Anna Kohler’s Mytho? Lure of Wildness
2016 Fay Chandler Creativity Grant
Anna Kohler, Katiana Rangel and Adam Strandberg in "MYTHO? The Lure of Wildness." Photo: Jane Stein.
“A theatrical work about what looking feels like, to the muse and to her creator.” – Hilton Als, The New Yorker
Mytho? Lure of Wildness is a surround-sensorial theatrical experience/experiment, conceived and performed by MIT faculty member Anna Kohler and directed by lecturer Caleb Hammond. It is an experiment, a study of the beast within, of beauty and its transformation from young and fresh to old and worn, but not resigned.
In the workshop phase, the production has delved into the areas of a stage actor’s performance that overlap with cinematography and a painter’s vision of the human model, and aims to bring the work done with performers (including several MIT students and alums) to its fullest performative realization by creating a full sensory experience. The project has developed and adapted immersive technology to surround the audience with the aromas of Morocco, Paris and the South of France, and continues to develop autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) as a performance technique. By incorporating emerging scientific technologies with avant-garde approaches to performance, the performance aims to inspire MIT students and the community at large to continue to emphasize the potential for finding art in science and using science in art.
Mytho? is suspended between actual experience and fictional material. It is an original play/movie, a fluid staging of the model’s world and memory scenes inspired by material from Robert Bresson’s films and writings, Tennessee Williams’ plays and Anna Kohler’s own experiences as a painter’s model in France. The piece was workshopped at MIT in 2015-16 with a team that includes undergraduates, graduate students and recent alums, and is now diving into finalizing the work and incorporating the cutting-edge research of the Media Lab into a live theatrical performance that fully submerges the audience into the world being presented onstage and all around them.
Presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) .
A woman, naked on a podium, being carefully and bluntly scrutinized by the probing eyes of the painters in the room. Who is looking at who? Who is more vulnerable? The extremely high level of charged back and forth in this situation of interdependent scrutiny demands this strategy of sensual immersion for the audience as well.
Director Anna Kohler, Senior Lecturer in Music and Theater Arts, is a stage and screen author and actor. Kohler studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria and received a diploma in theater and aesthetic studies from the Université VIII Vincennes in Paris, France. Joining the New York experimental theater scene in 1982, Kohler has worked on stage with some of America’s most respected playwrights, actors and directors. She was a longtime collaborator and associate member of America’s foremost experimental theater company, The Wooster Group. Her 2003 role as Natalya in the Group’s revival of Brace Up! was praised in The New Yorker as the “emotional center” of the show. Her film work includes Raoul Ruiz’s The Golden Boat, Hal Hartley’s The Book of Life, Bruno de Almeida’s On the Run and Peter Sellars’ The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez, among others. As an author/director, she has conceived and directed plays that have been performed in Austria, Germany, Brazil and the United States.
In recent years, her focus on teaching has become an integral part of her artistic life. Her distinctive style of teaching is based on the unique combination of her work in both traditional and modern theater in Europe and her work at the forefront of experimental theater in the US. She has adapted, translated and directed productions of Young Jean Lee’s plays The Appeal and Pullman, WI, Chekov’s Uncle Vanya and Schnitzler’s La Ronde, and conceived and continues to direct a play reading series called It’s Alive with the participation of faculty and students at MIT.
Recent performance credits include directing Concert Suite for Henry V by William Walton with the MIT Symphony Orchestra, performing in John Jesurun’s Chang in A Void Moon – The Incubator Episodes, touring with Richard Maxwell’s Ode to the Man who Kneels to Bonn and Brazil and performing in Yesterday Happened: Remembering H.M., at Central Square Theater in Cambridge. Her translations of plays by Richard Foreman, Rene Pollesch, Richard Maxwell, Elfriede Jelinek and others have been performed all over the world. She presented at the International Symposium “Infinite Memory – Performance and Archive” in Kiel, Germany, and brought this symposium to MIT in 2014, incorporating a new collaborative piece with ACT Faculty Emerita Joan Jonas. In the spring of 2014, she also reprised her role as Mrs. Fangitu in Chang in a Void Moon at Incubator Arts Space in NYC. This spring she performed in I am bleeding all over the place, written and directed by Brooke O’Harra and presented at La Mama Theater in NYC.