Nikolaus Wolcz

Nikolaus Wolcz

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2009/10, 2010/11

Niky Wolcz studied at the Theatre University in Bucharest and has worked as an actor, teacher and director throughout Europe. He joined the faculty of Columbia University in 1996; his productions there have included Twelfth Night, The Caucasian Chalk Circle (directed with Andrei Serban), Ionesco’s Bald Soprano and The Lesson, and Turandot (directed with Ursula Wolcz). European directing credits include Macbeth, Waiting for Godot and The Temptation of St. Anthony. In opera, he has directed productions of Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, Il Campiello, La Bohème and Roberto Devereaux (with Andrei Serban). He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in December 2003 with his choreography for the company premiere of Benvenuto Cellini, and he choreographed Faust at the Met in spring 2005. He directs workshops on topics including Commedia dell’arte, biomechanics, allegorical theatre and Dada theatre. In 2005, together with his wife Ulla Wolcz and some of his former Columbia students, he founded an experimental theatre of his own: Kuden.

Research Project

Elpis: No Better Than the "As If" of "Ur-Scenes" Pandora’s tool box for acting

Where do acting tools originate, where do they come from? At this point, my expedition to the wellspring of ‘ur-scenes’ raises the question of amendments and more detailed references to additional comparative areas of inquiry. This includes:

    1. Some of the codified Far Eastern styles of acting (kathagi) and their performers who achieved their skills through monomane/anukarana/parampara/kuden/imitatio techne – respectively in an oral tradition and a master-apprentice relation.
    2. The European tradition, perpetuated by Renaissance all’improvviso/improvisation (commedia dell’arte and stock characters) and aiming at acting based on imagination rather than memory.
    3. The universal anarchic demands placed by contemporary theatre on all these aleatory acting styles under the constant seesaw of ‘chance and necessity’ as reinvented and practiced by Artaud, Cieslak, Sadayakko or Isadora Duncan—and their respective ‘ur-scenes’.

What are the guiding principles of the ‘grand simulacrum’? What do we need for a more centered approach to: persona, mask work, archetypes, prototypes, or even the various psychological guises that organize the actor’s consciousness in his/her ‘trans(ce)-form(ed)-a(c)tions’ in the creative process of rehearsals?

On a practical level:

A Sadayakko allegory could serve as point of reference to discover differences and similarities in the creative invention or re-invention of corresponding acting tools. My hope is that labeled techniques will indiscriminately reflect the ‘mirroring knowledge’ of a creative acting gesture

“I was not there, but I remember,” continues to be my guiding dictum for finding the sapling, for my quest and my project.

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung