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BWW Preview: WOYZECK Explores the Price of Humanity Stripped

Considered by some to be a masterwork of theatrical social commentary that functions within the realms of both stark naturalism and poetic subjectivism, Woyzeck is a dramatic juggernaut that exemplifies the disturbing emotional consequences of cruel and dehumanizing treatment. A dark and ambitious production, Ensemble Theatre and director Jonathan Fox bring Woyzeck, known as a "working-class tragedy," to the stage this April.

Woyzeck is an intriguing collage of a play: its lineage is complicated and its style has varied throughout its years of being produced. Original playwright Georg Büchner wrote the essential conflict and action of the plot before his untimely death in the mid-nineteenth century. But, for anyone unfamiliar with (or not particularly interested in) early twentieth-century German expressionism, worry not: Woyzeck was subsequently finished by an assortment of artists over the following century, which gives the play a collaborative motif of interwoven styles and intentions. The version produced by Ensemble is the most modern, with music and score by contemporary musician team Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennen. Woyzeck has evolved beyond Büchner--it's an evocative piece that emphasizes the importance of dignity as a defining aspect of humanity--and the price paid when that humanity is stripped.

Franz Woyzeck is a German soldier who wards off poverty to care for his mistress and their child by submitting to medical experiments performed by a local doctor, and performing menial tasks for the higher-ranked military officers. These acts take a toll on Woyzeck, and as his mental health deteriorates, so too does his relationship with Marie, his mistress, fall to ruin. A product of scientific experimentation and degrading labor, Woyzeck experiences psychosis and jealous suspicion that drive him (and the play) to inevitable violent tragedy.

Themes of poverty, jealousy, exploitation, and the influence of social hierarchy are explored in this musical adaptation of the influential German play. Inspired by the true story of a German soldier driven mad by his participation in military experimentation, Woyzeck shows a stark reminder of the incredible resiliency of the human spirit--and the limits of our ability to withstand sustained physical and emotional abuse. Artistic director Jonathan Fox calls the production "gripping and unforgettable." Woyzeck features Stephen Van Dorn, Matt Gottlieb, Phillip Brandon, Matthew Hen­erson, Matthew MacNelly, Gina Manziello, Steven Good, and local talent Tiffany Story and Willie Simpson.

In Woyzeck, themes of pride, suffering, and survival are played against the surreal and beautifully disconsolate music of Tom Waits. Woyzeck hits the highest and lowest notes of the human experience--it's a journey of musical melancholy coupled with a story that emphasizes catastrophic romance and the price of dignity. An absolute must-see at the New Vic!

Ensemble Theater Company Presents: Woyzeck

Directed by Jonathan Fox
Musical Direction by Sean Bart

Music and lyrics by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan
Based on the play by Georg Büchner


Thursday, 4/16/15 - 8:00pm - Preview
Friday, 4/17/15 - 8:00pm - Preview
Saturday, 4/18/15 - 8:00 - Opening
Sunday, 4/19/15 - 2:00pm/7:00pm

Tuesday, 4/21/15 - 7:00pm - Preshow Book Club at Public Library at 5:30pm
Wednesday, 4/22/15 - 8:00pm -Preshow Talk
Thursday, 4/23/15 - 8:00pm
Friday, 4/24/15 - 8:00pm - Martini Night
Saturday, 4/25/15 - 4:00pm/8:00pm
Sunday, 4/26/15 - 2:00pm

Wednesday, 4/29/15 - 8:00pm - Preshow Talk
Thursday, 4/30/15 - 8:00pm - Talkback
Friday, 4/1/15 - 8:00pm
Saturday, 4/2/15 - 8:00pm
Sunday, 4/3/15 - 2:00pm/7:00pm

Those interested in learning more about the fascinating and mysterious history of the original play, the musical adaptation, or the ETC production are encouraged to join pre-performances talks on April 22 and 29, as well as attend the ETC Book Club on April 21, sponsored by the Santa Barbara Public Library. Scripts are available from the Public Library, and the Book Club is open to the public.

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From This Author Maggie Yates