‘The world from scratch’

In the internationally acclaimed “Germinal,” four performers recreate their world on an empty stage.

In Germinal, French theater artists Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort explore the process of discovering the world from nothing.

Photo courtesy of Alain Rico

In “Germinal,” French theater artists Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort explore the process of discovering the world from nothing.

by Danylo Loutchko

In “Germinal,” four actors become “organisms” that are born onstage: They live there, discover language and music, and “die” when the show ends. The production treats the stage as a blank canvas, and everything that’s placed in it or discovered within it is an act of creation and genesis.
Created by French artists Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort, “Germinal” runs Thursday through Saturday at the Walker Art Center as part of the Walker’s annual “Out There” series. The show is entirely in French with English surtitles.
“It’s about a group of four people who are part of a universe that is only what the audience can see,” Goerger said. “The whole meaning of their life is to be on stage, and their evolution time is the length of the show. The audience can witness them being a whole universe, and they have to learn literally everything because they start without language. It allows us to stage the discovery of everything, the invention of everything.” 
Over the course of the show, the performers dig up the floor of the stage with a pickaxe: They excavate microphones and guitars, which they use to muse about if this “new thing” called music has any practical value in this young, new world. Everything these “organisms” learn and discover onstage is evaluated on its own terms.
“Germinal” aims to find something universally human about our relationship to the world around us.
The longtime artistic partners Goerger and Defoort began creating the show in 2010. It was a long writing process, since both were still touring other solo and duo work.
“It was written in [artist] residencies, which we usually do. It’s an approach that’s been good for us,” Goerger said. “We get together, and we talk for hours and sometimes weeks before we get a set of rules that we then try to apply to ideas. We build an approach together, and then we come up with the material.”
For “Germinal,” in addition to Goerger and Defoort, they brought in two other actors to play in the show. In rehearsal, these actors played an important role in 
furthering the development of the piece. Even after the show was written it remained a collaborative effort. 
“Everything evolved at the same time, Goerger said. “There’s no preconceived idea, and the set was conceived while the show was rehearsed. It allows us to make every part of the show influence every other part.”
After two years of writing, creating and rehearsing, “Germinal” premiered in September 2012 at “La Biennale de la Danse” in Lyons, France. It’s been touring around the world ever since. And Goerger expects to keep touring as long as audiences still want to see the show.
Having had the opportunity to perform across the world, the performers have been able to gauge the reactions of many different groups of people. Goerger said there are bits and jokes in show that play differently for each audience depending on culture or venue, but “Germinal” strikes a universal chord in their audiences more often than not. 
Where The Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
When 8 p.m. ThursdaySaturday
Cost $20-25 ($18-22 for Walker members)