American theater-goers got a small taste Monday of a new play by Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek that tries to understand President Donald Trump and what he says about today’s society.
Jelinek, an Austrian, won the world’s top literature prize in 2004 and is known for writing the novel “The Piano Teacher,” which became a movie of the same name in 2001.
Entitled “On the Royal Road: The Burgher King,” her new play tries to make sense of Trump’s election as president of the United States.
Excerpts were read on Monday night at the Martin E. Segal Theatre at City University of New York.
As with other works by Elfriede, the play is dense, written in a language in which each word or sentence seem to be key pieces in the task of solving a puzzle.
“When I first read the text, it felt like abstract painting,” said actress Masha Dakic, who did the solo reading on Monday.
The play’s main character is Miss Piggy, she of the Muppets. But in this case, she is blind, her eyes streaming blood, as she wonders aloud about Trump.
Trump has destroyed the past and hijacked the future so as to make everything all about the present — the world of the tweets of which he’s so fond, Jelinek has said.
Director Stefan Dzeparoski said he staged the play in short segments that “behave almost like news bursts, like breaking news,” he told AFP.
– ‘How can you get a hold on Trump?’
“Everything has this punching rhythm so you can never have a moment to think. There is no time to think,” he added.
Gitta Honegger, who translated the play from German into English, said the election of Trump was a gut punch, something hard to digest and likened it to the rise to power of the Nazis.
She said just that like intellectuals in that period, she watches those of today who were “not thinking that it’s even possible that somebody with a brain like this and behaviour like this and emptiness like this can be a president.”
Honegger, pressed to say what the play is about, said: “How can you get a hold on Trump?”
“You can’t get a hold on stupidity,” Jelinek says in a yet unpublished interview in the US magazine Theatre, in which a shortened version of the text of the play will be published.
Jelinek did not come to New York for the reading on Monday. She suffers from acute anxiety and does not go out, spending her time at home in Vienna, said Honegger.
Honegger said that when she learned Jelinek was writing something about Trump, whom Honeger focused on closely as soon as he was elected, she proposed to the writer translating it into English and performing it in America.
The actual premiere is scheduled for October in Hamburg, Germany.