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20 Mar 2011

Offending The Audience

Photo: Emily Mast

Offending The Audience
Emily Mast / The Panorama Theater


Friday, Saturday & Sunday, March 25-27 8 o'clock PM Tickets $10 / $8 Students & Seniors

Emily Mast
+ 1 503 853 1374

The Panorama Theater
1122 W 24th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90007

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Offending The Audience is an 'anti-play' or a play-as-manifesto that was written in 1966 by the Austrian avant-garde novelist and playwright Peter Handke. In essence, it is an hour-long lecture about theater that, by necessity, must take place in a theater while attempting to be as un-theatrical as possible.

The stage is bare and there is (seemingly) no plot, no characters, no costumes, no stage direction, no scenery, no representation and no illusion. Speech is abruptly directed at the audience to acknowledge and emphasize their presence (as equally, if not more, important than the actors' presence). The script is literal, blunt and self-reflexive: the actors describe their surroundings, they state moment-by-moment what is happening in the room, they discuss audience expectations, they declare that nothing theatrical will happen, they make audience members aware of their physical bodies by drawing attention to what they're looking at, what they're wearing and how they're breathing, and state that the audience is in fact the subject of this piece. They eventually compliment the audience on how 'dreamy' and unforgettable they are, how they 'saved the piece' and then proceed to insult them with names that become increasingly random and ridiculous ('chuckleheads, fence-sitters, superfluous lives'). An acoustic pattern arises that eventually renders their words meaningless nonsense. At this point, the curtain closes and roaring applause is piped in through loudspeakers.

While this play undoubtedly inspired a certain amount of shock and awe in 1966 when it was unleashed on unsuspecting German patrons, plenty of theatrical works have since dealt with the ossification of traditional theater. The play has been restaged a handful of times in the last decade (once in Lithuania and twice in the United States) but has produced less than enthusiastic responses. When conveyed by professional actors, Handke's dissection of the theatrical experience tends to result in pretentious-sounding, offensively repetitive gibberish.

In this particular adaptation, seven children between the ages of six and twelve remove the audience from the artificiality of a critical discourse of artifice by introducing real play into a play that, for all of its avant-garde seminality is, to a contemporary ear, far too self-conscious to be listened to. The childrens' lack of pretense allows the audience to experience the piece empathetically.

This new take on Handke by no means resembles a conventional children's play. Rather, it is a conceptual gesture that will be staged in a conventional theater.


With: Zane Amundsen, Amber Barbell, Mathew Davis, Bailey Garcia, Kaitlin Morgan, Gerald Orzikh & Talyan Wright

Director : Emily Mast
Assistant Director: Kenard Bunkley
Lighting Design: Chris Kuhl
Sound Design: Jake Viator

Emily Mast is a LA-based visual artist who works primarily with people, movement and sound to advocate uncertainty as live sculptural material. Last November she staged 'Everything, Nothing, Something, Always (Walla!)' at X-initiative in New York for Performa 09. She has presented her work at Steve Turner Contemporary in Los Angeles, Samson Projects in Boston and the Paris Project Room in Paris, France. She was a resident artist at Yaddo in 2010 and at Skowhegan in 2006. She participated in the Mountain School of Art and unitednationsplaza Berlin in 2007. This past May she was part of a symposium at the Museum of Modern Art in New York entitled 'Audience Experiments: Contemporary Art in the Age of Spectacle'. Please visit for more information.