They shoot Horses, don’t they?

Dance marathon, performative event sculpture, and free theatrical adaptation of Horace McCoy’s classic Great Depression novel (1935).

the production was performed in three chapters, in three formats and on three different stages in zurich on the occasion of the 2019/20 season opening. by playing on various aspects of horace mccoy’s novel, this story of ambivalences between hope and despair has condensed into a spectacle of exhaustion and overachievement — a trojan horse included.

chapter i — dance marathon (theaterspektakel, 22.8.2019)

there is dancing on the new central stage of the “theaterspektakel”. together with the new ensemble of neumarkt, artists and professional dancers, amateurs and self-performers dance for the attention of the audience and the master of ceremony mike bonnano. the beat and rhythm is set by janiv oron. those who make it to the end will make it into the ensemble of they shoot horses, don’t they?.

chapter ii — performative event sculpture (zürich hb, 6.9.–10.9.2019)

the winners from chapter i are now caught in the merciless beat of a treadmill, exhibited in a cube in the wannerhalle of zurich’s main train station. a sculptural-performative work about the unfulfilled promises of social media and its controversial role in the rise of new forms of startum, sponsorship, (racist) populism, and the end of privacy. real effort and exhaustion included. from september 6 to 10, the cube was occupied daily from morning to late evening with live performances, tableaux vivants, live film shoots and video installations. on september 9, a media performance “ruag becomes ruag green” took place as part of the performative event sculpture. 

chapter iii — free stage adaptation (saal)

“the world is burning and we are dancing on the abyss,” says master of ceremony mike bonanno. chapter iii of they shoot horses, don’t they?, a free stage adaptation of horace mccoy’s novel, focuses on the public dance marathons in 1930s america, where people literally danced until they dropped. american activist and filmmaker bonanno (the yes men), co-directing with choreographer and dancer jeremy nedd, bridges the gap between this material and the present day of our capitalist entertainment industry and its economic and algorithmic excesses. day and night, week after week, it’s dance for dance: keep on moving. there is a competition of endurance and popularity. showtime means smiling, charming, entertaining, persevering. anyone who stands still for more than 15 seconds is out. while the participants of the dance marathon try to make it to the end, the master of ceremony makes a show out of everything and everyone. the main thing is superlatives: “people are the ultimate spectacle!” the goal is a full house and “happy customers.” the dancers like circus horses in the ring. those who go beyond physical limits can — perhaps — win the favor of the audience. in this way, the mc gains the interest of sponsors as well as of a crowd that revels in the humiliation of the dance marathon participants on display. the way out? not only horses are given the coup de grace.

duration: 70 minutes

“to live means to keep moving, not to fall down, nothing more. there is a ghastly emptiness of meaning in the room. and with every new round that is danced and that bonanno scribbles close to us, one feels more and more hostage. one is trapped in time, the space of assertion — and in one’s own expectations. this is theater? that’s theater, too.” (nzz, 9/20/2019)

“we the audience, as in the pollack film, are distributed around the dance arena as consuming voyeurs (stage: laura knüsel); and the american communication guerrillero mike bonanno from the activist group the yes men has decked himself out in a canary-yellow suit, cowboy hat and roller skates to give us a good run for our money as a frenzied emcee. ‘who is weak? who is likeable?” he asks for our assessment. ‘who dies first?” (tages-anzeiger of 19.9.2019)

“theater neumarkt in zurich may enter the guinness book of records: its opening production of the new season, the dance marathon ‘they shoot horses, don’t they?’ lasts 653 hours.” (sda keystone as of 9/19/2019)

“this book was written during the great depression, the economic crisis, in the usa. it was a time when the capitalist system no longer met people’s expectations. at the same time, fascism was gaining strength. today, that moment seems to be repeating itself, similar things are happening. except that this is amplified by social media and new forms of communication. that’s what makes it so interesting to bring this play back to the stage.” (mike bonanno in an interview with srf on sept. 20, 2019)

«this is neumarkt at its absolute best, doing what it’s done so well for so long, with a very welcome fresh breeze and the right amount of chutzpah to take on late capitalism in all its guises. the show is a must for everyone willing to be shaken out of the complacency we’re pushed into by a system that’s entertaining us to death.» (english theatre in zurich as at 10/24/2019)

«aufbruch auf zürichs bühnen» (kulturplatz vom 18.9.2019)

picture: philip frowein

premiere (saal): 18.09.2019

location: neumarkt saal, hb, theaterspektakel


alireza bayram, anna hofmann, jeremy nedd, leon pfannenmüller, jakob leo stark, sascha ö. soydan

Production Team

Konzept, co-regie & master of ceremony: Mike Bonanno

Choreographie & Co-Regie: Jeremy Nedd

Dramaturgie & Konzept: Hayat Erdoğan

Bühne: Laura Knüsel

Kostüme: Daniela Zorrozua

Musik: Janiv Oron

Video Art: Matt O’Hare

Regieassistenz: Kenza Nessaf

Real Winner: Florian Denk

Mike Bonanno

Jeremy Nedd

Hayat Erdoğan

Laura Knüsel

Daniela Zorrozua

Janiv Oron

Matt O’Hare

Kenza Nessaf

Florian Denk

Alireza Bayram

Anna Hofmann

Leon Pfannenmüller

Jakob Leo Stark

Sascha Özlem Soydan