I always yearned to be at home in Theatre
AS A ‘MERE’ MEMBER OF THE EDITING TEAM OF THIS JOURNAL, IT’S NOT AN EASY TASK TO WRITE AN INTRODUCTORY ‘HOMAGE’ ABOUT THE FAMOUS, GREAT LANGUAGE AND SPEECH ARTIST, DRAMATIST, POET, AND NOVELIST PETER TURRINI FOR THIS INTERVIEW. I’LL KEEP IT SHORT AND LET OUR AWARDWINNING GUEST, BORN IN ST. MARGARETHEN IN THE LAVANT VALLEY, TAKE THE STAGE.
Turrini’s works were translated into countless languages and his theatre pieces were performed all over the world. However, the following pages deal with his opinion on ‘revolutions’. His first pieces were also revolutionary, and included works the likes of ‘Rozznjogd’ (1971), ‘Sauschlachten’ (1972), the fantastical ‘Alpensaga’, and a 70s legendary TV series just to name a few. They all sparked a revolution in both the history of Austrian literature as well as in the hearts and minds of readers and viewers. Years later, ‘Alpenglühen’ (director: Claus Peymann, performance in the Burgtheater 1993) caused an uproar. He reached critical acclaim with his ‘Josef und Maria’ theatre piece, among others. Turrini wrote the libretto for the opera ‘Der Riese vom Steinfeld’ which premiered at the Vienna State Opera in 2002.
Peter, when did it all start?
Very early. I took refuge in language, in thoughts, when I felt more and more excluded in this village from the 50s in the Austrian Carinthia region. It wasn’t writing per se, rather an attempt at creating a world using my thoughts where I could feel at home. Shortly after, at the age of 15, I wrote the first scenes and poems of my fledgling career.
In 1971, your first major theatrical success ‘Rozznjogd’ debuted and brought down the house in the Volkstheater: how did you feel?
Pure bliss, because I always yearned to be at home in theatre. During the premiere you mentioned, the audience was beside itself, the theatre resembled a bubbling and frothing witch’s cauldron. Echoing screams and a heaving mass of people. I stood on the stage, arms crossed, and thought, ‘You’ve finally reached the place you’ve always yearned for, and nobody can ever keep you from it.’ The director, standing backstage, kept on calling me back, but I simply stood there. And I was happy.
And, after 45 years, what do you experience now after such a great and recognised career? Are the feelings still the same?
My career as an author isn’t only made up of my successes and Moments of joy but also of doubts and failures But the joy of being a playwright whose works are performed time and again all over the world? That’s never stopped.
Peter, you’re currently working on a new piece. Can you let us in on it?
It talks about Hedy Lamarr. She was the most beautiful woman in the world back in the 30s, performing as a Hollywood actress and the first who ran across the screen with an unbuttoned blouse. It’s unfair she’s only remembered because of that moment, because truth is she was a great inventor; her invention (‘Frequency Hopping’) largely contributed to the development of telecommunications and today’s mobile phones. This dichotomy, intelligence and beauty, fascinated me and I wanted to immortalise this extraordinary woman. At the moment I’m penning the final draft of the Piece.
What does the word ‘revolution’ mean to you?
Today? The word ‘revolution’ means nothing at all. If every car company dubs its new model as revolutionary, if even certain plastic bags are described as revolutionary, what’s left? The concept has become passé and lost its original meaning, i.e. describing a radical opposition.
T[/eltdf_dropcaps]he school of thoughts present in 1968 are still alive and kicking in many ideas of our modern society. When you think of this time, what memories stay with you?
As many others from my generation, I grew up in a reactionary and post-fascist, post-war. The ruins of the world had to be rebuilt, peace had to reign once again and, more than anything else, nobody could ask questions about fascism. Yet we looked for answers, we wanted to know why our parents’ generation had blown the world to smithereens, and by the end of the 60s we’d ask these questions so wildly and loudly that nobody could pretend they hadn’t heard us. We wanted to dissolve all past models, from marriage to religious faith – and I’m still harbouring plenty of rage.
Fast-forward to today and the current migration issues, the unfettered rise of radicalisation, the ‘possible’ shoring up of policies against migratory flows, closed borders: what motivates and moves you now? For instance, the EU obtained the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. What do you think about that?
The Nobel Peace Prize was undeserved. Right now, the EU is treating refugees in a mean way, giving them the cold shoulder, takes refuge in its fortress of wellbeing and creates borders wherever. And the borders rise even in the hearts of a lot of Europeans. ‘Foreigners’ should stay out. These people wanting to come to us aren’t that foreign or strange, after all. They have more in common with you or me than you’d believe. The lion’s share of the weapons used to kill them in Syria, for example, Comes from European weapon manufacturers. We’re here to help and not to turn away People.