The Conversationalist is a drama which Hugo Ball wrote with Bertolt Brecht in 1923

Ball originally intended the project for film but ended up staging it as a play. No theatre company was interested in hosting the production, so the only performance was done in the streets, simultaneously in Berne and Berlin. The exact size of the audience remains uncertain, although Ball did record that the general reception was "mixed" in his diaries.

The Conversationalist remains an important work as it was the first script to be written entirely for non-human actors, prefiguring cinematic achievements such as The Adventures of Milo and Otis. And, like Milo and Otis, the animals which Ball and Brecht employed ruffled some feathers. The original script called for a horse to be used, and later a mule. But since the plot involved animals conversing with humans by means of the telegraph—telegraph offices typically being rather cramped spaces, often upstairs to boot—it proved nearly impossible to convince an equine to enter a telegraph office.

Finally, they settled on a rooster. The idea at first was to have a rooster randomly peck at a telegraph machine. Except no telegraph operators could be convinced to allow a rooster to touch their machines. A compromise was reached whereby the telegraph operator would translate the pecks of a rooster into Morse code. These signals were then sent down the wire to the other station, who thought that they were conversing with a real live human. Except the folks in Berlin were actually doing the same thing, thinking that they were playing a joke on someone else in Berne.

Disaster struck when Tristan Tzara, clad in full matador garb, convinced a bull to enter the telegraph office. A panic ensued. At least fourteen people were sent to the infirmary.

Hugo Ball ruefully burnt the script along with all surviving copies of the exchange between the two roosters. Tzara wrote a poem about the incident, which was later lost. The only surviving verbiage associated with the event is You're here to converse although it is unclear whether that was a message sent by telegraph or part of Tzara's poem.  



source: Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary by Hugo Ball

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