20 Years Withou Julian BeckNew York, October 2005
When Julian Beck invited me to direct him I almost fainted. The reason? This was one of the theater people I most admired (and followed) during my youth in London in New York and in Brazil, and here...Suddenly, stepping outside of his own Living Theater, this Icon was inviting me to direct him.
Of course, I had been known in New York for having a direct relationship with Samuel Beckett and had already world premiered some of his pieces at La MaMa and other venues with great repercussion, it still came as an enormous surprise that Julian would have any interest in my work or theatrical world. But he did.
Julian and I were introduced. He was already very ill and I was speechless.
Julian left it up for me to choose which Beckett play to stage him in and I decided on “That Time”, an American world premiere. Plus, it would require very little physical demands on Julian. The play consists of a character who hears his own voice divided in three parts of his own past. He is immobile, or at least I made him so, with a little touch of the hand to the face every now and again when the text says “when was that?”
Because Julian could not speak clearly any longer at the time (the cancer had already affected his vocal chords) we had to go to a studio and record word by word. Knowing in advance that the end result would sound boring and exhausting to the audience, I decided to use musical scores (partitures). One by John Cage, the other by a future “ex partner” (“Zaide” in Firenze, 1995, Maggio Musicale), Luciano Berio. And so, the text became music, in a way. Julian seemed surprised and happy with that idea. I remember when he heard the tape for the first time, sitting in the first row of the La MaMa Annex when we were beginning to load in the set: “is that me, is that my voice?” he asked, “or did you find another actor with a similar voice who can sing so beautifully?”. Everyone in the theater laughed.
And the conclusion was more than and explosion of a success. I would pick up Julian at his home (on West End Avenue and 98th Street in Manhattan) every day for the performance. We were sold out one month in advance. The show traveled to the Theater Am Turm in Frankfurt and had plans for further travels, but Julian became very very sick during the trip and we had to cancel Belgrade and other locations. We all returned to New York.
The performance made a mark in Germany, and enormous articles were written about the performance by critic Peter Iden, of the Franfurter Rundschau, highlighting my method of metalanguage-theater: i.e. a real man, really dying playing a character on stage who was also dying.
A few months later, Julian died. I was in Rio – directing the Brazilian equivalent of the Beckett Trilogy there (Quatro Vezes Beckett) and quickly returned to New York in time for the funeral, Allen Guinsberg video taped the burial in New Jersey. I really never thought that my absence from New York would make me never see Julian again. It was he who advised me to leave America, if I wanted to make anything of my theatrical career:
May God bless you Julian. It’s hard to believe that we have been on this planet for twenty years without you. I remember every wrinkle on your face, every time you smiled, in spite of your pain; your enormous metaphysical pain of not having been able to change to world in the way that you had dreamed you would. But, on the other hand, may you be saved from the atrocities of George W Bush and the militarization and hegemonism of the United States in the world today, the invasion of Iraq, the death of 200.000 civilians who had nothing to do with this, all in the name of OIL, petrol.....greed and so much more discrimination than when you were still amongst us. The world turned backwards. We are living in a horrible society, of Ipods, cellphones and an internet that looks more like a dark room for losers to empty their neurotic atrocities and lonely hearts in chats, an internet which serves people as if it were the biggest Yellow Pages in the universe, Julian. You left us at a perfect time when corruption could still be seen or, at least, suspected. Now, it infects every single media, corporation, government and enterprise. In a way, I’m happy that you don’t have to be a witness to this “globalization”. In another way, I’m very unhappy that the world has lost one of its greatest warriors. Maybe, if you were here, all this shit would be receiving daily blows to the stomach and to its heart and would not resist your charm. Your incredible charm. Sorry, I’m in tears and cannot continue writing. I miss you far too much.