Robert Wilson
Stanford Humanities Center

Annotated Bibliography of Selected Resources on Robert Wilson


For a complete listing and chronology of Robert Wilson’s productions, see his Web site:
Many of the monographs below contain similar lists.

Monographs and Exhibition Catalogs || Essays and Articles
Interviews and Dialogues || Videos || Web Sites

The Theatre of Visions

Monographs and Exhibition Catalogs

Brecht, Stefan. The Theatre of Visions: Robert Wilson.
Original Theatre of the City of New York; Bk. 1.
London: Methuen Drama, 1994.

Brecht’s intricate monograph, first published in 1978, is composed of biographical information, lengthy interviews, reviews and interpretations, in-depth performance descriptions, and first-hand accounts.  It is the first book-length study of Wilson’s work.  The author was a participant in the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds and therefore had direct access to Wilson and his colleagues.

Danzker, Jo-Anne Birnie. Robert Wilson: Steel Velvet. Munich: Prestel: Museum Villa Stuck, 1997.

This catalog not only presents the body of work included in a 1997 exhibition at the Museum Villa Stuck (a site-specific “environment” referred to simply as the Villa Stuck project); it also contains an essay that traces the development of Wilson’s work outside of the theater: sculpture, works on paper, installations, and furniture design.

Robert Wilson's Vision

Fairbrother, Trevor J. Robert Wilson's Vision: An Exhibition of Works. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts in association with H. N. Abrams, New York, 1991.

As with the Centre Pompidou catalog that was also published in 1991, this book accompanied an exhibition focused upon Wilson’s work within the visual—rather than theatrical—arts.  The exhibition, organized in Boston, included preparatory drawings, maquettes, chairs, photographs, masks, and sculpture.  A sound installation by Hans Peter Kuhn, a frequent Wilson collaborator, served as an audio accompaniment.  The catalog includes reproductions of featured works, two essays by exhibition organizer Trevor Fairbrother, and contributions by noted artists, collaborators, and admirers William S. Burroughs, Susan Sontag, and Richard Serra.

Holmberg, Arthur. The Theatre of Robert Wilson. Directors in Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Holmberg’s text, part of the Directors in Perspective series, is a theoretical reading of Wilson’s oeuvre.  It traces the artist’s shift into textual work; the layered structures of his images; his treatment of light, space, and movement; his methods for conjuring what Holmberg characterizes as a destabilized dream-state; and his representations of trauma.

Morey, Miguel and Carmen Pardo Salgado. Robert Wilson. 20-21 Collection. Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa, 2003.

A large number of performance photographs accompany this monograph that attempts, by presenting its contents in a slightly off-beat format, to answer the question posed in its first sentence: “What has not been said, by this time, on the subject of Robert Wilson?”  To this end, the authors treat Wilson’s work purely thematically, limiting a chronological presentation to the book’s appendix.  The chronology itself contains rich details relating to the works’ various productions and re-stagings.

Absolute Wilson

Otto-Bernstein, Katharina. Absolute Wilson: The Biography. Munich: Prestel, 2006.

This book serves as a companion to Otto-Bernstein’s film of the same name.  It contains much of the same information: news clippings and photographs from Wilson’s archives, transcripts of interviews presented in the film, performance stills, and abundant biographical information.

Quadri, Franco, Franco Bertoni, and Robert Stearns. Robert Wilson. New York: Rizzoli, 1998.

Thematic essays relating to Wilson’s imagery, early work, and non-theatrical creations compose the second part of this volume.  The first section consists of a biographical essay followed by a pictorial overview of some of the artist’s key pieces—a solid introduction for a reader approaching Wilson’s work for the first time.

Shevtsova, Maria. Robert Wilson. Routledge Performance Practitioners. London: Routledge, 2007.

Shevtsova’s monograph performs multiple functions: it serves as a comprehensive introduction to Wilson’s life and work; it outlines Wilson’s workshop method; it provides a thorough, focused treatment of Einstein on the Beach; and it offers relevant exercises for drama and performance students.

Shyer, Laurence. Robert Wilson and His Collaborators. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1989.

Divided into the sections “Performance and Performers,” “Writers, Dramaturgs and Texts,” “Design,” “Sound and Music,” and “Business and Art,” this book attempts to develop a portrait of Wilson’s career by way of those who have worked with him.  Shyer aims for depth rather than breadth, concentrating upon a relatively small number of figures who have helped Wilson attain the identities of polymath and avid collaborator.

Wilson, Robert, et al. Robert Wilson: Mr Bojangles' Memory: Og Son of Fire: Ouvrage Publié à l'Occasion De l'Exposition Présentée Au Centre Georges Pompidou Du 6 Novembre 1991 Au 27 Janvier 1992. Paris: Le Centre, 1991.

