Written by Büchner in 1836 and famously left unfinished by his death, Woyzeck has become a modern classic since its 1913 stage debut in Munich. The various productions I saw over the years never made clear to me just why so many people feel a need to grapple with Büchner’s jarring shard. The play is almost invariably interpreted with a seemingly habitual, one-note, for me anti-dramatic bleakness, often with a testosterone-fueled “craziness” to liven things up. It wasn’t until I heard the play filtered through Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s junkyard musical sensibility that I found a vein into the beating heart of the piece. Waits and Brennan managed to bring to the play such clear-eyed compassion for anyone whose circumstances have found them blown overboard and questioning whether or not to wait on God, the Devil, or The Man for a hand up. It was an eye-opening experience to work on, and I was grateful for the privilege to share it with audiences.
Photos Jessica Palopoli and Nina Ball.