Recap: The Strindberg Cycle

As the Strindberg Cycle enters its final weekend at The Cutting Ball Theater, I’m realizing I have done so much guest blogging that I’ve totally neglected to post on my own site for ages. So here are the six pieces I wrote for the permanent Chamber Plays website that Cutting Ball has created with the help of the National Endowment for the Arts, UC Berkeley, Harvard Univeristy and University of Wisconsin – Madison. Check out for much, much more information about the production and all kinds of scholarly writing on Strindberg.



One of my favorite metaphors in The Chamber Plays is inBurned House, when The Stranger (James Carpenter) reflects on the uncanny interconnectedness of people and events in his life:

“How everything is woven together here, your own destiny and others’ … When you’re young you see the web being set up: parents, relatives, friends, acquaintances, servants are the warp; a little further on in life you see the woof; and the shuttle goes back and forth with the thread, it breaks sometimes but is knotted back together and on it goes; the beam strikes, the yarn is forced together into curlicues and there lies the web. In old age when the eyes begin to see, you discover that all the curlicues form a pattern, a monogram, an ornament, a hieroglyph, which now you can begin to understand: It’s life itself! The Worldweaver has woven it!” Read More…



As we draw closer to the opening of each part of the Strindberg Cycle, we’re finally indulging in the “luxury” of working on one thing at a time. In our RISK IS THIS workshop this summer, we burned through each play one after the other, and when rehearsals re-started in August, our schedule had us rotating through the plays day by day, so that each play got equal attention as we moved forward. We were always deep in Strindberg’s world, but never digging into each individual piece for very long. As we prepared for the opening of The Ghost Sonata, the schedule changed to allow us to focus on that play for a whopping four days in a row. Read More…



Watching the final dress rehearsal of The Pelican and The Black Glove last night before our first preview, I was struck by the contrasting sense of scale between the two pieces. Where The Pelican holds one family under the microscope in a room with only one door, The Black Glove shows us the “Tower of Babel,” representing a macro view of humanity. Danielle O’Hare speaks lines in each of the plays that drive home the scale of each individual character’s experience, multiplied by all the people in the world. Read More…



The Cutting Ball Theater’s mission is to produce experimental plays with an emphasis on language and images. Strindberg’s Chamber Plays have both of these in abundance, and it is especially exciting that the plays not only brim with beautiful language, but the very idea of language – and silence – is a major motif. In The Ghost Sonata, James Carpenter delivers a speech in which I can almost hear Strindberg himself saying the words: “I prefer silence, then you can hear what people think, then you can see into the past. Silence hides nothing…unlike words. I read the other day that the different languages actually arose among primitive peoples as an attempt to hide the secrets of the tribe from outsiders. That means that languages are ciphers, and he who finds the key can understand all the languages of the world…” Read More..



Throughout the Chamber Plays, Strindberg rails against the restrictions and pretense of polite society, the falseness of friends, and the unjust punishment delivered to those who dare to assert their independence from the established system. Gerda articulates this best in The Pelican when she says, “Remember as children…people said you were bad if you told the truth…wicked little mind, they said. And all I did was tell the truth… so I learned to keep quiet…and everyone said, she’s so well behaved; and I learned to say things I didn’t mean and then I was ready to go out into life.” Read More…



Writing the Chamber Plays at the end of his life, Strindberg had a lot to say about the idea of time. In all but The Pelican, James Carpenter plays an old man racing against time. In Storm, he is “closing out his accounts with life” and has “even begun to pack for the trip.” InBurned House, he visits his childhood home to purge himself of the past. In Ghost Sonata, he schemes to pass along his wealth to an heir he has just met. In The Black Glove, he searches urgently for the secret of life, knowing that the time for this work will soon be over. In The Pelican, the recently-deceased patriarch of the family is represented by James’ portrait over the mantle. Read More…


Posted on November 15, 2012, in Director and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.

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