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volume 29, no.

Spring 2009
SEEP (ISSN # 104 7 -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 Peiformance: Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The City University of
New York Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309.
Daniel Gerould
Margaret Araneo
Christopher Silsby
Marina Volok
Jessica Del Vecchio
Edwin Wilson, Chair
Marvin Carlson Allen J. Kuharski Martha W. Coigney
Stuart Liebman Leo Hecht Laurence Senelick Dasha Krijanskaia
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.) rwo copies of the publication in which the reprinted material has
appeared must be furnished to SEEP immediately upon publication.
Frank Hentschker
Daniel Gerould
Jan Stenzel
Slavic and East European Perjortllance is supported by a generous grant from the
Lucille Lortel Chair in Theatre of the Ph.D. Program in Theatre at The City
University of New York.
Copyright 2009. Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
2 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 2
The spring issue, SEEP Vol. 29, No. 2, is entirely devoted to
reportage on contemporary performances of Eastern European theatre,
which has been the essential mission of SEEP from its inception twenty-nine
years ago to the present. We open with Robyn Quick's comprehensive survey
of the Polish drama presented at the Divine Comedy Festival in Cracow in
2008. Then Seth Baumrin looks at the current Ukrainian repertory of the Les
Kurbas Theatre in Lviv and places it in the context of the history of the
theatre, going back to its legendary founder in the 1910s. There follow a series
of reviews of individual productions. Stepan Simek provides a revealing
account of last year's celebrated premiere of Havel's latest play, Leaving, his
first in more than a decade. Then Allen Kuharski tells the story of Philippe
Boesmans's production of Witold Gombrowicz's Yvonne, Princesse de Bourgogne
at the Opera National de Paris, Palais Garnier, that opened on February 5,
2009. Next Kazimierz Braun's production of The Cherry Orchard at SUNY,
Buffalo is evoked by Ariel Nereson, while Kevin Byrne explores the
production by Radu-Aiexandru Nica of Matei Visniec's Horses at the Window at
Beata Pilch's Trap Door Theatre in Chicago in 2008. Finally the Polish Theatre
of the Eighth Day's 2008 production of The Files, shown in New York in 2008,
is the subject of the concluding essay by Margaret Araneo, who has served
with great clistinction as SEEP's managing eclitor for the past five years and
now leaves to complete her clissertation. I wish her continuing success as a
writer, scholar, and teacher, and welcome Christopher Silsby who takes on the
job of managing editor in the fall.
6 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 29, No.2
Manuscripts in the following categories are solicited: articles of no
more than 2,500 words, performance and film 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 Gogol, but we cannot
use original articles discussing Gogol as a playwright.
Although we welcome translations of articles and reviews from
foreign publications, we do reguire 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
inguiries may be addressed to SEEP@gc.cuny.edu.
All Journals are available from Pro Quest Information and Learning as
abstracts online via ProQuest information service and the
I nternational Index to the Performing Arts.
All Journals are indexed in the r.fLA International Bibliography and are
members of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.
"Why the Long Face?: Matei Visniec's Horses at The Window
at the Trap Door Theatre"
Kevin Byrne
"The Files, Theatre of the Eighth Day, 59E59, New York:
Innovation, Confrontation, Celebration"
Margaret Araneo
4 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
Editorial Policy
From the Editor
Books Received
"The Divine Comedy Festival:
Journey Through the Circles of Polish Theatre"
Robyn Quick
"The Les Kurbas Theatre, Lviv, 2008"
Seth Baumrin
"Circus Havel: Vaclav Havel's
Leaving and Its Reception" 39
Stepan Simek
" Ivona Buffa, Ivona Seria: Philippe Boesmans's 50
Yvonne Princesse de Bourgogne, Opera National de Paris, Palais Garnier,
February 5, 2009"
Allen J. Kuharski
"Exodus, Resonance, and Innovation in Kazimierz Braun's 57
Production of The Cherry Orchard'
Ariel Nereson
New York City:
The Bridge Project, a trans-Adantic collaboration between the
Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Old Vic, and Neal Street Productions,
presented Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, in a new version by Tom Stoppard,
directed by Sam Mendes at the BAl\1 Harvey Theatre from January 3 to
March 8.
Classic Stage Company performed Chekhov's Uncle Vturya, directed
by Austin Pendleton, from January 17 to March 8.
The Classical Theatre of Harlem presented Chekhov's Three Sisters,
directed by Christopher McE!roen at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse from
February 5 to March 8.
The Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre performed The
Historye of Queen Esther, of KingAhasverus & of the Haught; Haman, based on the
eighteenth-century script, at the Marjorie S. Deane Litde Theatre from
February 21 to March 7.
Recent graduates of the Moscow Art Theatre School presented
scenes from Shakespeare's Hamlet, directed by Marina Brusnikina, and
Griboyedov's WOe from Wit, directed by Victor Ryzhakov, at the Baryshnikov
Arts Center on February 25 and 27.
Immigrants' Theatre Project and the Czech Center New York
presented Coming Clean (Ofiftlm) by Petr Zelenka, translated by Stepan Simek,
and directed by Marcy Arlin at the Bohemian National Hall on February 27.
The Yara Arts Group presented Er Toshtuk (Sir Toshtuk), based on a
Kyrgyz epic, at La MaMa from March 27 to April12.
CEC ArtsLink presented New Russian Drama, an evening of staged
readings of young Russian playwrights, at the Living Theatre on April 21 .
Playwrights presented included Aleksandr Arkhipov, Mikhail Durnenkov,
Aleksandr Rodionov, and Ksenya Stepanycheva.
The Roman Viktiuk Theatre performed Skiz (1908) [Little Cheating
Games], by Gabriela Zapolska and directed by Roman Viktiuk at Brooklyn
College, Whitman Hall on May 16 and at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center
on May 17.
U.S. Regional:
The Romanian Cultural Institute in cooperation with French Cultural
Service presented the Chicago premiere of Horses at the Windmv, written by
Mate! Visniec and directed by Radu Alexandru Nica, from March 19 to April
25 at the Trap Door Theatre.
The Trap Door Theatre of Chicago performed Idiot!, written and
directed by Patrick Greogoire, perfomed in Czech by Marek Matejka, from
AprillO to 19.
The Fifteenth Annual Golden Mask Theatre Festival (Moscow,
Russia), March 27 to April17, included the following productions:
Gorky Drama Theatre's (Samara, Russia) Polkovnik Ptitsa (The Colonel
Bird) by Hristo Boytchev, directed by Vyacheslav Gvozdkov at the
Mayakovsky Theatre, April 14
Namsaraev Dramatic Theatre of Buryatia's (Ulan-Ude) jl;[aksar.Step' v
Krovi (Maksar.Steppe in Blood), an adaptation of Macbeth, directed by
Oleg Yumov at the RAMT Theatre, April 13
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 2
Moscow Theatre for Young Audiences's (Moscow, Russia) Roberto
Zucco by Bernard-Marie Koltes, directed by Kama Ginkas, March 28
Vyacheslav Koleytchuk's Total Theatre's (Moscow, Russia)
Puteshestv!Je Kvadratika (The Little Square's joumf!Y) at the Project "Open
Stage" Theatre, April 3, 5, and 6
Chelyabinsk Liquid Theatre's (Chelyabinsk, Russia) site-specific
performance of Liquidatsia (Liquidation), directed by Alexei
Zherebtsov and Ksenia Petrenko at the Fabrika Exhibition Center,
April 8 and 10
New Riga Theatre presented Latvian Love, a collection of
documentary theatre etudes, directed by Alvis Hermanis at the
Meyerhold Theatre Center on March 27 to 28
St. Petersburg Fyodor Dostoevsky Literary Memorial Museum and
White Theatre's Panic. Men on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown by Mika
Myllyaho, directed by Alexander Bargman at the Mossovet Theatre,
April 7 and 8
Praktika Theatre presented the Moscow premiere of Devushka i
Revolutsioner (A Girl and a Revolutionary) written by Igor Simonov and directed
by Vladimir Ageyev on April 17.
The Latvian Theatre Showcase (Riga, Latvia) ran from March 12 to
15 and included:
National Theatre of Latvia's The Hypnotic Ride by Andrejs Up1ts,
directed by Viesturs Kairiss at the National Theatre main stage on
March 12
New Riga Theatre's Finer Noble Gases by Adam Rapp, directed by lize
Olingere at the ew Riga Theatre small stage on March 13
Theatre Observatory's How To Be Famous? by Elena Isajeva, directed
by Galina Poliscuka at the Theatre Observatory on May 14
New Riga Theatre's Roadside Station by Alexey Scherbah, directed by
llze Olingere at the New Riga Theatre main stage on March 14
Daile Theatre's The Wedding by Stanislaw Wyspiariski, directed by
Mikhail Gruzdov and Indra Roga at the Daile Theatre small stage on
March 15
New Riga Theatre's Martha f rom the Blue Hill directed by Alvis
Hermanis at the New Riga Theatre small stage on March 15
New Riga Theatre's The Island by Inga Abele, directed by Mara I).imcle at
the Eduard Smijgis Theatre Museum on March 15
New York City:
The Romanian Cultural Institute and the Romanian Club at Columbia
University presented a screening of Marele jaf comunist (The Great Communist
Bank Robbery), directed by Alexandru Solomon, 2004, at Lerner Hall,
Columbia University, on February 7.
T he Museum of Modern Art and the Czech Center New York
sponsored a screening of Jan Sikl's eight-part documentary on the twentieth
century in Czechoslovakia, Soukromi Stoleti (Private Century), including a
conversation with Sikl on March 9, at MoMA from March 9 to 15. Screenings
Parts 1 and 2 on March 12:
Tatifek a Lili "Marlin" (Dadt!J and Lili "Marlene"), 2007
Mrivnuti mo!jlich kfidel (A Stroke of Buttetf!y Wings), 2007
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
Parts 3 and 4 on March 11 and 14:
Ruske obltiflg koufe (Small Russian Clouds of Smoke), 2007
Nizkj Let (lAw-Level f i g h ~ 2007
Parts 5 and 6 on March 13 and 15:
Krtil Velichovek (/(jng of Velichov!:;y), 2007
Sousofi dfdefka Vincfy (Statuary of Granddad Vinda), 2007
Parts 7 and 8 on March 14 and 15:
Sljdeme se v Denveru (See You in Denver), 2007
Libdm Tf a Miluji (With /(jsses from Your uve), 2007
The Romanian Cultural Institute screened California Dreamin'
(Endless), directed by Cristian Nemescu, 2007, with special guest speaker Maria
Dinulescu, who appears in the ftlm, on March 18.
The Czech Center New York presented Disappearing Act: European
Cinema from New Wave to New Wave, a festival of new European films from
April16 to 23 at the Bohemian National Hall. Films screened included:
Tobruk, directed by Vaclav Marhoul, 2008, Czech Republic
Delta, directed by K.ornel Mundrucz6, 2008, Hungary
Vtidav, directed by Jii:i Vejdelek, 2007, Czech Republic
Terazja (lfs Me, Now), directed by Anna Jadowska, 2006, Poland
Slepe fas!:;y (Blind lAves), directed by Juraj Lehotsky, 2008, Slovakia
Larryok (Girls), directed by Anna Faur, 2007, Hungary
Muzika (Music), directed by Juraj Nvota, 2008, Slovakia
Hirtia va .ft albastra (The Paper Will Be Blue), directed by Radu Muntean,
2006, Romania
Rysa (Scratch), directed by Michal Rosa, 2008, Poland
California Dreamin' (Nesfarfif) [California Dreamin' (Endless)], directed
by Cristian Nemescu, 2007, Romania
U.S. Regional:
As part of the European Union Film Festival, Gruber'sjournry and The
Beheaded Rooster by Romanian director Radu Gab rea were screened at the Gene
Siskel Film Center, Chicago, from March 7 to 9.
