It was decided that
The Games which had
Come to us from our past
Were a good candidate
For form and we the
People began to construct
That which might be necessary
For The Games in Berlin, the mammoth, skeletal hull of the new Schaubühne (one of the best-appointed experimental theatre houses in the world) was stripped bare by designer Yoshio Yabera, so the cold grey walls of the curved oblong space became a kind of concrete cyclorama for its futuristic landscape. The audience sat on carpeted risers, dwarfed by the space itself, as if they were in a giant indoor stadium, or maybe an ocean tanker or a mother ship in outer space. High up on the walls on either side of the stage loomed two circular bubble-windows, portholes perhaps, to some sort of outside world.
A white rectangle on the stage floor was matched by a movie screen on the back wall, above two musicians (stage left) and a strange contraption (stage right) that looked like a radar screen, but with black metal arrows circling on its clock-face at varying speeds. A scattering of rocks and large brown yarn-sculptures suggesting clumps of dirt confused the landscape, making it part indoors, part out-of-doors.
On the screen appeared assorted images: moons, stars, galaxies; a giant game grid, resembling the Japanese game “Go,” with yellow, blue and red markers; and, later, black-and white images of buttons, a pair of pliers, a wrench, a shaving brush—museum artifacts displayed for the curious of the future, gleaned from our own long-past present.
The performers were divided into three groups: A Game Master in green, satiny coveralls held a red rule book and officiated with rockstar, cat-spring grace, singing a kind of Monkian scat; five Game Players in worker blues proceeded through children’s games to more dangerous competitive sports, and serious consequences (like loving and dying) got mixed up in the gameplans; a white-uniformed Chorus moved in patterns of tiny gestures and frozen poses, creating time-capsule movements of trance-like grace. The Players would forget or ignore the rules, try to cheat, get punished. And the unresolvable conflict between freedom and order went on and on in this concrete temple of art in the middle of a city completely enclosed by a concrete wall. Freewheeling, wide-open Berlin. Its omnipresent, sociopolitical, psychic/emotional/spiritual wall. (“Leave the wall,” one couldn’t help hearing from The Fantasticks, “We must always leave the wall.”)
Monk’s music (for synthesizer keyboard and Flemish bagpipe) was an extraordinary tapestry of melodies and sounds, including near the end a percussive throbbing that seemed to be the heartbeat of a new machine—and at the same time a primal drumming to match the glow of two large illuminated cones which seemed somehow campfires for tribes of the far future:
In the second generation
We the people had construed
That form is good
That form is reason
That reason is truth
That it is self-evident
That The Games institute harmony
It was decided that The Games had
To be maintained as a fact of life
For the benefit of all the people
For all time
Let us begin…
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