“Listening to Arnold Schönberg’s music for his cabaret/opera Pierrot Lunaire, I tried to allow my mind to free associate a concept that both fit the mood of his atonal music, and that could be retrofitted in a more modernist context to the accompanying poems by Albert Giraud. What floated out of the soup of my unconscious was a story I once heard that supposedly happened several decades ago in Toronto, a tale so bizarre and yet so universal in theme (the Oedipal and Castration Complexes come to mind) that it would not seem out of place beside the tragedies of the Ancient Greeks or Shakespeare. A young girl who dresses regularly as a boy (think ‘Twelfth Night’ or the ‘Merchant of Venice’) falls in love with and seduces a young girl who has no clue that her paramour is of the same sex. The girl who would be a boy comes from a modest economic background, while the female object of his desire is a member of the upper classes, her father a wealthy industrialist. The girl introduces her boyfriend* to her father and although initially reluctant, he is finally won over by his charm and ambition !

Things are going swimmingly until one night in the backseat of a car the girl discovers that her lover has been using some other device to pleasure her, that he is lacking his own personal phallic appendage. The distressed girl reports the incident back to her father, who in a fit of apoplexy forbids her from ever seeing this lowly transvestite ever again. Frantic, the boy* goes out to a male strip bar with the desperate plan of hiring one of the dancers so that he might take him home, cut off his genitals and graft them onto the space between his legs where only an imaginary phallus exists. The boy* who was born a girl imagines the glory holes that are on stage – holes through which the dancers thrust their erect members – as guillotines! But once he* has the private dancer back in his* apartment, the boy* finds his prey too sympathetic and cannot bring himself* to kill him.

Subsequently, the rich girl escapes from her father’s house and meets with her former paramour, professing her love for him* no matter what. This steels his* resolve, so the next night the boy* hires a taxi and instructs the driver to take him* to an address in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of the city. After a mighty struggle, the boy* stabs the taxi driver to death, cuts off his genitals, and crazy-glues them between his* own legs where no male member has grown. He* then drives the taxi to his* girlfriend’s house and rings the bell. When the father answers the door, he* pulls down his* pants to reveal that he* does indeed now have more than just an imaginary penis !

I believe this story invokes the necessary attributes of melodrama and Grand Guignol that we are looking for in 21st Century version of Pierrot Lunaire. The scenario also has the distinct advantage of casting a female in a male role, one of the odd casting directions that Schoenberg stipulated for his melodrama. The cast would include five main characters: Pierrot (the girl who believes she is a boy), his girlfriend, the girlfriend’s father, the main male dancer from the strip club, and the taxi driver”.


with Susanne Sachsse

Commissioned by Hebbel am Ufer Theater in Berlin