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volume 28, no.

2
Spring 2008
SEEP (ISSN # 1047-0019) is a publication of the Institute for Contemporary
East European Drama and Theatre under the auspices of the Martin E. Segal
Theatre Center. The Institute is at The City University of New York
Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309. All
subscription requests and submissions should be addressed to Slavic and East
European Performance: Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The City University of
New York Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309.
EDITOR
Daniel Gerould
MANAGING EDITOR
Margaret Araneo
ASSISTANT EDITOR
Christopher Silsby
CIRCULATION MANAGER
Boris Daussa Pastor
Marvin Carlson
Stuart Liebman
ADVISORY BOARD
Edwin Wilson, Chair
Alien ]. Kuharski
Leo Hecht
Dasha Krijanskaia
Martha W Coigney
Laurence Senelick
SEEP has a liberal reprinting policy. Publications that desire to reproduce
materials that have appeared in SEEP may do so with the following provisions: a.)
permission to reprint the article must be requested from SEEP in writing before
the fact; b.) credit to SEEP must be given in the reprint; c.) two copies of the
publication in which the reprinted material has appeared must be furnished to
SEEP immediately upon publication.
MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Daniel Gerould
CHAIRMAN OF ADVISORY BOARD
Edwin Wilson
DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS
Frank Hentschker
DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATION
Jan Stenzel
Slavic and East European Performance is supported by a generous grant from the
Lucille Lortel Chair in Theatre at The City University of New York.
Copyright 2008. Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
2 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
Editorial Policy
From the Editor
Events
Books Received
ARTICLES
TABLE OF CONTENTS
"ZAR and Other Microcultures of 'Grotland"'
Kathleen Cioffi
"Site-Specific Performances in Lower Silesia"
Magdalena Golaczynska
"New Times Ask for New Voices:
A Short History of Contemporary Lithuanian Playwriting"
Aiste Ptakauske
~ n Interview with Yelena Ezerskaya"
Helene Lemeleva
"The Croatian Centre of ITI's Third Annual
Showcase Croatia: October 17- 21, 2007"
Margaret Araneo
~ n Open Lesson with the Moscow Art Theatre School:
February 7- 8, 2008"
Jane House
PAGES FROM THE PAST
"Glikeria Fedotova, Stanislavsky's Artistic Mother"
Maria Ignatieva
5
6
7
18
20
30
42
48
55
66
74
3
REVIEWS
"lphigenia in Au/is at La MaMa: 81
Microculture and Musicality in the Work of Gardzienice"
Ben Spatz
"Homeward Bound? Farm in the Cave's 90
Sclavi: The Song of an Emigrant'
Kurt Tarof
"Russian Performances at Barnard College" 96
Jessica Brater
"Staging Nothing: A Review of the Events on the 104
Evening of November 7, 2007 Dedicated to Daniil Kharms"
Christopher Silsby
Contributors 112
4 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
EDITORIAL POLICY
Manuscripts in the following categories are solicited: articles of no
more than 2,500 words, performance and ftlm reviews, and bibliographies.
Please bear in mind that all submissions must concern themselves with
contemporary materials on Slavic and East European theatre, drama, and
film; with new approaches to older materials in recently published works; or
with new performances of older plays. In other words, we welcome
submissions reviewing innovative performances of Gogo!, but we cannot
use original articles discussing Gogo! as a playwright.
Although we welcome translations of articles and reviews from
foreign publications, we do require copyright release statements. We will also
gladly publish announcements of special events and anything else that may
be of interest to our discipline. All submissions are refereed.
All submissions must be typed double-spaced and carefully
proofread. The Chicago Manual of Sryle should be followed. Transliterations
should follow the Library of Congress system. Articles should be submitted
on computer disk, as Word Documents for Windows and a hard copy of the
article should be included. Photographs are recommended for all reviews.
All articles should be sent to the attention of Slavic and East European
Performance, c/o Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The City University of New
York Graduate Center, 365 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309.
Submissions will be evaluated, and authors will be notified after
approximately four weeks.
You may obtain more information about Slavic and East European
Performance by visiting our website at http/ /web.gc.cuny.edu/metsc. E-mail
inquiries may be addressed to SEEP@gc.cuny.edu.
All Journals are available from ProQuest Information and Learning as
abstracts online via ProQuest information service and the
International Index to the Performing Arts.
All Journals are indexed in the MLA International Bibliography and are
members of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.
5
FROM THE EDITOR
Volume 28, No. 2 of SEEP addresses issues confronting contemporary
Eastern European theatre: the plight and survival techniques of playwrights in
postcommunist societies, the movement of theatre outside the theatre building
to site-specific and street performance, and the flourishing of transcultural and
multicultural groups and productions. In the field of directing and actor
training two major figures, Stanislavsky and Grotowski, repeatedly appear, as
they have so often in the pages of SEEP. The spring issue opens with Kathleen
Cioffi's exploration of that unchartered realm she calls "Grotland," where Jerzy
Grotowski's theory and practice of theatre have transcended borders and
boundaries. Magdalena Golaczyriska considers how site-specific theatre in
Lower Silesia presents the ethnographic and religious tensions brought about
by the dislocations of war, while Aiste Ptakauske describes the struggle of new
Lithuanian playwrights to find their own voices. Helene Lemeleva interviews
Yelena Ezerskaya, author of a romance novel dramatized as a successful TV
serial, who analyzes the popular taste and culture that her fiction promotes and
discusses her book about the present-day Moscow Art Theatre experienced
from the point of view of the theatre workers backstage. In her report on the
Showcase Croatia festival, Margaret Araneo surveys performances both inside
and outside traditional theatre buildings, discovering signs that Croatian theatre
is finding a new voice. Jane House gives an account of the current teaching
program of the Moscow Art Theatre School as seen in a recent demonstration
lesson given in New York. In PAGES FROM THE PAST Maria Ignatieva
locates a major source of Stanislavsky's approach to acting and teaching in his
lifelong friendship with the actress Glikeria Fedotova. Four reviews complete
the spring issue. Ben Spatz examines the work of Gardzienice on the occasion
of their premiere of a Greek tragedy in New York. Kurt Tarof views the
transcultural Eastern European group, Farm in the Cave, performing a work
about emigration and exile in Belfast. Jessica Brater looks at two Russian
productions at Barnard College; the first, Donk;y Khot, based on Cervantes and
incorporating the psychiatric report supporting Daniil !<harms's incarceration
by the state; the second, Requiem for Anna Po!itkovskqya, about the murdered
Russian journalist. Finally, Christopher Silsby discusses Todqy I Wrote Nothing,
the new Kharms anthology, and the theatrical production based upon it given
in Brooklyn to celebrate the publication.
6 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
STAGE PRODUCTIONS
New York City
EVENTS
The Tisch School of the Arts at New York University hosted the
seventh annual hotiNK International Festival of Play Readings from January
26 to February 3. Readings included:
Here I Am, by Nikolai Khalezin (Free Theatre of Belarus), translation
by Yuriy K.aliada and Oleg Shafranov, final translation editing by Jenny
Lee, directed by Eve Hartmann.
Amelia Breathes Deep!J, by Alina Nelega (Romania), directed by Tea
Alagic.
The Brick Theatre presented Notes from Underground, an environmental
performance adapted and directed by Michael Gardner, from February 15 to
March 22.
Hungarian Cultural Center presented excerpts from The Flower Show, a
play based on the story by Istvan Orkeny, adapted and directed by Alexis
Poledouris on February 20.
The Classic Stage Company presented Chekhov's The Seagull, under the
direction of Viacheslav Dolgachev, starring Dianne Wiest and Alan Cumming,
from February 20 to April13.
Theatre Lila presented Firecracker, an adaptation of Chekhov's Plqy
Without a Title, directed and adapted by Jessica Lanius, at Theatre Row, from
March 21 to April 19.
Romanian actor and director Niky Wolcz presented a performance of
his Commedia dell'Arte Method at the Schapiro Theatre, Columbia University,
on March 23.
7
Theater for the New City presented On Naked Soil-Imagining Anna
Akhmatova, a three-character play written by and starring Rebecca Schull and
directed by Susan Einhorn, from April 12 to May 4.
TR Warszawa, under direction of Grzegorz Jarzyna, will perform an
outdoor, multimedia production of Macbeth at St. Anne's Warehouse,
Brooklyn,June 17-29.
STAGE PRODUCTIONS
U.S. Regional
The Bryant-Lake Bowl, Minneapolis, MN, hosted the Twin Cities
Chekhov Festival from Februar y 7 to March 1.
Gorilla Tango Theatre, Chicago, IL, presented the Chekhov one-acts,
The Proposal, The Bear, and The Fool or the Retired Captain, under the title Chekhov's
Musings on Love: Three Shorts, directed by David Priego, from February 22 to
March 1.
The Open Circle Theater, Seattle, WA, presented Karel Capek's
R UR (Rossum's Universal Robots), directed by Walter Baker, from February 22
to March 22.
STAGE PRODUCTIONS
International
The Soho Theatre, London, hosted a gala to benefit the Belarus
Free Theatre on February 20. The gala, chaired by Tom Stoppard, included
a performance Being Harold Pinter by the Belarus Free Theatre.
Gardzienice, the Staniewski Centre for Theatre Practices, under
the direction of Wl odzimierz Staniewski, performed two Euripides
tragedies, Iphigenia at Aulis and Elektra at the Polski Theatre, Wrodaw,
Poland, from February 20 to March 2.
8 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
A Couple of Poor; Polish-Speaking Romanians by Dorota Maslowska
was presented at Soho Theatre, London, from February 28 to March 29.
Kontrapunkt, the Forty-Third Small Theatre Forms Festival, was
held in Szczecin, Poland, and co-hosted by Teatr Lalek "Pleciuga"
(Pleciuga Puppet Theatre), Teatr Wsp6lczesny (Contemporary Theatre)
and Osrodek Teatralny KANA (KANA Theatrical Center) from April 12
to 21. Including the following performances:
Brzydal, by Marius von Mayenburg, directed by Grzegorz
Wisniewski, Stefan Jaracz Theatre, L6di.
By/ sobie Polak, Polak, Polak i diabel, by Pawel Demirski, directed by
Monika Teatr Dramatyczny, Walbrzych.
Eine kleine, by Artur Daniel Liskowacki, directed and adapted by
Pawel Kamza, Teatr Wsp6kzesny, Szczecin.
Geist, devised and directed by Zygmunt Duczyriski, Teatr Kana,
Szczecin.
Homo Polonicus, directed by Janusz Opryriski and Witold
Mazurkiewicz, Teatr Provisorium and Kompania "Teatr," Lublin.
Idiotki, adapted and directed by Marcin Wierzchowski, Teatr
Wsp6lczesny, Szczecin.
Klqtwa, by Stanislaw Wyspiariski, directed by Lea Mattausch,
Narodowy Stary Teatr, Cracow.
Nordost, by Tors ten Buchsteiner, directed by Grazyna Kania, Teatr
Polski, Bydgoszcz.
Produkt/ Product, by Mark Ravenhill, directed by Piotr Ratajczak,
Teatr Krypta, Szczecin.
9
Spring Awakening, by Frank Wedekind, directed by Wiktor Rubin, Teatr
Polski, Bydgoszcz.
Transfer!, directed by Jan Klata, Wrodawski Teatr Wsp6kzesny.
Wierszalin: Reportaz o kmicu fwiata, by Wlodzimierz Pawluczuk,
directed by Piotr Tomaszuk, Teatr Wierszalin.
};yd, by Artur Palyga, directed by Robert Talarczyk, Teatr Polski,
Bielsko-Biala.
Slovene Upraised I!J Slovene, by Mare Bulc, was performed at Mala
Drama, Slovene National Theatre, Ljubljana, Slovenia, on April 24 and 25.
Festival Nova drama/New Drama, Fourth Festival of Contemporary
Slovak and World Drama, was held in Bratislava from May 9 to 14.
Productions included:
10
The Fetishists by !veta Horvathova, directed Sona Ferancova, Slovak
National Theatre, Bratislava.
Piargy directed and adapted by Roman Polak from short stories by
Frantisek Svantner, Margita Figuli and Dobroslav Chrobak, Andrej
Bagar Theatre, Nitra.
Birthday by Christopher McKey, directed by the creative ensemble,
SkRAT Theatre, Bratislava.
Before/ After by Roland Schimmelpfennig, directed by Eduard Kudlac,
Slovak Chamber Theatre, Martin.
Sexual Perversity in Chicago by David Mamet, directed by Michal
Vajdicka, Mala scena VSMU Theatre, Bratislava.
Te"a Granus by Michal Ditte, directed by Iveta Jurcova, Poton
Theatre, Levice.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
FILM
Stamina Report conceived and directed by Eduard Kudlac,
Phenomenontheatre and Zilina-ZarieCie Station, Zilina.
Reduction (A.zas) , a collective improvised production created by Jozef
Belica, Tana Brederova, Henrieta Hanzalikova and Matej Lauko,
Forum Theatre and S.T.O.K.A., Bratislava.
Rum and Vodka by Conor McPherson, directed by Klaudyna Rozhin
(Poland), Kontra Theatre, SpiSski Nova Ves.
India Song by Marguerite Duras, directed by Hans Hollmann, Arena
Theatre, Bratislava.
New York City
The Film Society of Lincoln Center presented the series
"Envisioning Russia: A Century of Filmmaking," from January 25 to February
14, including the fllms:
Jolfy Fell01vs or Moscow Laughs/ Veryofye rebyata, directed by Grigori
Aleksandrov, 1934.
The Mirror/ Zerkalo, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974.
The New Moskva, directed by Aleksandr Medvedkin,
1938.
Cargo 200/ Gruz 200, directed by Aleksei Balabanov, 2007.
The Battleship Potemkinj Bronenosets Potyomkin, directed by Sergei
Eisenstein, 1925.
White Sun of the Desert/ Befoe sofntse pus(yni, directed by Vladimir Motyl,
1969.
11
12
The Letter Never Sent/Neotpravlennoye pismo, directed by Mikhail
Kalatozov, 1959.
Alexandra/Aieksandra, directed by Aleksandr Sokurov, 2007.
Traveling with Pets/Puteshestvie s domashnimi zhivotnymi, directed by Vera
Storozheva, 2007.
Elegy of Life: Rostropovich, Vishnevskaya/ Elegjya zhizni. Rostropovich.
Vishnevskaya, directed by Aleksandr Sokurov, 2006.
Courier/Kurer, directed by Karen Shakhnazarov, 1986.
Jazzman/ 1v!J iz dzhaza, directed by Karen Shakhnazarov, 1983.
Happiness/ Schastye, directed by Aleksandr Medvedkin, 1934.
The Thirteen/Trinadtsat, directed by Mikhail Romm, 1936.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the
Bolsheviks/ Neobychaif!Je prik!Juchenfya, directed by Lev Kuleshov, 1924.
Tractor Drivers/Traktoristy, directed by Ivan Pyryev, 1939.
Bed and Sofa/Trerya Meshchanskaya, directed by Abram Romm, 1927.
Carnival Night/Karnavalnaya noch, directed by Eldar Ryazanov, 1956.
Sadko, directed by Aleksandr Ptushko, 1952.
Jewish Luck/ Jidische Glickn, directed by Aleksandr Granovsky, 1925.
The Russian Question/ Russkfy vopros, directed by Mikhail Romm, 1947.
The Cranes Are F!Jing/ Leryat zhuravli, directed by Mikhail Kalatozov,
1957.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
Walking the Streets of Moscow/Ya shagt!Ju po Moskve, directed by Georgi
Daneliya, 1963.
]u!J Rain/ lyulskjy dozhd, directed by Marlen Khutsiyev, 1966.
Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears/Moskva slezam ne verit, directed by
Vladimir Menshov, 1980.
Dersu Uza!a, directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1975.
Uncle Vanya/ Dyac!Ja Vanya, directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, 1970.
At Home Among Strangers, Stranger at Home/ Svqy sredi chuzhikh, chuiflqy
sredi svoikh, directed by Nikita Mikhalkov, 1974.
The Ascent/Voskhozhden!Je, directed by Larisa Shepitko, 1976.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center presented the series "Shining
Through a Long Dark Night: Romanian Cinema, Then and Now" from April
16 to 27, including the films:
The Pale Light of Sorrow, directed by Iulian Mihu, 1980.
Sundqy at Six, directed by Lucian Pintilie, 1965.
Occident, directed by Cristian Mungiu, 2002.
Love Sick, directed by Tudor Giurgiu, 2006.
Don't Lean Out the Window, directed by Nae Caranfll, 1994.
Maria, directed by Peter-Olin Netzer, 2003.
Ryna, directed by Ruxandra Zenide, 2005.
13
Return of the Banished, directed by Malvina Urianu, 1979.
The Paper Will Be Blue, directed by Radu Muntean, 2006.
Contest, directed by Dan Pita, 1982.
Forest of the Hanged, directed by Liviu Ciulei, 1964.
Microphone Test, directed by Mircea Daneliuc, 1980.
Circus Performers, directed by Elisabeta Bostan, 1981.
Sequences, directed by Alexandru Tatos, 1982.
Adela, directed by Mircea Veroiu, 1985.
12:08 East of Bucharest, directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006.
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, directed by Cristi Puiu, 2005.
FILM
U.S. Regional
The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art hosted the 2nd
Romanian Film Festival in Madison, WI, from March 7 to 9. Films included:
Califonia Dreamin' (Endless), directed by Cristian Nemescu, 2007.
American Fiances, directed by Nicolai Margineanu, 2007.
Reenactment, directed by Lucian Pintilie, 1968.
The Paper Will Be Blue, directed by Radu Muntean, 2006.
The Rest Is Silence, directed by Nae Caranfili, 2007.
14 Slavic and East European Peifomlance Vol. 28, No. 2
The Great Communist Bank Robbery, directed by Alexandru Somon,
2004.
Exam, directed by Titus Muntean, 2003.
FILM
International
Cinematheque Ontario presented a festival titled "The Latest Wave:
New Romanian Cinema," from April 11 to May 2, including the films:
4 Months, 3 wteks and 2 Dqys, directed by Cristian Mungiu, 2007.
Califonia Dreamin' (Endless), directed by Cristian Nemescu, 2007.
12:08 East of Bucharest, directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006.
The Paper Will Be Blue, directed by Radu Muntean, 2006.
The way I Spent the End of the World, directed by Catalin Mitulescu,
2006.
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, directed by Cristi Puiu, 2005.
Tertium non datur, directed by Lucian Pintilie, 2005.
The Great Communist Bank Robbery, directed by Alexandru Somon,
2004.
Occident, directed by Crisrian Mungiu, 2002.
Stuff and Dough, directed by Crisci Puiu, 2001.
The Oak, directed by Lucian Pintilie, 1992.
Reenactment, directed by Lucian Pintilie, 1968.
15
CONFERENCES
"Borderlanders: Finding Their Voice" was held in New York City,
sponsored by La MaMa, Bowery Poetry Club, Millennium Film Workshop,
New School for Social Research, and the Borderlands Foundation of Sejny,
Poland, from April 9-20. The Borderland Center of Arts, Cultures, and
Nations presented its work, which consisted of:
16
The Se.J'!Y Chronicles, a performance by the Sejny Theatre, at LaMama.
Cafe Europa, an Evening of Arts and Letters on the Theme of
"Borderlands," at The Bowery Poetry Club.
Between the Past and the Future: Memory Work in the Borderlands,
a Conversation with K.rzysztof Czyzewski, president of Borderland
Foundation.
"Films about the Borderlands" series, at the Millennium Film
Workshop, Inc. including the films:
Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania, directed by Jonas Mekas,
1971.
Musicians' Raft between New York and Se.Jf!JITratwa murJkantow
NoJrym Jorkiem a Sejnami, directed by Malgorzata
Sporek-Czyzewska and Wojciech Szroeder, 2002.
I Had a Dream about Hanal Snila mi Hana, directed by
Mikolaj Wawrzeniuk, 1999.
Life Stories, Listened To I Losy posluchane, directed by
Malgorzata Sporek-Czyzewska, 2000.
The Path of Polish Muslims I Prowadz nas prostq drogq, directed by
Waldemar Janda, 2005.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
Bridge Builders I Sejnnisry budowniczowie most6w, directed by
Waldemar Janda, 2006.
We Go and We Go Without Knowing the Wcry I Ideme, ideme, drazki
ne . .. , directed by K.rzysztof K.rzyianowski, 1994.
Ant!J or AndreJIAnt!J czy directed by Krzysztof
Krzyianowski, 2001.
Theatre-Infor m sponsored the "Russian-American Directors
Seminar" in New York Ciry with directors and producers from Moscow,
Novosibirsk, and New York from March 15 to 21.
International Performing Arts Laboratory hosted an acting program
titled "Performer's Physicality: Biomechanics (Meyerhold), Psychological
Gesture (Michael Chekhov), Physical Action (Stanislavsky)," with actor
training, lectures, and discussions, directed by Sergey Ostrenko (Russia), in
Prague from April 20 to 25.
Compiled by Christopher Silsby
17
BOOKS RECEIVED
Czech Theatre 23. Prague: Theatre Institute Prague, 2007. 94 pages. Consists of
7 essays: Marie Reslova, "Stage Pictures-Guides on the Path to Meaning";
Vera Velemanova, "The Czech Stage Costume from One Prague Quadrennial
to the Next-or, a Not Quite Exhaustive Summary"; Marie Zdenkova, Kamila
Cerna, "Persecition.cz"; Lenka Saldova, "A Lesson in Modern Theatre"; Jana
Machalicka, "Scootering through the Labyrinth of the World"; Karel Kral, ''A
Teacher of Humility-Hanna Voriskova's Little Things"; Pavel Vasicek,
Kamila Cerna, "Dvorak's Puppet Transposition," and Kaleidoscope (current
productions) and Notebook (new books). Includes over 100 pictures, many in
color.
Kharms, Daniil. Todqy I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms.
Edited and translated by Matvei Yankelevich. Woodstock, N.Y: Overlook
Press, 2007. 272 pages. Contains poems, stories, and plays. Includes an
"Introduction: The Real !<harms" by Yankelevich, a note on the text, notes,
and glossary of characters, settings, and historical figures.
Rzeczywistofl Transformagi-Transjormacja Rzeczy1vistofci (The Reality of
Transformation-The Transformation of PQ07-pl. Warsaw: Instytut
Teatralny im. Zbigniewa Raszewskiego, 2007. 207 pages. In English, Russian,
and Polish. The Polish catalogue for the Prague Quadrennial 07 includes two
essays: Pawel Wodziri.ski, "The Reality of Transformation-The
Transformation of Reality" and Violetta Sajkiewicz, "Returns of the Real"; the
National Exhibit, consisting of The Dybbuk (based on Anski), Ballad of
Zakaczawie Gacek Glomb and others), Made in Poland (Wojcieszek), Fantary
(based on Slowacki), Ubu Rex (Penderecki based on Jarry), Fizde;ko's Daughter
(I<lata based on Witkiewicz), The Wedding (Wyspiari.ski), Six Feet Under
(R6zewicz), Wtzlgsa, a Happy Story Made Sad by Being So (Pawel Demirski), H
(based on Shakespeare), All Zygmunts in between the Eyes (based on Mariusz
Sieniewicz's novel, The Fourth The Eighth Dqy of the Week (based on
Blasko's novel); Architectual Exhibition, including an essay by Maciej Nowak,
''Why is the Polish Theatre Running Away from Theatre?" The volume
contains information about productions and artists as well as over a hundred
photographs, many of them full page and in color.
18 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 28, No.2
"Teatr Stanislawa Wyspianskiego." Teatralny, Vols. 3-4, 2007. 420
pages. Consists of three parts: I. Studies of Wyspianski (6 articles), II.
Wyspianski and the artists of the Theatre (4 articles), and III. Stanislaw
Wyspianski's Anniversaries (3 articles). Includes over a hundred illustrations of
productions, art works, and stage designs, many in color.
19
ZAR AND OTHER MICROCULTURES OF "GROTLAND"
Kathleen Cioffi
On December 3, 2007, I attended a lecture/demonstration at the
University of California, Irvine by Teatr ZAR, the resident company at the
Grotowski Institute in Wrodaw, Poland-a company about whom both Seth
Baumrin and Marvin Carlson recently wrote in these pages. l The
demonstration took place in "Grotowski's Barn."2 The week before, the
producing organization Arden2 had brought the U.S. debut of ZAR's
production Ewangefie Dziecinstwa (Gospels of Childhood) to the UCLA Live
International Theatre Festival, where it had received a rapturous review from
the Los Angeles Times.3 As we entered the Barn, we obeyed the slightly
imperious commandment posted on the door, ~ shoes must be removed
before entering, by order of Jerzy Grotowsk.i." (The floor is polished wood.)
There followed a detailed presentation of ZAR's physical work, as well as the
songs that they had learned during their expeditions to the Caucasus and
Greece. Robert Cohen, who had originally brought Grotowski to Irvine,
remarked in a short speech after the presentation that ZAR's work had
powerfully recalled for him the chanting and physical exercises that Grotowsk.i
himself had led during the 1980s in the Barn, the fields outside the Barn, and
the Yurt next door. After Cohen's remarks, the members of ZAR entered the
Yurt and performed one last song while we, the witnesses, peered through the
windows and doors at them in the sacred space. It was as if some shamans
from Grotowski's country- not Poland, but a special country that only
Grotowsk.i and his followers inhabit-had come to sing a kind of musical
good-bye for him that Monday afternoon in southern California.4
ZAR is one of many inhabitants of what I'm calling "Grotland." It's
an artistic territory that exists both in and outside of Poland today. In an article
entitled "Grotowski's Ghosts," British theatre scholar Paul Allain contends
that "Grotowski's ... influence ranges across countries and cultures," and that
therefore to speak "only in terms of Poland would limit and distort the much
wider impact Grotowski has had."
5
This is, no doubt, true: In the United
States alone, there are a number of theatre companies whose founders worked
with Grotowski himself and continue to be powerfully influenced by his
work-to name just two, James Slowiak and Jairo Cuesta's New World
Performance Laboratory in Cleveland and Matt Mitler's Theatre Dzieci
(Children) in New York. Moreover, there are others whose founders have
20 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No.2
worked with collaborators of Grotowski-for example, Ben Spatz's Urban
Research Theatre in New York and Stacy Klein's Double Edge Theatre in
Ashfield, Massachusetts. Nevertheless, there are certain trends in what might
be termed the artistic customs of Grotland that are particularly evident in
Polish theatre, especially theatre of the "alternative" or, as the Poles
sometimes say, ojfoJJy, type.
There are, for example, groups who, to a greater or lesser extent,
mainly emphasize the physical aspect of Grotowski's work. During the heyday
of Grotowski's Theatre of Productions phase, he had developed a series of
exercises, called exercises corporels and exercises plastiques, that enabled the
Laboratory Theatre actors to make physical demands on themselves that went
beyond what their bodies could previously do. These exercises and
Grotowski's idea that actors should use their bodies to construct a system of
signs based on their own impulses have had a huge influence on many
alternative theatre companies in Poland. Among these companies belong both
groups whose founders worked directly with Jerzy Grotowski and those who
worked with Grotowski's collaborators in the Laboratory Theatre. For
example, the founder of Warsaw theatre company Studium Teatralne, Piotr
Borowski, worked with Grotowski and Thomas Richards for seven years in at
the Workcenter in Pontedera, Italy.6 I was able to see his company's production
of Hamlet in July 2005 in Warsaw, and it struck me as a skillful and interesting
piece of physical theatre, but only "Grotowskian" in the way its young actors
were able to use their bodies as expressive instruments. Indeed, Borowski has
said that he does not want his company to "be seen as followers of Grotowski
but as independent."7
Many of the older alternative theatre companies, such as Poznan's
Teatr 6smego Dnia (the Theatre of the Eighth Day), claim Grotowski more
categorically as an influence on their physical training. 6smego Dnia, which in
its early days worked with Teo Spychalski of the Laboratory Theatre, on their
website describes their physical training:
The actors prepare themselves for improvisation through appropriate
physical training, a tradition derived from the Laboratory Theatre of
Jerzy Grotowski. This physical training has as its task the emotional
and spiritual opening of the actor; it allows him or her to attain a state
of psychic preparedness that permits broadening the boundaries of
honest speech, of so-called "internal truth." In addition, work on the
body inevitably leads to improvement of its expressiveness and
21
symbolic possibilities. Therefore the system of practical exercises
during so-called warm-ups on the one hand aims in the direction of
"the unknown," and on the other helps name "the unknown,"
shaping it into a precise and readable sign.8
This training results in a far less dancelike performance than Studium
Teatralne's but still in what theatre historian Magdalena Golaczyiiska describes
as acting "with their whole bodies, emotionally, with a manifestation of feeling
characteristic of the 'Eighth' style."
9
Body work is perhaps Grotowski's most
lasting legacy in the culture of Grotland, especially in the work of the Polish
alternative theatres.
More connected to Grotowski's later research-research that was,
ironically, carried out largely outside of Poland-are those Polish groups that
combine Grotowski-inspired physicality with work on traditional or ancient
song. These groups are principally connected to Grotowski through
Wlodzimierz Staniewski. Staniewski joined Grotowski in the early years of his
paratheatrical research and left in 1977 to found the Gardzienice Center for
Theatre Practices. In a certain sense, Staniewski and Grotowski in the 1980s
and 1990s could be said to be engaging in almost parallel lines of research.
While Grotowski investigated Mexican, Asian, and Haitian rituals, Staniewski
carried out expeditions to border regions in eastern Poland; their musical
interests both converged, however, in what Grotowski called "the cradle of
the Occident,"10 which includes ancient Greece, the heritage that Staniewski's
most recent productions have drawn from.
The successor groups to Gardzienice include Stowarzyszenie
Teatralne Chorea (Chorea Theatrical Society), led by Tomasz Rodowicz
(Gardzienice member for twenty-five years); Teatr Pidii Kozla (Song of the
Goat Theatre), led by Anna Zubrzycki (fifteen years) and Grzegorz Bral (five
years);ll and ZAR, led by Jaroslaw Fret (one year). These groups can all be
described, in Lisa Wolford's term, as "microcultures that acknowledge a debt
to Grotowski's teachings,"
12
and the particular debt they owe to Grotowski is
based on his reverence for ancient song. Polish theatre scholar Juliusz Tyszka
records that at the 1996 International School of Theatre Anthropology
conference in Copenhagen, Grotowski said that for him and his collaborators
in the Art as Vehicle phase of his work, "Song is an important problem .. . .
Songs grow directly from reactions to life's travails; they come from something
'under the skin,' something wholly organic."13 Grotowski's insight-that
"anonymous chants from distant times"14 serve as the best source material-
22
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
l
u
<
23
24
Kamila Klamut and Przemyslaw Blaszczak in the performance of
Gospels of Childhood by Teatr ZAR
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
has also been central for Gardzienice and its successor groups, all of whom
have based performances on ancient songs. Staniewski has said in an interview
about Gardzienice's practice, "We start with the question, 'How do we sing
it?"'15 Grotowski, however, seems to have started from almost the opposite
premise: "When we begin to catch the vibratory qualities [of an ancient song),
this finds its rooting in the impulses and the actions. And then, all of a sudden,
that song begins to sing us. That ancient song sings me; I don't know anymore
if I am fmding that song or if I am that song."
1
6 This is also the feeling that
one gets from watching a performance of ZAR's Gospels of Childhood--not that
the actor/singers are using the songs to tell a story, but that the songs
somehow precede the story and even predetermine its telling.
In the case of Teatr ZAR, these songs have come from expeditions
that ZAR director Fret and some of the other members of ZAR took to
Georgia and Greece in 1999-2003. During these expeditions they worked with
groups that have reconstructed old liturgical songs from the medieval Sioni
Church in Tbilisi, Georgia, and with sacred music from the Orthodox
Republic of Monks in Athos, Greece. Most importantly, they also traveled to
Svaneti, an isolated region in the highest part of the Caucasus Mountains in
northwestern Georgia, whose inhabitants speak Svan, an unwritten language
in the South Caucasian language group (a language group that also includes
Georgian). The Svans have a tradition of polyphonic singing that is nearly two
thousand years old; Georgian polyphony is said to be the oldest in the world,
and some of the Svanetian songs are the oldest and most complex in
Georgia_l7 Their oldest songs have many archaic words and syllables that are
no longer understood by the Svans themselves, even though they use them in
the songs. In its way, the existence of this music perfectly illustrates another of
Grotowski's assertions about ancient song: "[T]he song becomes the meaning
itself through the vibratory qualities; even if one doesn't understand the
words, reception alone of the vibratory qualities is enough."18 ZAR's
performance of the Svanetian songs rendered their vibratory qualities palpable
not only in the production of Gospels of Childhood but even in the
lecture/demonstration in the Barn.
ZAR also seems to be squarely situating itself in Grotland by the way
that they define their relationship to the audience. As Tyszka writes, "Such a
conventional understanding of theatre whereby one performs onstage for
somebody else does not reflect Grotowski's approach."19 Rather, Grotowski took
inspiration from the example of Juliusz Osterwa, who, in the period between
the two world wars, founded the Reduta Theatre, Poland's first experimental
25
26
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 28, No. 2
laboratory theatre: "Osterwa wrote about acting in relation to the viewer, face-
to-face, full of acceptance and understanding. He warned about acting.for the
viewer though. Acting .for is mediocre and pathetic. The only viewer one can
act for is God."
2
0 Even during Grotowski's so-called Theatre of Productions
phase, his actors "compared performing .for an audience to prostitution and
definitely broke away from such an approach to pursue their calling."21 Fret
has said that ZAR's work is not on!J for the audience; it is as much for their own
development as it is for the audience's edification.22
This is a subtle, but perhaps crucial, difference between ZAR and
the rest of the microcultures of Grotland, both within and outside of
Poland. Like the other companies I've mentioned in this article, ZAR is
deeply committed to ensemble work and to long-term development of
projects; they have been working on Gospels of Childhood since 2003. They
also share with many of the others an interest in some of the themes
inherited from Polish Romanticism that Grotowski explored during his
theatrical period. But their commitment to performing for themselves
rather than primarily for the audience brings them closer to Grotowski's
declaration, "The actor should .. . seek to liberate himself from the
dependence on the spectator, if he doesn't want to lose the very seed of
his creativity."23 In this respect, ZAR is even more Grotowskian than such
close collaborators with Grotowski as Eugenio Barba, who says instead
"all actors meet the same problem: how to make their presence work for
the spectator."
24
This difference can be seen in the way Gospels of
Childhood is staged: the chorus stands mostly in a closed circle, with some
members keeping their backs to the audience. Compare this, for example,
to Gardzienice's recent production of lphigenia at Au/is, where the chorus
is placed on a series of boxlike risers, full front to the audience. 25
ZAR's status as the resident company at the Grotowski Institute
seems to have brought them closer to the spirit of Grotowski than many
practitioners who actually worked with him in person. So it was only
fitting that they came to sing a zar, a type of Svaneti funeral song that
gives the theatre its name, for Grotowski in his Yurt. The word zar comes
from the Georgian word zari, meaning "bell," and ZAR was able to
briefly turn the Yurt into a kind of bell, vibrating with the sound of their
voices. The Svaneti believe that the men who perform these songs
embody a procession of ghosts who accompany the dead person during
his or her funeral. But ZAR is more than just a group of ghostly avatars
of Grotowski and his ideas; it is a lively microculture in its own right,
27
which is continuing to find its own way. It will be interesting to follow
their further development and see how this company comes to grips with
the paradox of performing for an audience but not for an audience-a
paradox the master himself was never able to resolve.
NOTES
1 See Seth Baumrin, "The Grotowski Centre In Wrodaw: Performance at the
Headquarters of Paratheatre?" and Marvin Carlson, "Gospels if Childhood at
Brzezinka," SEEP 27, no. 1 (Winter 2007): 31-40 and 97-9.
2 This is a real barn that was brought to the Irvine campus and specially modified
for Jerzy Grotowski's Objective Drama Research project when Grotowski was in
residence in Irvine full-time in 1983-1986 and part-time in 1987-1992. Next to the
Barn is a smaller building, the Yurt, which was constructed especially for
Grotowski's use.
3 Mark Swed, "Short, Sacred, Haunting," Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2007,
Calendar section.
4 See SEEP 20, no. 2 (Summer 2000), CrotOJvski at Irvine and Bryond, which includes
articles by Robert Cohen and others.
5 Paul Allain, "Grotowski's Ghosts," Contemporary Theatre Review 15, no. 1 (February
2005): 46.
6 For more about this company, see Paul Allain, " Interview with Piotr Borowski:
Artistic Director of Studium Teatralne, Warsaw," SEEP 19, no. 3 (Fa111999): 15-23.
Borowski was also a member of Gardzienice for six years before he went to
Pontedera.
7 Qtd. in Allain, "Grotowski's Ghosts," 57.
8 "Kilka slow o metodzie pracy w Teatrze 6smego Dnia" [A Few Remarks about
the Working Method in the Theatre of the Eighth Day], Teatr 6smego Dnia,
http:/ /www.osmego.art.pl/nowa/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id
=3&1temid=12. My translation.
9 Magdalena Golaczynska, Mozaika zvsprilczesnofci: Teatr alternarywny w Polsce po roku
1989 [A Mosaic of Contemporary Life: Alternative Theatre in Poland after 1989]
(Wrodaw: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrodawskiego, 2002), 116. My translation.
10 Jerzy Grotowski, "From the Theatre Company to Art as Vehicle," in At Work with
Crotowski on Pl!JsicaiActions, by Thomas Richards (London: Routledge, 1995), 130.
11 For more on Teatr Pie5n Kozla, see my review, "Song of the Goat's Chronicles-
A Lamentation," SEEP 24, no. 2 (Spring 2004): 44-9.
28 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
1
2
Lisa Wolford, Grotowski's Objective Drama Research Qackson: University Press of
Mississippi, 1996), 131.
13 Juliusz Tyszka, "Jerzy Grotowski w Kopenhadze-trzy spotkan.ia z mt,;drcem"
[Jerzy Grotowski in Copenhagen: Three Encounters with the Sage], in Mistrzowie
[Masters] (Poznan: Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, 2006), 73. Translated from the
Polish by Eva Sobolevski.
14
Ibid., 77.
15 Wl odzimierz Staniewski, interview with Richard Schechner, TDR: The Drama
Revieu) 31, no. 2 (1987): 147.
16 Grotowski, 127 (italics in original).
17
Wikipedia, s.v. "Music of Georgia;' http:/ /en.wikipedia.orglwiki/Music_of_Georgia.
18 Grotowski, 126.
19 Tyszka, 75 (italics in original).
20 Ibid., 97 (italics in original).
21 Ibid., 75 (italics in original).
22 Conversation with the author, December 5, 2007, Claremont, California.
23 Grotowski, 124 (italics in original).
2
4
Eugenio Barba, "The Steps on the River Bank," TDR: The Drama Review 38, no.
4 (1994): 116.
25 lphigenia at Au/is had its world premiere at the La MaMa Annex in New York,
October 4-21, 2007
29
SITE-SPECIFIC PERFORMANCES IN LOWER SILESIA
Magdalena Golaczytiska
"Space thinking," perceiving the performance primarily through the
concept of the surrounding space, is one of the characteristics typical of
contemporary Polish theatre. Space serves as the fundamental idea in this
theatre, especially for those groups searching for new performance sites. Such
experiments raise a number of issues that emerge as a consequence of the
performance leaving actual theatre buildings. While Polish critics argue over
the terminology (the term "site-specific performance" still does not have an
adequate Polish equivalent), the practitioners have been creating this type of
theatre for years. Such performances have been created in Poland ever since
the Great Theatre Reform (the new stagecraft developed at the turn of the
twentieth century), yet the contemporary trend originates with Jerzy
Grotowski's Teatr Laboratorium (Laboratory Theatre) and Jerzy Gurawski's
"sceno-widownia" (combined "stage-auditorium" space). Different types of
"stage-auditorium" space constructed separately for each new project seem to
be a frequent component of contemporary theatre.
1
During recent seasons we
have witnessed a dynamic development of site-specific theatre in Lower
Silesia-from the 1990s projects by Jacek Glomb, manager of the Teatr im.
Modrzejewskiej (Modrzejewska Theatre) in Legnica, tO numerous artistic
ventures by Wrodaw independent and alternative companies. All of the
theatre practitioners emphasize the social aspects of their projects.
Since 2000 site-specific theatre has been thriving in Wrodaw, the
former counter-cultural center of open theatre and the venue of the
International Festival of Open Theatre organized by Boguslaw Litwiniec.
The founders of contemporary alternative groups, such as Teatr Ad
Spectatores (Ad Spectatores Theatre), Scena Witkacego (Witkacy Theatre),
or Fundacja Bente Kahan (the Bente Kahan Foundation), have been
looking for performance sites on the fringe of the city center. Directors and
stage designers are above all fascinated by these venues' creative dynamics,
which differ completely from the traditional Italian stage. They also stress
the differences between the alternative sites. Acrors' performances are
affected in different ways if they are performing in a sacred building, a kind
of privileged, holy space, such as the synagogue or its surroundings, or in
30 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
everyday spaces, such as post-industrial buildings, or in private apartments.
All these sites, however, are real and connected with the modern lives of
city residents, or preserve traces of the past: post-war Polish and pre-war
German times.
2
Already during the Ad Spectatores's first season of the site-specific
work in 2000, it became clear that Wrodaw audiences needed an
experimental theatre. Maciej Masztalski (born 1978), director, actor, and
screenwriter, stresses the value of authenticity arising from the histories of
found sites. Masztalski stages his group's performances in the monumental
Wiei:a Cisnier\. (Water Tower) Na Grobli, a unique relic of the water system
of nineteenth-century Breslau; the building of the now closed Browar
Mieszczar\.ski (City Brewery), where beer was stored; or the basement
labyrinth under Wroclaw's Central Railway Station (which is the group's
studio stage), where the station's heating system is located. "These buildings
were once full of life," Masztalski says. "This energy has a great impact on
the reception of the performances. Plays staged in sites possessing rich
histories are perceived in a different way."3 Masztalski is a follower of
Richard Schechner's concept of environmental theatre. He refers to his
Wrodaw environmental theatre as "theatre e." Its main characteristic is "a
close energetic link between the performance's structure (both plot and
staging) and the site in which it is performed." A theatre which focuses on
the performance site creates a space for interactions between the theatre
events and everyday life.
Trupi ~ n o d ~ n o d of the Dead, 2002), by Carl Reiner, directed by
Masztalski, performed by Ad Spectatores regularly every All Souls' Day
requires the audience to walk around the performance space. The story
includes criminal motifs from the distant and more recent history of the
Vatican, such as profanation of a corpse of one of the popes and the
mysterious death of another. These stories raise complex questions about the
struggle for power, politics, and threats to the Church and its believers caused
by religious fanaticism. The audience is divided into several groups and led
through a labyrinth of misty, candle-lit corridors and stairs within the
dilapidated and humid walls of the City Brewery. They get entangled in the
plots of Vatican conspirators. The audience participates in the funeral of one
of the popes and the conclave that votes for his successor.
31
Synod of the Dead, by Carl Reiner, directed by Maciej Masztalski, performed by Ad Spectatores
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Ad Spectatores also collaborates with middle-aged authors and artists,
such as Krzysztof Kopka (born 1958), playwright, director, and translator, and
Ewa Beata Wodecka (born 1950), stage designer and former collaborator with
Teatr im. Witkiewicza (Witkiewicz Theatre in Zakopane). Designing for
Masztalski or Kopka, Wodecka does not change much in the devastated space,
focusing mostly on the exposition of the existing architectural features. "The
existing site is my inspiration. It's not possible to build anything there. And
actually ... I don't like building sets,"
4
Wodecka admits. Wodecka and Kopka
have specialized in performances based on the local history of Lower Silesia,
which features themes connected to the found spaces' multinational past. For
instance, Kopka produced Wroclawski Pociqg Widm ( Wroclawj Train of Phantoms,
2004) a theatrical epic about pre-war Breslau and post-war Wrodaw,
describing the dramatic fates of Breslauers, Jews, Germans, Silesians, and
former residents of the Polish Eastern Borderlands, who came here after
World War n.s The story of the exiles is staged in the ruined eastern extension
of the Wrodaw Central Railway Station and in the moving baggage car.
For three years Kopka has also been producing a "documentary
theatre" project in the granary of the old City Brewery, where he has
created a thriving center of alternative culture. The project's main objective
is to popularize new Russian drama and present Moscow's Teatr.doc. 6
Recently Kopka's documentary theatre and Masztalski's environmental
theatre projects were linked in a joint undertaking prepared for the
International Theatre Festival: The City in Legnica.
1612 is a performance by Ad Spectatores and Teatr.doc, directed by
Mikhail Ugarov, Krzysztof Kopka, and Ruslan Malikov, and created
somewhere between Moscow, Legnica, and Wrodaw. The pre-premiere took
place in Legnica, and the Wrodaw premiere was held on September 17, 2007,
commemorating the day the Red Army attacked Poland in 1939. The
performance examines anti-Polish and anti-Russian attitudes present in the
mutual relationships between two nations. It was inspired by modern Russian
history. November 4 is a national holiday, commemorating the expulsion of
the Poles from the Kremlin, where they had been occupiers during the Time
of Troubles in 1612.
"Liberal Russian intellectuals, including our friends from Teatr.doc,
are amused by that, while the average Russian does not know much about that
event,"7 Kopka explains. He is the co-author (with Jelena Gremina) of the
33
34 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 28, No. 2
script, which was developed as a collective creation. The performance is full of
auto-ironic remarks, exposing stereotypes in perceiving one's neighbors that
have not changed for ages and have become even stronger following the
collapse of the Eastern Bloc. The directors of 1612 chose the hall of the
former Hanka Clothing Works as the pre-premiere venue, where they found
old sewing machines and patches of colorful fabrics. The actors put on the
ragged clothes as simulated hauberks and made armor from old cardboard
patterns. In the key scene a cruel "war tailor" appears advertising efficient
methods of settling accounts with political and religious opponents. He brings
on a sewing machine spattered with blood and gives a detailed description of
the torture services he provides.
Scena Witkacego founded by Sebastian Majewski (born 1971), a
playwright, director, and actor, is the most city-oriented alternative theatre in
Wrodaw. The group is deeply involved in implementing a program of site-
specific theatre addressed to the residents of the Sr6dmidcie district. They
oppose the negative stereotypes regarding the neglected, post-German
neighborhoods and attempt to revitalize them. One of the key issues of
Majewski's work is the search for the collective identity among the present
Wroclaw residents.
Majewski hopes to find his own formula for environmental theatre
that can connect the actors and audiences. His group has performed in found
sites located in the yards, lofts, and streets of Nadodrze district.8 The projects
involved local residents, who were intrigued by these unusual events in their
neighborhood. Simultaneously the performances were regularly presented in
the Witkacy Hall at the College for Culture Animators and Librarians.
However, when it became impossible to perform at the college, the search for
non-conventional locations turned out to be not only an artistic choice but
also an organizational necessity. In the period 2005- 2007, Scena Witkacego
appeared in various sites in Sr6dmidcie and Stare Miasto districts, in the
closed hospital basement, the building of the former Cinema Polonia building,
an abandoned apartment in Wlodkowica street, near the White Stork
Synagogue, or the Town Baths building. On such occasions, the audience
consisted primarily of spectators who traveled from other districts especially
to see the performance, while chance local viewers formed only a small part of
the public.
35
The sites were selected by individual members of the group.
However, no performance has been created for a specific location (the usual
practice of most groups), but existing productions have been used. This was a
daring choice in many cases, since regardless of the features of the temporary
site, Majewski did not change the elements of his mobile set design, or the
performance's construction. Yet the site experiments influenced the
spectators' perception of the performances.
An interesting example was the performance of C6rkiAudrey Hepburn
(Audrey Hepburn's Daughters) in the real surrounding of Balia, the only public
self-service launderette in Wrodaw, the type known in Poland mostly from the
American movies. In 2004, C6rki Audrey Hepburn was created in an unusual
way as compared to the earlier productions of Scena Witkacego. Pilgrim, the
playwright, provided only a one-page script containing general information
regarding the plot, location, interactions between characters, and subjects of
the dialogue. The dialogue itself and other details of the performance were
developed by the actors improvising during rehearsals. The basic story is
repeated during each performance, while the rest (around 40%) may be
altered, depending on the site and cast changes. The production is loosely
inspired by Blake Edwards's film comedy Brea,lifast at Tzflany's starring Audrey
Hepburn. The performance ironically comments on the complex existence of
contemporary city residents, who engage in an ineffectual search for identity-
spiritual and sexual-and try to fulfill impossible dreams. In so doing, they
deceive themselves and others and remain lonely in their mendacity. The
launderette is a meeting place for strangers, who share their life stories with
others, pretending to be somebody else, somebody better, putting on
beautifying masks, and creating false situations. They are all addicted to being
false and affected, just like the American actress, their icon.
The White Stork Synagogue in the former Jewish district in
Wrodaw has recently become a venue of performances created by
Fundacja Bente Kahan. The synagogue is a special example within the new
performance sites, as it combines the exceptional atmosphere of a sacred
place with the discovered memories of the world of Wrodaw Jewish life,
which has been irretrievably lost. It evokes the memory of the German
Jews deprived of their rights and possessions and exterminated in Nazi
concentration camps and of Polish Jews survivors, who settled in Wrodaw,
and then were expelled from their homeland in 1968. In the 1970s and
36 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 28, No. 2
Ad Spectatores and Teatr.doc's 1612,
directed by Mikhail Ugarov, Krzysztof Kopka, and Ruslan Malikov
37
1980s the Wrodaw synagogue deteriorated and had different owners, while
the former residents of the district fell into oblivion. Only since 1990 has
memory of them been restored. A very important element of this
restoration is the theatrical activity of Bente Kahan (born 1958), a
Norwegian Jew, who produced two performances in the Wroclaw
synagogue: Glo.ry z Theresienstadt (Voices of Theresienstadt, 2005) and Wallstrasse
13 (2007) . Professional local actresses and musicians contribute to these
performances. Voices of Theresienstadt is devoted to the life and works of Ilse
Weber, the author of songs, poems, and plays for children in Czech and
German. Weber, who was a Jewish woman from the Moravian-Silesian
region, was deported to Theresienstadt camp and then moved to
Auschwitz. She was killed together with her son and a group of children she
looked after as a nurse. Voices of Theresienstadt tells about everyday life in the
camp, presenting the experiences of five women-prisoners. The
performance was produced in co-operation with Wrodaw Center for Jewish
Culture and Education and performed on the anniversary of the Crystal
Night events; it was later performed all year long for school students.9 Thus
the synagogue became a center of tolerance education.
Teatr im. Modrzejewskiej from Legnica has been fulfilling the
"pro-city" artistic program for several years. The essential element of the
projects by Jacek Glomb (born 1964), the director, and Malgorzata
Bulanda-Glomb (1960), the stage designer, is the interaction with the city
residents. "As for me the notion ' new performance spaces' does not mean
simply projects staged in locations outside the theatre building," Glomb
declares. "What is equally, or even more important, is the social space, or, in
other words-the audience."
1
0 The basic issue is the ideological
justification for the site selection, the aim being to have the space
correspond to the performance's subject. "We don't have a cheap trick in
mind: acting in the ruins just for the effect, or si mply leaving the theatre
building, so popular these days, but rather a conscious choice of the site for
performance production, where the story will be inseparably connected to
the space."ll The group shows "real stories in real places," and tries to
return these places to local communities for good.
The best-known and widely reviewed of "the real stories" was Ballada
o Zaleaczawiu (The Ballad of Zaleaczawie, 2000), which ran for three years on the
stage of the disused Cinema Kolejarz (previously a culrural center and venue
38
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
of boxing matches). The cinema building is quite literally in a ruined and
culturally neglected district, whose residents attend theatre very rarely. While
preparing The Ballad of Zakaczawie, which is strictly incorporated into the
district topography, the theatre group stimulated cultural activities within the
Zakaczawie community. The co-operation began during the script-writing
process (by Maciej Kowalewski, Kopka, and Glomb). For several months the
writers consulted former militia officers, criminals, regular customers of the
"Cygariska" restaurant, the prosecutor, priest, and Red Army officers. They all
remembered the story of Benek Cygan, a local thief "with principles." Finally
The Ballad of Zakaczawie has a collective protagonist: the entire complex
community of the district, which was a mixture of newcomers from all Polish
territories, former Eastern Borderland residents, and Roma. The area was thus
typical of Polish post-war Western Regions, complemented by a feature
unique to Legnica:12 the Soviet soldiers, called "our Russians" by the locals.
The performance had as its goal to recreate the early history of the People's
Republic of Poland. The next stage of co-operation with Legnica residents
was the collection of necessary props, everyday articles from the 19 50s and
1960s. The citizens donated or sold soda siphons, orangeade bottles, old
bicycles, cinema photos, and Soviet and militia uniforms.
The theatre crew made sure that Zakaczawie residents were present at
the premiere. The actors remember that it was a great experience to act in
front of such an unusual audience, and they did not mind even the hiss of
opening beer cans. This project turned Zakaczawie and its residents into an
epitome of the whole of the ruined city of Legnica. The authors tried to
overcome negative attitudes toward the city; theatre became a tool for
influencing reality. It was a necessary action, as the 1990s were the period of
"widespread negative attitudes of Legnica residents toward their own city.
They perceived everything associated with Legnica as being worse, second-rate
and a failure."13 Kopka explains the social context of creating The Ballad of
Zakaczawie: "We wanted to tell today's Legnica about that old Legnica so that
Legnica will begin to like its own past again."
The most recent stage of revitalization of Legnica spaces is
connected with the above mentioned First International Theatre Festival: The
City in Legnica, organized in September 2007. All groups in attendance were
asked to prepare special pre-premieres to be shown in various non-theatrical
buildings. The performance demonstrating the closest link with both the city
39
and region was Lemko (2007), presented by the local group. Legnica and the
surrounding area became the new home for the Lemko people, who were
expelled from their homeland after World War II (there are today six thousand
people in Lower Silesia, who declare themselves Lemkos).14 The tragic story
of a Lemko is another brick in the construction of a local identity for residents
of Legnica. Lemko was staged in the ruined hall of former variety theatre on
Kartuska Street, which is to house the Center for Youth Education in the
future.
Lower Silesian performances and projects staged in special sites serve
diverse functions ranging from aesthetic experiments to social and educational
activism, mostly focused on developing positive links between the residents
and their surroundings. A very important feature of these projects is their
continuous nature; they do not end as the performance ends but are continued
in newly established cultural centers.
Translated l!J Marcin [Vqsiel
NOTES
See also: Juliusz Tyszka, ed., Teatr w miejscach nieteatrai!!Jch (Poznan: Wydawnictwo
Fundacji Humaniora, 1998). The volume contains materials from two seminars
accompanying rhe MALTA International Theatre Festival in Poznan.
2 Wrodaw (formerly Breslau), rhe capital of Lower Silesia, was rhe largest German city
incorporated into Poland after World War II as a result of the Yalta and Potsdam
conferences.
3 This and next quotation see "Teatr e i genius loci. Rozmowa z Maciejem
Masztalskim," in Magdalena Golaczynska, Wroclawski teatr niezalezyy (Wrodaw:
Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrodawskiego, 2007): 173-4.
4 This and next quotation see "Prostowanie gwoidzi," in Wroclawski lealr niezal:(py,
178-9
5 See Magdalena Golaczynska, "Wrodaw-Breslau. Searching for New Theatrical Space
and Local Identity," SEflP 26, no. 1 (Winter 2006): 31-4.
6 The British technique of verbatim came to Poland via Moscow thanks to Tcatr.doc.
7 "Prostowanie Gwoidzi," 182.
8 More of this subject in Sebastian Majewski, "Nadrzeczywiste Nadodrze. Dzialania
tw6rcze w obszarze miasta. Pr6ba in Konteksry animacji spoleC'.(!Io-
kulturalne;; Krystyna Hrycyk, ed. (Wrodaw: Silesia, 2004).
40 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
9 More of the origins of the performance in "Cos z siebie dla innych. Z Bente Kahan
rozmawia Hubert Chlopicki," Forum Zyd6w Polskich, www.fzp.jewish.org.pl/kultura.
10 Jacek Glomb, "Teatr w ruinach," Notatnik Teatraf'!J 35 (2004): 121.
11 Jacek Glomb, "0 Teatrze, kt6rego s n ~ jest Miasto," I Midzynarod11(Y FestiwaiMiasto
[catalogue], 2007.
12 In the years 1945-1993, Legnica was a city of limited independence. It hosted the
head quarters of the Northern Group of the Soviet Army and units of this army.
13 This and next quotation see Krzysztof Kopka, introduction to Dramary
Modrzejewskiej. Antologia sztuk napisa'!Jch dla Teatru w Legnicy (Gdansk:
Slowo/obraz/terytoria, 2007): 27, 30.
14 According to National Census data (2002).
41
NEW TIMES ASK FOR NEW VOICES:
A SHORT HISTORY OF CONTEMPORARY LITHUANIAN
PLAYWRITING
Aiste Ptakauske
The political nature of theatre is most apparent during times of
political uncertainty and social disintegration. For the past few years, none of
the major theatre festivals in Western Europe or North America was
considered complete if it did not include in its programs a show or play that
in one way or another reacted to contemporary political realities-from the
war in Iraq to censorship in Belarus. However, the political nature of theatre
was never more evident than it was in the countries of the Soviet Block during
Soviet rule. It is common knowledge that the rise of highly metaphorical,
semantically multilayered, and limitlessly inventive Eastern European theatre
was primarily determined by fierce Soviet censorship, which recklessly
punished anything that questioned the ideology of the state. It was, however,
quite blind to subtle irony and symbolism generated by the sharp and
rebellious artist's imagination.
The Lithuanian theatre was no exception in this respect. Directors
who refused to stage Socialist Realism had no choice but to turn long dead
geniuses of Western drama into their contemporaries by overlooking the literal
meaning of their words and making costumes, lights, and bodies of actors
speak figuratively. Theatre eventually became a substitute for religion for many
citizens of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Lithuania as well as the country's
most successful cultural product for export. However, the ascendancy of this
kind of director caused a significant shift of roles within the theatre itself,
turning the stage into a playground for the director's imagination, diminishing
the roles of actors into functions of the narrative and making playwrights
generally redundant. Paradoxically, the kind of theatre that started as a way of
tricking the authoritarian regime eventually became a manifestation of a
peculiar kind of director's dictatorship.
It is important to note that the often authoritative tendencies of
Lithuanian directing do not undermine the artistic quality of Lithuanian
theatre. Lithuanian directors receive the most prestigious international theatre
awards; they are invited to direct in major theatres of Russia, France, Finland,
42 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
and Scandinavia; and their productions are annually included in the programs
of the largest international theatre festivals in Moscow, Dublin, and Avignon.
However, over-exercising one muscle leads to degeneration of others in the
body, which becomes especially evident when the body is finally forced to
change its habitual position.
The Restoration of Independence resulted in an extreme makeover
for the whole Lithuanian nation in general as well as the Lithuanian theatre in
particular. The new era in the nation's history asked for new stories to ponder
what had happened. This time of reassessment of values revealed many gaps
in the Lithuanian political, economical, social, and cultural systems. For
instance, it suddenly became very clear that in the contemporary theatre of
independent Lithuania there were neither actively working playwrights nor
colleges or universities that could professionally train them. Moreover, at the
outset of independence, there were only a couple of productions of any kind
of contemporary plays in the repertories of Lithuanian state or national
theatres.
In this situation, resorting to contemporary plays from Western
Europe-which had suddenly become a model in many respects for several
newly liberated Eastern European countries-was immediately seen as the
most obvious and accessible way to fill the gap. Consequently, in 1999 the
Lithuanian Theatre and Cinema Information and Education Centre (TCIEC)
launched a formerly undreamt of project, the New Drama Action-a few days
of rehearsed readings and shows of contemporary plays from Latvia, Estonia,
and the United Kingdom. The novelty of the event attracted enormous public
attention and clearly demonstrated the Lithuanian audience's thirst for
innovative ways of telling original stories in a new kind of theatre. Although
the New Drama Action soon became a very popular annual phenomenon that
would significantly contribute to the repertories of many Lithuanian theatres,
its attempts to invite Lithuanian writers into its otherwise welcoming embrace
were still extremely cautious. Nevertheless, the seed was sown.
Typically, the first public initiatives to encourage Lithuanian writers to
write for the theatre sprang not from the national or state theatres but from
the fringe festivals. In 2001, the Lithuanian Association of University Theatres
(LAUT) organized an international youth theatres festival. The association
stated it was "Looking for Authors and Heroes." Its goals were to collect as
many scripts as possible from young Lithuanian playwrights, select the ones
43
with the most potential, and distribute them to university or youth theatres
that consisted of young people interested in acting and directing. Although the
establishment had many reservations about the initiative, the festival attracted
a lot of attention from audiences as well as the press. A few literary managers
of the Lithuanian state theatres began to look through the submitted scripts as
well as to see a few festival productions. They made contacts with selected
playwrights. Some of these writers were encouraged to work in the field of
playwriting, some of the larger having their work produced on bigger stages.
The scale of the public interest evoked by the festival proved that the LAUT's
initiative was not a complete waste of time and should be further developed
by state theatres and national festivals.
The majority of forums and festivals committed to the development
of Lithuanian playwriting shared a similar structure. First, they would
announce a call for submissions. Second, from the submitted material, they
would select the scripts with the most potential. Then they would contact the
authors of the selected scripts and invite them to participate in workshops or
master classes run by invited and more experienced tutors from abroad.
Finally, products of the workshops would be publicly presented in the form of
rehearsed readings with the participation of professional Lithuanian actors
and directors. Although the process of such events was most often hectic and
uncoordinated, and the readings of the plays rarely resulted in anything other
than an avalanche of fierce criticism directed at their authors, it gradually built
a certain awareness of the pulsating necessity for new voices in the Lithuanian
theatre and inspired confidence in newly emerging Lithuanian playwrights.
The loud and passionate discussions around the newborn
phenomenon of Lithuanian playwriting drew the attention of the
international theatre community. International interest in Lithuanian
playwrights was considerably strengthened by a few unexpected successes of
Lithuanian plays at international festivals, the most outstanding of which was
the first prize for Laura Sintija Cerniauskaite's play Lury Skates at the Berlin
Play Market in 2004.
1
Consequently, the play was staged at a few theatres in
Germany and Russia, and Lithuanian playwrights started to receive invitations
to international conferences, festivals, and networks. For instance, my play
Persona F2 was translated into Russian and included in the program of the
international festival Young Drama 2004 (also known as Liubimovka) in
Moscow where I was recognized by the founding members of The Fence, a
44 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
network of pan-European playwrights, translators, and dramaturgs. I
consequently became an active member of the group.
International praise for Lithuanian playwrights in recognition of their
unique voices and original perspective on theatre culture made the Lithuanian
theatre establishment reassess its prejudices. Lithuanian state theatres little by
little started to allow into their repertoires plays by more or less internationally
acknowledged Lithuanian playwrights. A couple of those productions were
highly successful. For example, Marius IvaskeviCius's play Madagascar, about a
well-known Lithuanian thinker's nai:Ve plan to move the entire Lithuanian
nation to the island of Madagascar to avoid the fatal attrocities of World War
II, is still one of the hits of the repertory of the State Small Theatre of Vilnius.
It is the winner of numerous international as well as national awards. However,
most Lithuanian plays were still considered to be of "insufficient artistic
quality" and were looked down upon by the establishment of the Lithuanian
theatre.
A productive action needed to be taken to open communication
between the playwrights and the broader Lithuanian theatre community. In
response to this, in 2005, I formed an informal playwrights club, DS, whose
main goal was to exchange useful practices and information through public
discussions and performances, giving voice to emerging Lithuanian
playwrights. The formation of the club was partially inspired by Erik Ehn, the
current Dean of the School of Theatre of the California Institute of the Arts.
Ehn ran a week of workshops in Vilnius before the Lithuanian premiere of his
Saints' f ~ s at the State Youth Theatre of Lithuania. He emphasized the
importance of networking to the existence of the arts in general and
playwriting in particular. The main activity of DS was to discuss its members'
work, improve their writing skills, and present the products of the workshops
to an audience. Nthough DS's performances and happenings usually took
place in spaces that had little to do with the theatre, they attracted a lot of
young audiences. DS was soon recognized as a very strong and distinct voice
in the context of the Lithuanian theatre. Three club members' plays were
included in the Panorama of Contemporary Lithuanian Drama, one of the
biggest festivals of Lithuanian playwriting organized by one of the major
Lithuanian state theatres. Lithuanian regional theatres were finally happy to be
able to access young authors who did not fence themselves off from the world
and willingly worked with different communities. The Southwark Playhouse in
45
London invited two of the club's members to develop their plays with British
director Svetlana Dimcovic and present them at the British celebrations of
Lithuanian art and culture that took place in London from January 7 to 26,
2008. In the spring of 2007, I was invited to Istanbul by the organizers of
Oyun Yaz, a recently established festival of new Turkish drama, to run a
workshop for emerging Turkish playwrights. In the same year I received a six-
week CEC ArtsLink residency at the Center Theatre Group of Los Angeles
and the California Institute of the Arts where I continued artistic collaboration
with Erik Ehn. Most importantly, the very existence of DS proved to other
Lithuanian playwrights that their voices could be heard. It inspired them to
seek a more active involvement in the Lithuanian theatre community.
The gradually growing hubbub around the issue of the development
of contemporary Lithuanian drama finally touched the National Drama
Theatre of Lithuania when in 2005 it launched its own festival of
contemporary Lithuanian plays: The Sources. Although during the three years
of the festival's existence, only one play has traveled from the festival's
program to the theatre's repertory, the fact such a festival was organized by the
National Drama Theatre of Lithuania demonstrates that the Lithuanian
theatre establishment has finally recognized new Lithuanian playwrights and is
willing to enter into a dialogue with them.
During the past couple of years, more and more Lithuanian state and
regional theatres have started to express a serious interest in staging works by
contemporary Lithuanian playwrights. Moreover, Lithuanian directors have
little by little begun to collaborate with Lithuanian playwrights on more or less
equal terms. The TCIEC in cooperation with a few Lithuanian publishers have
started to publish a series of contemporary Lithuanian plays and launched a
database of the works at www.theatre.it. Nevertheless, the situation of the
playwright in the Lithuanian theatre is still best described by Audronis Liuga,
the head of TCIEC and Artistic Director of the New Drama Action, in his
introduction to Kolme kerettilaista: Liettualaista nyk;ydraamaa, a volume of Finnish
translations of three contemporary Lithuanian plays:
46
Being a playwright in the Lithuanian theatre means becoming a
heretic and proclaiming faith in the word in a kingdom of visual
imagery. Only a few succeed in this heresy, and only the exceptions
are able to inspire a new theatre culture through their words. To
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 28, No. 2
achieve this, a writer's talent is not enough. One also needs to have a
profound and elaborate knowledge of the stage where an auto-da-fe
is being executed by the director's imagination. Since the auto-da-fe
of the Lithuanian theatre is renowned for its exceptional cruelty, it is
not hard to imagine what kind of ingenuity and patience is required
from a playwright. Although in Lithuania national playwriting is
promoted in all possible ways, the director's inquisition is watchfully
guarding its faith. 3
Although at the beginning of his introduction Audronis Liuga is not optimistic
about new playwrights in Lithuania, in further paragraphs he expresses a hope
that the example of the three authors who have just been translated and
published in Finnish will be an inspiration for their younger successors.
4
The
accomplishments of several Lithuanian playwrights internationally and
nationally indicate that such expectations may not be completely unjustified.
NOTES
Laura Sintija Cerniauskaite's play Free the Golden Colt won flrst prize at the 2001
international youth theatres festival "Looking for Authors and Heroes."
2 My play Persona F was developed during a series of workshops for emerging
Lithuanian playwrights run by a famous Latvian playwright Lauris Gundars in 2003.
The workshops were organized by the Sate Youth Theatre of Lithuania.
3 Kolme kerettihista: Liettualaista n y ~ d r m (Helsinki: Like, 2007). The excerpt quoted
in this article has been translated into English by me solely for the purpose of this
presentation.
4
Ibid.
47
AN INTERVIEW WITH YELENA EZERSKAYA
Helene Lemeleva
"I do not understand when the term commercial is applied to culture."
Yelena Ezerskaya
Yelena Ezerskaya is a prominent Moscow theatre and music critic, a
poet, and the author of romance novels. This interview took place in October
2007 in Moscow.
Helene Lemeleva: Bednaya Nastya (Poor Nastya) is one of the most talked-about
Russian TV projects, shown in prime time by Channel One. Did such success
change your life in any way? Is it easy to remain yourself being a celebrity?
Yelena Ezerskaya: The success of Poor Nastya is the success of a large team of
authors. I am talking about those who conceived the idea of the serial, the
American company Sony Pictures, and those who presented it on the screen, the
Russian company A-media. My part in this project, the literary part, was the
most modest. More unexpected and surprising was the success of the books: the
four volumes of the first part and the four-volume sequel, Poor Nastya, Ten Years
Later. Though, honestly, I personally never doubted the success of Poor Nastya.
I created a book bound to succeed, and such was my intention. People who read
the book turned to the TV version. Even my editors were surprised. At first, they
did not understand the genre of the book and its target audience. I developed a
universal model, combining historical truth, psychological veracity, and
authenticity of the minute details of everyday life. I drew on classic Russian
literature and, above all, on the traditions of Russian romantic melodrama. Have
my innovations with genre brought me personal success? Well, for many I
remain more of a fictional, rather than real, personality. A lot of people even
think that Yelena Ezerskaya is a pseudonym concealing a whole team of writers,
like the team that worked on the creation of the TV series. I am in no hurry to
make any revelations: I am a free person. Unfortunately, now notions of scandal
and popularity have become almost synonymous. And I do not care for scandal.
I am not striving for that kind of popularity. I want my books to be popular, and
I have no complaints about that.
48 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
Yelena Ezerskaya
49
H.L.: Why have you gone back to the nineteenth century? Does the past hold
more interest for you than our modern reality?
Y.E.: The past gives us the opportunity to talk about the present, to look at
ourselves, as we are now, and to see our time from a distance. The more I look
back, the more I realize how similar the people of Pushkin's time and my
contemporaries are. Well, the life span was shorter back then; we are taller
nowadays and we live longer, but human nature has not changed; the ability to
feel strongly and the craving for the ideal, maybe concealed but sincere, have
remained. As for the nineteenth century, it is my favorite time. It was the time of
Russian Romanticism, the rime of Pushkin and Lermontov, of Eugene Onegin and
The Demon. It was the time of fair ladies and an aristocratic code of honor, the
time when the "great and mighty" Russian language acquired its perfect form
and became classical. It was the time of elevated style, of fine dress and fine
manners, with a very strong theatrical element inherent in it.
H.L.: And if you were given the chance to choose an epoch, when would you
prefer to live?
Y.E.: I like the time we live in and prefer to live in the present. Very often,
however, I hear somebody say with compassion: "You were born in the wrong
rime. You, with your mentality, should have lived in the nineteenth century. You
are too sensitive and idealistic, you have too high expectations, and you pay too
much attention to good manners and upbringing." But these are dilettantish
reproaches! The nineteenth century was not so homogeneous; we tend to
simplify it, and what we usually think about it is either the result of
misinterpretation or pure a fantasy. And for me it is a coded map for the search
for spiritual treasures: nobility and honor, the beauty of human relationships,
and true love.
H.L.: I believe, you are writing a new novel. Is it also going to be put on screen?
What will it be about?
Y.E.: It's not just a novel; it's a sequence of novels, unified by the title The Mystery
of a House of Gentlifolk. Three of them have already been published: The Curse of
the Old Usurer, The Bigamist, and The Last DueL Each of these is perfectly suited
so Slavic and East European Puformance Vol. 28, No. 2
to transformation into a TV serial. The Jv[ystery of a House of Gentlefolk is also set
in the first part of my favorite nineteenth century. The period unites these
books, different in plot and style. In the center of the plot of each novel there
are family mysteries, resolved through various revelations, but in the end justice
always triumphs. For I believe in the happy ending, in both literature and life. I
continue to hope that noble feelings have not disappeared from the human soul.
I hope that my books will furnish plots for future filins abounding in fancy
costumes, beauty, and romanticism. The demand for such TV and cinema is
definitely present and will always exist.
H.L.: Tell me a little about how you started. How early did you feel that literature
was your destiny?
YE.: I started very early. At school I loved writing, taking pleasure in exposition
exercises, often enriching plots with my own fantasies. Reading my essays,
teachers pointed out that my style was a bit "too beautiful" and asked me to write
more simply. "When you become a member of the Writers' Union," they used
to tell me, "you will write whatever you wish, the way you wish, and as much as
you wish." And they would always fight with the liberties of my "author's"
punctuation. But I wanted above all to write as to express myself, and I wanted
to do so in the most elevated style possible. Time passed, I never joined the
Writers' Union, but became a member of the Theatre Union. I consider genuine
theatre criticism to be a part of literature in its own right, and in this genre I have
my own style, and my articles are recognized among my colleagues and general
readers. I work as a writer and editor for a well-known musical magazine, Musical
Life, and I take pleasure in writing from time to time for other theatre journals.
H.L.: In addition to being a prominent theatre and music critic, you are also the
author of the book titled The Moscow Art Theatre: A Look from Behind the Scenes, I as
well as a few plays staged at different times in Moscow and across Russia. But it
was your novel, Poor Nasrya, that brought you true recognition. In your opinion
is there a distinction between commercial and non-commercial culture?
YE.: I do not understand the term commercial as applied to culture. Culture is a
certain totality of human and social interest that fluctuates in society over time.
This increase or decrease of people's trust in culture depends on a great many
51
Cover jacket of Poor Nas!Ja by Yelena Ezerskaya
52
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
social and political factors. I must say that it is my deep belief that art not only
has the right to be commercial, it must be such! One should not engage in selling
oneself, but an artist's creations must sell. Art is the intellectual part of the
society's consumer basket, and works of art have no right to be buried in desks.
Not all authors are equally fortunate, but, after all, time will eventually put
everything in its rightful place. Books are written to be read, paintings are created
to be looked at. All of them should be bought and sold. In this sense, my book
about the Moscow Art Theatre is a case in point. It is a rare genre nowadays; it
is not a detailed life story of the world-famous theatre troupe, but a collective,
carnivalesque, creative narrative of the backstage people, who have given their
lives to the famous theatre--costume designers, make-up artists, administrators,
etc. The book is without gossip, but full of fascination with the Theatre, which,
as it appears, is much in demand and commercially viable as the Internet
constantly informs me of the book's popularity.
H.L.: How did your theatre career start? And how did it eventually bring you
" behind the scenes" of the Moscow Art Theatre? You seem to belong to the
happy few who had a chance to experience this great theatre from inside.
YE.: You are right; for me the backstage reality is not a mystery behind seven
locks. I have been working in different theatres for many years, both in the
provinces and in Moscow, as literary assistant to the director. As a child I
attended a theatre studio, and during my student years I even sang in a choir of
an opera and ballet theatre. I write the texts for musicals, which are staged at
different theatres across the country, and Imre Kalman's Bqyadera with my
version of the libretto was staged even in Kazakhstan. I love theatre, and I know
its life from within. I studied theatre criticism for many years in specialized
courses and then taught journalism at Krasnoyarsk University. I also graduated
from one of the most serious schools for theatre studies in the country, the State
Institute of Art Studies. For twenty-five years now I have been writing on theatre
for different journals and newspapers, such as Musical Lift, Operetta/and, Theatre
Lift, St. Petersburg Theatre Magazine, the newspaper Culture, and Screen and Stage.
I had the good fortune to have a chance to write a book about the
backstage life of the Moscow Art Theatre. The idea to create a book about the
famous theatre seen through the eyes of its invisible heroes- the make-up and
design artists, costumers, tailors, lighting effects technicians-was in the air.
53
Before me, a few other authors tried to do it, but it evidently was very difficult
to create a text that united the traits of popular literature with those of serious
theatre research. The task was to strike a balance so that the talk about theatre
would neither descend to the level of scandalous gossip nor fall into the
excessive theorizing characteristic of theatre studies, which is tedious for the
mass reader. Not only did I achieve this balance, the characters of my book, used
to silence up until then, were able to talk freely. I say "my book," though actually
it consists of more than ten monologues, written from the words of the
Moscow Art Theatre backstage people. Believe me, it was not so easy to
convince them to talk and be sincere, since they were used to living in the
shadow of the great masters, the actors and directors of the Moscow Art
Theatre. I had the chance to put myself in their position in order to convey in
my text not only their words, but their intonations, their emotions, their attitudes
to their beloved theatre. Those who knew the real people I portrayed paid me
the best possible compliment when they told me they could immediately
recognize these characters by the way I had them talk.
H.L.: Returning to Poor Nas!Ja, I would like to ask, in conclusion, what is the
secret of its overwhelming success? In other words, what would you advise a
beginning writer to do to create a commercially effective text?
YE.: Today life in its everyday reality, as depicted on screen and in literature,
badly needs some stylistic elevation, some romantic element in the relationships
among people. There is a craving for it; how else would we explain the popularity
among today's young people for the nineteenth-century style balls, or their wish
to study the refined etiquette of the aristocracy of the past, or simply their desire
to learn good manners? I sense this tendency, and I would like to fill the gap with
my novels. Beginning writers should try to find their own style and tone of voice.
That's the way to find your own readers.
NOTES
1
Yelena Ezerskaya, MKhat: V'.?gliad iz-za leu/is. Teatrai'1!Je ra.rskaiJ (Moscow: AST;
Tranzitkniga, 2005). The book includes a preface by Oleg Tabakov.
54 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No.2
THE CROATIAN CENTRE OF ITI'S
THIRD ANNUAL SHOWCASE CROATIA
OCTOBER 17-21, 2007
Margaret Araneo
On a winding cobblestone street in Zagreb's historic Upper Town
(Gornji Grad), sits an elegant, multi-storey house known as the Villa Arko. The
building, conceived by the architect Alfred Albini, was built in 1938, replacing
an eighteenth-century residence that at various points in its history had served
as a gathering place for international as well as local artists. The Villa Arko,
with its marble floors and staircase and its second-floor balcony overlooking
the district's quaint Basaricekova Street, is home to the Croatian Centre of ITI
(International Theatre Institute). The Centre shares the space with two other
cultural organizations: the Croatian PEN Centre and the Croatian Writers'
Association.
1
From October 17 to 21, the Croatian Centre opened the doors of the
Villa Arko to a group gathering of international theatre artists, producers,
scholars, and critics to celebrate the distinctiveness of contemporary Croatian
performance through the Centre's third annual Showcase Croatia.2 Not quite
a festival in the conventional sense, the Showcase serves more as an exhibition
of projects by Croatian artists that, according to the organizers, represent the
current and future trends in Croatian theatre. One major goal of the Showcase
is to introduce those unfamiliar with Croatian performance (since it is often
underrepresented at international festivals) to the vibrant new work emerging
in the country. This objective supports the mission of the larger ITI
organization, which aims "to promote international exchange of knowledge
and practice in theatre arts (drama, dance, music, theatre)."3
Presenting seven pieces over five days, the 2007 Showcase offered a
range of creative work, from straight plays by independent and mainstream
theatres to site-specific and dance-theatre projects. The diversity of the
material gave audiences insight into the complexity of Croatian culture-a
culture still considered to be in a state of transition. As the Croatian theatre
critic and playwright Jasen Boko explains, it is a country "struggling at the
same time with the still vivid traumas of the Homeland War and the incursion
of global capital."4 These struggles appear in a number of the projects
55
included in the Showcase, most evidently in their themes of isolation,
paralysis, and loss. In addition, several of the younger artists contributing work
were clearly resisting the traditional and dominant processes of producing
theatre in Croatia, those that rely on conventional text-based models of
production, in favor of work built through improvisation and collaboration.
This resulted in several memorable productions marked by fresh, highly
realistic dialogue and detailed acting.
Small Plays
The decision to launch the 2007 Showcase with Sasa AnoCiC's The
Meaning of Life f(y Mr. ujtrica showed the organizers' commitment to
presenting the young and innovative side of Croatian theatre. Described as
one of the "small plays" in the Showcase, which referred to pieces with limited
casts and modest budgets, The Meaning of Life f(y Mr. ujtrica tells the story of a
low-level bureaucrat who, upon learning that he is dying from an unidentified
disease, loses everything he values most. Over the course of the play, his best
friend deserts him; he is fired; and his wife, once a devoted, caring,
homemaker, leaves him. The play was described by the organizers as "a kind
of (anti) morality play," since it's the dark forces of life (disease, betrayal,
incompetence) that succeed in the end. Lojtrica's plight mirrors that of the
famous "little man" found in Russian literature, described by Russian writer
Zufar Gareyev as "the humble, anonymous man-in-the-streets whose obscure
hard fate stirs our conscience and evokes our pity."S
What makes The Meaning of Lzje of Mr. Lojtrica so refreshing are the
broad strokes it uses in its critique of Croatian society. We experience Lojtrica's
devastation through the use of strong physical comedy that borders on
slapstick. The characters are intentionally grotesque archetypes-the
incompetent doctor who eventually diagnoses Lojtrica using an oversized
invasive medical device; an overly attentive wife (a male actor in drag) who
races to the door each time her husband returns from work; the vapid, socially
awkward co-worker who mindlessly stamps papers that fly across his desk
without looking at them. Amidst the ridiculousness of this world, Lojtrica's
passivity, his stagnating will, comes into sharp focus.
For Sasa Anocic, who wrote and directed the piece, there are many
"Lojtricas" in contemporary Croatia. In a discussion following the October 17
56
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 28, No.2
Meaning of Life by Mr. Lojtrica, written and directed by Sasa AnoCic,
2007 Showcase Croatia
performance, he explained that in this period of transition, many Croatians are
not sure where to step next. There is a general feeling that life is happening to
them. They are not confronting the world around them, engaging the changes
that are sweeping through the culture. It is this paralysis, this "giving up before
trying," that Anocic is hoping to expose in order to raise the awareness that
will trigger change.
Though AnoCic is credited with authoring the play, this is somewhat
misleading. The piece was built through a series of improvisations, guided by
AnoCic, but undertaken by the actors (Rakan Rushaidat, Zivko AnoCic, and
Radovan Ruzdjak). Ideas are introduced, improvised upon, and revised in light
of an evolving directorial concept. This way of working is becoming more and
more popular with many younger Croatian theatre artists. The often tight-knit
group of actors, directors, playwrights who choose to work together regularly
in this way, when successful, produce truly intimate theatrical experiences that
stand in contrast to the stale repertories of the larger, more established houses.
Several artists have even formed small independent companies. AnoCic did so
57
The Other Side, conceived by director Bobo Jelcic and dramaturg Natasa Rajkovic,
2007 Showcase Croatia
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when he established his Exit Theatre in Zagreb after coming to the city as an
actor in 2000. His work proved extremely appealing to young audiences, and
he continues to garner more and more critical support.
Another small play presented in the Showcase, The Other Side,
conceived by director Bobo Jelcic and dramaturg Natasa Rajkovic, also used
improvisation in its development. Jelcic and Rajkovic, working with a team of
actors Gadranka Dokic, Ksenija Marinkovic, Niksa Butijer, and Krdimir
Mikic), tell the story of four people who have sustained prolonged periods of
loneliness. Having no apparent way to manage their pain, each opts to tell his
or her own story as a form of release. The narratives the characters share are,
for the most part, not extraordinary or even particularly memorable. What
distinguishes the piece, however, is the aesthetic that Jelcic and Rajkovic have
developed through their improvisational method-an almost hyper-realistic
style that blurs the line between character and actor. It is a style that has come
to define JelCic and RajkoviC's work since they started collaborating in the mid
nineties.
Without understanding Croatian, it was difficult to experience the
vocal nuances in the dialogue. The naturalistic tones and rhythms of speech,
which contribute greatly to establishing a documentary style, were on many
levels lost on those, like me, who had to rely on supertitles. The physical
action, therefore, became the primary way to experience the aesthetic. With
shoulders slumping, heavy eyes, tightened jaws, all of the actors were highly
skilled in physical techniques.
The last of the small plays included in the Showcase program was
Oliver FrljiC's Miss Rice, Music U7as Here Long Bifore Geopolitics. While the piece
continues to have a successful run in Zagreb and has received much critical
acclaim, it proved one of the more challenging projects for members of the
non-Croatian audience. Like The Jl.feaning if Life if Mr. Lojtrica and The Other
Side, the text for Miss Rice was developed through improvisations by the actors
during the rehearsal process. Unlike the work of AnoCiC's and JelCic and
Rajkovic, however, FrljiC's Miss Rice was both physically and dramaturgically
static. Three actresses assuming various roles throughout the play (interviewer,
interviewee, pop icon, political powerbroker, among others) remain seated in
a semicircle for most of the performance. One actress is actually bound to a
chair with electrical tape for a period of rime. This staging combined with a
dramatic structure marked by repetitions and FrljiC's use of an almost
59
absurdist circular dialogue, made the play at times frustrating. It's possible that
the piece resonated more with Croatian audiences because of its focus on
what the organizers of the Showcase described as "local topics." Determining
what those local topics were was, however, nearly impossible for someone
outside of the culture. Perhaps Miss Rice is just not a play well suited for export,
which does not in anyway devalue its importance in the Croatian theatre.
Confronting the Audience
While the three small theatre projects included in the 2007 Showcase
offered examples of a certain type of innovation in Croatian theatre, that of
improvisation as a path to text development, they still maintained a very
traditional structure with regards to the spectator-audience relationship that
framed the overall theatrical event. Each of the three plays respected the
fourth wall, allowing the audience to take a largely passive role in the
performance. This was underscored by the choice of venue for the plays. All
three played at the Gavella, in the heart of Zagreb, a more than half-a-
century-old theatre with a proscenium stage.G
The festival organizers' efforts to show the diversity of contemporary
Croatian theatre, however, did not stop with the presentation of the small
plays. They also chose to include two non-traditional projects in the lineup.
Both of these pieces-Ex-position, a site-specific performance by the ensemble
Shadow Casters, and Out of Service, a dance-theatre project, directed by Karen
Levi-are best defined as being theatrical events rather than plays. This is
appropriate due to the way each forgoes a traditional dramatic structure:
rejecting a single, unified narrative and abandoning the use of character.
Through their rejection of the fourth wall, the audience actively engages the
event. Performers directly address the spectators and even make physical
contact with them.
Ex-position, a site-specific project conceived by Shadow Casters's
director Boris Bakal, with Katarina Pejovic, Stanko Juzbasic, and the ensemble,
takes place in an abandoned factory away from the mainstream theatres of
Zagreb. The event is really an experience in storytelling. It is a collection of
narratives told directly to the "spectator" (a term to be used in the broadest
sense) by a member of the ensemble. Upon arriving at the site, audience
members are greeted by Boris Bakal. A small group sits in a narrow corridor
60 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
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Ex-position, directed Boris Bakal, with Katarina Pejovic, Stanko Juzbasic,
and the Shadow Casters ensemble, 2007 Showcase Croatia
waiting for the event to begin. Boris starts the conversation: asking questions
of each person, telling about his own life and experiences. Eventually, he starts
to go into more detail about his past, and soon he is telling the group deeply
personal stories: a love found, then lost; the frustrating pursuit of art in the
face of war. It is never clear during his storytelling if the events are true or not,
but he is certainly engaging and animated. Then a collection of numbers is
presented to the group, and each person is asked to select one. The number
corresponds to a performer with a particular story to tell.
Once partnered, the spectator is asked to put on goggles that have the
lenses blacked out. The idea is to take away the spectator's sight so that he or
she is forced to rely on all the other senses while traveling through the event.
The journey that follows depends solely on the performer with whom the
audience member is paired. Each performer has his or her own story to tell.
Taking the spectator by the arm or hand, the two move through various rooms
61
in the building, eventually going outside the space into a farmers' market
across the street. When the pair returns to the original site, the goggles are
removed. The spectator is taken to a room in the building where tea and
cookies are available. It is a kind of recovery room where the audience can
process the experience. In this space there are also video monitors and an
audio system that allows those who have completed the journey to watch
others and share their experience from a distance.
The entire event is incredibly intimate. Often the performers,
attempting to make their stories a visceral experience, will touch the spectators
on the face, the neck, the chest. Always gentle and tactful, it's an amazing level
of trust that the physical contact reveals in a very short period of time.
While Ex-position redefined the audience-performer divide in a
personal and intimate way, quickly forming an atmosphere of trust, the dance
piece Out of Service, directed by Karen Levi and presented at the TALA Dance
Centre, expressed the ache of loneliness and isolation and the frustrating
reality of the difficulties of connecting to others.
Before the performance begins, the audience gathers in the lobby,
which also serves as a bar/cafe, where many young people are listening to
music, smoking, and drinking in an atmosphere more like a night club than a
theatre. Eventually the door to the performance space opens, and the
audience filters in, taking seats on a set of risers.
The project that unfolds consists of five performers, Darko Japeli,
Larisa Lipovac, Damir Klemenic, Roberta Milevoy, and Sonja Pregrad.
Speaking in English and Croatian, the performers explore their bodies in the
space, dancing with objects such as hoola hoops and balls. One plays a guitar,
another gradually undresses. They are together on the stage, but isolated in
their movement. Occasionally, the dancers will intersect, but only for a brief
period of time; in the exchange there remains a nagging disconnect. The
performers deliver fragments of text directly to the audience-each speech a
plea, a desire to be seen and recognized. They cry out their lines, such as "Use
me not to understand," "Silent water tears the rock," "Do you like me?"
There are no real stories, no straight lines of narrative, only
repetitions of fragments that reach a crescendo with each round. In the end,
the performers all come to a place of rest on the stage, while one performer,
Sonja Pregrad, stripped completely naked, stands before the audience, with
open arms, asking to be used, to be taken, to understand and be understood.
62 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
It is one last attempt for connection; however, even though the separation
between the audience and the spectator has been challenged and the wall
between them breached, there still hangs in the air the realization that seeing
and being seen, hearing and being heard, even in a space made for such an
exchange, is impossible.
Tradition
While the majority of the pieces included in the 2007 Showcase
Croatia offered insight into how Croatian theatre artists are pushing the limits
of their aesthetic, the final performance presented in the Showcase was,
ironically, a traditional, somewhat lavish production of Chckhov's Seagull.
Directed by the Russian director Vassily Senin, the piece was presented at one
of Zagreb's mainstream theatres, the Zagreb Youth Theatre.
The Seagull was a production of the highest quality. Each act was dense
with detail, expressing a distinct mood that effectively supported the action.
What the production certainly offered those unfamiliar with Croatian theatre
was insight into the high level of acting of Croatian performers. The range of
emotion, physicality, and vocal technique were striking; the portraits of the
characters fresh and unpredictable. It was, however, the work of the actress
Jadranka Dok.ic in the role of Nina that was most distinctive. In her journey
from an innocent girl, charged with an undercurrent of sensuality, to a woman
fragmented by grief, disassociating from her world, Dokic expressed a mature
understanding of Nina's path. This understanding was most apparent,
palpable even, in her final scene with Konstantin, played by Kresimir Mikic.
Each repetition of the line "I am a seagull" embodied a growing realization of
the series of events in her life, the individual moments that together led her to
that particular point in time.
While at first glance the decision to end the Showcase with such a
traditional, albeit elegant and successful, project as The Seagull may seem at
odds with the Showcase's spirit of change and innovation, perhaps upon
reflection there is a hidden reason why Chekhov should have the last word.
Maybe The Seagull was the most appropriate play to punctuate the five days of
performances. The Seagull is a play that begins with a young, idealistic artist's
desire for change. Konstantin's call for "new forms" and his subsequent
frustration with how difficult such an endeavor actually is certainly resonates
63
The Seagull, directed by Vassily Senin, 2007 Showcase Croatia
64 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
with the aims of many young artists in the contemporary Croatian theatre.
Battling a system dominated by powerful well-funded state and mainstream
theatre and having limited access to resources, these artists forge ahead. The
Croatian Centre of ITI in organizing the 2007 Showcase Croatia has, it seems,
heard the call and has chosen to answer it by inviting the international theatre
community to come listen and watch in expectation of what will emerge.
NOTES
1 Croatian Centre of ITI, www.hciti.hr/en. Accessed 12 May 2008.
2 The Showcase coincided with the annual International Playwrights Forum, which was
held at the Villa Arko. The members of the forum joined with the invited guests of the
Showcase.
3 International Theatre Institute, www.iti-worldwide.org. Accessed 13 May 2008.
4 Jasen Boko, "Playwrights-The Best Thing in Croatian Theatre," Croatian Theatre 1
(2006): 5.
5 Interview with Zufar Gareyev in Voices of &ssian Literature: Interviews of Contemporary
Writers, edited by Sally Laird (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999),
163. I would like to thank Christopher Silsby for helping me more precisely define this
aspect of Lojtrica's character.
6 It should be noted that only The 1l1.eaning of Life l!J Mr. Lojtrica and The Other Side were
performed on the main proscenium stage of the Gavella. Miss Rice was played in the
theatre's lobby, but, with audience seated on risers directly in front of the performance
area, the proscenium perspective was maintained.
65
AN OPEN LESSON WITH THE
MOSCOW ART THEATRE SCHOOL
FEBRUARY 7- 8, 2008
Jane House
The Moscow Art Theatre, founded in 1897 by Konstantin
Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, revolutionized theatre.
In 1943 the Moscow Art Theatre School (MATS) was established with a core
curriculum based on Stanislavsky's acting methods; and today the school
offers programs in acting, directing, playwriting, production, and theatre
management.
On February 7 and 8, MATS third-year students presented their
work in New York City at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, Howard Gilman
Performance Space. The first hour was devoted to the presentation of
etudes created during the students' first year of study; the second, to a dance
demonstration.
The evening was introduced by a poised, slender, soft-spoken man
with graying hair and glasses, wearing dark pants and jacket, T-shirt, and
white tennis shoes: the celebrated dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. He was
followed by a middle-aged man, wearing rimless glasses, dark, striped suit,
and open-necked white shirt: Anatoly Smeliansky, Head of the Moscow Art
Theatre School, Associate Artistic Director of the Moscow Art Theatre, and
Editor-in-Chief of the new edition of the Complete WOrks of Konstantin
Stanislavsfe;y and The Moscow Art Theatre Enryclopedia. He is also the author of
Our Collocutors: Russian Classics on Stage, Bulgakov and the Moscow Art Theatre, Is
Comrade Bulgakov Dead? (rated among the best theatre publications in 1995 by
American Theatre magazine), and The Russian Theatre tifter Stalin.
Addressing the audience jokingly as "fellow democrats or Russian
republicans," Dr. Smeliansky hailed Baryshnikov as a symbol of freedom for
Russians, along with Joseph Brodsky and Vladimir Vysotsky, and spoke
briefly about the history of MATS and the various contemporary Russian
schools of acting that developed from the work of Mikhail Shchepkin,
Konstantin Stanislavsky, Anton Chekhov, Michael Chekhov, and Yevgeny
Vakhtangov. He suggested that a plethora of acting training methods was of
little concern because-and here he cited Michael Chekhov-canonizing
66 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
artists or methods is ultimately destructive. Finally, Smeliansky quoted
Stanislavsky who, when asked how he would achieve his theatrical ideal,
responded: "simpler, higher, lighter, more joyful."
Dr. Smeliansky was followed by a middle-aged bald man wearing
rimless, slightly tinted glasses, black-and-white checked jacket, dark striped
pants, and a NYC T-shirt: Konstantin Raikin, a teacher at MATS since 2001,
Artistic Director at Moscow's Satirikon Theatre, and the recipient of many
acting and directing awards. He introduced the etudes, explaining how vital
they are to training first-year students at MATS, testing and expanding their
imagination, encouraging them to play themselves in fantastical situations, and
teaching them to acquire a primeval, childlike understanding of the world. The
students work on thousands of etudes and study the material again and again.
"I study them all the time," Raikin said, and before our eyes transformed
himself into a camel, allowing his nether lip to hang low, his back to hump, so
that before us stood a striking character worthy of inhabiting the worlds of
Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, or Sam Shepard.
The demonstration proved Raikin's claims. In make-up and
costume, some twenty students-presenting as many scenes and enflamed
with youthful energy, vitality, exuberance-showed deep concentration and
commitment to their creations from beginning to end. Production needs
were kept simple: black floor, black backdrop, black curtain legs, and only
one large set piece, a long orange constructivist contraption that members of
the ensemble wheeled around to serve a variety of needs-as bleachers,
table, platform, desk, mountain ledge, bed. Language proved no barrier as
there was little dialogue, and if words were uttered, one could easily
understand their meaning from the context.
The show begins with a young man wearing a pilot's helmet striking
a steel platter hanging from the fly space on stage right. Then a model
airplane moves along a wire from above the audience toward the stage,
symbolizing the journey of the Russian students to New York, but also
setting the stage for the first etudes, inspired by a painting: three young boys
laughing and splashing themselves and each other (with real water) at a
swimming pool become enthralled by the plane flying above them. In the
final tableau they sit side by side, backs toward the audience, looking
upwards, filled with dreams about flying, just as they are in the painting
revealed to the audience, Alexander Deyneka's Future Pilots (1937).
67
Future Pilots by Alexander Deyneka
Four delightful etudes on objects are next-a candle trying to avoid
being extinguished by the wind; dough spreading out over its confines despite
the efforts of a baker to keep it in place; a bust of a scowling man whose angry
nature infects the bust of a man with a smiling joyful outlook; and a lemur with
its large black-encircled eyes existing quietly in the still of its habitat. The
contours of the objects were clean, the work specific and absorbing.
Of the etudes on sports-two competing speed skaters, a mountain
climber negotiating a rocky cliff face-the latter imaginatively transforms the
stage floor into the cliff face, and a bench into a rocky ledge, as the climber
struggles for safety. The etudes based on observing teachers use exaggeration
and gags to make fun of their subjects: a woman overly endowed in hips and
bust teaches English pronunciation with a thick Russian accent; a mustached
Spanish teacher with a curl stuck to his forehead is easily distracted by a
curvaceous young female student; and a bow-legged short-sighted geography
teacher in high heels talks so excitedly that she eventually falls down.
68 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 28, No.2
An etude entitled "Dream" is one of three studies based on fantastic
situations. As a housewife cleans, she fantasizes that her toilet-bowl cleaner,
rubber gloves, and robe turn into the props for a Miss Universe contest,
whereupon appear an emcee and the other competitors, all played by the
ensemble; the Cinderella eventually wakes up to her humdrum reality, of
course. In four sometimes outrageous etudes based on observing a range of
singers, the students present satirical interpretations of the Russian music duo
Pyatnitsa; Freddy Mercury Oead singer of the British rock band Queen); Toni
Braxton (American popular music star); and the well-known Russian
chanteuse cum folk singer Nadezhda Kadysheva, whose concerts include
leaping and spinning Russian dancers in full traditional costume. The MATS
Kadysheva, who hardly moves a muscle except those required for singing,
refuses to leave the stage even though her partner finds himself exhausted by
the demands of stamping, squatting, and knee bends.
The jewel of this demonstration of etudes is the last, which takes
place in a subway car as it travels through Moscow and people get on and off.
The sound of a moving and stopping train accompanies this study. Flats
indicate the opening and closing of the subway doors. Little dramas take place
as characters encounter each other on the train, including twins, soccer fans, a
prostitute, a student, a nerd, a pair of lovers, a hiker, a sailor, a homeless man,
and a lover whose heart is so full he is compelled to sing. Finally the train
reaches the end of the line and empties out. The model plane that began this
adventure then flies back toward the audience, and all the students modestly
take their bows. There was no display of egotism, no star turn; indeed, each
was as important as the other in this ensemble.
Before the intermission, Mr. Raikin briefly reviewed the training at
MATS. After a year of working on etudes, second-year students begin their
study of playwrights and must get solid training in at least three-Ostrovsky,
Shakespeare, and Dostoyevsky- but they also work on European classics. The
course of study is rigorous: six days a week for four years, from 9:30 A.M. to
10:00 P.M. Acting classes total five and a half hours a day; and the rest of the
time is devoted to general education, movement, vocal training, singing, stage
combat, and dance. By the end of their four years, the students are considered
ready for careers in the theatre.
The second part of the evening consisted of an hour-long dance
demonstration to the music of Igor Stravinsky. Dressed in a black long-sleeved
69
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"Dough," Moscow Art Theatre School,
Baryshnikov Arts Center, February 2008
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
shirt and black pants, her long dark hair tied at the nape of her neck, without
make-up, Sigalova, professional actress, professor, and head of the
choreography program at MATS since 2004, introduced what she called a
"rehearsal" of a diploma show and claimed that the type of musical theatre
work at MATS was done nowhere else in Moscow. The objective was to get
students to act and interact in accordance with the music of varying styles. In
a previous year, she said, the diploma show set to the music of Bizet's Carmen
was invited into the professional repertory of the Moscow Art Theatre and
nominated for the Golden Mask prize as the best modern dance show this
year.
The same twenty students who proved the agility of their
imaginations and the strength of their commitment and concentration in the
etudes now transformed into modern dancers as, clothed in comfortable black
pants and T-shirts, they form and reform, into pairs, or small and large groups,
or break away to stand alone, continuously moving, walking, running, jumping,
crouching, falling to their hands and knees, lying down, lifting, bending
forwards, bending backwards-all to Stravinsky's music. What a disciplined
workout! The central plot concerned the relationship between a man and two
women competing for his attention, and how their relationships are affected
by group influence. An anguished struggle for individual freedom takes place
to escape imprisonment by another person and suffocation by society. In the
end, the man finds himself alone and friendless, having lost both women, and
when he rediscovers his lost love, it is too late; he falls to the floor, his life
extinguished.
The dance was a bit long and repetitive, but there's no doubt that it
proved the physical agility and strength of these actors-in-training. Such work
certainly teaches students total awareness of stage partners and how to be
there for them on stage, physically and emotionally, a necessary ingredient for
inspiring ensemble work. It also trains them to be physically and emotionally
sensitive to the demands of style, which vary with different playwrights. At the
curtain call, when again the members of the ensemble modestly took their
bows, and choreographer Sigalova deferentially remained in the background,
Dr. Smeliansky revealed that the lead male dancer was an American. He was
referring to Cazimir Liske, who earned a B.A. cum laude from Dartmouth as a
major in Italian literature and a minor in theatre. Liske was one of several
Americans among the students.
71
Dance Demonstration, Moscow Art Theatre School, Baryshnikov Arts Center, February 2008
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Co-sponsored by the Russian Century Foundation, the event was part
of Baryshnikov Arts Center's educational outreach program. Prior educational
programs include workshops with Lev Dodin, Artistic Director of the Maly
Theatre in St. Petersburg since 1983, and with Mario Biagini, Associate
Director of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in Italy.
MATS Performers: Evgenia Abramova (Dream); Karina Ado/en/eo (Dream);
Di!JaraAukhadieva (Dream); Odin Biron (Future Pilots);Andrry Blazhilin (Future
Pilots, Contact, Piatnitsa, Kadysheva); Elena Dudina (Dream); Anna
Chipov.rkaya (Dream); Pavel Chukreev (Future Pilots, Bust); Nikita Efremov
(Groudhog Day, Dream); A.ria Kalinina (Candle, Dream); Ta!Jana Kosmacheva
(Dream); Ole!Ja Kuzbar (Dough, Geography Teacher, Dream, Kadysheva);
Cazimir Liske (Mountain Climber, Groundhog Day, Piatnitsa); Elizaveta
Martines-Kardenas (Lemur, Spanish Teacher, Dream, Tony Braxton); Roman
Ma!Junin (Future Pilots, Bust, Contact, Piatn.itsa); Gela Meskhi (Speed Skater);
Polina Razhmkova (Dream); Anna Seledeft (Physics Teacher); Polina Shanina
(Dream); Olga Sukhareva (Dream); Askar Tleugobilov (Dough); Aleksei
Varu.rhchenko (Speed Skater, Freddy Mercury)
73
GLIKERIA FEDOTOVA, STANISLAVSKY'S ARTISTIC MOTHER
Maria Ignatieva
Glikeria Fedotova (1846-1925) was one of the renowned Russian
actresses of the day. She successfully debuted in the Maly Theatre in 1862.
However, Mikhail Shchepkin, the legendary Maly Theatre actor, told her
that she tended to be overly demonstrative in her parts, which contradicted
his ideals of artistic simplicity.
Under Shchepkin's tutelage, Fedotova managed to overcome her
tendency to excessive theatricality. According to many critics of the time,
she became one of the most natural actresses. Her legendary part was
Katerina in Ostrovsky's Storm, where with simplicity and naturalness she
portrayed Katerina's guilt, repentance, and sudden insanity. Throughout her
life, Fedotova was actively and successfully involved in productions of
Ostrovsky's plays.
Fedotova was a member of the committee that evaluated
Stanislavsky's acting skills during his tryouts at the Imperial Drama School
in 1885. He was accepted, but dropped out of school soon: his family
business interfered with his studies. Fedotova left the Imperial Drama
School shortly after Stanislavsky; she was dissatisfied with the quality of
teaching there. Fedotova, however, was impressed by Stanislavsky's acting
potential and kept an eye on him. After he involved Fedotova's ex-husband,
an actor and director, and her son (who was the same age as Stanislavsky)
in the Society of Art and Literature, she volunteered to help them in
training of their amateur actors. When the co-founders, Fedotov Sr. and
Fyodor Kornissarzhevsky, left the Society, Fedotova did everything in her
power to save the Society.
74
Glikeria Nikolaevna came to one of the rehearsals of our amateur
actors, sat at the director's table and said, "Now that everyone has
left you, I come to you. Let's work." For many years to come, she
worked with us for free, generously and completely devoting
herself to this work, and thus helping to form the venture that
geared up toward the creation of a group of actors ready to join
the Moscow Art Theatre.l
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 28, No. 2
Fedotova's acting experience made her irreplaceable at the Society of
Art and Literature. Her guidance ranged from corrections of the amateurs'
diction and stage posture to blocking and general interpretation of characters.
She introduced Stanislavsky to the idea of professional ensemble acting.
Fedotova also became Stanislavsky's personal acting coach. Therefore, in 1889,
she criticized Stanislavsky's acting as Don Juan in The Stone Guest by Alexander
Pushkin; she reproached him for "being overly dramatic and passionate."2 She
recommended that he play the last two acts lightheartedly, continuing to
portray Don Juan's dishonesty and amorality. From Fedotova's point of view,
Don Juan could not change. Stanislavsky balked at this; he wanted Don Juan
to fall in love at the end of the play and be completely transformed by his new
passion. Although Stanislavsky sincerely tried to play Don Juan as Fedotova
had recommended, he was dissatisfied with her version and switched it back to
his own interpretation. Fedotova also helped Stanislavsky interpret Imshin in
The Willful Ones by A. F. Pisemsky. The actress taught Stanislavsky always to
"find the right tone" for each part. Later this expression became a watchword
in the theatrical practices of the Moscow Art Theatre. Fedotova, who did her
utmost to make her characters believable, inspired Stanislavsky to imbue the
text with real life.
In 1891, Fedotova was elected the Chair of the Board of the Society
of Art and Literature, and, according to Stanislavsky's wife, Maria Lilina, the
Society flourished under her leadership. Lilina praised Fedotova's approach; as
a woman in charge, she created an atmosphere in which collegial relations were
formed between members of the company. Among her other improvements,
Lilina acknowledged the fact that actors started to come to rehearsals on time
and that their attitude grew more serious and respectful. Fedotova demanded
that scenes be rehearsed as many times as necessary.3 Fedotova set the
standards of professional theatre at the Society and thus changed
Stanislavsky's expectations concerning his artistic achievements. Fedotova
proved to him that the gap between amateur and professional actors could be
overcome by changing their attitudes and effort.
Besides helping Stanislavsky in the Society, Fedotova saw to it that he
appeared on stage at the Maly Theatre, despite the fact that he was not a
professional actor. Stanislavsky described his first rehearsals with the well-
known actors of the Maly Theatre:
75
For the first time in my life, I was on stage with real artists, with great
talents. Such an important moment! I was embarrassed, confused,
and so shy that I pretended to have understood what they were
explaining to me, while, in reality, not understanding a thing . . . My
most important concern was not to make them angry ... and to
imitate them [to the best of my ability].4
By inviting Stanislavsky to act on the professional stage, Fedotova
pursued several goals. She appreciated the originality and freshness of
Stanislavsky's approach to acting and his attempt to be natural on stage and to live
his character's life rather than perform it theatrically. Thus, still an amateur, he
could serve as an good example to professionals. She also believed in
Stanislavsky's genius as a reformer of Russian theatre. A student of Mikhail
Shchepkin's, she tried to pass the tradition of Russian realism and internal acting
to Stanislavsky and, through him, to the next generation of Russian actors. Thus,
it was Fedotova who established the connection between Stanislavsky and
Shchepkin, which has become a cliche for the specialists in Russian theatre.
For Stanislavsky, every new role was part of his search for the general
meaning of theatre, just as it had been in the past for the great Shchepkin. Still
an amateur, he was torn between truth versus theatricality on stage, and one of
Fedotova's educational tasks was to convince Stanislavsky to deepen his actors'
inner feelings and internal conflicts, instead of seeking after theatrical effects.S
As years passed and Stanislavsky enhanced his own internal technique, she
anointed him as Shchepkin's true heir. The seeds that Fedotova planted grew
speedily. In just three years after Stanislavsky's debut, Fedotova burst into tears
while watching him act during the performance of Uriel Acosta, by Karl
Gutzkov, about a Jewish heretic in seventeenth-century Holland and later
highly esteemed his work.6
One of the most memorable parts that Stanislavsky played opposite
Fedotova was in Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko's comedy Fortune's Favorite,
staged at the Alekseyevs' home near the Red Gates in 1892. In this comedy,
the handsome "fortune's favorite," Bogucharov (Stanislavsky), and his wife
(Glikeria Fedotova) suddenly revive their affection for each other after
deciding decided to divorce. The acting of both Fedotova and Stanislavsky was
called "a masterpiece of undertones." The two acted in such a perfect duet
that it looked as if they were "knitting their dialogues." One of the most
76 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 28, No. 2
fascinating aspects of their acting was that their intonations, gestures, and
facial expressions contradicted the words they were saying.
7
This theatrical
device, later called by Stanislavsky subtext-the underflow of hints, secret
meanings, and hidden significance-would become a revolutionary discovery
in the productions of the Moscow Art Theatre.
For Stanislavsky, Fedotova had always been an ideal spectator. He
asked her opinion about the Moscow Art Theatre productions. The acting of
the Moscow Art Theatre actors often made her cry, and Fedotova's tears were
the best proof of the company's artistic quality in Stanislavsky's eyes. Her tears
were not merely the sentimentality of an aging lady; she cried because of her
admiration for the mastery of their acting. Fedotova was in tears while
watching The Seagull in 1899, and she cried at Hauptmann's Lanefy Lives in 1901.
At the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Moscow Art Theatre, she
sent the theatre a telegram:
Let the ten-year-old glory of your theatre shine like a guiding star for
all theatre practitioners. I take part in your celebration with all my
heart and send my dear comrades best regards. Glikeria FedotovaB
In 1909, Fedotova's son died. Alexander Fedotov (1863-1909) was
actively involved in the Society of Art and Literature and appeared as
Stanislavsky's co-star in such plays as The Stone Guest (Pushkin), Without a Dowry
(Ostrovsky), Woe from Wit (Griboyedov), Romeo and Juliet, and other
productions. Twelve days after the funeral, Stanislavsky wrote Fedotova a
letter, full of gratitude and reflections upon their collaboration. All they had
been through together, professionally and personally, made him feel like a
member of her family.
In the new century, Stanislavsky shared with Fedotova his ideas about
the System. Fedotova disapproved of it: her understanding of training and
passing on the best acting traditions from one generation to the next was
different. She did not believe in systems, but only in personal work with
individuals. No textbooks could teach actors; only experienced actors should
be the live sources of acting traditions learned from the past. Young actors, on
the other hand, if they had talent, should strive to reach perfection. All great
actors she had known personally, including Stanislavsky, were the best proof
of her disbeliefs in and disapproval of any acting "theories." In 1910 she wrote
77
to Stanislavsky after he had recovered from the typhoid fever that had almost
killed him:
All the calamities are behind now! With the renewed energy and
regained strength, you will triumph in the theatre again, and Moscow
will be amazed again to witness your unforgettable, artistic stage
creations. Please console me, a pitiable old lady, with your
conversation. With great joy I wait to hear from you about your new
artistic explorations, although I don't quite understand everything,
don't quite follow your new theories, but to listen to you and to see
you has always been my greatest joy and pleasure.9
Just as Stanislavsky's real mother had helped him to cultivate his love for
theatre, Fedotova, his artistic mother, facilitated his becoming a professional
actor, director, and educator. He found delicate ways to support Fedotova
financially after, in 1905, she became handicapped by rheumatoid arthritis and
was confined to a wheelchair. In 1908, Stanislavsky wrote to her:
Your letter engulfed me with its warmth .... A long train of happy
years passed in my memory, starting from my awkward debut and the
exam at the theatre school until now. Your motherly care toward me
comes to mind when I remember the establishment of the Society of
Art and Literature and recall your wise forewarnings, which I failed to
follow and was punished accordingly. Everyone abandoned us .. ..
Then you came, without pompous phrases and without our pleading
for help .... You sat at the director's table and started to work and to
teach. I remember how you encouraged us, how you scolded us, how
you sympathized with us, rejoiced with us. . . . From the small group
of amateurs, to whom in time you gave your hand, the Moscow Art
Theatre was created. How ever can I thank you enough for all the
good things you have done for us?10
He remained a respectful and reverent son to both his mothers. In January
1912, during the celebration of the fi ftieth anniversary of Fedotova's acting
career, Stanislavsky thanked her in public. During the event, Fedotova recited
the monologue of Marfa from Dimitry the Impostor by Alexander Ostrovsky.
78 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 28, No. 2
For the seven years prior to the celebration, Fcdotova had been unable to stand
or walk; she was nearly immobile. Nevertheless, upon finishing the
monologue,
As if a mystical force moved her up, straightened her, she made a few
steps toward the crowd, and then the curtain started to fall ... . What
was it? .. . Self-hypnosis, as doctors might say, or her faith, as a
Christian would say, or the strength of her spirit.ll
This episode was another example of her great devotion to the theatre and left
Stanislavsky astounded and full of admiration. For him, true dedication to
theatre always created miracles.
In 1913 Fedotova wrote to Stanislavsky, "My love for you will die
with me; as for you, my restless artist, you, perhaps, have replaced me with one
of your new systems."12
Before leaving for the United States in 1922, Stanislavsky visited the
seventy-six-year-old actress. He wrote:
My farewell visit to Fedotova. She is beyond recognition, and she is
suffering. She still treated me with her favorite coffee, but the nuts are
all gone. She is needy. We blessed each other. She cried her eyes out.
1
3
At that time of his life, he hadn't a penny to share with her. Fedotova died in
1925. Stanislavsky was one of the four pallbearers who carried the coffin, just
as he did for his own mother.
In her book on Russian actresses, Catherine Schuler gives a just
assessment of Fedotova's importance for Stanislavsky and the Russian theatre:
Fedotova was an actress of the new generation not on the basis of
personality politics, but because she established a model of
exemplary professional behavior for Russian actresses.14
79
NOTES
1
Irina Vinogradskaya, Letopis h i ~ i i Tvorchestva Stanislavskogo, vol. 1 (Moscow:
Khudozhestvenni.i Teatr, 2003), 132- 3.
2 Konstantin Stanislavsky, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, vol. 5 (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1998),
219.
3 Maria Petrovna Lilina: Ocherk Zhizni i Tvorcheslva (Moscow: VTO, 1960), 164-5.
4 Stanislavsky, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, vol. 1, 148.
5 Konstantin Stanislavsky, Moia Zhizn' v Iskusstve (Moscow: AGRACF, 1999), 175.
6
Letopis Zhizni i Tvorchestva Stanislavskogo, vol. 1, 138.
7 Ibid., 160.
8 Letopis h i ~ i i Tvorchestva Stanislavskogo, vol. 2, 139.
9 Ibid., 252.
10 Stanislavsky, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, vol. 7, 128.
11 Vladimir Nelidov, Teatral'nayaMoskva (Berlin-Riga, 1931), 144-6.
12 Stanislavsky, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, vol. 8, 534.
13 Stan.islavsky, Poinoe sobranie sochinenii, vol. 6, 144.
14 Catherine A. Schuler, ~ m e n in Russian Theatre (London: Roudedge, 1996), 76.
80 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
IPHIGENIA IN AUIJS AT LA MAMA:
MICROCULTURE AND MUSICALITY
IN THE WORK OF GARDZIENICE
Ben Spatz
The Staniewski/Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices returned to
La MaMa in New York City for three weeks in October 2007, with its new
work based on Euripides' Iphigenia in Aulis.
1
The company also spent an
evening at the CUNY Graduate Center where director Wlodzimierz
Staniewski showed video documentation and spoke about the ensemble's past
work. Having lived and worked with Gardzienice for nearly a year in
2003-2004, I am grateful for the opportunity this visit provideed to review and
rearticulate the ongoing value of the group's work.
Gardzienice has been a major player in Polish experimental theatre
since the 1970s. They remain today one of the most important Polish theatre
companies, and one of those that most frequently represents Polish theatre
abroad. This is one context within which to situate their work. Another
relevant context is that of performative research focusing on ancient Greece;
Iphigenia is the company's third production drawn from ancient Greek sources,
following their Metamorfozy (after Apuleius) and Elektra (after Euripides).
Taken together, these three pieces represent a unique investigation into the lost
musical and gestural forms of ancient Greece. Since the early 1990s,
Gardzienice and its associated artists have been working to reconstruct both
the music and the chironomia (gestural forms) of Euripides' era, based on the
fragmentary evidence that survives on papyrus and painted pottery. The
resulting vision of ancient Greece is entirely unlike other representations of
antiquity, the most significant difference being that Gardzienice (re)places
music and spectacle at the heart of their performances, ranking them above
narrative and character, and thereby inverting the classical Aristotelian
hierarchy.
I want here to briefly place Gardzienice in a third context, parallel to
and separate from both its role in Polish theatre and their performance-
archeology of ancient Greek sources. Equally significant, I would argue, is
Gardzienice's epitomization of the unique potential of long-term ensemble
work. As theatre continues to fight for support, recognition, and
81
Wlodzimierz Staniewski, Artistic Director,
Staniewski/Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices
independence in a world increasingly dominated by electronic media and
capitalism, Gardzienice's work continues to demonstrate the irreplaceable
value of theatrical processes that do not fit inside the commercial frame of a
theatre "industry." My experience of long-term ensemble-based theatre, both
as a performer and as a spectator, has led me to understand that the operation
of such groups is completely different from that of repertory, Broadway, or
even Off-Broadway houses. Indeed, the differences are so great that I wish
better language existed to distinguish these two theatrical modes. Not only the
economics and developmental processes but also the artistic results of
ensemble work are radically different from those that arise out of the more
common model.
The dominant model has individual artists coming together for
specific projects and splitting up afterwards. This gives artists the opportunity
to work in a wide variety of circumstances over time and with many different
people. In this way a horizontal kind of creativity is fostered--one that asks:
what happens when this actor is combined with this director, this designer, and
82
Slavic and East European Perfom;ance Vol. 28, No. 2
this playwright? Such a combinatorial system produces new works more
efficiently (in the capitalistic sense) because of the natural creativity that
springs from the formation of each new temporary ensemble. Indeed, the new
combination of artists is itself understood to substantially determine a creative
project's identity and significance.
The combinatorial system of artistic production has advantages and
disadvantages like any other. Among the latter is the fact that in order to allow
artists who have not worked together before to collaborate relatively quickly
on new work, the combinatorial system requires a foundation of shared
assumptions to underlie the entire broad community of theatre artists. This
underlying shared culture necessarily limits the depth of artistic investigation
and the scope of what is considered a viable art-making process. The overall
time frame of collaboration, the relationship between director and performers,
and anything having to do with actor training or the development of new
techniques-all these are significantly constrained by the underlying culture
that makes combinatorial theatre possible.
Gardzienice and other long-term ensembles work differently. Within
the company's narrower focus, and over a period of years or decades, it
becomes possible to present onstage a truly other culture and an other world.
This other world is not the world of ancient Greece (to which any play can
explicitly refer) or the culture of Poland (which is equally visible in Polish
repertory theatre) but the unique world of Gardzienice's own microculture,
which has been developed by Staniewski and his partners over the past thirty
years.2 The Gardzienice microculture consists not only of the company's
performances and aesthetics but also of their training methods, expeditions,
folk ethnography, and other performative research. This rich, experiential
history is made visible in their performances, which are not only artistic
compositions but also the result, ultimately, of something like a ~ of life.
While many revivals of ancient Greek works use the language of today's
mainstream to refer to what is deeply foreign, Gardzienice's actually contain
and present a unique foreignness of their own. One witnesses, in the
company's work, not a mere reference to otherness but its palpable, embodied
presence.
One sees this quite clearly in lphigenia. Like all of Gardzienice's
productions, lphigenia seemlessly integrates nonlinear narrative fragments with
visual, physical, vocal, and instrumental compositions in a ferociously
83
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rhythmic and energetic explosion of the underlying myth. The text is spoken
in Polish, English, and ancient Greek, and each facet of the performance is
tightly orchestrated within a driving score of original music. Gardzienice is a
theatre of musicality, but it is neither a concert nor a dance. It is not ritual, but
it is linked to ritual in that it seeks to restore the broken links between music
and the body. The intensity of the performance's microcultural genesis is
evident in its defiance of generic categories. This is not a performance that
could have been created within the combinatorial logic of commercial theatre;
it is simply too intense, too extreme, too precise, too different. Although some
of the performers are relative newcomers, the aesthetic and the wqy of working
made visible in this production are the product of a decades-long continuity.
Music is central to Gardzienice's work, but Staniewski's vision of
musicality is not only about music. It is also about rhythm, color, dynamics, the
musicality of the body, and even the musicality of the plot. One does not have
to know the myth of Iphigenia to be firmly imprinted by the flashes of image
and narrative that Gardzienice offers. There is the matched fury of
Agamemnon and Clytemnestra in heated argument, the blossoming love of
Achilles and Iphigenia, the rise of crippled Iphigenia from her chair to claim
the glorious destiny of death, the ablutions of naked Achilles in preparation to
defend her from her fate, Iphigenia's throat cut, Clytemnestra's anguished cry,
and, finally, Iphigenia herself dancing away to death or to heaven. Some of
these images do not even appear in Euripides' play, but in this production they
shine more brightly than the narrative structure, which serves to support them.
All of this is difficult to describe in words because it is sustained throughout
by the massive presence of the chorus-which includes all the performers
who are not at any given moment playing a particular figure-kneeling over
drums or dancing a wild combination of kung-fu and reinvented chironomia.
This lphigenia is an almost overwhelming vision of the musicality of the human
body in all its "means of expression" (Staniewski's term). It is a volatile but
undeniably vital synthesis.
Of course, Gardzienice is not a fixed point, and continuity in their
work does not mean that nothing changes. Today Staniewski and lead actor
Mariusz Golaj are the only company members who remain from the 1970s,
while the rest of the ensemble covers a great span of age and experience. The
breadth of this span is rendered poignantly visible in the first scene, a dialogue
between Agamemnon and his servant, who in Euripides is an old man but here
86
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
00
--1
Gardzienice's lphigenia in Au/is, directed by Wlodzimierz Staniewski, La MaMa, October 2007
is played by Justyna Jary, one of the youngest women in the company. Jary
began working with Gardzienice in 2003, when I did, and the transformation
she has undergone since then is striking. She is still the same person, but it is
as if there is now somehow more of her taking up the same amount of space.
She has been opened, intensified-lit up in some way from within. This
change is not the result of working on a single project but of being gradually
integrated into the fabric of Gardzienice over several years and in several
different capacities. The contrasting and virtuosic partnership between Jary
and Golaj is a revealing image of Gardzienice's rich history alongside its future
potential, and a strong model for a kind of apprenticeship that young actors
find less often in commercial theatre.
Skeptics may point out that an actor forged in the microcultures of
ensemble theatre may not easily fit into the rest of the theatre world if and
when they leave their group of origin. This is because ensemble theatre is not
a machine with replaceable parts of the kind that capitalism seems to demand.
For me, that only underscores the value of such work and makes it, as
Staniewski likes to say, radically "ecological." Although lphigenia is the
company's first piece to use prerecorded music, its second to use video
projection, and its third to amplify the performers' voices through
microphones-marking a clear progression toward the integration of
theatrical technology-the heart of Gardzienice's work would still exist at full
force if the power were cut. Take away the electricity and the Gardzienice
ensemble would still effect a complete transformation of the performance
space.
I do not think it is going too far to suggest that, in our time, the
cultivation of such raw, unaugmented human capacity has significant
ecological-and therefore political-implications. It also goes against the
grain of most contemporary theatre, which is endlessly cyborging itself
through multimedia integration. In this, and in many other ways, Gardzienice
remains an invaluable island of microcultural difference in an increasingly
monocultural world.
88 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
**For reading on Gardzienice's work, see: Paul Allain, Gardzienice: Polish Theatre
in Transition (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1997); Tadeusz
Kornas, Wlodzimierz Staniewski i Ofrodek Prak!Jk Teatralnych Gardzienice (Cracow:
Wydawnictwo Homini, 2004); Wlodzimierz Staniewski, with Alison Hodge,
Hidden Territories: The Theatre of Gardzienice (London and New York: Roudedge,
2004); Zbigniew Taranienko, Gardzienice: Prakryki teatralne Wlodzimierza
Staniewskiego (Lublin: Wydawnictwo Test, 1997).
NOTES
1 The company of Iphigenia was led by Mariusz Golaj and Joanna Holcgreber, and
included Maniucha Bikont, Charlie Cattrall, Karolina Cicha, Anna D:tbrowska,
Benedict Hotchins, Justyna Jary, Tanushka Marah, Agnieszka Mendel, Marcin Mrowca,
Jacek Timingeriu, and Barbara Wesolowska. Original music was by Zygmunt
Konieczny; lighting design and operation by Grzegorz Podbieglowski; sound
operation by Maciej Znamierowski; costumes by Monika Onoszko; and choreography
by Julia Bui-Ngoc. See the archives at www.Latvlama.org for more details. I want to
express particular appreciation for the work of Joanna Holcgreber, a senior company
member whose essential performances in all of Gardzienice's Greek-sourced
productions have received less critical attention than they deserve.
2 These considerations place Gardzienice in the context of other ensemble
performance groups, such as the Wooster Group, the SIT! Company, or Double Edge
Theatre in the United States. Of course, any thorough analysis of Gardzienice along
these lines should be complemented by an understanding of their work in relation to
both Polish theatre and theatre from ancient Greek sources.
89
HOMEWARD BOUND?
FARM IN THE CAVE'S SCIAVl 1HE SONG OF AN EMIGRANT
Kurt Taroff
The long pattern of emigration from Eastern to Western Europe is
at a turning point. For years, workers have been leaving Poland, Hungary, the
Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the rest of Eastern Europe for jobs in Western
European cities where they could earn several times what they could hope to
make at home. They managed to survive in their transplant countries, while
either saving for a brighter future at home or sending money back to their
families. In recent months, however, the pendulum has begun to swing back-
as growth has begun to level off in cities such as Dublin, and rising costs of
living have made it more difficult to save, Eastern Europe has begun to see the
benefits of membership in the E.U. and the resulting growth is providing new
jobs and opportunities that could only previously be attained through
emigration. What had previously been a largely one-way exodus is now
beginning to reverse.
It is against this background that the Farm in the Cave Theatre
Studio, a Czech based, but pan-Slavic group, created the Theatre-Movement
piece Sclavi: The Song of an Emigrant. The group describes the piece as "a stage
composition based on expeditions [ . . . ] to villages in eastern Slovakia, on
old Ruthenian songs, on letters of emigrants and the srory of Karel Capek's
Horduba/."1 After becoming the first troupe to take all three major prizes at the
Edinburgh Fringe Festival (the Herald Angel, the Fringe First, and the Total
Theatre Awards) with Sclavi, and touring worldwide, Farm in the Cave brought
the piece to the Belfast Festival at Queen's University in late October 2007.
Belfast was a particularly poignant setting for the piece. While Dublin was
perhaps the recent center for Eastern European emigration, the peace
dividend in Northern Ireland has made Belfast an attractive alternative to an
increasingly saturated Dublin market. Farm in the Cave thus had a significant
local audience to draw from who were not only sympathetic to, but in a sense
the subject of, the issues of the piece. Furthermore, as Dr. Eva Grosman
noted in a review of Sclavi for Belfast Todqy, "A Northern Irish audience cannot
but be sensitive to what they will see depicted here, for this experience has
been that of so many Irish emigrants and returned exiles. Northern Irish
90
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
Scfavi: The Song of an Emigrant, Farm in the Cave Theatre Studio,
Belfast Festival at Queen's University, October 2007
people have an experience they share with those they are called to welcome in
their midst today." 2
Composed and performed by a cast made up of Czechs, Slovaks,
Poles, Ukrainians, and Serbs, Sclavi largely eschews a textual approach to the
problems of emigration and return (which is fortunate, since I would have
been unable to understand any of the languages in question, let alone the
polyglot dialogue that is spoken, albeit rarely, within the piece). Indeed, the
program notes, ''Words are used only irregularly and more for their sound
quality than for their actual meaning." Instead, the work conveys meaning
through song and movement. And an impressive array of movement it is.
The performers engage in an astounding hour-long demonstration of
acrobatics and dance, displaying remarkable bodily control and physical
strength, with symbolic expressions (sometimes obvious in meaning, other
times more obscure) of love, sexuality, anger, and violence, and, poignantly, of
sadness and loss. There are several moments of nudity in Scfavi, a complete,
stark nudity notable for its lack of gratuitousness-for while the bodies of the
91
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Belfast Festival at Queen's University, October 2007
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performers are beautiful, there is no doubt that the point of this nudity is the
revelation not of physical but emotional people stripped to the very bone by
their sense of loss and psychic homelessness.
The sole setting, a dilapidated trailer, is used as a sort of medieval
pageant-wagon stage, as well as a metaphor for the constant movement of the
immigrants. This is as much of a home as we see for these characters, and it is
clearly no home at all. In scene after scene the trailer was transported across
the small stage of Belfast's Waterfront Hall Studio Theatre (with no small
effort from the performers), no destination in sight, the journey seemingly
endless. In one of the most arresting and memorable images of a piece filled
with such moments, a man seeks a place to rest for the night. Finding no
shelter close at hand, with a weary resignation, he opens the bag he carries,
presumably filled with all his worldly belongings, and slowly places both feet
inside and lies down. His suitcase has become the only "home" he knows.
In conceiving the difficulty of emigration, it is easy to focus on one's
arrival in a foreign place-the separation from family and friends, the necessity
of learning a new language, the struggle to fl.nd work. But Farm in the Cave
suggests that the leaving is only half the battle, and perhaps even less: "The
real emigration starts when you return. You want to find home in the hug of
your wife, in the attachment of your daughter, in the eyes of your friends"3.
And yet, Sclavi suggests, the home one leaves and the one to which he or she
returns are not necessarily the same, and the prodigal is rarely welcomed back
with open arms. One's place in the society has been taken by another. Friends
and loved ones harbor the resentment of having been left behind. And even
when the emigrant comes to feel a sense of comfort, home is never quite the
same, the sense of having somehow become a foreigner in one's own country
lingers.
With all of this as background, the traditional songs which make up
Sclavi stand as an homage to the homeland(s) of the characters, but also a
deeply ambivalent query about the lofty sentiments expressed therein. The
company suggests that "with a necessary degree of self-irony they examine the
gap between slavophilic ideas and the reality of Slavs in Europe today."
4
Surely
these immigrant songs, both a comfort to their singers and a reminder of loss,
bear a sense of irony in themselves, as the nostalgia for home is undermined
by the very act of leaving, to whatever extent it was a choice.
94
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
The piece derives its title from the Latin word sc/avi, meaning both
"Slavs" and "slaves," and the characters are depicted as having become
enslaved to the very process of transport-the road has become their only
home. It is worth noting that although the emigrant in Sc/avi is supposed to be
returning from the United States, there can be little doubt that the experience
depicted is equally relevant to the current wave of emigration throughout
Europe. In a very real way, this "Song of an Emigrant" is the song of all
emigrants.
NOTES
1 Program notes, 3.
2 Eva Grosman, "Sclavi Captures the Fears and Emotions on Immigrants," Belfast Today,
24 October 2007. See: http:/ /www.newsletter.co.uk/belfast-fesitval/Sclavi-captures-
the-fears-and.3411713.jp. Dr. Grosman is also the editor of Glosik, a magazine for
Polish people living in Ireland.
3 Program notes, 3.
4. Ibid.
95
RUSSIAN PERFORMANCES AT BARNARD COLLEGE
Jessica Brater
In the fall of 2007, the Barnard College Department of Theatre and
Columbia University's Harriman Institute co-sponsored two Russian theatre
events at Barnard: Sir Vantes Doni<;; Khot, an adaptation of Don Quixote by
Dmitry Krymov and the Moscow School of Dramatic Art, and A Requiem for
Anna Politkovskqya, a puppet opera created by Amy Trompetter with original
music by Moscow-based composer Alexander Bakshi.
Donky Khot received its United States premiere at Colgate College and
performed a single, sold-out New York City show at Barnard's Minor Latham
Playhouse on September 8. The production, directed by Krymov and co-
created with students of scenography, was performed by a talented cast of
twelve young Russian actors. The text of the play combined material from
Nikolai Gogol's "Diary of a Madman;" a scientific report entitled "Diagnosis
of Daniil Kharms, taken into custody for the investigation," written by the
doctors of the Forensic Psychiatry Department of Leningrad Prison; and
selections from Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote. A pair of actors, one atop
the other and enveloped in an enormous overcoat, formed a giant, lumbering
Don Quixote. The stage was gradually covered in sawdust as a stuffed
dachshund was sliced open and emptied of its innards, after which actors
began to empty their own sleeves and pockets of hidden repositories of
pulverized wood. Crudely painted cardboard backdrops coexisted with a
stunning shadow puppet autopsy scene, designed by Arseny Epelbaum in
which actors manipulated hand held lights by Olga Ravvich for perspectival
effects. This was only one of many scenes in which Quixote was dissected and
reassembled by a cast of menacing and predatory characters, constantly
lurking at his coattails. Melancholic and hen-pecked, Quixote seemed to stand
in for the ever-vanishing intellectual, a frequent trope in Russian literature. In
a conclusion that seemed to evoke the episode with the three peasant girls at
the end of Cervantes's novel, the stage is enveloped by a woman's giant skirt
of colorful parachute silk.
A Requiem for Anna Politkovskqya was performed in honor of the
journalist at Union Theological Seminary's James Chapel on the one-year
anniversary of her murder on October 7, 2006. Trompetter, whose recent
96 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
work includes a giant puppet opera version of The Barber of Sevzi/e that was
performed in Austria and at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, and Malcolm
Williamson's opera of Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince at The Kitchen in New
York and at Kentucky Opera, designed and directed Requiem in collaboration
with Alexander Bakshi, who wrote the original musical composition. Bakshi,
whose genre, "theatre of sound," seeks to transform traditional musical forms
to full dramatic works in which instrumentalists become theatrical characters,
composed music inspired by the idea of "the transfer of a soul to heaven."
This is a mystery play, according to Bakshi and Trompetter, about what a soul
meets on this journey to heaven. In the opening of Requiem, brightly colored
banners float by, decorated with moments from Politkovskaya's early life,
reminiscent of scenes from saint's lives. The devil appears, looking, in Bakshi's
terms, "frightening but charming," He devil represents "the rational, weighed
and verified arguments of the majority .... He knows: there is no absolute
good. We, the smart people, are always choosing between evil and lesser evil,"
Bakshi continues. The dance of the devil and his cooperators culminates in
Politkovskaya's murder, after which a delicate, white puppet cradled in the
arms of a puppeteer is carried up a ladder to a balcony and delicately
transferred to the waiting hands of the giant puppets that will carry her soul
up to heaven.
Bakshi and Trompetter plan to tour the performance to Eastern
Europe and restage the production in a New York church in early October,
2008 to commemorate the second anniversary of Politkovskaya's death. This
story, says Trompetter, "resonates for us in the U.S. because of the permission
that fighting the American war on terror has given armies world wide to use
methods that are extreme in relation to the civilian population that is being
targeted. Politkovskaya risked her life to stop the unjust warfare that has been
given a green light because of American's war on terror. It's not just a story
about Russia."