The Cleveland International Film Festival ran from March 19 to 29 at
the Tower City Cinemas. Films screened included:
Bahrtafo! (/6 szerencset.0 [Bahrtafo! (Good LuckOJ, directed by Robert
Lakatos, Hungary /Russia/Germany
Boogie, directed by Radu Muntean, Romania
Pfem!Y (Captive), directed by Alexey Uchitel, Russia/Bulgaria
A l'{yomozo (The Investigator), directed by Attila Gigor, Hungary
Karamazovi (The Karamazovs), directed by Petr Zelenka, Czech
Nereikafingi Zmones (Loss), directed by Maris Martinsons,
Nici;i sin (No One's Son), directed by Arsen Anton Ostojic, Croatia
0 Rodcich a De tech (Of Parents and Children), directed by Vladimir
Michalek, Czech Republic
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
Petelinji Zajtrk (Rooster's Breakfast), directed by Marko Nabednik,
Turnqa (The Toui), directed by Goran Markovic, Serbia/ Bosnia/
~ u c z k i (Tricks), directed by Andrzej Jakimowski, Poland
Zift, directed by Javor Gardev, Bulgaria
The Miami International Film Festival ran from March 6 to 15. Films
screened included:
Bumazhf!Y Soldat (Paper SofdietJ, directed by Alexey German, Jr., Russia
Delta, clirected by Kornel Mundrucz6, Hungary/Germany
Pescuit Sportiv (Hooked), directed by Adrian Sitaru, Romania
Pokrajina St. 2 (Landscape No. 2), directed by Vinko Moderndorfer,
Universafove, directed by Thomas Woschitz, Serbia/ Austria/
The Portland Art Museum (Oregon) presented an Andrzej Wajda
retrospective at Whitsell Auditorium from March 6 to 29. Films screened
Pokofenie (A Generation), 1955
feanat(C:anal), 1957
Popi6t i Diament (Ashes and Diamonds), 1958
ferajobrazpo bitwie (Landscape after Battle), 1970
Wszystko na sprzedaz (Everythingfor Sale), 1969
Panf!J z Wilka (Maids of Wilko), 1979
Czlowiek zmarmuru (Man of Marble), 1977
Danton, 1983
The Eighteenth New Polish Cinema Festival was held m St.
Petersburg, Russia, from April 17 to 22. Films screened included:
S@motnofC w Sieci (Loneliness in the N e ~ directed by Witold Adamek,
Doskonale Popoludnie (The Peifect Afternoon), directed by Przemyslaw
Wojcieszek, 2005
Boisko Bezdomf!Jch (The OFFsiders), directed by Kasia Adamik, 2008
Serce na dloni (A Warm Heart) (Poland, Ukraine), directed by
K.rzysztof Zanussi, 2008
The Fourteenth Vilnius International Film Festival Kino Pavasaris
(Cinema Spring) was held in Vilnius, Lithuania, from April 1 to 30. Films
screened included:
Cea mai fericita fata din fume (The Happiest Girl in the Worla), directed
by Radu Jude, 2009, Romania
Taarka, directed by Ain Maeots, 2008, Estonia
Amatieris (Amateur), directed by Janis Nards, 2008, Latvia
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 29, No.2
Niciji sin (No One's Son), directed by Arsen A. Ostojic, 2008,
Zift, directed by Javor Gardev, 2008, Bulgaria
lfpa<;ijntis (Confession), directed by Oksana Buraja, 2008, Lithuania
Sokis dykumqje (Dance in the D e s e r ~ directed by Agne Marcinkeviciiite,
2009 Lithuania
Aklaviet (Dead End), directed by Aloyzas Jancoras, 2009, Lithuania
Keturi <;ijngsniai (Four Steps), directed by Audrius Stonys, 2008, Lithuania
Ge/e (Flower), directed by Darius Jarasunas, 2009, Lithuania
Balkonas (The Balcof!Y) , directed by Giedre Beinoriute, 2008, Lithuania
The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The Graduate Center, CUNY,
hosted a panel discussion titled Helena Modjeska: Commemorating a
Nineteenth-Century American Theatre Icon, in remembrance of the one-
hundredth anniversary of Modjeska's death on April 8.
The Romanian Cultural Institute New York introduced playwrights
Joana Ieronim, Mihaela Michailov, and Andreea Valean in a panel discussion
moderated by Saviana Stanescu on April 9.
The Philadelphia Society for Art, Literature and Music hosted an
evening titled Reflections on the Journey of Grotowski: An Introduction to
the Cultural Research of Jerzy Grotowski. The evening included films of
Grotowski's work and a discussion led by Ben Spatz (Urban Research Center
NYC and CUNY Graduate Center) and Bill Taylor (Executive Director of
Philadelphia Society for Art, Literature and Music) on April 14.
The International Conference titled Performing Arts Training Today,
on the topics and methods of performance research and education, was
hosted at Bovee, Slovenia from April21 to 24.
The British Grotowski Project, University of Kent (Canterbury, UK),
under the direction of Paul Allain, will host a conference titled Grotowski:
Theatre and Beyond, from June 11 to 14. Conference speakers include
Ludwik Flaszen, Nitin Ganatra, Richard Gough, members of the Grotowski
Institute (Wrodaw), Albert Hunt, Jennifer Kumiega, Rena Mirecka, Zbigniew
Osinski, Jim Slowiak, and Ferndinando Taviani. www.britishgrotowski.co.uk.
The Grotowski Institute (Wrodaw, Poland) will host a work research
project titled Meetings with Remarkable Women led by Rena Mirecka
(Laboratory Theatre), Iben Nagel Rasmussen (Odin Teatret), Katharina
Seyferth (Paratheatre/Theatre of Sources), Ang Gey Pin and Dora Arreola
(Objective Drama Project and Art as Vehicle) from July 7 to August 5.
Compiled by Christopher Silsby and .Marina Volok
16 Slavic and East E uropean Performance Vol. 29, No.2
Osinska, Katarzyna, ed. jeJilgienij Wachtangow--co zostqje po ar()'fcie teatru?
\X'rodaw: Instytut im. Jerzego Grotowskiego/The Grotowski Institute, 2008.
367 pages. Contains an introduction and Part I, a Chronicle (1883-1922) of
the life and works of Vakhtangov by the editor; Part II consists of basic texts
by Vakhtangov; Part III is composed of six essays on Vakhtangov's legacy:
Marie-Christine Autant-Mathieu, "Heirs, Disciples, Successors," Nadezda
Lindovski, "Yevgeny Vakhtangov and Michael Chekhov," Beatrice Picon-
Vallin, Theatricality in Fomenko and Vakhtangov," Vladislav Ivanov, "The
Ecstatic Theatre of Yevgeny Vakhtangov," Elena Tartakovska, "'Come Out,
Dybbuk!-! Won't!'; The Long Life of a Masterpiece," Katarzyna Osinska,
"Traces of The Dybbuk in Tadeusz Kantor's Theatre." Includes an editor's note,
notes on contributors, selected bibliography, list of illustrations, summary in
English of the articles, index of names, and approximately one hundred
illustrations and pictures.
Osinski, Zbigniew. Polskie Kontak!J Teatralne z Orientem w XX Wieku. Gdansk:
slowo/obraz terytoria, 2008. Two volumes. I. Kronika. 323 pages. II. Studia.
317 pages. Volume I includes an Introduction, Chronicle 1900-2000, From
the Author, and Indices of people and groups. Volume II includes chapters on
Mei Lanfang, No, Kabuki, Takarazuka, as well as two on Grotowski. Both
\'Olumes include many photographs and illustrations.
Paluch-Cybulska, Malgorzata, ed. T adeusz Kantor. Scenografta dla teatr6w o.ftcjalnych.
Katalog prac. Cracow: Osrodek Dokumentacji Sztuki Tadeusza Kantora
CRICOTEKA, 2006. 240 pages Contains two articles: Malgorzata Paluch-
Cybulska, "Wprowadzenie," and Pawel Szot, " J a, jako fachowy dekorator
teatralny.' Tadeusz Kantor-scenograf"; List of productions, Catalogue of 352
color illustrations of costumes and scenery, and bibliography.
Ryzewska, Ewa, ed. Tadeusz Kantor. Obiekty/ Przedmio!J. Zbiory Cricoteki.
Katalog prac. Cracow: Osrodek Dokumentacji Sztuki Tadeusza Kantora
CRICOTEKA, 2007. 192 pages. Concepcion and execution of the catalogue:
Anna Halczak and Bogdan Renczynski. Contains two articles: Brunella Eruli,
"Maszyny Kantora. Uwagi. Spos6b uzycia," and Anna Halczak, "'Przedmioty
Sztuki' Tadeusza Kantora"; Editorial Note, Catalogue of 337 items, and
annex. Hundreds of illustrations, many in color.
Robyn Quick
In the spirit of the title Divine Comec!J, Artistic Director Bartosz
Szydlowski invoked Dante to help welcome the festival's international guests.
He invited us, a group of nearly thirty theatre artists and scholars from around
the world, to a journey "through the circles of Polish theatre."
The reference
was not to establish expectations of infernal or heavenly experiences, but to
indicate the vast range we should expect to encounter in contemporary Polish
theatre. Szydlowski, who is also a director and head of the Nowa Huta Theatre
Lainia Nowa, designed the festival as a representative sampling of the
"landscape of the theatrical consciousness of Polish artists."
rather than establishing his own thematic or aesthetic boundaries to select the
productions for the festival, he relied upon a panel of twenty-eight of his
country's theatre critics. Each one was asked to designate the seven best Polish
theatre performances he or she had seen between January of 2007 and june of
2008. The resulting program, which filled Cracow's theatres from December 5
to 12, 2008, reflected the Yariety of their tastes and of contemporary Polish
Indeed, both variety and vitality might be considered dominant traits
of this theatre, and good reasons to host a festival in its honor. Lukasz
Drewniak, a Polish critic who helped select performances for the festival,
wrote in the festival program about the recent events that helped shape
contemporary Polish theatre. According to Drewniak, by the later years of the
1990s, a new generation of energetic and innovative artists began
transforming Polish theatre. Directors like Grzegorz Jarzyna and Krzysztof
Warlikowski brought fresh contemporary concerns and bold new artistic
techniques to the theatre. Other young artists soon followed with their own
At the same time as these successive waves of new generations
entered the theatre, mentors like Krystian Lupa continued reinventing
themselves and their art. As a result of these innovations, Drewniak concluded
"for over a decade, all of Polish theatre has been getting visibly more different,
more new. The generational change that took place changed its repertory and
18 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 29, No.2
the temperature of its exchanges with the audience, adding a new, societal and
European context to national performances."
In this context, Szydlowski's
goals for the festival seem appropriately broad and inviting. He hoped the
festival would satisfy our curiosity about three things: "the topics that feed
Polish theatre, aesthetic means which dominate it, and how much it helps in
understanding the sensibility of Poles themselves at the beginning of the
twentieth-first century."4
Of the many topics evident in the performances presented, one has
particular resonance not only for Polish culture in general, but for recent
discourse in Polish theatre: history. Drewniak notes that the priority given to
history was among the issues in theatre that changed during the last decade of
Polish theatre. Initially, the theatrical innovators at the end of the 1990s
rejected the historic themes and works, traditional in Polish theatre, in order to
talk about the here and now. But more recently, artists have returned to this
dialogue with the past in order to view it with fresh eyes.S This concern with
Polish history, and particularly with our relationship to it in the present, was
evident in many of the festival's productions.
Wierszalin. Report on the End of the World concerns the activities of a
pre-WWII religious sect near the Polish border with Belarus. Sixteen years ago,
director Piotr Tomaszuk and a group of actors formed a theatre company
named after this community and began creating work inspired by the region's
unique culture. Their performance at the festival gave theatrical life to the
original inhabitants of Wierszalin, who followed a prophet claiming to be the
embodiment of Jesus Christ and waited fearfully for the end of the world.
Today's audiences recognize sadly that their fears were followed by the horrors
the Polish people faced at the hands of the Nazis and the Soviet police.
