House of Rebels had the immense pleasure of sitting down with Ted Witzel and talk about his upcoming work on the continuing Lulu series, with Lulu v.5, coming to Buddies in Bad Times on April 22nd and 23rd. The Lulu series is an adaptation of Frank Wedekind's texts The Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box, about an exotic dancer's climbing of the social ladder, her eventual fall from grace, and her final encounter with a well-known serial killer. It's a problematic text from a modern viewpoint, and a fascinating story about why Ted is re-staging it.
Ted Witzel is a graduate of the MFA Directing Program at York University that is partnered with Canadian Stage. He is a pioneering theatre creator, Artistic Director and co-founder of red light district theatre, and as you'll be able to tell from my discussion with him, a theatrical philosopher.
From this description, and any additional reading you'll find about Ted, you might be tempted to think of him as a high brow, capital-T, Theatre Director - and all of the cartoonish stereotypes that might conjure with it. I hope you'll believe me when I say that this is the furthest thing from the truth. Ted is an eloquent speaker to be certain, and he's a complete nerd when it comes to avant-garde theatre (by his own admission) but he is completely down to earth and engaging to listen to. He's in fact so down to earth that our entire interview was conducted while sitting cross-legged on a cement floor in the lobby of their rehearsal studio while people with implausibly loud shoes walked by every two minutes, and when he should have been enjoying his lunch break instead of talking to me.
Ted's work is political and thought-provoking yes, but it's also very funny. Is it funny because of the absurdity of what's happening on stage? Or because he maintains a dialogue between the performers on stage and their captive audience? Sometimes it all comes down to a well timed crass joke. It's a different laugh every time. Ted understands that while art can make statements, it doesn't have to be a lecture - theatre can actually be entertaining. To quote the red light district's manifesto, "the only bad reaction is boredom."
He also can't be called precious about his work or - in even broader terms - his craft. To again quote his company's manifesto, "theatre is low art, is trash, is filth. theatre is at its best when it is most earnest about its desperation to please."
Lulu v.5 plays April 22nd at 8pm and April 23rd at 2:30pm at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Click here for information on tickets.