Thinking Spatially, Speaking Visually: Robert Wilson and Christopher Knowles
Telory D. Arendell

Director Robert Wilson and autistic poet Christopher Knowles produced several cutting-edge theatre pieces that Wilson refers to as ‘operas’ because they combine live music, dance, spectacular imagery, and unusual dramatic storylines. Arendell believes these productions to be “Autistic Operas” given their structural connection to autistic ways of processing sound, language, and rhythm. Wilson’s is a new-age opera, differing from more traditional styles of Wagnerian opera and the like. Rather, his is an opera of images, sounds, and motion that gives primacy to the sort of patterned arrangement of ideas and images in which those on the autism spectrum excel. Wilson’s A Letter to Queen Victoria (1974) and Einstein on the Beach (1976) employ autism as a new stage idiom that transformed theatre in radical ways consonant with early postmodern performance. Arendell draws on Wilson’s work with Knowles in the early years of this director’s career as one example of contemporary theatre’s appropriation of autism as an artistic vehicle for the expression of alternate musical and stage perception.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/ijmpa.v3n1a2