Pawel Passini's Rest looks at the life of a single historic figure: the
great Polish playwright and painter Stanislaw Wyspiariski. Passini seeks to shed
new light on the legacy and impact of this important figure by examining his
art in the context of his life. Wyspiariski's legacy was also present at the festival
in a production of his play, The Wedding. Widely considered Poland's national
play of the modernist period, The Wedding serves not only as an important
piece of theatre history, but as an insightful portrait of Wyspianski's
contemporaries and their nation's struggles in early twentieth-century Poland.
Director Anna Augustynowicz's minimalist production eschewed visual
references to any specific period of time and offered the full text for fresh
Stanislaw Wyspiariski's The Wedding, directed by Anna Augustynowicz,
the Divine Comedy Festival 2008






consideration by contemporary audiences. The festival jury presented a special
recognition to the production for its achievement in re-inventing a classical
text for a contemporary audience.
These plays not only engage the audience in a contemplation of
histOry, but they use stories, eYents, or people from the past to explore other
subjects that seem to "feed Polish theatre." The historical events portrayed in
Wierszalin. Report on the End of the World convey an intense experience of
spirituality in this community. The production embodied the longing of the
prophet's followers through a ritualistic performance of their lessons and
ecstatic visions. Processions, songs, and traditional religious gestures
punctuated their stories and served as connectiYe material so that individual
speeches and scenes seem to grow from a communal source of inspiration.
The power of the music in creating t his spiritual experience for a
contemporary audience was recognized with a special award from the festival
jury. Spirituality also permeates the world of The Wedding through a series of
supernatural visitations that occur as the nuptial celebrations last long into the
night. Spirits appear to individual guests and remind them of their deepest
fears and failings. Ultimately, however, the insight and inspiration of the night
is not enough for the people to take action and transform their lives in the
morning. Both plays depict a deep spiritual longing that is ultimately
Pawel Passini's Rest resurrects an important historic figure in order to
ask questions about another topic: the making of art. The play examines
Wyspiatiski's relationship with his children as a way of considering the larger
question of the connection between an artist's life and work. Wyspianski
depicted his children as angelic figures in his paintings, but after his death, their
lives were nothing like this ideal image. While the country revered their father,
the children's lives were marked by illness, institutionalization, and isolation.
The production helps to create sympathy for the abandoned children through
the contrast between the graceful and exuberant physical play of young
actresses performing these roles and the dirt, reminiscent of a graveyard, on
which they play with the headless corpse of a father who is no longer there to
protect and guide them.
Director Krystian Lupa's Factory 2 also centers around an iconic artist
in the context of his primary relationships. In this case, the subject is not a
Polish figure, but an American one: Andy Warhol. In a setting that replicates
the artist's New York Factory, complete with silver walls and prominent red
sofa, the unique personalities that regularly inhabited this environment
socialize, fight, vie for \X'arhol's favor, and consider what they want in life.
They also create and contemplate their art. Warhol paints while listening to a
friend's lengthy discussion of her daily life. Other characters are f.tlmed during
their interactions in the factory, and then the audience watches them watching
themselves on ftlm. This eight-hour experience with Lupa and his company
not only raises questions about the relationship between art and life for
Warhol's community, it also inspires questions about the relationship between
the subjects of the piece, Warhol and his community, and the creators of the
piece, Lupa and his company. The festival grand jury prize was awarded to this
production "in recognition of the combination of an extraordinary directorial
vision, outstanding design innovation and acting prowess, in the exploration of
the meaning, nature and methods of art."6
Despite the ongoing Polish interest in historic art and events, the
theatre also developed a particularly contemporary focus over the last decade.
Drewniak reports that there are currently almost ninety directors active in
Poland between the ages of twenty and forty-five.
A similarly youthful trend
among Polish audiences was clear at the Divine Comedy Festival. Apart from
the jury members and international guests, the local audience was often
dominated by twenty-something theatre patrons. There "'ere more young
patrons than theatre seats at many performances. It is no surprise, then, that
young characters and contemporary topics featured prominently in the
performances at the festival. Tomasz Obara's production of Stone Cold Dead
Serious by Adam Rapp offered a present-day portrait of young adults searching
for their place in an indifferent and often violent world. Wedekind's Lulu, in
director Michal Borczuch's staging, became an indictment of our celebrity
culture and its excesses.
In some productions, the depiction of contemporary concerns took
a decidedly political turn. According to Drewniak, this tendency toward
political engagement is characteristic of the newest generation of theatre
artists who boldly express a political point of view in their work.S Such is the
case for the playwright and director team Pawcl Demirski and Monika
who brought to the festival a "political tabloid" titled There Wtzs a
Pole, This Pole, This Pole and the Devil or in the Heroic Battles over the Polish Nation
All the Railings Have Been Used. The characters in this play reflect a range of
22 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
broad Polish cultural types-from historical figures such as the former Polish
prime minister, General Jaruzelski, who imposed martial law in 1981; to an
elderly woman who has survived the economic problems and political
tyrannies of twentieth-century Poland; to the angry young man who cannot
find a place for himself in the new capitalist country. At the beginning of the
play, the characters emerge from body bags and begin what Drewniak calls a
"seance of hatred."9 In a series of encounters punctuated by foul language and
physical brawls, the bitter characters debate a series of contemporary issues, as
they blame each other for the problems of Poland.
Politics also took center stage in Stanislawa Przybyszewska's The
Danton Case, directed by Jan Klata. The setting for this play is the French
Revolution rather than the Polish present, yet the debates between realism and
idealism carried on between Danton and Robespierre might apply to any
society that has experienced revolution of one kind or another. The play
follows the two characters through a game of brinksmanship that it seems
either man has, at one point or another, the potential to win. Klata's
production embodied the intensity of their battle through a vigorous physical
acting style on a set that allowed actors to shout from rooftops, scuffle on the
ground, or form and change alliances at a moment's notice by navigating a
series of cardboard boxes. Designer Mirek Kaczmarek received a jury's award
for the way this space complemented the production's interpretation of the
text. I<Iata's use of contemporary references, from pop music and dance to the
chain saws wielded by Robespierre's men, helped to emphasize the relevance
of the play's questions to the present. The festival jury awarded J<Jata the best
direction award for the innovative viewpoint and the fresh interpretation of a
familiar story in this production.
Klata's award in this and other festivals and his fame as a director
suggest that his work has struck a chord with his contemporaries, not only for
the point of view he brings to his staging, but also for the artistic means he
employs. Drewniak credits both the re\'italization of Polish theatre over the
past decade and the rich variety of impulses the theatre has seen in that time
to successive waves of directors bringing fresh subjects and artistic techniques
to the theatre.
0 The Divine Comedy Festival reflected this range, in part, due
to the presence of directors linked to different generations of Polish theatre,
from Klata, who some consider to be the enfant terrible of the contemporary
theatre, to Krystian Lupa, the master teacher who continues to find new
24 Slavic and East European Peifomtance Vol. 29, No. 2
Stanislawa Przybyszewska's The Danton Case, directed by Jan I<lata, the Divine Comedy Festival2008
artistic inspiration with each project.
Part of that variety of directorial vlstons rests in each director's
unique approach to the performance text. Some at the festival preserved
classic or newly created scripts and staged them in ways they hoped would
highlight the original text for the audience. Michal Zadara directed The
Dismissal of the Greek Envqys without altering a single line of Jan Kochanowski's
renaissance text.
Based upon his belief that the resonance of the play for a
contemporary audience would be made clear through the words themselves,
the director sought contemporary versions of a classic style so that audience
members could make connections between the story and the world in which
they live. A white stage floor created a blank slate for actors clad in
contemporary black clothing to convey the language of the playwright to the
audience. Select, but striking, visual images helped to highlight significant
moments of the plot. The nude body of a prisoner brought issues of power
and cruelty into relief, and the swirl of blood on the white stage at the end
forshadowed the impending violence that the people of Troy would face for
their refusal to return Helen to her husband. Augustynowicz's treatment of
The Wedding followed a similar model; she offered audiences the full text in a
production on a black stage by actors in black clothing with few props. Thus
the actors' presentation of the word and the story received primary focus.
Other directors, however, deconstructed plays or created their own
performance without a pre-existing text. The program for The Danton Case
credits Stanislawa Przybyszewska with writing the play, but Jan I<lata with
"adaptation of the text, direction, samples and mental scratching."
In the
journal Polityka, I<lata defends his practice in the belief, "that in my remixes of
literature-because they are not note-for-note performances but remixes and
cover versions-I remain somehow faithful to the authors."
3 His treatment of
the text was clearly reflected in the way he mixed visual and aural references
from various periods in his staging. Similarly, Michal Borczuch used Lulu by
Frank Wedekind to comment on all the excesses and falsehoods of sexuality
in contemporary culture. Wedekind's text was adapted and interspersed with
other cultural references to sexuality, just as Borczuch's staging of the play
made use of modern images of youthful female sexuality. While I<lata and
Borczuch created performances in and around the structure of existing plays,
Passini composed Rest out of a combination of passages from Wyspiari.ski's
work, facts from the author's life, and text created by the actors through
26 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 29, No. 2
improvisation. Similar director-driven collaborations also led to the creation of
Wierszalin. Report on the End of the World, which was based upon an
anthropologist's book about the religious community, and to Factory 2.
Although members of Lupa's company read a biography of Warhol,
this production was primarily created out of a series of improvisations by
company members over the course of fourteen months. Lupa did not start
with a text or structure for the performance, but with an environment
reminiscent of Warhol's Factory. In an interview in Gazeta W]borcza, he said of
the result: "Our performance, as things are with improvisation, has more or
less created itself. It's a fantasy built as though by parasites, a copy, which starts
off wanting to be a copy, and then starts to live its own life."1
Of course any response to such an invitation must be partial and
personal. But it's clear that in the theatre, at least, Poles continue to treasure
their history as a nation, while seeking fresh perspectives on how that history
might inform their actions in the present. In artistic expression that runs the
gamut from the poetic language and mythic images of The Wedding to the dark,
irreverent comedy of There Was a Pole, the issue of Polish identity continues to
occupy the stage. Given the depiction in both plays of people who must
resolve their problems so that they can move forward as a nation, it's clear that
they are not afraid to take a hard look at these issues and ask difficult questions
of themselves. Surely that spirit of inquiry will continue to feed Polish theatre
and provide an equally rich variety of performances for next year's festival.
1 Divine Comedy Festival Program, (Krakow: Krakow Festival Office, 2008), 2.
2 Ibid, 2.
3 Ibid, 3.
Ibid, 2.
5 Ibid, 4.
6 Iphigenia Taxopoulou, "Jury's Decision," Divine Comedy Website,
http:/ /www.boskakomeclia.pl/en/news,0,34.html.
Program, 3.
8 Ibid, 5.
9 Ibid, 44.
Ibid, 3-5.
Ibid, 46. For an overview of Zadara's work see Allen J. Kuharski, "The Theatre of
l'vlichal Zadara," SEEP vol. 29, no. 1 (\);'inter 2009): 40-50.
Ibid, 27.
13 Qtd. in Program, 29.
14 Qtd. in Program, 54.
28 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
Seth Baumrin
At 3 Lesa Kurbasa Street stands the once ornate, now deteriorated
skeleton of the Lviv Youth Theatre (Lvivskyi Molodizhnyi Teatr). Its semi-
circle of balconies and sky dome with a chandelier hanging over the circular
seating area remain from before World War II. The Les Kurbas Theatre has
operated here for twenty years as a testament to the complexity of Ukrainian
contemporary theatre.
T visited the theatre twice in 2008, in April and November. The
experience was much like time travel, not only because of the edifice's
antiquity, but because the group's performances were a refreshing leap
backward to experimental dramatic genres of the last century, twisting reality
into the grotesque-twentieth-century modernism in twenty-first century
Ukraine. Fearless hybridization of metaphysical questions, savage humor, and
viscerally evocative physical acting characterize the Les Kurbas Theatre's
dramaturgical and methodological program. Volodymyr Kuchynsky, the
theatre's founder and director, describes its aesthetic as "The Theatre of
Ukrainian Baroque."l It is decidedly of western Ukrainian orientation because
of Lviv's post-Soviet growing pangs, whereby the newly forged democratic
national spirit punctures stubborn artificial cultural barriers that deprive the
nation of firm autocratic identity. This is reflected doubly in the theatre
because its mission is not merely performative but also educational; not only
does it function as a producing theatre company, but also as a state-sanctioned
academic theatre linked with the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. My
experience was enhanced by in-depth discussions with Kuchynsky, the
theatre's literary director; Marta Svets; and principal actors, Oleh Stefan and
Oleh Tsonia.
The Les Kurbas Theatre's 2008 season demonstrated that
Kuchynsky's Theatre of Ukrainian Baroque genuinely distinguishes his work
from other directors, even the theatre's namesake, Ukraine's national treasure,
Oleksander (Les) Kurbas (1887-1937). Les Kurbas, innovative follower of
Reinhardt and Fuchs, and darling of Meyerhold, founded the mainstay of early
twentieth-century Ukrainian theatre, Kyiv's Berezil Artistic Association. The
group was outwardly dedicated to proletarian revolution but inwardly focused
on Europeanizing Ukrainian theatre, freeing it from Tsarist theatrical control
that made self-denigrating, "pseudo-ethnographic" characterizations of
Second story lobby of the Les Kurbas Theatre, April 2008,
with framed photo of Les Kurbas in the background
Ukrainians, such as the "whiskey-hopak," the prevailing aesthetic.2 Under
Stalin, Kurbas's productions, especially his Macbeth (1924), were condemned as
counterrevolutionary. In October 1933 he was dismissed as Berezil's director,
his productions forbidden in Soviet Ukraine. He moved to Moscow to join the
State Jewish Theatre but was arrested by the Secret Police in December 1933,
imprisoned in the Soviet Arctic, and (it is believed) murdered in a mass
execution marking the twentieth anniversary of the 1917 October
Kurbas's mission, however, is not the Les Kurbas Theatre's raison
d'etre. Paradoxically, the 1988 liberation of Ukraine from Soviet domination
was contextually similar to Kurbas's situation when he founded Berezil in
1922. But, whereas enforced Socialist Realism doomed Kurbas, democratic
reform empowered Kuchynsky and his theatre. Kuchynsky describes his
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 2
group's beginnings as "newly trained . . . stuck amid old repertoires and
longing for something more."
That "something more" has as much to do
with new training as it does with the Ukrainian context. Kuchynsky mixes
philosophy with theatre in deference to Ukraine's genre of Baroque art, where
theatre, philosophy, and spiritual culture combine.s The Les Kurbas Theatre's
productions, Glory to Eros and Silenus Alkibiadis, based on Plato's Symposium are
exemplary of Kuchynsky's position. According to Svets, these productions are
the first reference in Ukrainian theatre to Socrates' dialogues while consciously
recalling early seventeenth-century traditions of Ukrainian seminary theatre.
Kuchynsky's membership in a distinguished circle of twentieth-century
innovators, like Anatoly Vasilyev, Mark Zakharov, Jerzy Grotowski,
Wlodzimierz Staniewski, and Peter Brook, provides context for his approach
to actor training, but not his productions. ''All of these great men seemed so
alike to me! I really cannot say they differed drastically. I did what was
necessary at a certain time in a specific culture. Methods I used twenty years
ago differ from methods I use now; Ukraine's cultural situation was
undergoing change."6 Part of the change was the opportunity to found a new
The question arises how the theatre has maintained itself during
twenty years of fluctuating political economic conditions in which Ukraine is
betwixt and between EU and Russian domination, entering the twenty-first
century comparatively poverty stricken, yet determined to be self-governed.
Ukraine's unique situation lends itself to an enigmatic management structure
for the Les Kurbas Theatre. Svets explained that the theatre in effect rents the
building from the city council- "in effect" because the theatre is subordinate
to the council that pays its salaries. The city lets the theatre use the building of
the Lviv Youth Theatre.? When asked why the city devoted so much money to
restoring the Lviv Opera House but cannot afford to restore the Lviv Youth
Theatre, Svets explained that the Opera House is a national theatre funded by
the state, not the city. She believes it is understandable. "The Opera House is
like the city's business card. It is located in the most visible place; it cannot be
kept in the same condition as our theatre."8 I noticed where paint was partially
stripped off the Lvivskyi Molodizhnyi's interior walls. Some time ago the
Ukrainian Project Restoration Organization began renovation, but since the
building is part of Ukraine's historical architectural heritage, legislation
prohibits renovation. Only full restoration is permissible, but the theatre
cannot afford restoration. But since it is now linked to the university, Svets says
restoration will be paid for by the city "some day."9
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
Stage of pre-war Lviv Youth Theatre (Lvivskyi Molodizhnyi Teatr)
Oleh Stefan, who played Socrates in Glory to Eros and Silenus
Alkibiadis, explained the function of the academic program within the context
of the theatre's Ukrainian roots. The students learn theory at the university
and practical skills at the theatre. "There is a certain style here, a way of
theatre, and students who truly absorb this theatre's methodology and
ideology join the group. The people working here are united by something in
the eyes or feelings."
0 He explained that their methodology exists at an
intersection. When the group was young it worked with Gardzienice whose
training became part of the theatre's routine. Later work with Grotowski
prompted a new wave. Through individual research, the theatre created its own
training, which still continues. When asked what today's young people want
from theatre, Stefan told a story of the Art Alternative Festival held three years
ago in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, where the Les Kurbas Theatre staged
poet/philosopher Vasyl Stus's work and Ukrainian spiritual songs. After the
performance two brothers approached the theatre team and asked, "What
kind of singing is that? What sort of a theatre is this? \X'hy don't we know
about it?"ll Three months later the theatre initiated its university course.
People from Donetsk learned of it, and the brothers gave up their studies and
came to Lviv. The two brothers aren't the only ones to come to the theatre
from the east. Stefan's own story captures how the Les Kurbas Theatre stands
at another intersection, a cultural impasse:
I came from the east. I am Ukrainian, but twenty years ago I could
not speak Ukrainian. Still my innermost self prompted me to take this
path. Now it's very difficult for me to speak Russian, not because I
don't want to, but because something that was taken away is
returning. I think the same process is happening now in the east.
People will go on speaking Russian, but identify themselves as
Ukrainians. What's typical in eastern Ukraine are the many Russian
theatres, but they never produced during the Soviet period and are
not producing any sort of primary material now. As part of a military
culture in an alien territory, these theatres will always be on the
periphery of provincial Russian culture. That's why the Ukrainian
soil there will not accept them.12
Like the two brothers from Donetsk, I found the Les Kurbas Theatre's
performances highly stimulating and was pleased to see that both professional
and academic works possess the same standards of excellence and adherence
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
to Kuchynsky's Ukrainian Baroque stance.
In April and November 2008, I witnessed three performances at the
Lcs Kurbas Theatre. In April I saw Silenus Alkibiadis, the second part of the
theatre's work on Plato's into which segments of Grace-Given Erodii
by Ukrainian philosopher Hryhoriy Skovoroda are woven. Part one is called
G!Ot)' to Eros. Shamelessly watching part two without seeing part one and
witnessing performance in a language I could not understand are well within
the Les Kurbas Theatre's expectations of its audiences. Oleh Tsonia, who
plays Aristophanes, claimed it's not a problem for him; he makes use of the
language barrier, improvising on it. The Les Kurbas Theatre played Glory to
Eros throughout Europe, adapting to various language barriers. Tsonia stated,
"This foreign-language environment adds some shade, some flavor to my
3 On stage he addresses the audience directly, joking and
provoking in English, which he believes most people understand.14
Beyond flexibility with language and intertextuality, Silenus Alkibiadis
exemplifies the theatre's twenty-first century Ukrainian Baroque, for it is both
fantastic and grotesque through misalliance and power reversal. Plato's
Alcibiades looks down from the balconies (heavens) while a quibbling,
Chaplin-esque Socrates struggles to climb a ladder from the stage up to
Alcibiades'; meanwhile a commanding Aristophanes outwits Socrates and the
audience (Socrates' students). Theatre students fill the audience, and at the
performance I attended, the city's young mayor and his wife sat appropriately
near the door. One student concealing a prop gun rushes on stage, attempts
suicide, but fails, thus ridiculing one of the most essential issues,
self-slaughter. An underlying theme of many Les Kurbas Theatre's
performances is failed suicide.
5 Perhaps this is because Ukraine is one of the
nations with the highest suicide level.16
In November the Les Kurbas Theatre presented Amnesia, derived
from Eric-Emmanuel Schmidt's French novel Little Marriage Crimes. On the
stage of the original Lvivskyi Molodizhnyi, rather than the parquet hardwood
floor of the audience space, where most productions now take place, a stark
set, the home of a writer and his painter wife, painted in vertical zebra stripes,
clashes with asymmetrical trapezoidal planes of a cubist box set. Act I of the
complexly plotted boulevard drama manque is enacted by four actors (an older
and younger couple), dressed in horizontal striped costumes. The writer has
returned from the hospital to his wife, recollecting nothing, not even his
identity; the couple renews their marriage as strangers. She tells him he is the
author of detective novels and a faithful husband but later reveals they both
cheated incessantly. His amnesia is exposed as a charade to affect a pleasant
reunion. He confesses remembering everything except the day he went to the
hospital. She claims he fell down the stairs and hit his head, but the truth is she
tried to kill him when she found a manuscript she believed chronicled his
affairs, Little Marriage Crimes. But it is a fiction about married life, theorizing
that spouses are killing one another from marriage's onset; the survivor wins.
He forgives her and asks her to kill him, stating he would rather she kill him
than live without her. She refuses-another failed attempt at self-slaughter.
Act II develops the themes of Act I in greater depth. The dialogue
and plot are the same as Act I, but now played predominantly by the younger
couple, whose work is decidedly more physical and erotic. The young couple
ultimately interacts with the older couple. The pretext is that both acts happen
simultaneously, thus the narrative's temporal flow is less important than the
work's meaning. Most compelling in Amnesia is how mental anguish is
expressed through physical action. The men scream silently and each act ends
with the woman offstage vomiting audibly. But in the finale both couples
dance in various partner groupings and all is well. What it all meant may vary
depending on the spectator, but whether modern love works or doesn't
dominated post-performance conversations at the cafe on the corner of Lesa
Kurbasa Street.
In November the theatre also presented the final projects of
advanced students drawn from poems by Bohdan Igor Antonycz (1909-1937),
who some consider western Ukraine's most outstanding twentieth-century
poet. The audience was seated on the stage; the floor and the theatre's
architecture were deployed as a playing space. Kuchynsky and Tsonia sat in the
balconies, not smiling, looking down, and taking notes on their students' work.
Individually crafted etudes and songs, deeply romantic and truly tragic,
overlapping and interwoven into one grand opus were taken to such comic
extremes that the sacred became profane, the profane sacred. In one highpoint
a young man, insane, rushes on stage screaming, undercutting a woman's
moving and introspective soliloquy only to realize his entrance is way too
early-a brief "sorry," quick exit, only to return two scenes later screaming,
gun in hand-an extended suicide attempt in which the gun misfires. After five
failed suicides interpolated throughout the lyric etudes, one suicidal character
recites Antonycz: "We have the desire to live because we have memories of the
past."17 And Antonycz's Ukraine is rich in metaphysical and tragic affirmation
of the human spirit. Thus in grotesque comedy, toying with death affirms life.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
Despite the decidedly Ukrainian context of t he Les Kurbas Theatre's
work, I felt transported to early twentieth-century Western Europe. This may
be partly due to the spirit of Kurbas's struggle to Europeanize Ukrainian
theatre and bid imposed provincial stereotypes adieu. Kuchynsky too is
moving away from a different kind of imposed aesthetic, outdated Socialist
Realism. But beyond these similarities, I believe the Les Kurbas Theatre's
training with Grotowski and Staniewski, co-mingled with a predilection for
philosophy, poetry, and song, fosters a distinct modernism-a twenty-first
century Ukrainian Baroque in which grotesque and absurdist genres of late-
nineteenth and early twentieth century drama are relevant in a run down, art
nouveau theatre where both high officials and young audiences are played to
by an even younger student body whose mentors look upon them from both
heavens, theatrical and actual.
1 Volodymyr Kuchynsky in Les Kurbas Tbeatre Brochure. Lviv: 2008, trans. Nataliya Yarsh.
2M. T. Rylsky in Virlana Tkacz. ''The Birth of a Director: The Early Development of
Les Kurbas and His First Season with The Young Theatre." Journal if Ukrainian Studies,
12, no. 1 (Summer 1987): pp.22-52; 31.
3 Yosyp Hirniak. L'vfemories/ Spomyt?J. New-York: Suchasnist, 1982, p. 785, trans. Nataliya
Yarsh. Also see Valentyn Haievsky and Marko Robert Stech.
http:/ /www.encyclopediaofukraine.com/ pages/K/U /KurbasLes.h tm.
4 Volodymyr Kuchynsky 10 "The Les Kurbas Theatre."
http:/ jwww.lvivbest.com/en/theaters/les-kurbas-theatre.
5 Volodymyr Kuchynsky. Interview with author. Lviv: April, 2008, trans. Nataliya
6 Volodymyr Kuchynsky. Interview with author. Lviv: April, 2008. trans. Nataliya
7 Marta Svets. Interview with the author. Lviv: November, 2008.
8 Marta Svets. Interview with the author. Lviv: November, 2008.
9 Marta Svets. Interview with the author. Lviv: November, 2008.
10 Oleh Stefan. Inter view with the author. Lviv: November, 2008. trans. Nataliya Yarsh.
11 Oleh Stefan. Interview with the author. Lviv: November, 2008. trans. Nataliya Yarsh.
12 Oleh Stefan. Interview with the author. Lviv: November, 2008. trans. Nataliya Yarsh.
13 Oleh Tsonia. Interview with the author. Lviv: November, 2008. trans. Nataliya
Oleh Tsonia. Interview with the author. Lviv: November, 2008. trans. Nataliya
5 Their most popular production was Waiting/or Codot (2006) in which the empty hope
of death yet inability to do oneself in is a leitmotif
6 "In Jan-Sep 2006 there were 22 suicides per 100 thousand of Ukrainian population
(in 1988 it was 19; in 1996, 29.9)." Association of Young Doctors of Ukraine.
http:/ /www.life.ammu.org.ua/015. trans. Nataliya Yarsh. According to Kyiv's
newspaper, Dqy, compared with other causes of death, suicide ranks third. Dqy.
http:/ /www.day.kiev.ua/141702/. trans. Nataliya Yarsh.
17 Nataliya Yarsh. Interview with the author. Lviv: November 2008.
38 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
Stepan Simek
Theatrical Event of the Year
Hailed as the "theatrical event of the year" by the Czech press, Vaclav
Havel's Leaving, his first new play in more than twenty years, opened at the
Archa Theatre in Prague last May. The production was directed by David
Radok, an acclaimed Stockholm-based Czech opera director and the son of
the legendary 1960s director Alfred Radok; it starred one of the legends of the
Czech theatre and film, the Los Angeles-based actor, jan Triska, and it featured
several other leading Czech actors. Even before it opened, the production
attracted unprecedented attention in the Czech media. In an unusual step for
the Czech theatre, the play was published several months before its actual
production, and the text has been reviewed, analyzed, and hailed as Havel's
best play to date by the critics. The actual production was reviewed by several
Czech dailies soon after the first public dress rehearsal; the play had three,
rather than one opening nights, each attracting huge crowds of Czech and
international luminaries, politicians, artists, and media ranging from the UK
Guardian, to Russian Pravda, to AI Jazeera TV; every single Czech daily and
weekly paper published extensive, and overwhelmingly positive, reviews of the
production; TV talk shows discussed its merits nightly; and in a move
bordering on the absurd, several newspapers and publications even published
reviews and analyses of the reviews. However, the story behind the Archa
production was fraught with numerous problems, absurd reversals, rumors,
accusations and counter-accusations, and it offers a fascinating insight into the
inner workings of the contemporary Czech theatre in particular, and into the
complicated and often nasty ways of twenty-first-century Czech politics,
culture, economics, and society as such.
The Reckoning of Leaving
Leaving is a play written by an absurdist playwright, former president
of a country, internationally regarded statesman, and aging, gravely ill man. It
deals with the travails of an ex-chancellor, Vilem Rieger, who is being evicted
from his stately presidential residence, as the world falls apart around him. The
aging Rieger, a self-possessed, bumbling, and increasingly incoherent
blabbermouth, finds himself in a sort of a geriatric labyrinth of senility \\'here
one absurdity piles onto another, until he's left alone, naked, Lear-like,
abandoned by family, friends, political associates, and utterly befuddled by the
new world in which he finds himself. His residence, complete with a beautiful
cherry orchard, is confiscated by his successor, Ota Klein; the trees are
chopped down to make room for a new shopping mall; and his villa is turned
into an efficiently run, super-modern brothel. The play consciously echoes
themes as well as direct quotes from King Lear and The Cherry Orchard, and it
presents an empty world that is turning into chaos. Havel himself makes the
play a sort of a reckoning with his dramatic influences over the years by
sneaking in several direct quotes from Beckett and his own plays from the
1960s. The central premise of the play-that of an old ruler abandoned by his
associates and his family-and the use of absurdist techniques such as the
Havelesque use of repetitions, non-sequiturs, and verbal nonsense combined
with the absurd emptiness at the end of the story, clearly harks back to Jan
Kott's 1964 essay, "King Lear or Endgame." Additionally, the action of the
play is regularly interrupted by the playwright's comments on the production,
the acting techniques required for particular scenes, ruminations on the
meaning of the play itself, and other issues. For the Archa production, Havel
recorded those comments in his own Yoice, harking back to the first post-1989
production of a Havel play in the Czech Republic, Largo Desolato, directed by
the famous Czech director, Jan Grossman, in 1990. In that production, \\'hich
today is considered one of the truly historic moments in the Czech theatre,
Grossman included a number of stage directions recorded by Havel and
played them back during the action of the play.
All of the above suggests that in writing Leaving, Havel indeed
succeeded in summing up his artistic, theoretical, political, and on some
profound level, personal journey. In addition, the actual plot of the play, and
especially some of the characters must be viewed in the light of recent political
developments in the Czech Republic. \X'hile, according to Havel's
pronouncements, Leaving is decidedly not an autobiographical play, the story
of a retiring head of state, whose political and philosophical ideals, however
confused and erratic they may be, are systematically dismantled by his
40 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 2
Vaclav Havel
successor, must inevitably be interpreted as at least partially autobiographical.
.Much has been made of the fact that the name of Rieger's chief nemesis and
his free-market successor is Klein, and while Havel vigorously denies any
connection, the name of Vaclav Klaus, Havel's real-life successor and the
current president of the Czech Republic, comes to mind. The ongoing
conflict, and a palpable personal dislike between Havel, the philosopher and
humanist, and Klaus, the pragmatist and unabashed free-market champion (as
well as the chief denier of global warming), has been one of the mainstays of
Czech political life for the past fifteen years or so, and the political reckoning
in the play is equally important as the artistic one.
Similarly, the story of the evolving production of Leaving, eerily
mirrors the plot and the themes of the play itself, and it reflects the tale of
Havel's life, which is filled with absurd reversals and twists. Surely his struggle
to produce his last play; the media circus surrounding the production; the year-
long rumor mill in the press, TV, internet, and among the theatre professionals
in the Czech Republic; the actual work on the production; the somewhat
artistically questionable final product; and the hysterically positive reviews of
the play must surely be regarded as an absurdist triumph of life over art.
The Odyssey of Leaving
When in early 2007 after an extended stay in the United States Vaclav
Havel returned to the Czech Republic, he brought with him the script of his
new play and immediately began to plan for a production. Assuming the role
of something of a producer of his work, he initially approached his old "home
stage," the Theatre on Balustrade. Balustrade was a natural place to produce
his ftrst play in more than twenty years. After all, it was here, where Havel
began his theatre career. In the 1960s, Balustrade produced the trio of his
absurdist masterpieces from that period, The Garden Party, The Memorandum, and
The Increased Difficult; of Concentration. Moreover, the first production of a
Havel play after the fall of communism, Largo Desofato, took place at the
Balustrade in 1990. The theatre, which has arguably the strongest acting
ensemble in the Czech Republic, holds an almost mythical place in the modern
Czech theatre history, and it has been closely associated with Vaclav Havel for
almost fifty years. However, it quickly became clear that the Balustrade stage
was simply too small to afford the scenic requirements imposed by the
director, Radok, on Leatoing, that the capacity of its auditorium would be
insufficient for the anticipated number of audiences, and-most
significantly-that the dramaturgy and aesthetics of the Balustrade had
changed significantly in the last twenty years, making Havel's desire to return
to that stage more of a sentimental dream rather than a dramaturgically sound
Somewhat disappointed, Havel turned his sights to the much larger
and more technically capable National Theatre, another logical choice for the
world premiere of a play by the former Czech president. However, his
negotiations with the artistic director of the National Theatre, Michal
Docekal, ran into numerous problems. Havel intended to keep his hand in on
the choice of director and the cast, and he presented Docekal with a fully
developed artistic team, which included the director, David Radok; his old
friend, Jan Triska, as Chancellor Rieger; numerous other actors in the majority
of the remaining roles; and-most important-his wife, the acclaimed, if
highly controversial actress Dagmar Havlova-Vdkrnova for whom he
42 Slavic and East EurojJean Peiformance Vol. 29, No. 2
Leaving, by Vaclav Havel, Archa Theatre, Prague, 2008
specifically created the role of Irena, Rieger's companion. Docekal, who over
the past five years had been working hard to create a cohesive permanent
acting ensemble at the National, refused to accept Havel's proposals, citing his
obligation to provide his ensemble with significant roles and stage time. After
some back-and-forth, Havel agreed to reduce his "dream team" to Radok as
the director, and Triska and Havlovi-Vdkrnovi in the two main roles, but for
reasons that gave rise to wild speculations and rumors in the Prague theatre
circles and the Czech press, Docekal accepted Triska but refused to have
Havel's wife perform on his stage, effectively ending the chance of the play to
appear at the National Theatre.
After the "National Theatre fiasco," as the Czech press labeled it,
Havel approached the second largest theatre in Prague, the stately, albeit
famously conservative and decidedly "bourgeoisie" Vinohrady Theatre.
Vinohrady wasn't a mere default location, but rather another reasonably logical
choice for the production. Havel's second wife, for whom he created the role
of Irena, had been a long-time company member of the theatre. After she and
Havel married, she quit acting to devote herself to her new role as the first
lady, and later as the primary caregiver to Havel, whose health has been failing
dramatically. Producing Leaving at Vinohrady would become a triumphal and
somewhat sentimental return to the stage for both her and Havel. Additionally,
the theatre's technical capabilities and the size of the auditorium are close to
that of the National. The artistic director of the Vinohrady Theatre, Martin
Stropnicky, had an affinity for Havel, having been active in politics in the 1990s
both as an ambassador to Italy and Spain, and-for a brief period-the
Minister of Culture, and he eagerly accepted all of Havel's proposals regarding
casting and Radok's demands for the scope of the production. The
negotiations proceeded smoothly, and the contract between Havel and the
theatre was ready to be signed, until Radok met with the technical and
production staff at the theatre. What happened in that meeting is hotly
disputed, each side presenting different stories, but on the day when the
contract was to be officially signed, the theatre issued a terse statement
announcing that due to "technical and scheduling" conflicts, the Vinohrady
Theatre would be unable to produce the play.
The play was eventually picked up by DaYid Hrab, the artistic director
of the Archa Theatre. Archa is perhaps the only major theatre in Prague that
operates on a non-repertory model without a permanent ensemble. The
44 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 29, No.2
choice of .Archa eliminated two of the previous obstacles to the production.
In the absence of a permanent ensemble, the theatre was eager and willing to
cast the play according to Havel's wishes, and in the absence of repertory
rotation, the theatre could fulfill the technical complexity of Radok's design
and direction. In addition, since Archa has a long tradition of raising money
outside the governmental subsides for culture, the production ended up being
entirely privately financed. The issue of financing the production came up
earlier on when the newly appointed Prague City Councilman responsible for
culture, Milan Richter, publicly called the proposal tO produce the play at the
Vinohrady Theatre "the most expensive theatrical production in the history of
subsidized theatre in Prague," and, to add insult to injury, he denied the Archa
its yearly subsidy of five million Czech crowns just prior to the beginning of
the rehearsals for Leaving, pending the outcome of a comprehensible audit of
theatre financing.
Leaving thus eventually found its home at the Archa, and the play's
long odyssey, as well as Havel's desire to have it produced with the cast and the
director he chose seemed to come to a happy end. However, only about three
weeks before the play's opening, Havel's wife, Dagmar Havlova, whose
participation was at the very heart of the National Theatre's refusal to produce
the play, pulled out of the production for health reasons, and had to be
replaced by a young and relatively unknown Czech actress. Since the nature of
Havlovi's health problems was never disclosed, the Czech media, as well as the
theatrical establishment in Prague had a field day with rumors of infighting in
the rehearsal room,
personal conflict between the star, Jan Triska, and
Havlovi, and so on. Havel himself never commented on that development,
but his disappointment at not having his wife perform in a role that he
specifically created for her was palpable. It was as if the production had been
bewitched, but this ftnal difficulty made the whole process only more
intriguing, the media hype about the production even more hysterical, and the
expectations of the public even higher.
The Political Dimension
In his introduction to the production, the artistic director of the
Archa Theatre, Ondfej Hrab, duly notes that their production of Leaving did
not use a single penny of cultural subsidy and without naming him directly, he
46 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
takes a shot at Richter. Richter proposed a new model of public financing of
theatres in Prague with the idea of providing direct subsidies for eYery ticket
sold at any particular theatre. Prague has close to a hundred professional
theatre and dance companies, which are organized along several different
financing models. The majority of the theatres are called subsidiary
organizations, meaning that their subsidy is in a sense earmarked in the city
budget. However, a substantial number of companies are labeled
"commercial" enterprises and therefore qualify for much less city money, if
any at all. The "commercial" companies complain-often with good reason-
that they are unfairly under funded.
Richter's idea to do away with such
distinction and to support each company equally by direct subsidy for each
ticket sold, on the other hand, would put the existing "subsidiary
organizations" in a distant disadvantage for several reasons. Their ticket prices
are lower in general, thus a ticket subsidy wouldn't generate a high enough
return; they often produce difficult plays that may not attract huge crowds for
a ticket subsidy to make a difference, and since they consider themselves
cultural rather than commercial institutions, they loath the idea of
participating in a "market-driven" system.
Milan Richter is a distinctly unseemly figure in Prague cultural
politics. A thirty-year-old member of the conservative free-marker Civic
Democratic Party of the current president Vaclav Klaus that controls Prague
government, he is a proud populist, who gleefully participates in the highly
vulgar world of the Czech commercial culture, complete with appearances on
reality TV shows, interviews with tabloids, and attendances at lavish parties
given by the Czech nouveaux riches. He admittedly doesn't go to the theatre, and
he openly proclaims his disdain for artists in general, and for Vaclav Havel in
particular. It is therefore no wonder that the Prague theatre professionals
regard him with hatred and fear, and his market-driven ideas about culture
have run into an unprecedented opposition by theatre artists and their
supporters. Numerous petitions signed by thousands of public and private
persons began to appear in the press and on the internet; the daily press was
full of opinion pieces and accusations and counter-accusations by theatre
professionals, politicians, and ordinary consumers of culture and the outrage
culminated in the so called Weeks of Disquiet-a series of public
demonstrations and actions, such as storming the city-council meeting and the
open call for Richter's resignation.
Since the production of Havel's Leaving opened at the very height of
the Weeks of Disquiet, its political dimension couldn't have been more
pronounced. In the liberal daily Lidove Noviny, Havel himself published a
scathing critique of the Prague government's current cultural policy in
particular and an elegiac rumination about the "wholesale destruction of
Prague's charm" by the marked-driven policies of the governing party in
general. That in turn provoked an even more scathing rebuttal by the mayor of
Prague, whose conclusion basically argued that Havel was irrelevant and that
he should finally move over and get used to modernity.
The conflict between the theatre professionals and the governing
cultural and political establishment eerily mirrors the conflict in the play, as
well as the conflict between the idealist Havel and the new realities of the
pragmatic capitalist society that the contemporary Czech Republic had
become. Rieger, like Havel and his former political allies, is a Lear- and
Ranyevska-like figure, whereas his successor Klein, just like Vaclav Klaus and
his associates, is the new Lopakhin and perhaps even Edmund. While the play
offers a level of complexity that goes beyond such easy classification, the
echoes of both Havel's experiences as a president and ex-president, and the
ongoing conflict within the Czech political, cultural, and social landscape.
The Star Power of Leaving
Despite the high expectations created by the press and the
subsequent overwhelmingly positive reviews, the actual production of Leazing
displayed fundamental problems in the play's structure and character
development. While the themes of the play called for a highly realistic and
psychologically driven acting, Havel's language and his use of absurdist
techniques engendered exactly the opposite-a highly alienated, cold, and
somewhat mechanical delivery. Such dichotomy, while reconcilable in the
hands of a more skilled "actors' director," was glaring in Radok's production.
Radok made his name as a director of operas, and fine, detailed work with the
actors eluded him in Leaving. The performances were uninteresting, the
choices the actors made were unsurprising, and the overall feeling of the
production was that of a hardworking, but somewhat uninspired, cast.
Moreover, the use of the prerecorded voice of the author, which regularly
interrupted the action, also prevented the actors from developing a clear
48 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 29, No.2
through line and from keeping the audience interested in their lives on stage.
The set was quite simple. The actors entered and left through a series of doors
lining both sides of the stage. On stage was a set of small cherry trees and a
backdrop depicting Rieger's villa. Nothing suggested that the production
required such an unprecedented level of financial and technical support as the
media and the director claimed was needed in the various previews and
interviews prior to the opening. If anything, the set was simple, and Radok did
manage to stage several of the stunning stage pictures that reached into the
depths of the play's ultimate tragic tone.
Despite some obvious shortcomings, the audience, on the third
opening night when I saw the play, was enthusiastic, and all but one review of
the production hailed it as one of the crowning achievements of the Czech
theatre in the last several years, and as a triumph for Havel. Such reception was,
I believe, based less on the artistic merits of the play and the production and
more on the symbolic rebirth of Havel as a playwright. The Archa production
was a result of a long struggle for Havel. The play was rejected by the
established theatres and forced into a less prestigious house, it had been
,ilified by the Prague political establishment, it opened without Havel's wife in
one of the leads, and it reaffirmed Havel's position as a leading cultural and
political figure in the Czech Republic. In a sense, it was a play that could
succeed against all odds, a respectable outcome of an absurd media circus that
accompanied it on its complicated journey. The applause at the end of Leaving
was applause for Havel and his perseverance, and it was a fitting salute to his
enduring star power.
The rehearsals for the production were not accessible to the public and were
conducted under a veil of secrecy. The participants had to pledge complete silence
about the rehearsals, and the entire process became one of the most closely guarded
secrets in the country.
For example, Chekhov's Three Sisters at the ABC Theatre is labeled a "commercial
production" and consequently receives no subsidy, whereas an almost identical
production of the same play at the Theatre on the Balustrade is supported by an
ongoing yearly grant from the city.
FEBRUARY 5, 2009
Allen J. Kuharski
Possibly no other modern play has inspired more operatic versions
than Witold Gombrowicz's lvona, Princess of Burgundia (Ju;ona,
Burgunda). Gombrowicz's play, first published in 1935 and first performed
in Warsaw in 1957, has provided the libretto for four operas to date, only
one of which is sung in Polish. The line began with Gombrowicz's
contemporary, the German composer Boris Blacher (1903-1975), whose
last opera Yvonne, Prinzessen von Burgund premiered in Wuppertal in 1973, and
featured Pina Bausch in the silent title role in one of her last performances
before she established her renowned dance theatre company. Ulrich Wagner
(b. 1967) followed Blacher's example with a German-language chamber
opera performed in Krefeld in 1998. A score by Zygmunt K.rauze (b. 1938),
sung in Polish, was first performed in Paris in 2004 (directed by Grzegorz
Jarzyna) and in a different version at Warsaw's Opera Narodowa in 2006
(directed by Marek Weiss-Grzesirl.ski).
The world premiere of Yvonne, Princesse de Bourgogne by Belgian
composer Philippe Boesmans (b. 1936) at the Paris Opera in January, 2009
is by far the most ambitious and promising operatic version of the play to
date. A co-production with the Wiener Festwochen and the Theatre Royal de
Ia Monnaie in Brussels, this is the most recent collaboration of Boesmans
with director Luc Bondy, and the commission came in the wake of the
extraordinary success of their operatic version of August Strindberg's lvfiss
Julie in Brussels in 2005 (available in an excellent recording on DVD
produced by BelAir Classiques). Bondy, together with Marie-Louise
Bischofberger, is also credited for the libretti for julie and Yvonne, Princesse de
Bourgogne. Boesmans and Bondy have collaborated on the libretti and staging
for all of the composer's major operas since Reigen (La Ronde, based on the
play by Arthur Schnitzler; 1993) and Wintermi:irchen (The Winter's Tale, based
on Shakespeare's play; 1999). Boesmans has been the composer-in-residence
at Theatre Royal de Ia Monnaie since the early 1990s. This is the first of his
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 2
Yvonne, Princesse de Bourgogne, by Philippe Boesmans,
the Paris Opera, January, 2009
Yvonne, Princesse de Bourgogne, by Philippe Boesmans,
the Paris Opera, January, 2009
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
succeeds in capturing the play's ethical conundrum more clearly than Yann
Beuron's strangely colorless Prince Philippe. The rewards of Beuron's
performance are primarily musical ones, and his rich and versatile tenor voice
is well-matched to Boesmans's score.
There is ultimately an unresolved tension between Boesmans's
shimmering and nuanced music and Bondy's choice of a largely buffo theatrical
style. The complexities of the performances by Lyssewski and Antoine
unfortunately are not carried over to the bluntly farcical performances of
Yvonne's aunts (Lucille Richardot and David Lefort) or Paul Gay as the I<.ing.
The aunts, in particular Lefort's performance in drag, are played in the stock
style of Cinderella's ugly stepsisters in countless English pantos, and the
fleeting comic appearances of Laurent David's beggar in Act I or of Marc
Cossu-Leonian's valet Valentin come across as flat and under-invested.
In spite of Paul Gay's commanding physical presence and powerful
baritone as the I<.ing, the choice to play him as a vulgar, middle-aged, macho
narcissist dressed in a red sweat suit and chunky gold necklace suggesting a
Russian mafioso proves neither funny nor insightful in the performance of
one of Gombrowicz's most satisfying comic characters. Once established in
Act I, this concept gives Gay nowhere to go with the character, and reduces
the comic fiasco of the King's attempt to calm Yvonne in Act III (one of the
defining moments of Gombrowicz' s theatre) to a crass physical assault. These
attempts at grotesque farce and physical comedy are at odds stylistically and
rhythmically with Boesmans's subtle score, which would better support a
psychologically driven or surrealist approach to the play than such an
aggressively comic one. Tellingly, there was only one instance of spontaneous
laughter by the audience during the entire performance: at the end of Act I
when Yvonne hiccups uncontrollably instead of curtsying to the court. That
this one moment of successful physical comedy was autonomous of the music
reveals the unresolved problem of calibrating the opera's theatrical
embodiment to Boesmans's refmed and sophisticated score.
