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ASU theater students confront the avant-garde in experimental play

April 1, 2015

Four hundred and fifty characters. Twelve actors. Zero lines of dialogue.

“The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other,” an experimental play written by avant-garde Austrian playwright and novelist Peter Handke, doesn’t lend itself to easy description. The work is based on the concept of people watching, but the script also grapples with some bigger ideas about the phenomenon of theater itself.

Visiting director Phil Soltanoff brings the play to life, April 3-12, for the School of Film, Dance and Theatre’s 2014-2015 MainStage season at Arizona State University.

For the students involved in the production, working with this a-typical script was a new opportunity for growth and exploration.

“The script has no lines. It’s about 25 pages of just stage directions,” says Dan Tobin, an actor in the show and an MFA student in performance. “This was the first time I’d done something like this, so it’s had its own challenges but also its own freedom and opportunities for creating really wonderful theatrical moments on stage.”

For Tobin, the meaning of the play lies in a commentary about the human experience.

“For me, the play really is about how we as people deal with the chaos of the world around us. It’s remarking on how amazing it is, how wonderful it is, that we keep persevering,” Tobin said.

Soltanoff prefers to keep his personal interpretations of Handke’s play to himself in hopes that theatergoers will find their own understanding of this complex work.

“I don’t believe at all in making something on stage that befuddles an audience,” says Soltanoff. “I believe that my job is to provide as much theatrical clarity in each moment as possible. But it finally becomes the audience’s job to take in that clarity and read it. And that reading it is what it’s about.”

Catch one of six performances of “The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other” at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse on ASU’s Tempe campus: 7:30 p.m., April 3-4 and April 9-11; 2 p.m., April 12.

Tickets prices are: $16 general; $12 ASU faculty, staff and alumni; $12 senior; $8 student. Purchase tickets online or call 480-965-6447.

Note to audiences: this production contains nudity and strobe lighting.

Media contact:

Katrina Montgomery,

Lisa Robbins

editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications