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volume 29, no.

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 Performance: Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The City University of
New York Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309.
Daniel Gerould
Christopher Silsby
Stefanic Jones Donatella Galella
Tori Amoscato
Edwin Wilson, Chair
Marvin Carlson Allen J. Kuharski Martha W Coigney Stuart Liebman
Leo Hecht Laurence Senelick Dasha Krijanskaia Anna Shulgat
SEEP has a liberal reprinting policy. Publications that desire to reproduce
materials that have appeared in SEEP may do so with the following provisions:
a.) permission to reprint the article must be requested from SEEP in writing
before the fact; b.) credit to SEEP must be given in the reprint; c.) two copies
of the publication in which the reprinted material has appeared must be furnished
to SEEP immediately upon publication.
Daniel Gerould
Frank Hentschker
Jan Stenzel
Slavic and East European Performance 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. 3
Editorial Policy
From the Editor
Books Received
'"A Series of Openings': The Year of Grotowski in New York"
Ben Spatz
"Grotowski's Theatre of Sources Expeditions, 1979-1980"
Kermit Dunkelberg
"Replikas of Apoca!Jpsis cum Figuris
and The Constant Pn'nce by the NU Classic Theater"
Margaret Araneo
''A Theatrical Zigzag:
Doctor Dappertutto, Columbine's Veil, and the Grotesque"
Dassia N. Posner
"House of Interludes:
Columbine's Veil"
Doctor Dappertutto 0f sevolod Meyerhold)
''Witkacy 2009, London"
David A. Goldfarb
''A Harmonious Battle of Antitheses:
Peasant Opera by Bela Pinter and Company"
Eugene Brogy:inyi
"Leszek Mll.dzik's Bruzda (Furr01v)"
Stuart Liebman
"The 2009 Gdansk Shakespeare Festival"
Marvin Carlson
4 Slavic and East European Perjom1ance VoL 29, No. 3
Manuscripts in the following categories are solicited: articles of no
more than 2,500 words, performance and ftlm reviews, and bibliographies.
Please bear in mind that all submissions must concern themselves with
contemporary materials on Slavic and East European theatre, drama, and film;
with new approaches to older materials in recently published works; or with
new performances of older plays. In other words, we welcome submissions
reviewing innovative performances of Gogo!, but we cannot use original
articles discussing Gogo! as a playwright.
Although we welcome translations of articles and reviews from
foreign publications, we do require copyright release statements. We will also
gladly publish announcements of special events and anything else that may be
of interest to our cliscipline. All submissions are refereed.
All submissions must be typed double-spaced and carefully proofread.
The Chicago Manual of S!Jie 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 Petjormance, 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 E ast European
Performance by visiting our website at http/ /web.gc.cuny.edu/metsc. E-mail
inquiries may be addressed to SEEP@gc.cuny.edu.
All Journals are available from ProQuest Infor mation and Learning as
abstracts online via ProQuest information service and the
International Index to the Performing Arts.
All Journals are indexed in the MLA International Bibliography and are
members of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.
The fall issue, SEEP, Vol. 29, No.3, corning at the end of the Year of Grotowski
2009, opens with a special section of three articles devoted to the work and
legacy of the great Polish clirector, teacher, and theorist. Ben Spatz surveys all
of the Year of Grotowski events taking place in New York during 2009, with
special attention to the f.t.lms and presentations by Thomas Richards and Mario
Biagini from the Pontedera Workcenter. Continuing his investigation of the
the third phase of Grotowski's work begun in SEEP, Vol. 29, No. 1, Kermit
Dunkel berg looks at the Theatre of Sources Expeditions, 1979-80. Concluding
this section, Margaret Araneo explores the homage of the NU Classic Theater
to Grotowski and Cieslak in Replikas of Apoca!Jpsis cum Figuris and The Constant
Prince. In PAGES FROM THE PAST, Dassia Posner presents her translation
of Meyerhold's libretto for Schnitzler's Columbine's Veil and discusses how as
Doctor Dappertutto he staged the pantomime at the House of Interludes. The
four reviews that complete the fall issue include David Goldfarb's report on
the Witkacy Conference at the University of Westminster, London; Eugene
Brogyanyi's analysis of a Hungarian opera clirected by Bela Pinter at the
Lincoln Center Summer Festival; Stuart Liebman's reflections on Leszek
Mq_dzik's performance in his new theatre piece on the Holocaust; and Marvin
Carlson's account of the productions and theatrical buildings and spaces at
the Shakespeare Festival in Gdansk. With the fall issue, Anna Shulgatt in St.
Petersburg joins the Advisory Board, and a new staff of graduate students
consisting of Christopher Silsby as Managing Editor and Stefanie Jones and
Donatello Galella as Editorial Assistants take up the reins at SEEP. I welcome
them all as we pursue our collective endeavors.
6 Slavic and East European Peiformance VoL 29, No. 3
New York City:
Staged readings of Saviana Stanescu's For a Barbarian Woman, directed
by Paul Bargetto, were presented at the Lark Studio on May 7 and as part of
the undergroundzero festival at P.S. 122 on J uly 18.
UniArt Theatre Company presented The System, written and directed
by Nic Ularu (Romania) at La MaMa from April24 to May 10.
The Dialogue Literary Theater presented And Life and Tears and Love,
based on Pushkin's poetry and novels and the music of Glinka on June 7.
Vakhtangov Theatre School of Drama (Moscow, Russia) performed
Tomorrow There Will Be a UVelr, a stage adaptation of the twentieth-century
Russian novel by Boris Vassiliyev at the Shore front Yon June 21.
The Lincoln Center Festival hosted performances by several European
theatre companies, including:
J6zsef Katona Theatre (Budapest, Hungary) presented Chekhov's
Ivanov, directed by Tamas Ascher at the Gerald W Lynch Theatre from
July 7 to July 11.
Bela Pinter and Company (Budapest, Hungary) performed Peasant
Opera, written and directed by Bela Pinter at the Clark Studio Theater
from July 21 to July 26.
Narodowy Stary Teatr (Cracow, Poland) performed Kalkwerk, by
Thomas Bernhard, directed by Krystian Lupa with music by Jacek
Ostaszewski, at the Gerald W Lynch Theatre from July 14 to July 18.
Gemini Collision Works performed Daniel McKleinfeld 'sA Little Piece
of the Sun: Two True Stories of Mass Murder, a documentary-style play about the
Chernobyl disaster and the serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, directed by Ian W Hill
at The Brick Theater from August 7 to August 30.
The Living Theatre performed a stage reading of No Fellow Traveler,
She, by Osip Brik (Russia), translated by Brian Chadwick, and directed by Judith
Malina at the Living Theatre on August 30.
The Dialogue Literary Theatre presented Russian playwright Irina
Volkovich's Echo of Love, at the Shorefront Yon September 13.
La Mama presented Dqys and Nights: Two Chekhovian Interludes,
adapted and directed by Byungkoo Ahn at The Annex from September 17 to
October 4.
The Lark Play Development Center workshopped and presented
readings of Bulgarian playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil's Agnes Under the Big Top,
A Fairy Tale, on October 29 and 30.
U.S. Regional:
The Royal Opera House Covent Garden performed Giacomo
Puccini's Turandct, directed by Andrei ~ e r b n and conducted by Keri-Lynn
Wilson at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. from May 16 to July 4.
The Subversive Theatre Collective (Buffalo, NY) presented Slawomir
Mrozek's On the Sea, directed by Mark Tattenbaum, as part of the showcase Too
Absurd! at the Manny Fried Playhouse from May 21 to June 7.
The Trap Door Theatre (Chicago, IL) presented Do rota Maslowska's
A Couple of Poor, Polish-Speaking Romanians, directed by Max Truax at Trap Door
Theatre from May 21 to June 27.