Yvonne, Princesse de Bourgogne ends with bold strokes by both Boesmans
and Bondy. The symbolic pike on which Yvonne chokes to death in the midst
of a court banquet in her honor is delivered in a vessel sculpted in the shape
of a fish large enough to serve as the coffin in which her dead body is
ceremoniously carried off-stage. At this point, Boesmans adds a somberly
beautiful antiphonal lament between the chorus and the knowing courtesan
Isabelle ('Lacrimosa, dies illa ... ").True to Gombrowicz's play, this musical
coup is followed by the cruel and tragic image of Prince Philippe being drawn
back .into his prescribed role in the court, consciously complicit in Yvonne's
death. This sudden shift .in theatrical tone, however, sits uneasily given what
has come before. The meaning, but not the feeling, of the ending is clear.
Boesmans's score plumbs the depths of Gombrowicz's play in ways that
Bondy's too often superficial staging does not. We are left, therefore, with a
major operatic score still seeking its true theatrical voice.
This review was first published in a Polish translation by Artur Zapalowski in
Warsaw in the May, 2009 issue of Teatr.
56 Slavic and East European Perforrnance Vol. 29, No. 2
Ariel Nereson
In 1920, just over fifteen years after its Moscow Art Theatre premiere,
the British novelist Virginia Woolf attended a production of Chekhov's The
Cherry Orchard. The play (and in particular its language) deeply affected the
novelist, leading her to conclude "that it sends one into the street feeling like a
piano played upon at last, not in the middle only but all over the keyboard and
with the lid left open so that the sound goes on." Woolf refers to the panoramic
range of emotions plumbed in the course of the play, now considered a master
text of theatre. This panorama of emotions, explored in both breadth and
depth, forms the core of Kazirnierz Braun's production of his own adaptation
of the text, performed at the State University of New York at Buffalo from
February 25 to March 1, 2009.
Braun's The Cherry Orchard begins, as all productions do, with the
choice of a translation. Not entirely satisfied with any current translation,
Braun adapted the text himself from its Russian original. Braun's adaptation is
designed with a student audience in mind: his text is streamlined, lean, and
muscular, with the intent of getting the greatest emotional response from little
text (though, naturally, with much subtext). During the rehearsal process, the
play text became even more malleable and fluid, embracing rather than resisting
changes in language.
A second decision must also always be made regarding production of
The Cherry Orchard: is this play a comedy or a tragedy? A great source of tension
between Chekhov and Stanislavsky, this question has little relevance for Braun
in his own production. Rather than choosing between the two genres, Braun's
production embraces the full range of emotions made possible by both comedy
and tragedy, exploring both the dark and light in each character and the social
situation of the play as a whole. However, this production does end on a note
of tragedy, with Piers's death staged as a fatal seizure accompanied by the harsh,
invasive sounds of an axe chopping down the cherry orchard.
In Braun's directorial vision, the tragic elements of the play eventually
outweigh the comedic, and the Ranevsky family's expulsion from their estate is
58 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 2
cast in an ultimately tragic light. Expulsion from one's homeland is something
Braun, a Polish-American, knows all too well. Forced to relocate four times in
his native Poland, the sanctity of the home is fust and foremost in Braun's
mind. I For Braun, the prodigal (and in many moments comic) spending of
Lubov, which ultimately leads to the loss of the orchard, docs not obscure her
loneliness as a wanderer, or her true joy at being "home." This production
understands home fundamentally as physical place. Forced exodus, either by
political or financial mechanisms, is final and tragic.
In keeping with the darker tone of Braun's production, the character
of the Stranger is recast as a sinister pre-Bolshevik journeyman. Dressed in
Bolshevik garb, the Stranger's leather boots track figurative mud through the
shabby and beloved Ranevsky home. In Chekhov's text, the Stranger-a passer-
by-appears only for a few moments in Act II. Braun (with the help of
Assistant Director Mark F. Tattenbaum) refashions the Stranger's role, placing
him inside the home as a party guest and in the final scene as the agent of the
orchard's destruction, wielding an axe with apparent relish. While Chekhov's
play certainly predates the Bolshevik Revolution (though many scholars have
noted its more prophetic elements), framing the Stranger through this lens adds
a dynamic, vital energy to the sinister elements of social change that Braun's
production explores.
In the final scene of the play, Lopakhin gives a signal to the Stranger
to begin chopping down the cherry orchard. More than most of the play's
characters, Lopakhin and the Stranger are deliberately refashioned by Braun to
provide additional resonance for his university audience. While the Stranger is
reframed as a Bolshevik predecessor, the African-American actor Winston
Duke plays Lopakhin, thus shifting the connotations of his famous Act III
speech. Duke steals many moments in the production, acting opposite Sarah
Brown's vivid portrayal of Varya. While Chekhov's text does not address the
slavery of Africans, it does attempt to understand the aftermath of profound
social change. Translated onto an American stage in a university setting, Braun's
casting choice attempts to relate the events of the play's world to a more
immediate, local history for the spectator. When Lopakhin cries, "I have bought
an estate! Me! The son of slaves!" his words have an immediate resonance for
an audience most likely unfamiliar with the trajectory of serfdom in Russia, and
the 1861 Emancipation of the Serfs that provides the play's background.
Braun's casting choice also provides contemporary resonance with the recent
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 2
United States presidential election. Followi ng the performances, many
spectators commented to Braun that Lopakhin's allegorical narrative of rising
above prejudice brought the recent rhetoric of now-President Barack Obama's
election to mind.
The audience's enthusiastic and thoughtful reception of Braun's
production is no doubt influenced by the production design, created with the
intention of forging an intimacy between the spectator and the stage. Braun's
production was played in a small black box space, in the round, with three
intimate rows of seating on each side. A spare set and geometric floor pattern
are all that are needed to recreate the Ranevsky estate. Perhaps the most
innovative technical feature of Jacob Vogelman's set design is the white
branches that hang from the ceiling above and the walls surrounding the
spectators. The spectator is meant to feel absorbed into the cherry orchard
itself, and the spectator's reactions meant to become a vital part of the
emotional landscape of the production. As the seasons change, lighting
designer Sapan Kawala tints the bare, white branches with vivid colors,
changing not only the atmosphere of the play but the environment of the
spectator. A true community of spectators forms during performance due to
the intimacy of the black box space, and the theatre-in-the-round effects of
seeing other spectators' reactions to the same event that the individual spectator
is witnessing.
This intimacy and community provide a an effective sounding board
for Braun's ideas about home and social change that find their most profound
manifestation in the emotional palette Braun creates with his actors. The final
moments of the play juxtapose the happy lovers' rosy future (represented by
Pietya and Anya) with the necessary and harsh breaking with the past
(represented in Piers's death) . Braun's production reminds the audience that
although none of us is "above love," none of us is beyond death either, and the
price of a promising future might be a total break with the only place that has
ever felt like home.
Braun's family was flrst expelled from their home in 1939, following Poland's
incorporation into Germany. Then in 1964, 1974, and 1985 respecti\ely, Braun was
forced to relocate due to his status as an anti-Communist and his family's long history
of underground resistance.
Kevin Byrne
Rarely is one prompted to applaud the stage management team for
their work on a show, but I felt it necessary to do so at the conclusion of a
recent production of Matei Visniec's Horses at the Window (1986) at the Trap
Door Theatre of Chicago. The stage was covered in raw egg, baby powder,
and hundreds of shoes--and somebody had to clean it up. This decidedly
lo-fi conflagration as final tableau speaks both to the scrappy aesthetic of the
theatre troupe and to the bleak message of this anti-war play. But, despite the
best efforts of a dedicated cast (and clean-up crew), the show created not the
intended feeling of tragicomic loss but rather one of callow morbidity.
The show has a straight forward structure in which three scenes play
out similar scenarios, and the wearying effect of bad news repeatedly
delivered was one of the strategies of the drama. The three scenes all begin
with a female/male pairing: Mother/Son, Daughter/Father, Wife/Husband.
Familial categorization replaces personal names to stress the elemental-ness
of their situation. These familial relationships are parodic representations of
middle-class domestic life, with certain quotidian mannerisms amplified for
comedic effect. Mother obsesses over crumbs and the proper packing of a
suitcase; Husband lectures Wife about the correct way to set a table. The
safety of the domestic space must be maintained through order. The male
character in this dyad is sent off to war; then almost immediately the
Messenger (again, no name) arrives to announce the pathetic fate of the
soldiers: one is kicked to death by a horse, one is driven insane, and one is
crushed. The structure of the second half of the scenes was also similar in
all three cases. The messengers offer poor shows of grief and hand over
carnations. The female characters are left with unsatisfying answers and the
feeling of numbness.
The Romanian-born Visniec has been living in France for over
twenty years. Given the fact that he sought political asylum from his
homeland, his works are frequently interpreted as reflections of and
commentaries on the communist dictatorship of Nicolae
Totalitarian oppression is at the fringes of many of his plays, such as Old Cfoum
62 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 29, No. 2
Matei Visniec's Horses at the Window, Trap Door Theatre, 2008
Wanted, a twisted tale of circus purgatory, and it is certainly a part of Horses,
written before he left Romania but banned for performance. Visniec spikes it
with enough bizarre detail to keep the scenes from becoming rote, and to hint
at the chaos that is also at the window of these three women's homes. Black
water drips from faucets. And then there are these horses, never seen but
described as both beasts of burden and harbingers of loss. They are cliscussed
in all the scenes, inclucling this dark and effective exchange in the middle of the
play that encapsulates the deadpan menace of Visniec's writing. As a military
parade passes by:
THE DAUGHTER: Father used to say that the liberated soldiers often parade
with the liberating ones. Can that be?
THE MESSENGER: Miss, I think you should close the window.
THE DAUGHTER: I'd like to at least blow them a kiss ...
THE MESSENGER: There's little point in that, believe me. The solcliers are
blind. They are blind and deaf. The trumpets are playing for the people.
THE DAUGHTER: But I want to see the horses. The horses are innocent. I
so much like to see the horses.
THE MESSENGER: Miss, avoid looking at the horses. They are no longer
the horses they were. They have become vengeful and covetous. They lurk
everywhere, lying in wait behind doors and at windows.
THE DAUGHTER: How sad! Do you think that even at this moment,
someone is lying in wait for us?
Like Ionesco's pachyderms, these horses are an allegorical fragment of a
sinister gestalt.
The Trap Door Theatre was the right company to stage Horses. For
two decades they have been producing politically engaged, leftist-leaning,
non-realistic twentieth-century European drama, and in 2005 they tackled
Old Clown Wanted. From their intimate space in Chicago, they have been
64 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 2
developing an intricate artistic aesthetic that combines a brawny physicality
with a cerebral pessimism--an antic absurdity that has a toughness, rawness,
and loudness more associated (in Chicago, at least) with the naturalism of
Steppenwolf Theatre. When these elements are working in tandem, as they
frequently have been in the past few years, the productions are sensational.
A number of veterans of the company were involved in Horses and it was a
joy to see them work. Holly Thomas and John Kahara were a touchingly
strange pair as Wife and Husband and John Gray was fantastic as Father. His
comedic ability and agility has been the highlight of many Trap Door
For Horses, the company worked with Romanian director Radu-
Alexandru Nica for the first time. Their interpretation was not always
successful, as it tended to over-emphasize the flaws of the script. The
cyclical repetition of the scenes is not hard to discern, yet the production
made it one of the guiding principles of the design. The male actors were
double-cast as both family members and Messengers. They all wore white
suits in their latter roles, and played them with the same attitude. The sorrow
of all the female family members was interpreted as sexual hysteria-they
clumsily threw themselves at the Messengers in some cheap attempts at
comedy. All the actors, bless 'em, committed themselves to the extensive
physicality asked of them. They jumped on top of each other and swung
from the set; they climbed out of windows (literally exiting the building) and
tumbled on the floor. I appreciated their dedication, have come to expect it,
but wished it was in the service of a production that was either more
personal or less obvious.
