Guest director Andrew Borba opens up to Daniel Gary Busby about WOYZECK


Daniel Gary Busby: I know this style of script is not in your usual milieu…are you excited about directing it?

Andrew Borba: No. I'm kidding, I'm kidding! Yes, I'm terrifically excited about directing this play! I usually direct Shakespeare plays or – for some reason no one has ever explained to me – American plays from 1939. The world the designers are creating for Woyzeck is like nothing I’ve ever worked on before, and we've taken full advantage of their imaginations and the non-literal and metaphorical possibilities in our design. It's going to look and feel amazing! But to be clear: I'm not a fan of abstraction for abstraction's sake, or image for image's sake in the theater. To me it's like watching paint dry. The theater is best when we tell and share stories, and I think that's what I do best as a director. It's certainly what I strive for. The limit of those stories and characters is no less than our imaginations, so anything is possible; and yes, images are a vital part of that process, but at the core our job is to tell compelling stories with interesting characters...and, fortunately for us and for the audience, Woyzeck has both of those things.

DGB: Büchner’s Woyzeck is a famously unfinished script. Do you find this particularly challenging as a director, or do you feel it allows you more artistic freedom?

AB: Yes, and yes! Büchner's script is like the blueprint of a house. It's beautiful but not yet built, and given the different translations and even the different endings available, the thrill of creating this world nearly from scratch with the designers, the actors and my own crazy imagination is certainly more challenging than most plays but also more freeing. I think this is why so many artists historically have been attracted to it. With great risk comes great reward and the real truth is, given the "blueprints" of this play, we can't even be sure the house will stand when we build it! Haha! But whether it succeeds or fails, stands or falls, I guarantee it will do so gloriously!

DGB: Animal references are rampant in Woyzeck, as characters are likened to them both favorably and unfavorably, and carnival animals are dressed as humans in order to overcome being “nothing at all.” Do you believe Büchner is positioning “animal nature” as something to be admired or reviled?

AB: I think he's saying it's an inherent, unbecoming and dangerous part of who we are as humans. Many of the more powerful or well-off characters don't attempt to control their "animal nature," but rather use their position to freely pursue it or enforce it upon others; whereas much of Woyzeck's struggle is a struggle to keep his own "animal nature" at bay, especially given the dehumanizing world into which he is thrust and from which he cannot escape.

DGB: When the Captain tells Woyzeck he has no virtue, his response is “Virtue must be nice, Cap’n. But I’m just a poor guy.” What are your thoughts about the intersection of poverty and morality in this play?

AB: I think Büchner is saying that the two cannot mutually exist. It's a very Brechtian sentiment and one that was the first spark in our discussions about the play – the separate rules for the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in this world. It is extremely topical. Whether we are talking about the 99% in this country, the disproportionate number of poor in American prisons, certain underlying causes of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, or those people most likely to be recruited into ISIS, our world continues to be ruled, run, and manipulated by those who hold the purse strings. Morality is a man-made concept. Do animals have morality? No. The philosophers tell us that's what separates us from the animals. Yet, what place does morality have when you can't feed your family? Yet it’s interesting to note that, generally speaking, the poor of this world seem to be the most pious; indeed, Jesus’ quote “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” seems to apply when we consider the social standing of Woyzeck’s characters in relation to their capacity for compassion.

DGB: As with the anthropomorphism of the animals, Woyzeck is at many points an examination of nature vs. nurture. The “privileged” characters are the victimizers and buffoons, however, and the characters with “nothing” are portrayed as three-dimensional, acting with a level of human consciousness their “betters” seem to lack. What does this say about the materialism of the time, and that with which we live today?

AB: It's very subversive of Büchner to do this, don't you think? It's a trait of Expressionism – even though officially Büchner wrote well before Expressionism – that the People, the ones we as audience associate with, are the unfortunates. Writing from this perspective I believe Büchner makes Woyzeck's and Marie's downfalls all the more universal and all the more tragic, then and now. Who doesn't at some point feel victimized by "The Machine"?! This play is TIMELY!

DGB: Many theorists see Woyzeck as a Christ figure. Do you plan to emphasize this parallel in your production?

AB: No. I personally don't think Woyzeck is a Christ figure. I think Woyzeck is meat. Meat that is chewed up by a selfish, destructive society for its own use, amusement and pleasure, and then regurgitated and mythologized by that same society to compartmentalize and excuse their amoral behavior. Christ had a choice. I'm not so sure Woyzeck does. If Christ died in the name of redemption, where is the redemption for Woyzeck? Perhaps that can only be found through reflection, on our way home in the car.

DGB: Is there anything else you would like us to know about this project?

AB: Woyzeck is not a flattering social mirror, neither to Büchner's 1830s Germany nor to our 2016 America, but it is insightful, resonant, deeply imaginative, surprisingly funny, and very fast paced. Oh...and there will be puppets!


Woyzeck will be showing at the Claire Trevor Theatre, 5 - 13 March 2016. For tickets, call (949) 824-2787 or visit

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