The TSL Archive Project is a celebration of thirty years collaboration by co-directors Linda Mussmann and Claudia Bruce – two women who have been recognized for their innovations in experimental theater as well as for their committed community involvement in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
In May 1973, Linda Mussmann's avant-garde theatre, Time & Space Limited, produced its first performance, Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano at the Zarattini Bond Street Theater in the Bowery. Shortly after this production, she moved TSL to the Universalist Church on West 76th Street where she worked for the next three years producing classics with a strong director's point of view, developing into one of New York's most creative young directors.
Claudia Bruce was working as an actress, and for the feminist newspaper, Majority Report. As the reporter covering women’s events throughout the city, Claudia ventured to the Universalist Church to see Linda's 1976 production of Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans. Thus began the collaboration that has now culminated in The TSL Archive Project.
Since their initial collaboration in 1976, Linda and Claudia have worked as theater artists exploring the relationship between language and movement. The original scripts were written by Linda and edited by Claudia. During the 1970s and 1980s, Linda and Claudia worked with artists from Turkey, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, France, Italy, and places in between. The ensemble was trained using an intensive blend of vocal technique and dance movement and ranged in number from 4 to 12. The performances were directed by Linda who became adroit at writing for the voices of the individual performers and, specifically, for Claudia who was the central character in all the work. Linda also designed the sets, lighting, lighting boards, and fixtures.
In addition to the original scripts, Linda adapted literary texts and classic plays by writers including Virginia Woolf, Henrik Ibsen, Herman Melville, Shakespeare, Georg Büchner, and Kikue Tashiro. Their artistic collaborators have included composer, musician, and dramaturge, Semih Firincioglu and set designer, Jun Maeda.
Their productions have been presented in traditional and alternative spaces in NYC such as La Mama E.T.C., Riverside Church Theater, Merce Cunningham Studio, Marymount College Theater, Museum of Modern Art, Japan Society, Cooper Hewitt Museum, Equitable Center, Philip Morris Sculptural Court, A.I.R. Gallery as well as spaces in Canada, Denmark, and throughout the US.
In 1990, Time & Space Limited joined other artists and organizations in rejecting funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, in protest of the agency's stipulation that recipients of the funding promise not to produce “obscene” work. The $10,000 grant would have covered 10% of Time & Space’s annual budget.
In 1991, Linda and Claudia packed up their Manhattan space, moved upstate to Hudson, NY and converted a 120x80ft bakery into the interdisciplinary art space it is now, a gallery and theatre. They have not only continued their creative work for the past thirty years but have affected significant change through the programming at Time & Space Limited and their personal commitments and activism in issues specific to their community.
Linda and Claudia continue in theater with two new projects each year. In 2001 and 2002, they returned to La Mama with an original work, "Blind in Time," and an adapted version of "Hamlet." They have also produced four projects for German radio stations Sender Freies Radio, Berlin and WDR: “Danton’s Death,” “Lenz,” “Grief Has Taught Us Nothing,” and “Time to Talk: The Story of James B. Snead.”
Selected reviews of past Mussmann/Bruce productions:
"A woman sat at one side of the stage... There were films of foliage and turning windmills. Five women kept crossing the stage in various patterns of rhythmic movements, accompanying their activities with singing and chanting. Occasionally, they stretched their arms, pointing toward something forever in the distance and, in one sequence, they carried pails and appeared to be doing chores."
Jack Anderson, The New York Times (Omaha to Ogden (Southwesterly))
"Mussmann has a gift for weaving strands of very different material - arcane historical facts, first-person reminiscences of history, events and sometimes slangy speech from the 1980's - into a freshly vivid tapestry."
Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times (Go Between Gettysberg)
"The piece is also impressive as theater craft. Ms. Mussmann's staging and the score, by Semih Firincioglu, are witty, lilting and evocative. The ambitiousness yet refreshing simplicity of the undertaking is epitomized by the ingenious wood-plank set designed by Peter Berry and Paul Blutter."
Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times (Blue Scene Grey)
"Here, as in other Mussmann pieces, the performers also speak stage instructions and comment on them, jolting the audience briefly and a little coyly back into the present."
Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times (Little Stumps: The Deal)
There is nothing that frees the mind more to imagine than a white room, or maybe a white theater. In her newest work, "Blind in Time," Linda Mussmann has written a piece that looks into her mind for the material, then projects the images of her memory onto the skewered white walls of the theater. "
Emily Morris, The New York Theater Wire (Blind in Time)
Linda Mussmann has created a new mixed-media production, "H.A.M.L.E.T.," that stages Shakespeare's timeless tale with only two actors. A deconstructionist tragic comedy at heart, it reflects Mussmann's history of social activism and incorporates performance, music, and political commentary."