8 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
The Polish Cultural Institute in New York and Philadelphia Live
Arts (Philadelphia, PA) presented the Capitol Theatre (Wrodaw) production
of Witold Gombrowicz's Operetta, directed by Michal Zadara at the Wilma
Theatre (Philadelphia) from September 10 to 13.
Teatr Wsp6lczesny (Wrodaw), Teatr Polski (Poznan), TR Warszawa,
Hebbel Theater (Berlin), THEOREM, and European Commission of Culture
presented Sarah Kane's Cleansed, directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski at the
Teatr Wsp6lczesny on June 18 and 19 as part of the World as a Place of Truth
International Theatre Festival (Wrodaw, Poland).
The BITEF International Theatre Festival was hosted in Belgrade,
Serbia, from September 15 to 24. Performances included:
The Serbian National Theatre (Novi Sad, Serbia) performed Milena
Markovic's The Doli Ship, directed by Ana Tomoviea at the Sava Centre
on September 18 and 19.
Yugoslav Drama Theatre (Belgrade, Serbia) presented Robert Musil's
Dreamers, directed and adapted by Milos Lolic at Bojan Stupica Stage
on September 20.
The Shadow Casters (Zagreb, Croatia) performed Vacation from
History, written and directed by Boris Bakal and Katarina Pejovic
at Cvijeta Zuzoric Pavilion from September 20 to 21. The Shadow
Casters also performed Vacation from !-!is tory as part of Perforations, a
showcase of performing arts (Dubrovnik, Croatia) at Cinema Mosor
on September 29.
4+4 DAYS IN MOTION 14th International Theatre Festival was
hosted in Prague, Czech Republic from October 9 to 16. Performances
Teatr Cinema (Poland) performed a Polish work, Krritka historia kroku
marszowego (Fragments from a Lovels Discourse) , directed by Zbigniew Szumski at
La Fabrika on October 11.
Jan Mancuska (Slovakia) performed The Invisible: Acting in Sequences at
the building of the former Federal Assembly on October 16.
New York City:
As part of Ostrava in New York festival, celebrating the Czech city of
Ostrava, Bohemian National Hall presented:
Sfunefni stcit aneb hrdinove dflnicki tficfy (The City of the Sun), directed by
Martin Sulik (Slovakia), 2005, screened on May 5.
Kolik pfipehU md den (How Matry Stories Has One Day), directed by
Vladimir Mraz, 2008, screened on May 13.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music screened Markita Lazarovd, directed
by Frantisek Vlacil, 1967, at the BAMCinematek on June 29.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center presented Revisiting Tarkovsft:y, an
eight-film series showcasing the work of Andrei Tarkovsky, from July 7 to July
14. Screenings included:
Meeting Andrei directed by Dmitry Tarkovsky, 2008, from
July 7 to 14.
Andrei Rublev, 1966/69, on July 8.
Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
Ivan's Childhood, aka lt{y Name is Ivan, 1962, on July 7 and July 11.
The Mirror, 1975, on July 9 and July 10.
Nostalghia, 1983, on July 12 and July 13.
The Sacrifice, 1986, onJuly 13 and July 14.
So/aris, 1972, on July 9 and July 10.
Stalker, 1979, on July 9,July 11 and July 12.
The New York Film Festival, at Lincoln Center from September 25 to
October 11, included:
Police, Adjective, by Corneliu Porumboiu on September 26.
Sweet Rush, directed by Andrzej Wajda, based on the story Tatarak by
Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, on October 2.
U.S. Regional:
The South-East European Film Festival ran April30 to May 3 at the
Goethe Institute, Los Angeles. Films screened included:
Iza stakla (Behind the Glass), directed by Zrinko Ogrest, Croatia.
Razvod po albanski (Divorce Albanian Sryle), directed by Adela Peeva,
Panjpun olova (Bad Bqy Blues), directed by Branko Schmidt, Croatia.
