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"Peter Rose Hits the Wall with "Berlin Zoo" by Jan Breslauer

The Los Angeles Times Tuesday July 4th, 1989


Don't let the term fool you. Jerzy Grotowski's "poor theatre" is anything but mean. It is Physical, sensual and even manic-like the performance art of Peter Rose, a former student Of Grotowski's Polish Lab Theatre. It was about ten years ago, on his way to the Lab Theatre, that Rose first visited The Berlin Wall. Years later he returned to Europe, touring West Germany with his performance piece "Berlin Zoo" in 1985 and 1986. Setting fantastic riffs and cold reckonings alike against the steely tensions of the partitioned city, Rose's "Berlin Zoo" recounts a long, strange trip toward self-knowledge and a vision of a unified Europe. "Berlin Zoo" is about the demographic reality of a divided city," he explains. "At the same time the piece is about the split within (its) protagonist." Rose, a founder of New York's Performance Space 122, has presented his solo work across the United States for the past ten years. The L.A. premiere of "Berlin Zoo" takes place at Highways in Santa Monica, Thursday, Friday, July 13th, 14, 22, 29, then continues in August at The Powerhouse Theatre. The Production is directed by Patricia Pretzinger with visuals by Daniel J. Martinez. Centered around an actor's odyssey in Berlin-as he's thrown out of a theatre and moves on to various exotic situation-th movement, song and highly theatrical Yiddish style of Berlin Zoo" explore the 1961 barrier's effect on the city. Its implicit theme, however, is more personal. "One has to find the wall within oneself in order to bring it down and move closer to who one really is," says Rose. That search is expressed by way of his character's travels. "Fictions exist not only within (the character), but also within the people he encounters-such as the Turkish women who teaches Him prayers. "The realistic events mix with fantasy. He invites some elephants to the base of The Wall to have a big party and knock The Wall down," Rose explains. "And he ends up somewhat later on a Persian carpet, from which he jumps down and proclaims himself the king of a new unified city. But of course there is no such unification and there can't be a new king." Rose's intuitions about Berlin are the thread that binds all these adventures and anecdotes together. "The thematic drive comes from the creative processes involved in communicating the nature of Berlin's cityscape," he offers. It's an archly European environment. "The sense of borders is intensified in Europe where travel plays a different role in the tradition and culture than it does here," Rose says. The Wall, however, is the chief source of tension. "Systems themselves aren't more or less repressive," Rose asserts. It's the Wall that oppresses from within and things that have to do with the inner wall and its external manifestations: blockage, bondage, poverty, hunger. So inhabitants look inward for escape, turning to song and other means of expression integral to Yiddish Theater. "The spirituality expressed through song runs hic and nuc with the duality within oneself," says Rose. "And that duality exists most obviously when walls are put up. Including Walls that have to do with being an American Jew in Berlin. "The character is Jewish," Rose explains. "But it's not clear that he's a Jew in the religious sense of the word." Which, while not autobiographical, does relate to Rose's own experience. He says his time in Berlin made him re-understand a certain naivete I'd had. I held this vision in my heart about European culture being innately such a part of the Jewish experience, but it wasn't that way once I was there. "I had a lot in common with the young Germans I found there. And being Jewish was not the main factor in these interactions, nor what the piece is essentially about. "I found that I could be what I am-Jewish-and not have any need to hide or be defined solely in those limited terms. People didn't react to me as much as a Jew as an American," he explains. The conflicts between that which is Jewish and that which is German are not answered solely in terms of The Holocaust," says Rose. My freedom from Judaism became apparent later. "Berlin Zoo" is not a Jewish liberation play, "he insists," but it it a liberation play." Liberation, Rose reminds us, comes of self-knowledge. The character meets all these people in the process of meeting himself. Having discovered himself, he also find his potential." "But, he says, "you're stuck until you've crossed these boundaries.




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