In Balthazar (1. stories) a donkey is at the ‘centre of the action’. He is not reduced to the role of a piece of living scenery, but is given the leading part.
Balthazar (1. stories) confronts the spectator with his narcissistic desire to identify with the animal, fully knowing that this projection – which is fundamental to conventional theatre – is inadequate for this situation. Looking at the animal, the spectator is tempted to assign a psychological significance to his behaviour and an artistic or an anti-artistic purpose; he may assume that the donkey is complying with the performance, that the beast is understanding and approving of it, that he is participating in the piece and developing it further using artistic means. Inevitably we follow this reading of the animal, while being fully aware of its absurdity. Neither theatre nor film can communicate an animal’s thoughts – or, arguably, their sentiments. In fact, the same applies to humans, but there are conventions and techniques in the media that allow us to forget that. On stage, however, we can bring to the fore anthropomorphization and other projections that the spectator applies to the animal, and reveal the limits of such identifications and projections.
The Balthazar project is inspired by Robert Bresson’s film Au hasard Balthazar (1966), which tells the eventful life story of a donkey. The performance repeats on stage the artistic approach to the animal applied by Bresson on film: a donkey is transferred into an alien artistic context designed for representing humankind – and this impacts both on the animal and the context in which it is placed. The piece shifts back and forth from performance to theatre – where we define performance as a live and active intercommunication between performer and audience (and among performers) that has an open outcome, and theatre as a specific representation of an absent meaning.
direction david weber-krebs
dramaturgy & theory maximilian haas
performance julie delrue, greet jacobs, linda lugtenborg, evelien van de maele, annemieke ros, sid van oerle
text based on the donkeys’ biography written by karin van beneden documentation ines lechleitner
technique Rens Planckaert, Elmar Neudam
costume coordination christophe hefti
donkey tutors foti vlachos, karin van beneden
donkey taxi andy verpaelst
research fridolin weber-krebs
production Kaaitheater, RITS, Ingrid Vranken
collaboration Ferme du Parc Maximilien asbl (Brussels)
thanks to cin windey, jean-baptiste van zeebroeck
Balthazar is a longterm artistic research project by David Weber-Krebs (director) and Maximilian Haas (dramaturgy/theory) that explores our cultural relationship with animals using the means of theater. The performances show an encounter of one animal and a group of human performers on a stage. A donkey – Balthazar – is the protagonist, the centre of the action.
The project consists of a series of three performance productions and a book. Referring to the traditional division of the performing arts between theater, dance, and opera, each performance concentrates on a specific theatrical means: narration, choreography, and sound. And each of them has a different conceptual focus derived from the works of the three philosophers that shaped the contemporary reflection on the animal most prominently: Gilles Deleuze, Donna Haraway and Jacques Derrida. Visual artist Ines Lechleitner keeps records on the different project phases and creates an artist’s book that brings together the experiences and outcomes of those artistic experiments with the philosophical ideas. The performances will be developed with theater and dance students and presented on the occasion of festivals in Brussels, Hamburg and Amsterdam.