Screening of The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer by Robert Ashley, Directed by Alex Waterman
The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer and Other Unknown Accomplices For Crimes Against Humanity (1968) is a “speaking opera” by Robert Ashley originally staged in 1968, in which the main speaker is asked to publicly answer one hundred questions about her life by an interrogator offstage. A series of improvised interruptions, diversions, and cross-examinations by two pairs of men and women creates a cacophonous and complicated score, with sounds of evasions, sarcastic questions and answers, laughter, and a huge, complex “story” about life as they all have lived it.
As Ashley recalls,“Audience reactions went from wonder to sheer outrage—as we learned from a lot of letters that came to us after performances.”
In 1974, Anne Opie Wehrer wrote a letter to Marcia Tucker at the Whitney Museum explaining her wish to reproduce the opera at the Whitney as a live performance and installation. Forty years later, Waterman used this letter as the template for his staging and production of the piece at the 2014 Whitney Biennial..
At the Biennial Anne Opie Wehrer was replaced by four contemporary art-world personalities – artist Amy Sillman (also and artist in the Biennial), poet and cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum, artist, actress, and forensic therapist Mary Farley, and visual artist Barbara Bloom.
Anne's "proxies" were performed by Kendra Sullivan and Alisa Besher, examiners included Sean Daly, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Mary Farley.
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