The multi-part catalog includes selected images of the chairs and drawings that were exhibited at the Centre Pompidou, with idiosyncratic annotations by Heiner Müller and John Cage, respectively.  Wilson’s interview with Umberto Eco, reproduced in English in a 1993 issue of Performing Arts Journal, makes up the largest section of the text.

———. Robert Wilson: The Theater of Images. Cincinnati, Ohio: The Contemporary Arts Center, 1984.

This collection of essays and documentary images is a revised and expanded edition of the catalog that accompanied the 1980 exhibition organized by Robert Stearns.  It includes reprints of critical essays by John Rockwell, Stearns, Calvin Tomkins, and Laurence Shyer.  Tomkins’s essay, “Time to Think,” was originally published in The New Yorker in 1974; it is a rather early example of a critic’s attempt to describe, contextualize, and digest a single Wilson performance—a complicated feat indeed.

Wilson, Robert and Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design. Robert Wilson's CIVIL WarS: Drawings, Models, and Documentation: An Exhibition Organized by Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design Exhibition Center, June 11-August 15, 1984. Los Angeles, Calif: The Institute, 1984.

Focused solely upon Wilson’s the CIVIL wars, and particularly upon its ill-fated Los Angeles iteration, this exhibition catalog contains reproductions of drawings and storyboards, as well as performance photographs.  Three essays treat Wilson’s relationship to the act of drawing; his utilization of grand scale in historical subject matter and in set design; and, finally, the details of his unsuccessful quest to produce the work at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Wilson, Robert and Lesley Leslie-Spinks. 14 Stations. Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2000.

Leslie-Spinks’s photographs provide documentation of this architecture-based installation that was created to coincide with the 2000 Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany.  Wilson also showed the work at MASS MoCA, beginning in 2001.

Robert Wilson's RWWM

Wilson, Robert and Vittorio Santoro. Robert Wilson: RWWM. Zurich: Memory/Cage Editions, 1997.

This quasi-catalog, presented without commentary, includes texts and sketches from various Wilson productions.  Excerpts of other texts, such as Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and the Grimm Brothers’ The Louse and the Flea, intermingle with the works by Wilson.  The photographs by Vittorio Santoro provide snapshots of performances and architecture at the Watermill Center in Southampton, New York.


Essays and Articles

Aragon, Louis. "An Open Letter to André Breton on Robert Wilson's Deafman Glance." Performing Arts Journal 1, no. 1 (Spring, 1976): 3-7.

Birringer, Johannes. "Robert Wilson's Vision." Performing Arts Journal 15, no. 1 (January, 1993): 80-86.

Brody, Jacqueline. "Robert Wilson: Performance on Paper." Print Collector's Newsletter 16, no. 4 (September-October, 1985): 117-124.

Colonna d'Istria, Robert. "Stage Left." Art Review (June, 2006): 108-111.

Deák, František. "Robert Wilson: "The Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds." The Drama Review 18, no. 2 (June, 1974): 67-73.

Enright, Robert. "A Clean, Well-Lighted Grace." Border Crossings 13, no. 2 (Spring, 1994): 14-22.

Fairbrother, Trevor. "Two Chairs and a Bed." Artforum 29, no. 5 (January, 1991): 79-81.

———. "Stretch-Out: Robert Wilson's Einstein Chair." Parkett no. 16 (May, 1988): 78-89.

Flakes, Susan. "Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach." The Drama Review 20, (December, 1976): 69-82.

Halperin-Royer, Ellen. "Robert Wilson and the Actor: Performing in Danton's Death." Theatre Topics 8, no. 1 (1998): 73-91.

Herbert, James D. "Wilson's 14 Stations." In Our Distance from God: Studies of the Divine and the Mundane in Western Art and Music, 131-173. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

Howell, A. "Subjective Denouement: The Work of Robert Wilson." Artscribe no. 13 (August, 1978): 39-43.

Jonson, Lotta. "Staged Design." Form no. 1 (2001): 40-49.

Kristeva, Julia and Catherine Francblin. "Robert Wilson by Julia Kristeva." Art Press no. 191 (May, 1994): 64-65.

Lehmann, Hans-Thies. "Robert Wilson, Scenographer." Parkett no. 16 (May, 1988): 30-53.

Marx, Robert. "Wilson, Wagner, and the Met." PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 20, no. 3 (September, 1998): 40-47.

Müller, Heiner. "A Letter to Robert Wilson." In Explosion of a Memory: Writings by Heiner Müller, ed. Carl Weber, 152-155. New York: PAJ Publications, 1989.

Paris, Wendy. "Sculpture on Stage." Sculpture 11, no. 1 (January-February, 1992): 40-43.

