Timothy Ryan Olson and Sarah Fraunfelder in Theater Factions production of God is a DJ. by Falk Richter, translated and directed by Yuval Sharon.
Theater Faction is a young, cutting edge group formed two years ago by UC Berkeley grads Erik Nelson and Yuval Sharon, and dedicated to developing new ways of defining theater for this century.
Last January, their inaugural piece Oresteia, a trilogy split up among 3 directors and presented as one evening, was a total success. Now theyre back with their own translation of Falk Richters cult satire, God is a DJ, running at Ontological Theater through June 26th.
Richters got a real cult following, and I heard about this play in Berlin, says Sharon, who worked for a year in Germany before coming to New York. It had such a buzz about it that I read it, and liked it immediately. After we founded our group, it occurred to me this piece would serve our sensibility. Its had a London production, but the translation was definitely for an English audience. Its not a good reflection of contemporary German, and it needed the rhythm of American youth culture in order to work here. So I redid the translation, which turned out to be a real revision.
According to Sharon, one of the main things that drew him to Richters work was that he doesnt develop one storyline, but uses its words instead for different functions.
How the actors use words, and how they bounce off the space is what makes the story, so the play is location and actor specific, he explains. This play adopts to the people doing it. It needs everyone to get their hands dirty, and that appeals to me as a director. It reflects the character of the artist. In German sensibility, the playwright is one part of the team, not dominant.
The plot of God is a DJ involves two nameless characters - a male DJ and a female used-to-be VJ-who decide to live together in one space, while being constantly observed on the internet and by a live gallery audience. The play explores how the media and life as performance affect their relationship and the idea of what every day means.
Its interesting to note how John Lennon and Yoko did something like this (for love), and how this generation does it very differently, Sharon notes. Now everything is basically for sale, even their everyday lives. On stage, youll see them doing daily things like cooking and so on, with surveillance cameras and videos of their previous lives projected on the wall. All video work and music is by Erik. The title comes from a Faithless track, popular when Richter was writing the play. Its also a response to how society is now organized with a different sense of control.
Is God is a DJ challenging to direct?
Definitely, says Sharon, because it cant be blocked like a regular piece, and its difficult to keep a natural mood in an unstaged way. We even use a different sound track opening every time to let the actors respond differently. Not easy, but very worthwhile.
What does he see as the essence of the piece?
Its very bold and will evoke bold responses, the director answers. Its a bit cynical and forces you to think about what is an individuals role in this society, and how does relationship work in this environment. It also says there must be new ways of incorporating technology into the definition of our lives and a sense of self. This play is a phenomenon, already translated into 15 languages. I think audiences everywhere realize how tightly its fingers are wrapped around whats happening with youth culture globally, and how it relates to us all.