Ken Weitzman • USA • Author
Ariel de Man • USA • Director
Frans de Waal • USA • Scientist
Adam Fristoe • USA • Out of Hand Theater Company Artistic Director
Cees van Gemert • The Netherlands • The Lunatics’ Producer
About their theater piece, Ariel de Man of Out of Hand Theater, writes, “In a zoo in Holland, a modern day Macbeth unfolds.
Hominid is based on a true story of conspiracy, murder and suicide captured by Dr. Frans de Waal in Chimpanzee Politics *.
“In the 1970s Dutch researchers assembled the largest chimpanzee colony in captivity on an island surrounded by a moat in the Arnhem Zoo.
Here Frans de Waal witnessed the gruesome murder of a chimpanzee king by his opponents, the subject of his first book Chimpanzee Politics.
Here too, Dutch documentary-maker Bert Haanstra filmed The Family of Chimps. After these events, another chimp befriended the kingmaker chimpanzee;
and the new pair overthrew the murderer king.
Driven to distraction, the deposed ruler drowned himself in the moat. . .
Later, researchers showed the [chimpanzee] colony Haanstra’s film. They were hushed, watching. When they saw one chimp mistreating another,
they grumbled in solidarity; but it was not clear if they recognized themselves.
Then their drowned king appeared before them. When the new king saw the dead king,
he bared his teeth in a big, nervous grin, ran screaming to the kingmaker and climbed into his lap.
“Hominid takes place in an English garden, which is separated from the audience by a moat.
An elegant group dressed in tennis whites plays
games and quotes Shakespeare, but something’s odd.
At the sound of a buzzer, the men and women retire to separate chambers—only to repeat their routine the next day, and the day after that.
Men with camcorders watch from the audience’s side of the moat and, at a sudden movement or a loud noise, the group stops and waits, on guard.
Two of the men plot to overthrow the king; and when he succeeds in regaining power, they murder him viciously in the middle of the night.
Suddenly, the group freezes, and then scurries around as if in fast-forward.
The audience is seeing a live version of the video the watchers have been recording.
This live video reveals that another young man is trying to drive a wedge between the new rulers. The new king is driven to distraction;
and he runs head long into the moat and drowns. One of the watchers addresses the audience, introducing himself as the scientist in charge
of this group. He shows the group some of the video footage of themselves; and this footage is Bert Haanstra’s documentary The Family of Chimps.
At first, it is unclear if they recognize themselves; but when the murdered king appears, they all react in fear of the
ghost of their dead ruler returned.
“In Hominid, we ask the audience to look at humans as apes, rather than having actors play chimpanzees.
The premise is that since humans are apes, we don’t have to play at being apes.
Chimpanzee Politics reads like Shakespeare, a story of pretenders to the throne and ghosts of deposed kings who come back to haunt
The dialogue in Hominid is very sparse, and much of the action is communicated through body language rather than speech. However, when
the characters do speak, it is often in Shakespearean quotes. Hominid includes quotes from fifteen of Shakespeare’s plays, including Macbeth,
Hamlet, Henry IV, V and VI, Richard II and III, Othello and Julius Caesar. We chose Shakespeare because his writing is some of the most
beautiful, deepest expressions of the human mind and heart. We adapted a chimpanzee story to a human story; and, in so doing, we explore
de Waal’s idea that our most human thoughts, feelings and behavior are actually ape. In addition, Shakespeare’s plays are so widely read,
performed and quoted that his stories and words live in our collected unconscious; and they resonate deeply. We chose elegant dress and
manners because, in adapting the story for humans, we asked ourselves, what kind of people are these characters? They live in a zoo,
so they don’t have to work or forage for food or defend themselves; they’re waited on hand and foot: they’re the idle rich.”
* Dr. Frans de Waal is a world authority on primate social behavior, the director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National
Primate Research Center and a professor of psychology at Emory University.
He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences.
In 2007 he was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 World’s Most Influential People.”
Theater Emory, Emory University • Atlanta, Georgia, USA • November 7-23, 2009
Theater Emory is a professional theater company in residence at the University,
where undergraduates collaborate on significant and challenging artistic projects and plays with professional artists.
European Street Theatre Festival • Detmold, Germany • May 20-23, 2010
Burgers Zoo • Arnhem, The Netherlands • May 27 - June 6, 2010
Oerol Festival • Terschelling, The Netherlands • June 10-19, 2010
The Oerol Festival is an annual 10-day location theatre and landscape art festival on the island of Terschelling.
The unique programming, natural conditions and the very special atmosphere have allowed Oerol from its start in 1982
to grow into an internationally renowned and acclaimed multidisciplinary festival.
Every year over 55,000 culture lovers visit the festival to discover the surprising and innovative aspects of Oerol.