[James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet] John Kelly as the Narrator in Alphabet. ©John Cage Trust.
John Kelly as the Narrator in Alphabet. ©John Cage Trust.

Fisher Center Presents

James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet

By John Cage
Tickets:
$45, 35, 25, 15

Produced by John Cage Trust and New Albion Records
Directed by Laura Kuhn
Music/Sound Design by Mikel Rouse
Set Design by Marco Steinberg

John Cage’s James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet* began life as a highly imaginative radio play in 1982, a commission from Klaus Schöning and Cologne’s West German Radio (WDR). Working on the principles of collage, Cage created a cast of unlikely characters—the three title artists, Henry David Thoreau, Buckminster Fuller, Robert Rauschenberg, Brigham Young, and seven others—who are made to speak together, their dialogue comprised of literal quotations, freely adapted historical materials, and lines invented by Cage, set within a score consisting of nearly 200 sounds. The result is a remarkably democratic intermingling of perspectives, suffused throughout with humor and irreverence for the particulars of history.

The present theatrical adaptation is a kind of performed installation, set within a graceful, stair-step stage structure. The entire cast remains essentially in place, while the Narrator alone moves freely about, a charismatic circus ringleader who seems to orchestrate the entire affair. The piece is performed without pause, lasting approximately 75 minutes.

This production of James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet celebrates the onset of John Cage’s centennial year, the first of many events scheduled to take place around the world. It also celebrates the fourth year of the John Cage Trust’s residence at Bard College.

*This work, in its original, unscripted form, was first published in John Cage, X: Writings ’79-’82 (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press 1983), pp 53-101.