Absurdism works best when it is exploding rigid ideologies or
complex systems of language, logic, or belief. The tragicomedy of, say, an
lonesco play is effective because such conventions are contrasted with an
essential, emotional humanity. This production of Horses, though, made the
individual emotions of longing and sadness seem silly and trite by dwelling
upon the repetitive structure and amping up the mania. For an anti-war play,
the focus shifted from the absurdity of conflict to the idiocy of those who
participate in it. The production had very little sympathy for the dead or the
The closing moment of the show, though, was dizzyingly
hyperkinetic and also appropriately theatrical. With the arrival of the
Matei Visniec's Horses at the Window, Trap Door Theatre, 2008
66 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 29, No.2
Messenger, the Wife asks about the circumstances of her husband's demise.
The Messenger explains that while charging during a battle, he tripped and
was trampled to death by the soldiers behind him. The body is returned to
the Wife-as hundreds of shoes upon which his remains are stuck. The
lights dimmed on the Wife being buried under a mound of footwear. As a
final image, it was surreal, brutal, and poignant.
Margaret K Araneo
We are frequently asked nowadays how it was possible that we
survived. The answer is simple: we survived because we had each
other, we had this theatre, and it built our defense.
Marcin K,:szycki, Theatre of the Eighth Day
On the evening of November 5, 2008, less than twenty-four hours
after the historic election of Barack Obama, a collection of my freshman
theatre students from New York University attended a performance of The
Fifes by the alternative Polish theatre company Theatre of the Eighth Day
(featr 6smego Dnia). Presented at New York's 59E59 as part of the Made in
Poland series produced by the Polish Cultural Institute, The Files is a
documentary theatre piece that looks back at the group's history from the mid
1970s to the early 1980s. The production is not, however, a nostalgic
retrospective on the Theatre of the Eighth Day's work during this period.
Instead, The Files can best be described as a confrontation: four of the
theatre's members coming face to face with the official and unofficial
documents that form an archive of their shared history. It is a history marked
by theatrical innovation, political activism, censorship, exile, and
For many of my students who attended The Fifes, "political theatre"
was, surprisingly, a relatively new concept. Theatre and policies had for them
rarely been discussed together, but on this particular night (with many of
them still recovering from election rallies in Times Square and \X'ashington
Square Park), the "political" was taking on a fresh meaning, integrating itself
into their lives and work in a new way. I'm not attempting to compare my
students' emerging political consciousness to the politically committed work
of the Theatre of the Eighth Day. Only one of my students was even born
before 1989, the year exiled Eighth Day ar tists were finally able to return to
Poland after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Fifes performance,
however, did play an important role in a lesson on the efficacy of theatre,
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 29, No. 2
revealing "the emancipating power of art," which is at the core of Theatre of
the Eighth Day's work.t
Theatre of the Eighth Day was formed in 1964 by students at Adam
Mickiewicz University in Poznan. Part of the growing Polish student theatre
movement of the 1960s, the group was led by Tomasz Szymanski. It's worth
noting that Polish student theatres were extra-curricular associations of
students from different academic disciplines, not students studying theatre;
theatre training took place in professional institutes not connected with
universities. Initially, the group worked primarily with literary texts (poetic and
dramatic) and within a few years started to pursue a training and aesthetic
modeled after Grotowski's research at the Laboratory Theatre.2 The growing
interest in Grotowski's work-his demand for intense self-examination-
coincided with the changing political climate in Poland in the late 1960s,
particularly the events of 1968. Lech Raczak, one of the group's principal
actors during this period, saw 1968 as the point in which Theatre of the Eighth
Day really began. He recalled: ''At that time we realized that it is necessary to
deal not only with what's going on in the arts but also with what is happening
in society."
The Polish student theatre movement in general reacted aggressively
to the political turmoil of 1968. Widespread student protests were staged as a
reaction to both domestic and international government-sponsored actions,
including the Polish government's ban on performances of K.azirnierz
Dejmek's staging of Mickiewicz's Forefathers' Eve (resulting in mass arrests of
students and intellectuals) and Poland's complicity in the Soviet invasion of
Czechoslovakia.4 Student theatre groups demonstrated their opposition to the
Polish government through productions containing material that challenged
the official Communist ideology.s Theatre of the Eighth Day became one of
the most vocal student groups in this post-1968 period, staging such works as
An Introduction To ... (1970), In One Breath (1971 ), and Do We Have to Settle for
What Has Been Called Paradise On Earth (1975). In turn, the group was censored
often by the Polish government, denied visas to travel outside of Poland, and
targeted for undercover investigations by the Polish Secret Police. The results
of these investigations became the primary source material for the group's
2007 production of The Files.6
In 2001, Poland's National Remembrance Institute started to make
available the contents of Secret Police files kept on individuals and groups

Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 2
under investigation during the Soviet era. At ftrst, access to the files was
limited, but in 2006, the material was made available to the public, (with only
the Secret Police agents' names blacked out to avoid retaliation). Theatre of
the Eighth Day members Marcin Adam Borowski, Ewa Wojciak,
and Tadeusz Janiszewski examined the dossiers kept on them and other
members of the group. They then considered the contents in relation to their
own personal artifacts-journals, letters, photographs, excerpts from the
group's productions. Taken together the material reveals what the Eighth Day
members call "a moving story of following, tracking, and finally pressing
charges against ... thoughts, spiritual storms, intellectual rebellions, moral
dilemmas."? The Files, as performed by Borowski, Wojciak, and
Janiszewski, is a meditation on this story.
In many respects, the staging of The Fifes stands in sharp contrast to
the aesthetics for which the Theatre of the Eighth Day is primarily known.
Much of their work uses metaphor and spectacle in extravagant outdoor
theatre productions. Recent works in this vein include The Ark (2000) and The
Time of Mothers (2006). While traditionally staged productions were and still are
part of the group's repertory, the cool, stripped down mise en scene of The
Files is unique. Dressed in mostly dark, simple colors (blacks, reds, browns),
the actors sat on stools with their texts resting on music stands positioned in
front of them. They spoke into microphones as they read, in neutral voices,
the transcripts of government documents-translated into English by Phillip
Jonston. Images from the group's history were projected on an upstage screen,
including photographs of the actors from their university days until the start
of their professional period. The actors also read from letters and personal
accounts of their experiences. The stories were impassioned and revealed a
youthful energy directed at a society they deemed in need of awakening. The
personal stories, juxtaposed to the "official" information, exposed the danger
and at times absurdity of the situation.
Though the piece focuses on the events of the past, the present tense
of the performance was never lost. It appeared most strikingly in the
metatheatrical moments when the actors stepped into the roles they played in
earlier Theatre of the Eighth Day productions. Dismounting from their stools,
Marcin K<:;szycki, Adam Borowski, and Tadeusz Janiszewski enacted intensely
physical scenes filled with metaphor. These were the only instances, however,
where the English text appeared to limit the actors. The physicality and
72 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
language struggled against each other and at times muted the impact of the
Following the performance, my students were invited to a post-show
talkback arranged by the Polish Cultural Institute's Deputy Director, Agata
Grenda. It was an opportunity to ask the actors questions about their work and
process. One theme, however, seemed to emerge several times throughout
discussion. It can be captured best in a simple question: Are you angry? It was
a question that had been seriously considered by the Polish government when
it was compelled by court order to open the ftles. Officials were concerned that
revelation of the files instead of healing the nation would further divide it.
Marcin addressed the question first. Anger, he stressed, was not
fueling this project. Despite the stories of betrayal, frustration, forced exile,
this was foremost a story about passion, change, and the social power theatre
possesses if one chooses to use it. The documentary form of The Files seemed
to support sentiments since it allowed for a cool detachment that
could facilitate a process of understanding. For my students seeing this
successful combination of reason and emotion in a theatrical work (apt timing
given their recent exposure to Brechtian theory) provided a new path for
expressing their own political and social values through their artistic work.
Whether in times of distress or times of hope, which my students were
basking in, politics is inextricably linked to art and art inextricably linked to
The Theatre of the Eighth Dqy, Joanna Ostrowska, ed., ElZbieta Janicka, trans. (featr
6smego Dnia: Poznan, nd): np.
Kathleen Cioffi, Alternative Polish Theatre: 1954-1989 (Harwood: The Netherlands,
1996): 121.
3 Kathleen Cioffi and Andrzej Ceynowa, ''An Interview with Director Lech Raczak,"
The Draf!/a 30.2 (1986):82 as cited in Cioffi, Alternative Polish Theatre, 122.
Cioffi, Alternative Polish Theatre, 96-99.
5 Ibid.
6 The Theatre of the Eighth Dqy, np.
MARGARET ARANEO has been the Managing Editor of Slavic and East
European Performance since 2005. She teaches in the Drama Department of
New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and conducts theatre-related
workshops at The Cooper Union. She holds a B.A. from Johns Hopkins
University, an M.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University, and is a Ph.D.
candidate in Theatre at the Graduate Center of the City University of New
SETH BAUMRIN is Assistant Professor at John Jay College. He holds a Ph.D.
in Theatre from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, an
M.F.A. in Directing from Brooklyn College, and a B.A. in Theatre from
Hunter College. He is the author of several articles on Jerzy Grotowski and
Eugenio Barba. Baumrin has directed over sixty professional and academic
theatre and opera productions in New York and internationally. He will be
directing II Furioso: The Birth of Modern Justice (a dual language adaptation of
Aeschylus' Eumemdes) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice scheduled for
November 2009.
KEVIN BYRNE is a doctoral candidate at the Graduate Center of the City
University of New York. His dissertation focuses on U.S. blackface and
minstrel performance in the 1920s. His last article for SEEP was a review of
Peca Bucharest Calling and The Sunshine Plqy.
ALLEN ]. KUHARSKI is chair of the Department of Theatre at
Swarthmore College. His articles, reviews, and translations have been widely
published in the U.S., Great Britain, Poland, France, and the Netherlands.
He is a co-editor of the sixteen-volume collected works of Polish
playwright Witold Gombrowicz being published by Wydawnictwo
Literackie in Cracow.
ARIEL NERESON recently completed her M.A. in English at the State
University of New York at Buffalo. She now lives in Pittsburgh, PA, where she
is a first-year Ph.D. student in Theatre Arts at the University of Pittsburgh,
with a focus in dramaturgy.
74 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No.2
ROBYN QUICK is Associate Professor and coordinator of the Theatre
Studies track in the Theatre Arts Department at Towson University where she
teaches courses in theatre history and dramaturgy. She holds a Ph.D. in theatre
from the University of Michigan and has published in several journals
including American Theatre.
STEPAN SIMEK teaches theatre at Lewis and Clark College in Portland,
Oregon. His articles on contemporary Czech theatre have appeared in
Theatriforum and in SEEP. His translations of contemporary Czech plays have
been published in various anthologies, and produced in New York and
regional theatres. He holds an M.F.A. in directing from University of
Photo Credits
The Divine Comedy Festival
P. Sieraczynski
Les Kurbas Theatre
Seth Baumrin with the permission of Les Kurbas Theatre
Havel Portrait
Pavel Wellner
Jaroslav Prokop
Yvonne Princesse de Bourgogne
Ruth Wolz.
Horses at the Window
Michal Janicki.
The Files
Polish Cultural Institute and Theatre of the Eighth Day
Witkiewicz: Seven Plavs
Translated and Edited by Daniel Gerould
This volume contains seven of
Witkiewicz's most important
plays: The Pragmatists, Tumor
Brainiowicz, Gyubal Wahazar,
The Anonymous Work, The Cut-
tlefish, Dainty Shapes and Hairy
Apes, and The Beelzebub
Sonata, as well as two of his the-
oretical 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 wi thin 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
Vi sit our website at: http: / / web.gc.cuny.edu/ mestc/ Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 2128171868
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
BliWI 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
$tefan 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, NY10016 4309
Visit our website at: http://web.gc.cuny.edu/mestc/ Contact: mest c@gc.cuny.edu or 212-8171868
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; ExAntwone by Federico 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
hi s liaison with pornographic film star Silvia Kristel, to the
celebration of his novel, The Sorrow of Belgium, Claus has
careened through a career that is both scandal-ridden
and formidable. Claus takes on all the taboos of his times.
Price USSts.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, NY1oo16-4309
Vi sit our website at: http://web.gc.cuny.edu/mestc/ Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212-817-1868