In Memory of Doris Bither
by Yana Thönnes
Director: Yana Thönnes
1974, Culver City, Los Angeles. Doris Bither, a single mother of four, reports to the police that she has been repeatedly visited and raped at night by an »invisible entity« in her own home. The police officers do indeed encounter strange phenomena in Bither’s house, including objects being moved without any visible external force, cold spots and unpleasant smells — and they classify the case as »paranormal activity«. Bither also contacts psychologists at the UCLA Research Lab for Parapsychological Phenomena. A months-long investigation beings, to the point where around 30 investigators are frequenting Bither’s house.
The case remains unsolved.
An author recognizes the story’s potential and writes a bestseller. He also signs the screen play to the horror movie »The Entity«, which premieres in 1983. Doris Bither loses the copyright to her own story. While the narrative is being successfully marketed during her own lifetime, Bither is being haunted by the »Invisible Entity« until her dying day.
Decades later, in »In Memory of Doris Bither«, her son, her former neighbor and the child actress from »The Entity« attempt to reconstruct the traumatic events. In the process, their personal recollections overlap with media and fictional representations from newspaper articles, witness statements, the novel and the film. While their minds can barely remember, their bodies begin to repeat the events: Between conjuring, compulsory repetition, and true crime, they embark on a search for Doris Bither's memoirs, hoping to give her back her story.
Yana Thönnes, born in 1990, is a director, author and performer. In 2015, she founded the performance company THE AGENCY together with Magdalena Emmerig, Rahel Spöhrer and Belle Santos. In 2023, she introduced herself as a director with »Spitzenreiterinnen« by Jovana Reisinger at Residenztheater, Munich. In Yana Thönnes’ first production at the Schaubühne, ensemble member Ruth Rosenfeld and performers Heinrich Horwitz and Kate Strong go in search of the language Doris Bither lacked to tell her story. In doing so, they become haunted by the forms of language we continue to use to describe violence against women, queer people, and bodies and humans that diverge from the norm. »In Memory of Doris Bither« wants to summon the spirit of Doris Bither onto the stage to uncover what was really troubling her.
Stage and Costume Design: Katharina Pia Schütz
Music: Ville Haimala
Dramaturgy: Elisa Leroy / Martín Valdés-Stauber
Premieres on 26 September 2023
Funded in the Zero program of the German Federal Cultural Foundation as part of »Studio as a laboratory for climate-neutral theater practice«.
Funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.
As part of the research for »In Memory of Doris Bither«, Yana Eva Thönnes traveled to Los Angeles with the support of the Goethe Institute.