Vice Versa

Vice Versa (1988), commmissioned by Kala Institute’s Seeing Time Festival 1988. Above, Margaret Fisher and Dominica Kriz in rehearsal, MAFISHCO Studios. Photo Credit, Bassem Elias    Video below

About the work

Vice Versa, commmissioned by Kala Institute’s annual Seeing Time Festival, is an interdisciplinary work for the stage that takes the iconic ideas, images, words and sounds in the Western lineage to show the inversion of values over time. It begins with the prophecies of the Sibyls whose body parts in triplicate allow the prophetesses to divine the past, present or future, foretelling of the inversion of values from Hellenic times that occurred with the coming of Christ. Our production hinges on the prophecy of the Sibyl of Erythraea, told through 3 eyes and 3 legs, memorably embodied by Beverlee Blair. She foretells how the FALL, mankind’s first four-letter word, will be stretched over the milennia to 100 letters of triumphant artistry in Finnegans Wake by an artist named James Joyce:


The protagonists: The Sibyl (Beverlee Blair), the Satyr (Margaret Fisher), the Minotaur (award-winning body-builder Harold Hatcher), Ariadne (Blair), Dante (a linen-wrapped puppet drawn out of the tomb by the Minotaur) and Nietzsche (C. L. Reed, narrator, best known for his performances of Balinese shadow puppet plays, and Bob Hughes, composer, whose performance of Nietzsche’s poem, “The Desert Grows: Woe To Him who Harbors Deserts” is heard in the audio clip below).

The Minotaur and the Satyr meet Dante and Nietzsche in the netherworld. The inversion of values appears sober and elegant in the wake of Dante, the set designs by Jerry Carniglia reflecting the fantastic architecture of Dante’s contemporary, the Florentine painter Giotto. Chaos and terror inevitably ensue--a reminder that the most powerful voices in literature and music are often terrifying in the logical extension of their thinking (Dante, Wagner, Pound)--and that the Dionysian element must inevitably return. Only then, may humankind may proceed to the next catharactic juncture in the development of the mind, of civilization, and of art. The Dionysian cult triumphs, leads to Existentialism, which spawns the Theater of the Absurd, which in its turn secures for us the tradition of experimentation with theatrical forms: the bubbling mud of Inferno, the thaw of galactic ice and the in-between.

Two site-specific installations resulted from the elaborate designs of Vice Versa, The Reliquary for the River Styx with its Giotto-inspired elegants sets, and The Reliquary for the River Marsyas, with chaotic mountain of straw and fog, tagged walls and rope deity.

Vice Versa was funded in part by Kala Institute and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, Zellerbach Family Fund, California Arts Council, the Exploratorium Artist-in-Residence Program, the Djerassi Resident Artists Foundation, Chevron, Gene Fisher, and Friends of MAFISHCO.


  • Script, direction: Margaret Fisher
  • Music:  Robert Hughes
  • Lighting; Larry Neff
  • Visual Design:  Jerry Carniglia
  • Additional Sets:  Fred Fierstein, Barry Valentino
  • Special Effects:  Barry Valentino
  • Audio Engineer:  Andrew Smolle
  • Recording Engineer:  Richard Beggs
  • Costumes and Masks:  Jacqueline Humbert
  • Performers:  Beverlee Blair, Margaret Fisher, Harold Hatcher, Jr., C. L. Reed
  • Vocalists:  Anna Carol Dudley, Judith Hubbell, Judith Nelson, Marcia Gronewold, Eric Morris, Tom Manguem, Ed Cohen
  • Production Crew:  Mara Lee Corter, Janice Campbell, Drigvie Derr, Zerita Dotson, Chrystine Ells, Grant Fairlie, David Jouris



Excerpt from
by Robert Hughes; sung by Judith Nelson, Anna Carol Dudley, Judy Ruth Hubbell, Marcia Gronewold, Eric Morris, Ed Cohen. Text: The Fall from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce.

available on audio CD


Excerpt from
The Desert Grows
by Robert Hughes; the composer on Prophet 10 synthesizer and vocals. Text: Dithyrambs of Dionysus by Freidrich Nietzsche, Trans. R. J. Hollingdale, permission Anvil Press Poetry.

available on audio CD

Performance History

  • Preview: The Explortorium, San Francisco, September, 1987
  • Preview: Djerassi Resident Artist Program, Woodside, CA Fall, 1986
  • Preview: ProArts Open Studios, MAFISHCO Emeryville studios, June 25-26, 1988
  • Premiere: Kala Institute’s Seeing Time Festival, Berkeley, CA, Sept. 22-Oct. 1, 1988


The Satyr’s Dance from Vice Versa.   VHS archival footage, 1988.