Rommen, Ann-Christin and Maria Shevtsova. "Experiencing the Movement: Working with Robert Wilson." New Theatre Quarterly 23, no. 1 (February, 2007): 58-66.

Ruf, Frederick J. “‘Survival and Distance’: The Dramatic Voice in Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach.” In Entangled Voices: Genre and the Religious Construction of the Self, 63-75. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Sharp, W. and L. Bear. "'Because Why.': Robert Wilson and Christopher Knowles." Avalanche no. 12 (Winter, 1975): 17-21.

Shyer, Laurence. "Robert Wilson: Current Projects." Theater 14, no. 3 (Summer-Fall, 1983): 83-84; 92-97.

Simmer, Bill. "Robert Wilson and Therapy." The Drama Review 20, no. 1 (March, 1976): 99-110.

Tomkins, Calvin. “Time to Think.” The New Yorker (13 January, 1975): 38-62.

Wilson, Robert. "Chairs." Perspecta 26, (1990): 231-250.

Interviews and Dialogues

Wilson, Robert. "... I Thought I was Hallucinating." The Drama Review 21, no. 4 (December, 1977): 75-78.

Wilson, Robert, and Umberto Eco. "Robert Wilson and Umberto Eco: A Conversation." Performing Arts Journal 15, no. 1 (January, 1993): 87-96.

Wilson, Robert, and Arthur Holmberg. "A Conversation with Robert Wilson and Heiner Müller." Modern Drama 31, no. 3 (September, 1988): 454-458.

Wilson, Robert, and Friedhelm Mennekes. “Robert Wilson, Interviewed by Friedhelm Mennekes.” In 14 Stations, by Robert Wilson and Lesley Leslie-Spinks, 9-11. Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2000

Wilson, Robert, and Fred Newman. "A Dialogue on Politics and Therapy, Stillness and Vaudeville." The Drama Review 47, no. 3 (Fall, 2003): 113-128.

Wilson, Robert, and Laurence Shyer. "Robert Wilson: Current Projects." Theater 14, no. 3 (Summer-Fall, 1983): 84-91.

———. "Robert Wilson: the CIVIL warS and After." Theater 16, no. 3 (Summer-Fall, 1985): 72-80.

Wilson, Robert, and Andrzej Wirth. "The Space in the Text: An Interview with Robert Wilson." In Vom Wort Zum Bild: Das Neue Theater in Deutschland Und Den USA, 245-256. Bern: Francke, 1992.

Wilson, Robert, and Nicholas Zurbrugg. “Robert Wilson.” In Art, Performance, Media: 31 Interviews, ed. Nicholas Zurbrugg, 371-378. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.


Wilson, Robert. The Making of a Monologue: Robert Wilson's Hamlet. VHS. Directed by Marion Kessel. New York: Cinema Guild, 1995.

———. Robert Wilson and the CIVIL warS. VHS. Directed by Howard Brookner. New York: The Kitchen Video Collection, 1986.

Wilson, Robert, and Philip Glass. Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera. VHS. Directed by Mark Obenhaus. Los Angeles: Direct Cinema, 1987.

Wilson, Robert, Margaret Jane Linney, Robert Hock, Jamie Nodell, and Larry Mataresse. Stations: A Work for Television. VHS. Directed by Robert Wilson. New York: Electronic Arts Intermix, 1982.

Wilson, Robert, Susan Sontag, Philip Glass, and David Byrne. Absolute Wilson. DVD. Directed by Katharina Otto-Berstein. New York: New Yorker Video, 2007.

Wilson, Robert, Sheryl Sutton, Jerry Jackson, and Rafael Carmona. Deafman Glance: A Work for Television. VHS. Directed by Robert Wilson. New York: Electronic Arts Intermix, 1981.

Wilson, Robert, Tom Waits, and William Burroughs. The Black Rider: The Casting of the 12 Magic Bullets. VHS. Directed by Hans-Jörn Brandenburg. Hamburg: Thalia Theater, ca. 1990.

Web Sites

Wilson’s personal page, including an events calendar, performance chronologies, photographs, and access to elements of the archive maintained by the Byrd Hoffman Watermill Foundation:

The Watermill Center, Wilson’s nonprofit educational institution:

Paula Cooper Gallery, Wilson’s New York representation:

Finding aid for the Robert Wilson Papers, held at Columbia University:,R/

David Byrne’s site dedicated to Wilson’s Knee Plays, for which he composed the music:

Selected venues important in the development of Wilson’s career:

American Repertory Theatre:

Brooklyn Academy of Music:

MC93 Bobigny:

Opernhaus Zürich:

Staatstheater Stuttgart:

Thalia Theater:

Théâtre de Paris:

University of Iowa:


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