Attempts on Her Life opens 2011-12 Main Stage Season

The Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies opens its 2011-2012 Main Stage Season with Attempts on Her Life, Martin Crimp’s groundbreaking experimental play. The story revolves around Annie, the quintessential “other.” Throughout the course of the play, various people collaborate and compete to describe her in different ways for their own needs.  Is she an artist, a physicist, a mother, a terrorist,…a car?. Is she alive? Dead?  Most striking within this story about telling stories is the fact one person’s voice is never heard:  Annie’s.

At its core, the play challenges the notion that we have one stable self, exploring the possibility that identity is in constant flux. “One person might see Annie as the girl next door.  Another will assert that she’s a terrorist.  Perhaps these stories aren’t mutually exclusive,” explains director Scott Wallin, a Ph.D. candidate in performance studies whose research focuses on psychosocial disability and performance. “How we view and describe others is partially dependent upon our own position and needs.  Imagine you hear a shocking story about a well-known friend that conflicts with your point of view.  How would you reconcile that perspective with your relationship?”

That reconciliation is something Wallin hopes to challenge through the stories in the play. “Attempts on Her Life challenges traditional notions of what western theater is supposed to be,” says Wallin, “Rather than one clear plot, the audience sees a number of stories, sometimes conflicting, and Anne herself never gets to speak. Without a definitive voice, the audience must decide which stories are true, if any.”

Further addressing the concept of belief, the performers break the proverbial 4th wall of traditional drama, discussing not only Annie’s story but the performance itself. “The lines between different realities are blurred,” says Wallin. “When is the character the actor, and when is she herself? When is the play the play, and when is it commenting on itself?” asks Wallin, who is particularly interested in how various genres of performance (e.g. theater, sports, rock concerts) relate to one another. The cast of ten will be asked to bring their own opinions and values into the show. “As an ensemble performance, ,” says Wallin. “I rely heavily upon the team of actors to insert their own voices.”

The goal of the piece is to ask audience members to reflect on their own subject position as they make sense of others and the world around them.  Who are we?  Who gets to tell our story?

Taking this concept further, the play will be staged with the audience both in front of and behind the stage, making them aware that as they watch the play, they are themselves being seen by other audience members. “We constantly judge, comment on, and describe other people, including their gender, socioeconomic class, and abilities.” says Wallin. “Personally, I feel that this play forces me to question my own perceptions and behavior, including how I describe others…often for my own needs.  How do I contribute to the shaping of my social reality?”


Attempts on Her Life opens on Friday, October 7th at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus and runs weekends through Sunday, October 16th.  Performance times are as follows:

October 7, 8, 14, 15 at 8pm; October 9, 16th at 2pm.

TICKETS: $15.00 – General Admission, $10.00 – Students/Seniors, UC Faculty/Staff. Group discounts for ten or more, $7.00 – Students/Seniors, $10.00 – General Admission.