30TH ANNIVERSARY OF ZEITGEIST, WHICH CLAIMS THERE ARE 2 MORE PERFORMANCE GROUP PRODS FILMED BY DE PALMA...!
Dionysus In '69 was the first film ever screened at Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, and now it will be included in next week's six-day program, celebrating Zeitgeist's 30th anniversary. Brian De Palma's split-screen documentary, filmed with Robert Fiore and Bruce Rubin, will screen at 5:30 pm on Tuesday, November 29th. The description of the screening at the Zeitgeist website claims that there are two more Performance Group productions that were filmed by De Palma: Makbeth, which they did in 1969, and The Tooth Of Crime, a Sam Shepard play they staged in 1972. The site states that Richard Schechner brought 16mm prints of all three films to be screened at a Zeitgeist fundraiser for its production of Schechner's Commune there in 1989. Here's the full Zeitgeist description:
An experimental theater film by Brian De Palma, Robert Fiore and Bruce Rubin; directed for the stage by Richard Schechner; portions of the text adapted from "The Bacchae" of Euripides as performed by The Performance Group. Schechner approached "The Bacchae" not so much to re-interpret the play as to re-experience some of the impulses surrounding and informing it—to which end Euripides's lines were sometimes useful, and sometimes not. Schechner's troupe, The Performance Group, would by turns chant, or dance, make love, plot murder, whisper to the audience, or among themselves hold group therapy sessions. With its full nudity, its audience-participation orgies and its range of theatrical invention, "Dionysus in 69" strives for a degree of sensuous presence. De Palma uses a split screen, and he uses it in a variety of ways. Both sides of the screen always record the same moment in the production. But sometimes they show different parts of the arena (the Performing Garage was a kind of multi-level theater in the round, with cast and audience often sharing spaces). Sometimes they develop different points of view toward a single action. Sometimes they place an apparently random event in formal perspective, and at the same time isolate important detail.
In 1989 Zeitgeist Theatre Experiments, inc (our original name) staged a large scale theatrical production at X ART GALLERY, at 333 Girod St. in the CBD (a cutting edge space run by the late-great Clinton Peltier, an early partner and patron of Zeitgeist and all things ahead of their time) of COMMUNE (aka White Exorcism), an environmental theater piece by Richard Schechner and the Performance Group. In Commune, actors and volunteers from the audience restaged the “Pattern of butcheries in American History from the point of view of the Manson Family as a justification of their actions”. One night we even got a pregnant biker chick in the audience to play Sharon Tate as the actors brutally killed her as she screamed for them to spare her babies life. Although the production was savaged in the local press, the production was a huge success and ran for three weeks.
Richard Dodds in the Times Picayune said “Call me a reactionary pig but…” and proceeded to attack the production “under the fascistoidal direction of Rene Broussard” claiming that cast members “soiled, stretched and scuffed his 180 loafers when they wore them on their filthy feet to reenact the murders”. So for the remainder of the production cast members wore tie-dyed t-shirts saying “Richard Dodds Is A Reactionary Pig”.
As a fundraiser for the production as well as to afford bringing in Richard Schechner for the opening of the play Richard loaned us 16mm prints of Dionysus in 69, Makbeth and Tooth Of Crime (three films of Performance Group productions filmed by then NYU student Brian DePalma). DIONYSUS in 69 was the very first film Zeitgeist ever screened. So please enjoy this very rare look back at Zeitgeist’ history.
The Times-Picayune's Mike Scott provides a nice set-up for next week's Zeitgeist program, with background information, in an article posted Saturday:
It started with a protest of sorts. Which, in this particular case, is fitting to the point of bordering on poetic.
It was 1986 and Rene Broussard, then a student at the University of New Orleans, was directing a stage production of the giddily depraved "Blood on the Cat's Neck." It was a production chock-a-block with sex, violence, necrophilia, human bondage and other such provocations that so tend to tickle and titillate undergrads.
Then, days before the first performance, the department head dropped in on one of the final dress rehearsals. He was neither tickled nor titillated. He was, however, provoked.
"He was shocked by the graphic violence and nudity and said, 'You can't do this at UNO!,'" Broussard recalls. "... And so the production got canceled and I ended up taking it off-campus and running it on Bourbon Street as a benefit for Artists Against AIDS. It ran for three weeks. That became the first Zeitgeist experiment."
Thirty years later, Broussard's Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center is still going, and still working hard to provoke, regularly delivering or the promise of its guiding principle: "Something for and against everybody."
On Friday (Nov. 25), Zeitgeist will kick off a week of special programming marking its first three decades in operation. Highlights include Brian De Palma's "Dionysus in 69," which was the first film Zeitgeist ever screened; Broussard's own autobiographical triptych "The Fatboy Chronicles"; the music documentary "Liquid Land," which was filmed at Zeitgeist; and other selections intended both to highlight and celebrate the theater's history.