By Amy Clare Tasker, Assistant Director
The Cutting Ball Theater’s mission is to produce experimental plays with an emphasis on language and images. Strindberg’s Chamber Plays have both of these in abundance, and it is especially exciting that the plays not only brim with beautiful language, but the very idea of language – and silence – is a major motif. In The Ghost Sonata, James Carpenter delivers a speech in which I can almost hear Strindberg himself saying the words: “I prefer silence, then you can hear what people think, then you can see into the past. Silence hides nothing…unlike words. I read the other day that the different languages actually arose among primitive peoples as an attempt to hide the secrets of the tribe from outsiders. That means that languages are ciphers, and he who finds the key can understand all the languages of the world…” James echoes this idea as another character in Burned House: “Speak up young man, or keep quiet! I understand equally well either way.” And in The Pelican, Gerda (Caitlyn Louchard) says to her brother: “I’d rather you talked, but not about that. I hear your thoughts in the silence… when people get together they talk endlessly, to hide their thoughts… to forget, to deafen themselves.”
In The Chamber Plays’ images, too, Strindberg experiments with language and silence. Both The Pelican and The Black Glove feature moments in which valued papers fly off desks, denounced by their creators as full of words but empty of truth. The Ghost Sonata is full of silent scenes between characters in the background, which tell a world of stories without uttering a word. The script of The Black Glove contains swaths of stage directions in which characters whisper to each other, communicate without speaking, or go about their business alone in silence. Our production of The Black Glove expands on this gesture, with Michael Locher’s versatile scenic design and Rob Melrose’s “arcade staging” in which we can see every room in the house throughout the play, peopled with characters continuing their own silent stories alongside the voiced script. When you watch The Chamber Plays, keep an eye out for when the characters are hiding something: when they speak, or when they are silent.