Artaud at The Ohio

John Jahnke’s HOTEL SAVANT is staging the first American Translation of Antonin Artaud’s The Cenci at the Ohio Theater beginning February 5th.

If you’ve seen any of Jahnke’s other work, you know it is very artful and elegant, like painting.  This should be an intriguing project…

complete info after the jump…




Who: Hotel Savant Presents

What: Antonin Artaud¹s The Cenci

Where: Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster Street, NYC

When: February 5‹23, 2008. February 5 and 6 are preview performances.

February 7 is opening night. Performances are February 5‹10 at 8:00 P.M.,

February 13‹17 at 8:00 P.M. an February 20‹23 at 8:00 P.M. Matinees will

take place Saturday, February 16 and Saturday, February 23 at 4:00 P.M.

Critics are welcome February 6 and 7.

Admission: $20

How to Purchase Tickets: Theatermania at or

866.811.4111. Or, by phone at 212.352.3101.

The Cenci is Antonin Artaud¹s only attempt to put on stage what he set out

to describe in his revolutionary Theater of Cruelty manifestos. Based on an

infamous trial and inspired by Stendhal¹s sordid case history, as well as

Shelley¹s controversial play, Artaud¹s version of the Roman scandal of 1599

takes on a venomous tone in his clipped account of Catholic oppression and

greed. The play was originally staged for 17 performances in 1935 at the

Folies Wagram in Paris, and provoked a caustic reaction that failed to deter

the seminal writer in his iconoclastic purpose: He had brashly redefined how

theater, through his visceral vision, might modernize the technique of

presentation to relay its themes.

Now, in a production by the acclaimed Hotel Savant theater company headed by

John Jahnke, The Cenci will be performed in New York for the first time in

35 years, beginning February 5, 2008 at the Ohio Theatre. (Critics are

welcome as of February 6, and opening night is February 7.) The work was

developed in part through a residency at Robert Wilson¹s The Watermill

Center, and will be characterized by what The Village Voice calls Jahnke¹s

³extraordinary visual sensibility²: Aside from Jahnke¹s own extensive

background in the visual arts, the core creative team for The Cenci includes

set designer Peter Ksander and lighting designer Miranda Hardy, as well as

sound designer Kristin Worrall. The cast features Anthony Torn, Lauren

Blumenfeld, Anna Fitzwater, Mauricio Salgado and Todd D¹Amour.

Jahnke succeeded in the complex challenge of securing rights through Antonin

Artaud¹s estate and Editions Gallimard in Paris to commission the first

American translation of the play. He handpicked the esteemed Richard

Sieburth of The French Institute/NYU, who is responsible for definitive of

works by numerous seminal German and French writers: Friedrich Hoelderlin,

Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem, as well as Maurice Scève, Gérard de

Nerval and Michel Leiris.

In The Cenci, Beatrice Cenci, the daughter of an affluent yet criminal

patriarch, finds her family fortune drained by the Vatican when her father

is indicted in a series of felonies. Rather than give in to their

tyrannical, ruinous demands, Cenci publicly announces his intent to destroy

his family of his own volition, raping his daughter in the process.

Beatrice, undefeated by her father¹s outrage, embroils the family in a plot

to have him murdered. En route to the scaffold, mobbed by the Roman populace

who¹ve declared her a heroine, she admits her crime but not her guilt, yet

ruminates, ³I¹m afraid that death will reveal, I am just like him in the


In his quest to create a theater where ³there can be no spectacle without an

element of cruelty,² Artaud found in The Cenci an ideal theme. As he also

sought to ³break theater¹s subjugation to the text,² he found an exemplary

vehicle on which to envision a theater of image and gesture, whose critical

use would convey the play¹s brutal themes as effectively as the text. As the

usage of movement and tableau and their relation to fragmented texts has

always been applicable to the Hotel Savant¹s mission, The Cenci is a

befitting project for their theatrical presentation, through their unique

approach to nontraditional narrative and their dedication to visionary


It is the Hotel Savant¹s intent to impugn The Cenci, an infamous but

neglected work, with an aptly modern theatrical language. Jahnke and his

company will portray the fall of the house of Cenci‹powerful and doomed,

victimized and victimizing‹inspired by what it most resembles today: a

tabloid comic tragedy. Specters of the past, the Cencis also prefigure our

modern day obsession with private lives lived publicly and sensationally,

knowingly pursued yet simultaneously trapped by the media attention they

invite. This theme will be represented in the play¹s staging by the

construction of a maze that runs throughout the theater and serves as the

crux for a complex set and sound design. Its labyrinthian hallways call for

a complete abandonment of the classical proscenium in order to enhance its

dramatic impact.

This production of The Cenci follows the Hotel Savant¹s 2006 world premiere

of Susan Sontag¹s never-performed play A Parsifal. The New York Times called

the production ³illuminating.² Jahnke and the company have garnered acclaim

this year for their ongoing multimedia theater project, the serial radio

play The Archery Contest, created in collaboration with PS1 Art Radio MOMA

and Performance Space 122.

Other New York premieres in Jahnke¹s body of work as Hotel Savant¹s Artistic

Director include Funeral Games (2004), The Shady Maids of Haiti (2002).

Mercurius (2001) and Lola Montez in Bavaria (1999). Before moving to New

York, Jahnke lived and worked in Los Angeles, where he first began honing

his unique sensibility while earning his B.F.A in at the California

Institute of the Arts¹ Fine Arts program. Following this training, Jahnke

created numerous new works under the auspices of Los Angeles Contemporary

Exhibitions, including The Beasts of Luxury (1995), Syphilis (1994) and The

Monster of Düsseldorf or Paint Me, Paint Me Peter Kurten (1992), as well as

an art metal version of Oscar Wilde¹s unfinished La Sainte Courtesane


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