houses four studios, a 150 -seat studio theater, and a 238-seat Jerome Robbins Theater. Through its residency program, BAC gives space and time to young and established artists to dream and create in the Center’s studios without any commercial pressure. BAC also presents contemporary, innovative work by artists from the worlds of dance, theater, music, and film at low or no cost to the public. Under his leadership as Artistic Director, BAC programs serve approximately 500 artists, and more than 20,000 audience members each year. Among Mr. Baryshnikov’s many awards are the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Honor, the Commonwealth Award, the Chubb Fellowship, the Jerome Robbins Award, and the 2012 Vilcek Award. In 2010 he was given the rank of Officer of the French Legion of Honor. Beside his career as a dancer he has starred as actor on Broadway - among others in Metamorphosis (Tony Award nomination and Drama Desk Award) - and on movies such as The Turning Point (Oscar nomination) White Nights and various television shows. In 2012 he presented the show In Paris at Spoleto Festival.
Willem Dafoe is an American film and stage actor. He’s a founding member of the experimental theatre company The Wooster Group and created and performed in all the group’s work from 1977-2003. He returns to collaborate with Wilson following his recent performance in The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic. He has had roles in a wide range of films, including The Hunter, AntiChrist, 444: Last Day on Earth, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Miral, A Woman, The Dust of Time, Go Go Tales, Daybreakers, Inside Man, American Psycho, Wild at Heart, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Auto Focus, Tom and Viv, Streets of Fire, To Live and Die in L.A., Born on the Fourth of July, The English Patient, The Last Temptation of Christ, Mississippi Burning, The Boondock Saints, Spider-Man, The Loveless, eXIstenZ, Clear and Present Danger, Light Sleeper and The Aviator; as well as voice roles in the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox and Finding Nemo. Dafoe has been twice been nominated for the Academy Award: for Platoon and Shadow of the Vampire. Willem Dafoe first worked with Robert Wilson in his Video Portraits series.