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MERZ: sneeze-poems and the like!

by on April 5, 2013

573Dadaist Kurt Schwitters was one of the most eccentric and influential artists in the 20th century, and the first to make poetry of the fact that a culture reveals itself in what it throws away. Peter Froehlich’s brilliant one-man show is a collage of Schwitters’ Merz poems. An odd collection of works written with throwaway syllables, letters and noises, MERZ features poems with silly titles such as The Complete Sneezing and Cough Scherz – all written without a single intelligible word. Nonsensical though it may seem, MERZ is one of the funniest shows you will ever see, and Froehlich’s authority and command of the text makes for a delightfully silly and enjoyable evening!

A “play” in two parts, MERZ first sets Kurt Schwitters’ life and work in its historical context – in the years leading up to the Third Reich. Woven from his shorter performance pieces, anecdotes and autobiographical ramblings, it includes his Sneeze-Poem, Cough-Poem and Stutter-Poem, as well as Schwitters’ tender and eccentric love poem, To Anna Blossom, and his wonderfully anarchic deconstruction of the rise of Nazism, The Causes and Outbreak of the Grand and Glorious Revolution in Revon. The second half does not contain a single intelligible word but is a performance of the famous but rarely performed Ursonate, a labyrinth of a composition of scored mouth noises.

Peter Froehlich premiered the play at the Edinburgh Festival over 30 years ago. Between 1976 and 1982, it toured theatres, art galleries, new music venues and universities from British Columbia to Newfoundland and from Boston and New York to Atlanta. It received universal rave reviews and wide public attention at the time. After a 20-year hiatus, Froehlich brought the show back to the stage in 2000 in Ottawa, and to Romania for an international festival of “new” dramaturgy. To his delight, he found that, after all that time, audiences still considered it innovative – and that they still laughed a lot!

Tickets for MERZ are available at the Fredericton Playhouse box office 1-866-884-5800, or online at

Before the show on April 17th why not EXPERIENCE MORE!

The Fredericton Playhouse Experience More! series presents:  What the heck is a human sneeze concerto?

Illustrated talk and film screening

Wednesday, April 10 at 7PM | Beaverbrook Art Gallery | No Charge

In partnership with the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, join writer and art historian Laurie Glenn Norris for an illustrated survey and film screening on the life and art of Kurt Schwitters, the German multi-media artist who was the creator and sole proponent of the Merz movement.

I AM MERZ: The Life and Art of Kurt Schwitters
Schwitters, labelled a “degenerate artist” by the Nazi Party, fled his homeland before World War II and spent the rest of his life in exile, first in Norway and then in Britain. Artistically ahead of his time, Schwitters’ works of art, from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, were composed of “found objects” and refuse and combined architecture, painting, sculpture, collage, poetry, performance and sound. His avant-garde pieces, although largely ignored until after his death in 1948, greatly influenced Pop Art and Performance Art in the latter part of the twentieth century. Over the last few decades, Schwitters and his work have once again gained the attention of collectors and critics alike and have been the subject of a number of gallery exhibitions. Most recently, his heirs have been embroiled in a dispute over the ownership of his works, estimated to be worth approximately $30 million dollars.

Laurie Glenn Norris is a local writer and art historian. She holds a Masters in Art History from the University of Victoria.

Film Screening: The Schwitters Scandal:  Kurt Schwitters (1996)
While Schwitters was alive he provoked the art world with his one-man Dada movement, Merz.  His death prompted several sensational inheritance lawsuits involving heirs, mistresses, the Norwegian government, and the Marlborough Gallery. The film unravels a bizarre story of deceit, intrigue, power and money.

For information, contact Amani Wassef at 459-6212 |

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