(Quotes by Alexander Bakshi are taken from excerpts compiled by Trompetter
from an interview with Alexander Bakshi, by Elena Diakova for Novqya
Gazetta, Moscow, September 20, 2007. The interview with Amy Trompetter
was conducted by the author on May 5, 2008.)
97
Sir Vantes Donk:J Khot, by Drnitry Krymov and
the Moscow School of Dramatic Art, Barnard College, September 2007
98 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
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Sir Vantes Don!r;y Khat, by Dmitry Krymov and
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102
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Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No.2
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STAGING NOTHING:
A REVIEW OF THE EVENTS ON
THE EVENING OF NOVEMBER 7, 2007
DEDICATED TO DANIIL KHARMS
Christopher Silsby
Upon walking into the Brick Theater, you could tell the evening was
not going to be a normal book reading. The overlong title-A Very Special
Evening Dedicated to Danii/ Kharms with Matvei Yankelevich and The Debate Society
Including a Readingfrom the New Book Today I Wrote Nothing, a Performance of the
Play A Thought About Raya and Certain!J a Pickle greets the
audience. The stage is wrapped in plastic. Where the curtain would be there is
a transparent sheet separating audience and stage, sealing out the world of
twenty-first century Brooklyn or keeping in something else.
A man dressed all in brown-brown pants, brown vest, brown jacket,
brown shoes-timidly approaches center stage carrying a short stepladder. He
places the ladder in the middle of the stage and scales to the second rung-a
priest climbing his pulpit. He opens the book, adjusts his glasses, and, in an
even and unassuming voice, begins to read.
The man reading in front of the transparent curtain is Matvei
Yankelevich, the translator of Today I Wrote Nothing a new collection of
selected writings of Daniil !<harms. The title of this collection is almost the
entirety of !<harms's sixteenth entry in his "Blue Notebook," which is
included in Yankelevich's new translation.
Writing in the late 1920s and 1930s under the increasing Stalinization
of the Soviet Union, I<harms and his literary circle OBERIU-a parodic
acronym, which stood for Union for Real Art-faced strict censorship in both
content and form. Unable to publish their avant-garde works, the Oberiuty
subsisted on their children's stories, which could slip past the censors.
Contrary to these publishable works, the Real Art specified in
OBERIU's name presented a style of writing that has often been conflated
with the Absurdism of post-war Western Europe. However, as Yankelevich
argues in the introduction to his translation, "absurd" is too vague of a term
to describe the writing of I<harms, who sought to transcend the quotidian life
for an underlying Real through techniques of self-conscious irony,
104 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
Marvei Yankelevich
deconstruction of language through intentional misspellings or the words of
Russian chush' (nonsense), unsuspected contradictions, fables without morals,
and humor, but a humor which was always barely concealing a terrifying reality.
In the era of socialist realism, Soviet censors did not approve of Kharms's
strange style. In 1941, !<harms was arrested and placed in a prison hospital
psychiatric ward where he died five months later.
The man in brown continues reading. Yankelevich skips around in his
new translation, appropriately enough mostly reading poems and short stories
about the process of writing. Included in this ladder-top recitation is ''Blue
Notebook #10," the first piece in both Yankelevich's translation and Kharms's
collection Siuchai (Events).
There was a redheaded man who had no eyes or ears. He
didn't have hair either, so he was called a redhead arbitrarily.
He couldn't talk because he had no mouth. He didn't have a
nose either.
105
He didn't even have arms or legs. He had no stomach, he
had no back, no spine, and he didn't have any insides at all. There was
nothing! So, we don't even know who we're talking about.
We'd better not talk about him anymore.
1
It would be easy, and understandable, to attempt a paean to Kharms as a tragic
voice of artistic protest against the monolith of the Soviet State, to celebrate
the absurd life and death of an artist who presented the absurdities of Soviet
life in his works. However, this performance is not a feti shization of !<harms
the man, but a presentation of his words themselves. Nonetheless, like the
unspoken-of redheaded man, the very lack of an emphasis on Kharms
permeates the evening with the spectre of the artist.
Yankelevich dismounts from the ladder, folds it up, and hurriedly
exits down the center aisle of the house as the second portion of the evening
begins-The Debate Society's A Thought About Rt!Ja, based on the writings of
Kharms, created and performed by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen, and
directed by Oliver Butler. The lights illuminate a world behind the plastic
curtain: a tall man (Paul Thureen) hunched over a desk covered in papers
spilling over, littering the floor. What unfolds is the recognizable scene of a
writer starting a draft, changing his mind, and discarding the offending sheet
of paper, an appropriate theme after Yankelevich's reading from Todt!J I Wrote
Nothing. A woman (Hannah Bos) appears and taunts the struggling writer. He
pushes away from the table to confront her, but his hands have transformed
into a giant pair of silverware. Together they violently scatter the failed drafts,
ripping and throwing the paper. In the pandemonium, they tear down the
plastic curtain separating their world from ours. From !<harms's text, through
the voice of the translator, to the estranged physical stage, we have been
brought into the world of Kharms's Real Art.
Throughout the course of the performance, Bos and Thureen
embody the darkly humorous stories with a straightforward commitment to
irrationality-an irrationality that carries over to the structure of the
performance itself: random vignettes thrown together, sometimes implying a
connection between the thematic elements, other times breaking violently with
any semblance of continuity, yet forcing the audience to make their own
structural associations in the midst of this chaos. Whether it makes sense or
not, the objective facts of flying, or falling, or five-legged crows are presented
106 Slavic and East E uropean Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
Paul Thureen and Hannah Bos in A Thought About Rqya by Daniil K.harms
The Debate Society, Brick Theater, November 2008
107
Paul Thw:een and Hannah Bos in A Thought About R19a by Daniil Kharms,
The Debate Society, Brick Theater, November 2008
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109
without a trace of knowing irony. Sometimes these stories are presented in
direct storytelling techniques, and the irreconcilable images are left to the
imagination of the listeners. Kharms's words take precedence over any
attempt simply to portray a scene cinematically.
In the recitation of a letter that begins "Dear Nikandr
Andreyevich," Bos frantically speaks the words of the writer through a
process of endless false starts, formal recognition of the intended recipient,
apologies for not writing sooner, recounting what the recipient wrote in
previous letters, congratulations on a wedding long past, and the regret that
there is "literally no time left" to include any new information in this letter.
In another direct address to the audience, a piece called "Rehabilitation,"
Thureen calmly and affably recounts the legal defense of a man accused of
a horrible crime. Acknowledging each subsequent detail of the crime as an
inevitable conclusion based on the previous circumstances, he congenially
walks the audience through a triple homicide, drinking of blood, rape of a
pregnant corpse, beheading of a newborn, stamping to death of a dog, and
defecation on the bodies, aU in complete confidence of his acquittal.
Other times, however, Bos and Thureen transform themselves into
these seemingly impossible figures using simultaneous narration to describe
the events as they unfold, alongside physical acting techniques from clown
work and acrobatic training. At one point, Bos flies, lifted in the air on
Thureen's feet as he lies on the floor. In another, Thureen, as a henpecked
husband, smuggles a whole stick of actual butter in his mouth, while
attempting to convince Bos of his innocence through incredulous shrugs
and eye movements.
Such Chaplinesque physical humor is juxtaposed with slow scenes
of terrifying beauty. One of the most effective uses of terror is a triple
narration scene in which Thureen controls a pair of disembodied boots to
represent a fisherman on a lakeshore, while Bos is simultaneously the water
and a woman drowning in the water. Transforming the table into the shore,
the stage into the lakebed, and the space between into t he water, the jovial
atmosphere presented by the text gives way to the terror under the surface
of all of Kharms's words.
As Bos's character says, " It is all either funny or crazy," if we don't
laugh we will be driven mad.
110
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 28, No. 2
Yankelevich returns to close the evening with a reading about
vodka and then invites the audience on stage to share in a communion of
sorts-the promised pickle reception in the title of the event-breaking the
final barrier set in place by the plastic screen at the beginning of the
evemng.
NOTES
1 Todcry I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms, edited and translated by
Matvei Yankelevich with llya Bernstein, Eugene Ostashevsky, and Simona Schneider
(New York: Overlook Press, 2007), 45.
111
CONTRIBUTORS
MARGARET ARANEO has been the Managing Editor of Slavic and East
European Peiformance since 2005. She currently teaches in the Drama
Department of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and conducts
theatre-related workshops at The Cooper Union. Margaret holds a B.A. from
Johns Hopkins University, an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University, and is
currently a Ph.D. candidate in Theatre at the Graduate Center of the City
University of New York.
JESSICA BRATER is the Theatre Administrator at Barnard College and the
Artistic Director of Polybe + Seats. Directing work includes The Charlotte
Salomon Pro/eel, which she developed in residency at Mabou Mines as a
commission from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, and
Aristophanes' Birds for Target Margin Theater. Jessica is a Ph.D. candidate in
Theatre at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
KATHLEEN CIOFFI is a theatre historian and independent scholar who has
written frequently about Polish theatre for Theatre Journal, Teatr, TDR,
Contemporary Theatre Review, and SEEP. She is also the author of Alternative
Theatre in Poland, 1954-1989 and was one of the co-founders of Maybe
Theatre in Gdansk, Poland.
MAGDALENA GOLACZYNSKA holds a doctorate in theatre from
Wrodaw University, where she teaches as a lecturer. In 2002 she published
Mozaika wspolczesnofci. Teatr alternatywny w Polsce po roku 1989 [A Mosaic of
Contemporary Life. Alternative Theatre in Poland after 1989] and in 2007
Wroclawski teatr niezalezny [The Independent Theatre in Wrodaw ]. She writes
articles on contemporary theatre, focusing on site-specific performances and
local groups.
JANE HOUSE holds a Ph.D. in Theatre from the Graduate Center of
the City University of New York and a B.A. from Stanford University.
She has acted on Broadway, in regional theatre, TV, and film. Her translations
from Italian appear in Twentieth-Century Italian Drama, an anthology
she co-edited (Columbia University Press, 1995). Under Jane House
112 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
Productions, she produces readings of Italian plays in translation.
For more information see: www.janehouseprods.com.
MARIA IGNATIEVA is Associate Professor, Department of Theatre, The
Ohio State University, Lima campus, and previously Assistant Professor at the
Moscow Art Theatre School-Studio. She is author of over fifty publications
on Russian theatre, including most recently the chapters "A Little Orchestra of
Hope" and "Oleg Tabakov at the Moscow Art Theatre" in the anthology, The
Changing Scene: Theatre and Peiformance in Eastern Europe (The Scarecrow Press,
2008) . Her book Stanislavslg and Female Actors will be published this fall.
HELENE LEMELEVA was born in Moscow and graduated from the
Moscow State Linguistic University. She is a Ph.D. candidate in the
Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center of the City University of New
York. Her main area of concentration is Russian Symbolism and its Western
European parallels.
AISTE PTAKAUSKE is a prose writer and playwright. In 2003 she published
Looking for a job!, her first book of prose, which won the Augustinas Gricius
Prize for best prose debut of the year. Ptakauske's plays have been performed
at national, regional, and international theatres and festivals.. For more
information see Ptakauske's blog at www.blogas.lt/dS.
BEN SPATZ leads the Urban Research Theater project and teaches
workshops throughout New York City. He lived in Poland from 2003-2005,
first as a performer and apprentice with the Gardzienice Theatre
Association and then as a Fulbright Fellow at the Grotowski Institute in
Wrodaw. He is now a Ph.D. candidate in Theatre at the Graduate Center
of the City University of New York. For more information see:
www.urbanresearchtheater.com.
CHRISTOPHER SILSBY is the Associate Editor of Slavic and East European
Performance. He holds a B.A. form Carleton College and is a Ph.D. candidate in
Theatre at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has
studied at the Moscow Art Theatre School, Moscow State University, the
University of Minnesota, and New York University.
113
KURT TAROFF is a lecturer at Queens University Belfast. Prior to joining the
faculty at Queens, he was a two-year Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Drama at
Washington University in St. Louis. He received his Ph.D. in Theatre from the
Graduate Center of the City University of New York in July 2005. He was the
Managing Editor of Slavic and East European Performance from 2001 to 2003.
Photo Credits
Gospels of Childhood
:1 .,
Photos by Tom Dombrowski
Synod of the Dead
Photos courtesy of Ad Spectatores
1612
Photo by Grzegorz Spala
Meaning qf Life /;)Mr. Loitrica and The Other Side
Photos courtesy of the Croatian Centre of ITI
Ex-Position
Photo courtesy of Shadow Casters
The Seagull
Photo courtesy of the Zagreb Youth Theatre
Moscow Art Theatre School Open Lesson
Photos by Rita Lipson
Iphigenia in Au/is,
Photos courtesy of Staniewski/Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices
Sclavi: The Song qf an Emigrant
Photos courtesy of Farm in the Cave Theatre Studio
114 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 28, No. 2
Don!;) Khot
Photos by Steph Goralnick
Requiem
Photos by Michael Dames and Slava Nepomnyashchy
Matvei Yankelevich
Photo by Ellie Ga
A Thought About Raya
Photos by Ericka Heidrick
Correction: In the Winter 2008 issue of SEEP, the editors incorrecdy
credited the photo of Sergei Paradzhanov to Rory Finnin. The photo should
have been credited to KINO Productions.
115
MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
Witkiewicz: Seven Plavs
Translated and Edited by Daniel Gerould
Witkewicz
SEVEN PLAYS
This volume contains seven of
Witkiewicz's most important
plays: The Pragmatists, Tumor
Brainiowicz, Gyubal Wahazar,
'ffle Anonymous Work, The Cut-
tlefish, Dainty Shapes and Hairy
Apes, and The Beelzebub
Sonata, as well as two of his the-
oreti cal essays, "Theoretical
Introduction" and "A Few Words
About the Role of the Actor in the
Theatre of Pure Form."
Witkiewicz ... takes up and continues the vein of dream and
grotesque fantasy exemplified by the late Strindberg or by
Wedekind; his ideas are closely paralleled by those of the surre-
alists and Anton in Artaud which culminated in the masterpieces
of the dramatists of the Absurd . . . . It is high time that this major
playwright should become better known in the English-speaking
world. Martin Esslin
Price US$2o.oo plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Please make payments in US dollars payable to : Martin E. Segal Theatre Center. J
Mail Checks or money orders to: The Circulation Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The CUNY
Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY100164309
Visit our website at: http:/ /web.gc.cuny.edu/mestc/ Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212-8171868
MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
roMANIA After 2000
Edited by Saviana Stanescu and Daniel Gerould.
Translation editors: Saviana Stanescu and Ruth Margraff.
This volume represents the first
anthology of new Romanian
Drama published in the United
States and introduces American
readers to compelling play-
wrights and plays that address
resonant issues of a post-totali-
tarian society on its way toward
democracy and a new European
identity. includes the plays:
Stop The Tempo by Gianina
Carbunariu, Romania. Kiss Me!
by Bogdan Georgescu, Vitamins
by Vera I on, Romania 21 by
~ t e f n Peca and Waxing West by Saviana Stanescu.
This publication produced in collaboration with the Romanian
Cultural Institute in New York and Bucharest.
Price US$2o.oo plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Please make payments in US dollars payable to : Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
Mail Checks or money orders to: The Circulation Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The CUNY
Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY100164309
Visit our website at: http:/ /web.gc.cuny.edu/ mestc/ Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 2128171868
MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
Buenos Aires in Translation
Translated and Edited by jean Graham-jones
BAiT epitomizes true international theatrical collabora-
tion, bringing together four of the most important con-
temporary playwrights from Buenos Aires and pairing
them with four cutting-edge US-based directors and
their ensembles.
Plays include: Women Dreamt Horses by Daniel
Veronese; A Kingdom, A Country or a Wasteland, In the
Snow by Lola Arias; Ex-Antwone by Federi co Leon; Panic
by Rafael Spregelburd. BAiT is a Performance Space 122
Production, an initiative of Salon Volcan, with the sup-
port of lnstituto Cervantes and the Consulate General of
Argentina in NewYork.
Price US$2o.oo plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Four Works for the Theatre by Hugo Claus
Translated and Edited by David Willinger
Hugo Claus is the foremost contemporary writer of Dutch
language theatre, poetry, and prose. Flemish by birth and
upbringing, Claus is the author of some ninety plays, nov-
els, and collections of poetry. He is renowned as an enfant
terrible of the arts throughout Europe. From the time he
was affiliated with the international art group, COBRA, to
his liaison with pornographic film star Silvia Kristel, to the
celebration of his novel, The Sorrow of Belgium, Claus has
careened through a career that i s both scandal-ridden
and formidable. Claus takes on all the taboos of his times.
Price US$15.00 plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Please make payments in US dollars payable to : Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
Mail Checks or money orders to: The Circulation Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The CUNY
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MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
The Heirs of Moliere
Translated and Edited by Marvin Carlson
This volume contains four representative French comedies of the period from the
death of Moliere to the French Revolution: The Absent-Minded Lover by Jean-
Regnard, The Conceited Count by Philippe Nericault Destouches, The
Fashionable Prejudice by Pierre Nivelle de Ia Chaussee, and The Friend of the Laws
by Jean-Louis Laya.
.J:' --- + . _ _ ., ____ _
+ "'- _ .... ........_., _
- _,_, .. ..
Translated in a poetic form that seeks to capture the wit and spirit of the originals,
these four plays suggest something of the range of the Moliere inheritance, from
comedy of character through the highly popular sentimental comedy of the mid-
eighteenth century, to comedy that employs the Moliere tradition for more con-
temporary political ends
Pixerecourt: Four Melodramas
Translated and Edited by Daniel Gerould & Marvin Carlson
This vol ume contains four of Pixerecourt's most important melodramas: The Ruins of
Baby/an or }afar and Zaida, The Dog of Montargis or The Forest of Bondy, Christopher
Columbus or The Discovery of the New World, and Alice or The Scottish Gravediggers,
as well as Charles Nodier's "Introduction" to the 1843 Collected Edition of
Pixerecourt's plays and the two theoretical essays by the playwright, "Melodrama,"
and "Final Reflections on Melodrama."
Pixerecourt furnished the Theatre of Marvels with its most stunning effects, and
brought the classic situations of fairground comedy up-to-date. He determined the
structure of a popular theatre which was to last through the 19th century.
Hannah Wi nter, The Theatre of Marvels
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L
-- makt payments In US doU..rs to: Martin[.
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l
MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
Four Plays From North Africa
Translated and edited by Marvin Carlson
This volume contains four modern plays from the
Maghreb: Abdelkader Alloula's The Veil and Fatima
Gallaire's House of Wives, both Algerian, ]ulila Baccar's
Araber/in from Tunisia, and Tayeb Saddiki's The Folies Ber-
bers from Morocco.
As the rich tradition of modern Arabic theatre has recently
begun to be recognized by the Western theatre community,
an important area within that tradition is still under-repre-
sented in existing anthologies and scholarship. That is the
drama from the Northwest of Africa, the region known in
Arabic as the Maghreb.
The Arab Oedipus
Edited by Marvin Carlson
This volume contains four plays based on the Oedipus leg-
end by four leading dramatists of the Arab world. Tawfiq
Al-Hakim's King Oedipus, Ali Ahmed Bakathir's The
Tragedy of Oedipus, Ali Salim's The Comedy of Oedipus
and Walid lkhlasi's Oedipus as well as Al-Hakim's preface
to his Oedipus on the subject of Arabic tragedy, a preface
on translating Bakathir by Dalia Basiouny, and a general
introduction by the editor.
An awareness of the rich tradition of modern Arabic the-
atre has only recently begun to be felt by the Western the-
atre community, and we hope that this collection will con-
tribute to that growing awareness.
Price US$2o.oo each plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Please make payments in US dollars payable to : Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
Mail Checks or money orders to: The Circulation Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The CUNY
Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY10016-4309
Visit our website at: http:/ /web.gc.cuny.edu/mestc/ Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 2128171868