Pisanata bulka (The Painted Bride), directed by Veselka Toncheva,
Forgotten Voices, directed by Jennifer Rawlings, USA/Bosnia
Djjagnoza S.B.J-l (Diagnosis S.B.I-l), directed by Enes Zlatar, Bosnia-
Na kruja tune/a (Tunnel's End), directed by Monica Lleo, Bosnia-
Cetvrti covek (The Fourth Man), directed by Dejan Zecevic, Serbia.
Dvije vile (Two Fairies), directed by Jadranko Lopatic and Miroslav K.lari,
Balkan Express-Riickkehr nach Europa: Mazedonien-Der Kriegder nicht
stattfand (Balkan Express-Macedonian Wedding), directed by Peter
Beringer, Austria.
Unplugged, directed by Stjepan Mihaljevic, Croatia.
Odaat (The Other Side), directed by Peter Szalay, Hungary.
Petelinji zqjtrk (Rooster's directed by Marko Nabersnik,
Megatron, directed by Marian Crisan, Romania.
Elevatorul (Elevator), directed by George Dorobantu, Romania.
The 12th United Nations Association Film Festival screened Vitqte v
.KLDR! (Welcome to North Korealj directed by Linda Jablonski (Czech Republic),
2008, in Palo Alto, CA at the Aquarius Theatre on October 20.
The San Francisco Film Society screened the Russian fUm Ischeznuvshqya
imperfya (The Vanished Empire), 2008, directed by Karen Shakhnazarov, at the
Sundance Kabuki Cinemas from October 23 tO October 29.
12 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol 29, No. 3
The Polish Film Season was held at The Prince Charles Cinema in
London, UK from July 15 to July 27. Films screened included:
King Size, directed by Juliusz Machulski, 1987.
Tricks, directed by Andrzej Jakimowski, 2007.
The Portobello Film Festival's evening of Russian films was held
at Westbourne Studios in London, UK on September 15. Film screenings
A retrospective of films by Irina Evteeva, including: Elixir (1995);
Horse, Violin and a bit of Nerve (1991); Clown (2002); and Petersburg
Chagall's Passions, directed by Andrey Melnikov, 2007.
Little Vasilisa, directed by Darina Shmidt, 2007.
The State, Mikhail Morskov, 2007.
Matasonic, directed by Alexey Chizhov, 2007.
Resurrection, directed by Petr Zabelin, 2007.
Onego Dream, directed by Alexander Strelets, 2008.
The Polish Cultural Institute presented Surrealist Visions of Wojciech
Has at The Barbican, London, UK, from October 1 to October 25.
The Academia Rossica hosted Russian Film Festival 3 in London, UK
from October 30 to November 8. The Festival's program included:
Anna Ktzrenina, directed by Sergei Soloviev (Russia), 2009.
ASSA.-2, directed by Sergei Soloviev (Russia), 2009.
Ward 6, directed by Karen Shakhnazarov with the participation of
Alexander Gornovsky (Russia), 2009.
Pete on the Way to Heaven, directed by Nikolay Dostal (Russia), 2008.
Russia 88, directed by Pavel Bardin(Russia), 2009.
Melocfy for a Street Organ, directed by Kira Muratova (Ukraine), 2009.
Paper Soldier, directed by Alexey German,Jr. (Russia), 2008.
The Event, directed by Andrey Eshpay (Russia), 2009.
First Squad, directed by Yoshiharu Ashino, Aljosha Klimov, and Misha
Sprits (Russia,Japan, Canada), 2009.
The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia,
Norwich, UK, exhibited An Impossible Journey: The Art and Theatre of Tadeusz
Kantor from June 2 to August 30.
The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The Graduate Center, CUNY,
hosted a book party celebrating the release of Czech Plqys: Seven New Works, co-
edited by Marcy Arlin, Gwynn MacDonald, and Daniel Gerould (see BOOKS
RECEIVED, p. 16), on June 15. Excerpts from the plays were read by a cast of
New York actors, followed by a discussion of new Czech theatre.
