Collective Creativity: Theater Piece No 1

1. While at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, John Cage ate breakfast every morning with friend/lover/dancer Merce Cunningham and architect/designer/author Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller. It was during one of these breakfasts in 1952 that Cage conceived of what would become Theater Piece No. 1. By lunch, he had written time brackets on sheets of paper, which he then gave to Cunningham, Fuller, painter Robert Rauschenberg, and poets M.C. Richards and Charles Olson, among others. Each person was to perform as themselves for the duration of time written on each piece of paper. Those sheets gave structure to Theater Piece No. 1.

2. A single sheet of paper from the event remains, preserved in the New York Public Library for Performing Arts. Written in Cage’s hand, the text reads:


Begin at 16 min

Play freely until 23 min

Begin again at 24:30

Play freely until 35:45

Begin at 38:20

Play freely until 44:25

3. During Theater Piece No. 1, also known as The Event, Cage lectured on Zen Buddhism and read from his “Lecture on Nothing” from atop a ladder. Cunningham danced through the audience chased by a dog. Richards and Olsen took turns reading poetry from atop a second ladder. Rauschenberg’s white paintings are said to have hung from the ceiling over the audience’s heads as he himself played Edith Piaf records on an old Victrola. The audience, as they entered the space, found cups resting upon each seat. At the end of the evening, coffee was poured into them. A kind of ritual, Cage concluded.

August 7, 2022 Recreation of the famous happening with visiting artists: Alicja Borkowska, Aleksandra łukaszewicz, Bill Will, LeBrie Rich, Małgorzata Sady, Alka Nauman, łukasz Wójcicki, Joanna Klass, Wojtek S, Jankowo residents and Poppy the Dog

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