©2016 Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg Berlin, Kunst- und Kulturstiftung Opelvillen Rüsselsheim and authors [and translators!]
The first performance on the stage, in which Niki de Saint Phalle was involved,* was devised by her in collaboration with Jean Tinguely (1925–1991), Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008),** and Jasper Johns (born 1930). It took place in the small theatre of the American Embassy in Paris on 20 June 1961. The performance was an homage to the avant-garde pianist David Tudor (1926–1996), whose first European tour began in Paris at this time. The artists conceived a concert-performance featuring varied and simultaneous actions and improvisations, which was organised by Darthea Speyer (1919–2014), the then Cultural Attaché of the United States Embassy in Paris, on behalf of the Théatre de l’Ambassade des États-Unis. The piece Variations II, which was being premiered, had just been completed by John Cage (1912–1992). He had written it for David Tudor and given it to him for his birthday. Cage was also Rauschenberg’s mentor, colleague, and friend. The three had known one another since their shared time at Black Mountain College, where, in 1952, Tudor und Rauschenberg had taken part in an event which continued to resonate in the Paris action. Together, but orchestrated by Cage, they had put on The Untitled Event (also known as Theater Piece No. 1) in the dining hall, where a series of performances had taken place within a choreographed timeframe, but with no narrative or causal relation to one another. Although the audience was small, this action made waves. Tudor also transferred his experience gathered there — as well as in the later Theater Piece, which premiered at New York’s Circle in the Square Theatre in 1960 — to the collaborative performance in Paris. Once again, different art forms were to join together and perform actions within set times.
* Not my commas. This is not the first performance on the stage EVER, and Niki de Saint Phalle was involved in it — it is the first performance on the stage in which Niki de Saint Phalle was involved!
** (Incidentally:) British English was to be used this time. Oxford commas have been added throughout (used consistently in US English, but selectively in British English where otherwise there would be ambiguity).
More Niki de Saint Phalle: L’Éloge de la folie, 1966, by Beate Kemfert