The British Grotowski Project at the University of Kent, UK,
exhibited jerzy Grotowski: Theatre and Beyond at the Battersea Arts Centre,
London, from June 24 to July 7.
14 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
Regula Contra Regulam, directed by Raul Iaiza and Teatro La Madrugada
(Milan, Italy), presented an open working session of their work in collaboration
with the Grotowski Institute (Wrodaw, Poland) in Brzezinka, Poland from
September 5 to September 12.
The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The Graduate Center, CUNY,
hosted a public presentation by Andrei and his Traveling Academy on
October 5.
Grotowski Year Berlin hosted a conference entitled Awakening Practice,
curated by Peter Rose as part of the 2009 UNESCO International Year of
Grotowski in Berlin, Germany, from October 8 to October 11.
International University Global Theatre Experience hosted Performer's
Physicaliry in the Methods of Mryerho/d, M. Chekhov, on the principles
of Biomechanics, Psychological Gesture, and Physical Action in Tuscany Italy
from November 5 to November 11.
Compiled by Stefanie Jones and Donatella Galella
Allain, Paul, ed. Grotowski's Empty Room. London: Seagull Books, 2009.
233 pages. Contains ten essays by Eugenio Barba, Marianne Ahrne, Zbigniew
Osinski, Leszek Kolankiewicz, Zdenek Hoi'inek, Franco Ruffini, Ferdinanda
Taviana, Marco De Marinis, and Marc Fumaroli, plus an appendix: Jerzy
Grotowski interviewed by Marianne Ahrne. Includes editorial preface, notes
on the text, notes on contributors, and 17 illustrations.
Arlin, Marcy, Gwynn MacDonald, and Daniel Gerould, eds. Czech Plays:
Seven New Works. New York: Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, 2009. 343 pages.
Contains the plays Miriam by Lenka Lagronov:i, I Promised Fredc!J by Egon
Tobias, Dad Takes Goal Kicks by Jiri Pokorny,Minach by Iva Klestilov:i Vol:inkov:i,
Aquabelles by David Drabek, Opening the Drawer and Pulling Out the Knife by Ivana
Ruzickov:i, and Theremin by Petr Zelenka. Includes foreward, editors' preface,
introduction, production histories, chronology of the New Czech Plays in
Translation staged reading series, selected resources on contemporary Czech
theatre, and 13 photographs of the playwrights and productions.
Chekhov, Anton. Four Plays & Three Jokes. Ed., introduced, and with notes by
Sharon Marie Carnicke. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009. 305 pages. Includes an
introduction, "The Riddle of Chekhov the Playwright," notes, and a selected
bibliography in English.
Kosinski, Dariusz. Grotowski. Przewodnik. Wrodaw: The Grotowski Institute,
2009. 394 pages. A handbook that contains fifteen chapters treating the life
and career of Grotowski in chronological order, a bibliography, source of
photographs, and index of names. Includes several hundred photographs,
drawings, and illustrations.
Lubieniewska, Ewa. Czysta Forma i Bebecf?y. Cracow: Universitas, 2007.
281 pages. A study of the theatrical theory and practice of Stanislaw Ignacy
Witkiewicz. Contains 13 chapters and an index of names.
16 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
Mazierska, Ewa. Masculinities in Polish, Czech, and Slovak Cinema: Black Peters and
Men of Marble. New York: Berghahn Books, 2008. 249 pages. Contains an
introduction, 5 chapters, and a conclusion. Includes a bibliography, index, and
30 black-and-white pictures.
~ e r b a n Andrei. Cafatoriile me/e. A{y Journrys. Bucharest: Institutul Cultural
Roman, 2008. Tr. Julian and Laura Semilian. Editor, Joana Radu. Vol. I, Teatru.
