YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Be our guest! And in a spirit of friendship: Let yourself be haunted in our theatre.
The principle of hospitality - in Greek: philoxenia, love of the unknown - is as old as humanity itself. It is an act of generosity and of trying not to make a distinction between good and bad company, from the beginning. Hospitality is universal and unconditional, regardless of who it is that is making use of their “visitation rights”, for “originally no one has more right to be in one place on earth than the other” (Immanuel Kant).
In times of war on European grounds and in the face of millions of displaced persons, this might be a reminder that human beings exist only in relation to other human beings. They are infinitely entangled and interwoven, interconnected through language, sharing feelings, acts, and thoughts. Their mode of existence is dialogue. Impossible to find out for sure where I end, and You begin. And this entanglement does not end on the threshold between life and death. The dead, the not-yet-living and the fictional are among us. In some cases, they are literally below us, existing in a giant cavity below our houses, as in Raphaela Edelbauer’s DAS FLÜSSIGE LAND (“THE FLUID LAND”), from where they haunt us as spectres, appearing unasked and abruptly to breathe upon us, to prompt our stories, telling us: Here we are again, we are back, and we have brought you something. And the living? We are existentially confused – like Dostoevsky’s Stavrogin, who cries, upon the appearance of a ghost: “I don’t know which is real, me or him” (DEMONS).
Ghosts. Spectres. Spirits. In times of crises, they are restless. Knowing more than us, they often have insight into hidden connections. When they appear, the differentiation between this world and the next one is shaken. Their apparition indicates an emergency of greater dimension. There is currently an increased coming and going of spectres, on stage, in public, in the news. Enter, exit, déjà vu. We have seen them before. But we have not seen them come. They haunt us: ghostly images as from the darkest chapters of the 20th century, that we thought we had done away with. Ghosts are always revenants. We cannot control their coming and going, as their appearance begins with their return.
You are not alone. And ghosts themselves are always in company. From where they appear, they bring their kinship with them, inhabitants of the realm in between presence and absence, life and death, reality and fiction – all the angels and demons, the many good and evil spirits, fairies and elves, that (do not) exist together with the ghosts.
Empty vessels, taken over by mysterious presences who drive our actions, occupy us, and refuse to be put away. In Peter Handke’s new play ZWIEGESPRÄCH (“DIALOGUE”), that deals, among other topics, with the invocation of the ancestors, the author writes: “We have no right to rest. Our likes have no right to rest.”
But do ghosts have the right to visit the living? The thing is that they seldomly ask before they appear. They rather break into our lives and warn us: “A marvelous work and a wonder we undertake, an edifice awry we sink plumb and straighten, a great lie we abolish” (Tony Kushner, ANGELS IN AMERICA). Would we not be well advised to offer them hospitality? Does the love of the unknown have to reach that far, beyond the boundaries of life? And where do we house the spirits – knowing that “the touch of an angel is deadly” (Marieluise Fleißer, INGOLSTADT)? Within the theatre? Isn’t the summoning of ghosts the very purpose of the stage? The dialogue between the ages as amode of existence? In the end, we need to find some place to welcome the ghosts. Before they continue haunting us outside the theatre.