Robert Wilson

Robert Wilson, born October 4 1941 in Waco, Texas, USA, is an American theatre director, playwright, stage designer and producer. He is educated as an architect.

Wilson studied architecture, among other things, at Pratt Institute, New York, and with Paolo Soleri, before he began working as an avant-garde artist with visual arts as well as performance art and video. He has used special visual and audial experiences from therapeutic work with youth with physical disadvantages. In his theatre, often referred to as"visual performance", he takes the visual far into the abstract; he is often responsible for his own stage and sound designs and in his early productions he used almost no text.


(Objekt ID 28859)
Object type Person
Born October 4, 1941
Functions Director, Producer, Dramatist/Playwright
Nationality American
Gender Male

Robert Wilson won international acclaim from 1976 through the collaboration with the composer Philip Glass in the opera Einstein on the Beach.

In 1992 he founded the study centre Watermill Center in Long Island, outside of New York. Among the more remarkable productions, one may mention Dr. Faustus Lights the Light (based on Gertrude Stein) in Berlin in 1992, The Black Rider in collaboration with Tom Waits and William S. Burroughs in Hamburg (later performed at The Norwegian Theatre in 1998 and Hålogaland Theatre in 2011) and Peer Gynt at The Norwegian Theatre and The National Stage in 2005.

Wilson has continued to stage opera, including the gala concert at the opening of the Bastille opera in 1989 and the Wagner productions Parsifal at Houston Grand Opera 1992 (later in Hamburg) and Lohengrin at The Metropolitan Opera in New York 1998. His visual style has influenced a number of European directors.

At the webpage of The Norwegian Theatre the following, among other things, is written about Robert Wilson and his direction of Peer Gynt:

"Robert Wilson is responsible for direction as well as stage design and lighting design. Jon Fosse has translated Ibsen into New Norwegian, and the music is written particularly for the production by Michael Galasso. We meet Peer Gynt in three different phases of his life, played by three men: Henrik Rafaelsen, Endre Hellestveit and Sverre Bentzen.


Finally in Norway

Nothing was the ordinary way when Wilson in November 2003 visited the theatres in Bergen and Oslo for the first time. This was an audition with one of the very greatest instructors. The actors got numbers. They were to walk a meter in three minutes. This was like the first day of school.

The Betty Nansen Theatre in Denmark experienced enormous success with the production Woyzeck, directed by Wilson himself. In Copenhagen he also created the production The White Town about the architect and designer Arne Jacobsen for Bellevue Teatret, and at Stockholm City Theatre he staged his own distinct versions of Three Sisters and A Dream Play. In 1998 The Norwegian Theatre staged The Black Rider, signed Robert Wilson, Tom Waits and William Burroughs. The direction was by Carl Jørgen Kiønig. Since then we have only wanted more. Now it is finally Norway's turn to be visited by this renaissance person of a theatre genius. He has staged two plays by Ibsen before, but never Peer Gynt. He is happy that is to happen in Norway.

"Further and beyond"

During the early 1960es the architect Wilson travelled from Texas to New York. With visual artists, choreographer pioneers such as Merce Cunningham, George Balanchine, Martha Graham and John Cage, musicians and theatre professionals he began processing brand new and experimental theatre genres. This was the start of an extraordinary theatre career ranging across sculpture, video production, stage design, architecture, performance art, dance – and foremost, a huge number of theatre and opera productions. Let us sum up some of them: In 1971 Wilson gained international acknowledge for his 'silent opera' A Deafman Glance, created with deaf and mute Raymond Andrews. The French surrealist Louis Aragon wrote about Wilson that he was 'what we, from whom Surrealism was born, dreamed would come after us and go beyond us'.

International production

Later Wilson has made a deep imprint in American as well as European theatre. First with his own theatre company The Byrd Company in New York, later in the European theatre stage where he was a sensation with his own plays as well as texts by Gertrude Stein, Allen Ginsberg, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller and Tankred Dorst and classical material such as Medea and Hamlet. At Thaila Theater in Hamburg he was during the 1990es part of creating the term 'art musical', with productions such as Alice, The Black Rider (both with music by Tom Waits) and Time Rocker (music by Lou Reed). Great successes, large audiences.

Most of the Wilson productions have been produced in collaboration with several institutions, and are performed at several places across the world. From 1992 he has rented his own cultural factory, Watermill Center in Long Island. There ideas and projects are cultivated in collaboration between Wilson and his co-workers."

Peer Gynt by The Norwegian Theatre and The National Stage won The Hedda Award 2005 in the production of the year category.

The Hedda Jury gave the following reason:

"The production of the year actually is unique in our theatre reality at home, anno 2005. Not just because of its text: That is familiar and loved. And even though we still stick relatively close to traditions in our little part of the world, we also have experienced utterly different, often surprising, interpretations of it several times before. Still, this interpretation represents something new in Norwegian theatre.

The Norwegian critics had no doubt; a collective corps of critics brought forth the superlatives: 'A grand performance', 'a visual theatre experience we will remember for a long time', 'great, image-rich modern totality theatre', 'liberatingly different'. Even Swedish newspapers went to Oslo, and wrote home about 'exquisitely beautiful... dream-like play of mourning'. So diverse were the aspects of the production that were underlined, there can be no doubt that it was rich and many-faceted.

The production of the year Hedda goes to Peer Gynt as directed by Robert Wilson, the fruit of an utterly successful collaboration between The Norwegian Theatre and The National Stage."

In 2017, Robert Wilson was back at The Norwegian Theatre, where he staged Edda. He received The Hedda Award 2017 in the best stage design and costume design category for his stage design for the production.

The Hedda Jury gave the following reason:

"This year's Hedda Award for best stage design goes to an artist known for creating productions with a distinct artistic character. The work for which he gets the award is no exception. The stage design is created in the range between gods and people's ability to create and destruct, and shows everything from the Gokstad Viking ship to volcanoes, the Tree of Life, Yggdrasil, and icebergs. It is sculptural and it is architectonical. The light leads the frame of mind and the light leads the eye. This way, the story is shown as much as it is told."

Edda also was nominated for The Hedda Award 2017 in the production of the year category, and the complete ensemble received award in the category called special artistic achievement.


The Norwegian Theatre, Peer Gynt,,

Sceneweb on The Hedda Award 2005,, 17.10.2012,

Store Norske Leksikon, Robert Wilson,, 18.10.2012,

The Hedda Award,, 19.06.2017,

Involved in productions (9)
Title Premiere Role
The Sandman (Düsseldorfer SchauspielhausUnlimited Performing ArtsRuhrfestspiele Recklinghausen ) May 3, 2017 Dramatised by, Direction, Visual design, Lighting design
Edda (The Norwegian Theatre) March 4, 2017 Direction, Stage design, Lighting design
Woyzeck (The Norwegian Theatre) August 29, 2014 Adapted by
The Black Rider (Rogaland Theatre) January 25, 2014 Playwright
Black Rider (The Arctic Theatre) September 22, 2011 Playwright
Peer Gynt (The Norwegian TheatreThe National StageBergen International Festival) February 19, 2005 Direction, Stage design, Lighting design
The Black Rider (The Norwegian Theatre) September 4, 1998 Playwright
Street Games – Hymn – Giselle (The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet) February 15, 1965 Stage design
Street Games – Act II of Swan Lake – The Miraculous Mandarin (The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet) March 5, 1964 Stage design
Artworks (1)
Title Premiere Role
The Black Rider 1990, Script, Musical – Author