Theatre. 215 pages. Introduction, "Andrei ~ e r b a n Eternally Young" by George
Banu. Vol. II, Opera. Opera. 159 pages. Includes hundreds of pictures, many in
Witkiewicz, Stanislaw Ignacy. Maciq Korbowa and Bellatrix. Tr. and introduced
by Daniel Gerould. Ashby-dc-la-Louch, UK: InkerMen Press, 2009. The Axis
Series Vol. 9. 105 pages. Includes an introduction and four illustrations.
Ben Spatz
The Year of Grotowski, like the legacy of Grotowski, is a complex
phenomenon with uncertain and in some cases contested boundaries. Its center
of gravity is undoubtedly the series of events organized by the Grotowski
Institute in Wrodaw, Poland; but the program organized in New York by NYU
and the Polish Cultural Institute marks another significant focal point. This
essay presents an overview of New York events, with special attention paid
to the last of these: "Grotowski and his Legacy: A three-day event at Lincoln
Center," which culminated in an open meeting with Thomas Richards and
Mario Biagini of the Workcenter that Grotowski founded in Pontedera, Italy
in 1986.
The diversity of guests invited to participate in the NYU /PCI program
illustrates the complexity of Grotowski's legacy.
They include Grotowski's
deepest and longest-term collaborators alongside those who worked with
him only briefly and some who never met him at all. There were guests from
Poland, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, the United States and elsewhere;
scholars, practitioners, administrators, pedagogues, and several who no longer
work in the arts; people who are used to speaking publicly about Grotowski
and those who had never done so before now; not to mention the differences
between those who encountered Grotowski in his youth and in his old age, as
well as in their own youth or as adults. Overall, one could not have asked for
better representation of the spectrum of Grotowski's work and lasting effects.
Maud Robart was one of the few guests who had her own, separate
event, as opposed to being part of a panel. This was a wise choice, since Robart
began by rejecting the terms of the meeting and initially refused to answer
questions posed by the moderator. In the absence of a talkative panelist, the
event slowly developed into a more informal meeting in which many voices
were heard, including voices from the audience. For those of us who stayed
past the meeting's scheduled end at 9pm, this event became a unique and
unexpected kind of encounter. By 11 pm, the atmosphere had completely
shifted. People were sitting in irregular formations, many on the floor, rather
than in chairs and rows as at the beginning. Robart showed two short films, and
18 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. }
a lively discussion followed. Of all the Year of Grotowski events in New York,
this was the only one after which I felt that those who had attended had been
forged into a community by the experience.
The two films shown were Marc Petitjean's La source du chant (The Source
of the h a n ~ and Michel Boccara's Le silence du chant est un chemin vers /e silence du
caur (The Silence of the Chant Is a Path towards the Silence in the Hearf).
Each was
about twelve minutes long. Robart informed us that both fJ.l.ms documented
past work and should not be confused with her current research. However,
since virtually nothing has been written about Robart's work in English, I will
make a few remarks here on my recollection of the ftlms.
Each film showed Robart at work with a small group of people, in
beautiful spaces with wooden floors. The intensity of the participants' focus
and the evocative qualities of the singing were very striking. There were
undeniable similarities between this work and that which Thomas Richards
leads at the Pontedera Workcenter; as well as significant differences, such as the
presence of choreographed movement ("dance"?) and the absence of anything
resembling a Stanislavskian score of physical actions. Immediately after the
screenings, Richard Schechner remarked that the films had reminded him of
the Workcenter and of Downstairs Action in particular. He went on to suggest
that Robart's influence on Richards and the Workcenter has been seriously
Robart's only response to this was to clarify that she sees
her work as part of a long tradition that cannot be owned by individuals.
