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Friday, January 22, 2016

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Will Oldham of The Glory of the World

Tonight, Will Oldham (better known by the stage name Bonnie 'Prince' Billy) takes over the role of "The Man" in Charles Mee's new play The Glory of the Worldplaying the BAM Harvey Theater through February 6. We spoke with Oldham about posture, persona, and the public domain in anticipation of his BAM debut.

Will Oldham (Bonnie 'Prince' Billy).

How did you connect with Les Waters (artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville)? Have you worked on any other projects together in your hometown of Louisville?

It’s been a couple of years. Around when Waters came to town, somebody or some force allowed us to get together, and we have met and spoken about this or that. I go to see the work he directs, which is stronger and more satisfying with each successive production.

For the first few performances, Les Waters will play The Man. Then you take over the role for the remainder of the run. Tell us more about the role of The Man in The Glory of the World.

It isn’t a role in the traditional theatrical sense. The person who represents The Man occupies a space Les was standing in, and soon I will be standing in for Les standing in. The Man is invisible, and the occupier of the role signals to the audience where The Man is likely to be, implying that the chaos around the role is directed around a bagful of ideas, which might in turn be called a Dispersal of Merton.

Your role requires no movement or speaking. What are you thinking about during your time on stage?

This is intriguing! The occupier of The Man’s role is allowed a fragment of contemplation. It’s pretty rare that one can be contemplative on stage in the middle of a production. Probably posture comes to mind, and there is some effort given to deflecting any projections of persona.

The Glory of the World in production. Photo: Joan Marcus

Did you know about Thomas Merton before your involvement with The Glory of the World? You both are men who inhabit many, sometimes conflicting, roles. Do you relate to the various ways people perceive his character and legacy?

My mother had a lot of Merton on her bookshelves. And in Louisville there is talk of Merton in this circle or that. It’s off-putting when a person who is meant to extol certain ideas is mentioned more often than the ideas s/he has explored. I was ecstatic after seeing the play because the name is obliterated over the course of the piece—the dead human is allowed to be a dead human and make way for the living.

What would be your ultimate birthday celebration?

The “Happy Birthday” song came to being in Louisville many years ago, and the copyright for the song has infamously been in private hands. I felt that this was a black mark on Louisville’s cultural legacy and so the year before last I wrote a new happy birthday song. I wanted it to be as simple and memorable as the classic jam, and I wanted to make sure that it remained in the public domain. Last year on my birthday, a friend in Turkey went around to various great Turkish musicians and filmed each artist singing this new birthday song. He then sent me all of the videos. It was one of the best birthday presents ever; I cried all day long. Now I’m told that the courts recently made “Happy Birthday” public domain, and so the place for my composition is compromised. All of that said, I’m into the idea of celebrating the conception day rather than the birth day. Really, we should just be celebrating each other most of the time.

What are you most looking forward to doing during your time in Brooklyn and at BAM?

I’m most looking forward to clocking into this play every day and riding the wild ride that this company has constructed.

The Glory of the World plays the BAM Harvey Theater through Saturday, February 6, and great seats are still available.

1 comment:

  1. This is the best function room in the city. The food they served at these venues was warm, fresh and tasty, and the panoramic window is a sight to behold on a clear day. Their main hall was similar to a club/lounge – however, it had more of an intimate feel.


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