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Knot I Land, 1990
a play by Charles Copenhaver
Directed by Jane Perry
Nashville Shakespere Festival
Set Design, Bob Rizzo
Sound, Christopher Knowles
Performers - Denise Hicks & Mark Cabus

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‘Knot I Land’ Theater of Images
By R. Dale McCarver
Nashville Scene
4 February 1990
Nashville is not known as a hotbed of theatrical experimentalism, so it is quite surprising to encounter the professional level of artistry the Nashville Shakespeare Festi­val promises in its latest production, Knot I Land, an abstract drama by Charles Copenhaver. The play premiered in Strasbourg, France, in 1976. Jane Perry acted in the original production and has longed for the opportunity to direct the multi-media play. Her dream is being realized as Knot I Land makes its American premiere in Nashville.
‘‘This play touches people. It stays with them," Perry explains. ‘‘Friends who saw the European production still comment on it. It has a power that's hard to explain." Copenhaver, its Ameri­can author, writes and designs for the German stage and television. His works range from the enigmatically titled Knot I Land to a work based on the life of Janis Joplin. Perry, who has worked at the American Repertory Theatre in Massa­chusetts, describes Copenhaver’s script as a non-traditional theater piece: "It has no be­ginning, middle, end or even a resolution. It is abstract—more akin to performance art.”
The script requires two actors, but Perry says that a third presence, the "loudspeaker," is very much a force within the piece. Perry explains, "A very elaborate soundtrack plays through the ’loudspeaker' and the actors respond to the soundtrack.” Much of the play consists of visual images created by the interaction of the actors with the set, projections, and lighting. Perry calls the genre "Theater of Images.”
Nashvillians will be very familiar with the two actors in the play. Denice Hicks has appeared in many Tennessee Repertory productions. She was Juliet in last fall’s Romeo and Juliet. In that same production Mark Cabus played Tybalt. He recently directed Actor’s Playhouse's A Girl’s Guide to Chaos.
An abstract show like Knot I Land is difficult to act because the plot and characters are not grounded in reality as it is commonly perceived. Perry says: “The play is similar to our dreams, which transcend time and space, often violating logic or explanation. Directing this show is mostly intuitive. Some of it comes by chance, by allowing myself the freedom to recognize what I want when I see it. The final product, however, must be very regimented because the show is so technical. While the show operates outside temporal boundaries, the actors must be rooted in real time.” In her direction Perry has worked to accent several optimistic themes she believes arc inherent in the work: “I see themes of regeneration, renewal and making things new.  
A truly remarkable theme is environmen­tal concern, more relevant today than when the play was originally written in 1975. Perry has assembled an impressive production team to assist in the play’s complicated techni­cal requirements. Christopher Knowles designed large sections of the soundtrack that spew from the "loudspeaker." His hypnotic recordings (reminiscent of John Lennon’s “Revolution #9" on the Beatles’ White Album) are achieved by layering various sounds and litterings. Severely brain damaged at birth, this exceptional artist was discovered by Robert Wilson, renowned writer, and director of avant-garde theatre. Since 1973 Knowles, now 30, and Wilson have col­laborated on a number of pieces for the stage: The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin; A Letter for Queen Victoria; The $ Value of Man; and Curious George, performed at the Lincoln Center in 1980. Knowles has also worked as an actor, -choreographer and artist. He produces some of his art at the typewriter. In addition to other images, pictures, and patterns. Knowles’ strange­ly patterned typings will be projected during parts of Knot I Land.

Knowles has been diagnosed as autistic, and he possesses some astounding numerical and spatial abilities. He lives and works in New York City but is spending a month in Nashville to work with Perry, who met Knowles through her association with Robert Wilson. Doctors had attempted to "treat” Knowles for his pe­culiar traits and artistic expressions, but Wilson saw him as unique in his own right. He en­couraged Knowles to use the stage to share his considerable talents. Although he has been criticized by some for exploiting Knowles, Wilson told an interviewer in a recent issue of American Theater, "If Christopher did what he did in a restaurant, he would be thrown out. The theater is the only place where he can really express his unique way of being, because the theater is an outlet for the exceptional.”

The set was created by Bob Rizzo, a Rhode Island-based sculptor and performance artist. Resembling ancient statue ruins, his set pieces are three-dimensional forms, many shaped to suggest human friends in Europe during the original production of Knot 1 Land. The lighting design was done by Nashvillian Corbin Green, who is currently enrolled in Webster Univer­sity’s MEA Design program.
Perry, who has lived in Nashville tor the past two years, realizes that Knot I Land is not typical Nashville theater fare: "An artist who forces himself to stick with known, commercial shows in order to guarantee an audience will eventually find that the quality of his work suffers, not to mention what happens inside him. It. however, one invests his time and talents in projects he genuinely wants to do, the audience will en­counter much greater quality. They will respond to that.”

Knot I Land opens Feb. 15 at the Looby Cen­ter across from Fountain Square and runs Thurs­day through Saturday at 8 p.m. through Feb. 24. Tickets, available at the door or by calling 758-7559. are $5.

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