The significance of Robart's work should not be overlooked. On the
one hand, even if we are only interested in Grotowski and his legacy, we have
to take Robart's impact on Grotowski and Richards into consideration in order
to understand the genesis of the Workcenter. On the other hand, if we are
really to be respectful of Grotowski's memory, then we must not only study
his own work but also ask the same questions he was asking. In approaching
such questions, we do ourselves a disservice if we do not pay close attention to
Robart's ongoing research-as Grotowski himself did. The same can also be
said for a number of unique artists who were present at the NYU/PCI events:
Rena Mirecka, Ang Gey Pin, James Slowiak, and Jairo Cuesta-just to name a
Nevertheless, the events at Lincoln Center in July were clearly the
culmination of the NYU/PCI program. The first day of screenings covered
Grotowski's early and middle periods: the Theatre of Productions-Acropolis
(1965) and The Constant Prince (1968); and Paratheatre/Theatre of Sources-
With Grotowski: Nienad6wka (1982). I will not describe these here since each
can relatively easily be obtained for private viewing. The films screened on
the second day, however, are unavailable at the present time. These are the
films of the Workcenter, covering the last period of Grotowski's work as well
as the Workcenter's activities since his death: Art as vehicle (1989, a film of
Downstairs Action); ACTION in Aya lrini (2003, a film of Action); and Dies !rae:
The Preposterous Theatrum lnterioris Show (2006).
There is a clear sense of development through these three films,
although it is not simply a linear development. Each documents a different
moment in the research of the Workcenter, which grew out of Grotowski's
lifelong quest to understand the relationship between performance techniques
and human presence, but which has now taken on a life of its own as the
mature work of Thomas Richards and Mario Biagini, Director and Associate
Director of the Workcemer. Visible in the first rwo films is the rigorous use of
performance techniques to realize a profound event of contact between human
beings. Somewhere between a ritual and a performance, what the Workcenter
calls "Art as vehicle" is a truly unique phenomenon.
In what follows, I will
discuss the contents of the films and attempt to situate the Lincoln Center
events in the context of New York City. To begin with, I will describe Art as
vehicle, the 1989 film by Mercedes Gregory that documents the "opus" known
as Doumstairs Action. I have seen this film only twice, since it is not publicly
available, and I never saw the work live since it has not been done since the
early 1990s. Others have had better and more opportunities to study this opus
in detail, but no description of it has yet been published in English.
In Art as vehicle, Richards leads a group of five doers: himself, Mario
Biagini, Piotr Borowski, Nitinchandra Ganatra, and Nitaya Singsengsouvanh.
The work takes place in a small room, the downstairs space of the Pontedera
Workcenter (hence the designation Downstairs Action). The first twenty minutes
of the hour-long film show preparation and a few moments of highly precise
rehearsal. After that, the opus itself is enacted.
Downstairs Action is a work in which song, movement, and action form
a unity- a "totality" in the sense of what Grotowski called the "total act."
The songs, drawn (with some exceptions) from African and Afro-Caribbean
traditions, provide its main structure and the fountain of its force. There are
also several elements that seem to be the remnants of past rituals: texts spoken
20 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
Action in the church of St. John the Baptist in Cappadocia, Turkey (2005)
in English; a walk derived from the Haitian yanvalou; candles, a bowl of water,
rice, a censer. These elements do not carry the life force of the work, which
comes through the songs and in the bodies of the doers themselves. Instead
they frame the work, surrounding it and supporting it psychologically and
semiotically rather than visceraUy.
The immediately striking aspect of Downstairs Action is the utter
devotion and commitment of the doers to each and every action. This is
especially true of Richards, who is plainly at the center of this work-its
unique axis-leading its progress from start to finish. But it also appears
in the others, each of whom comes forth and takes the lead for a moment.
Of these, Singsengsouvanh is the most compelling, as strong a presence as
Richards when she takes the focus. In one fragment, early on, she leaps wildly
through the space like a young girl, with astonishing grace and freedom. In a
later fragment, she sings alone and then to Richards, her voice and presence
utterly that of an old woman in mourning. Both moments are impressive in
their realness and truth. Together, in contrast, within the space of an hour, they
are extraordinary.
Long after seeing the film of Downstairs Action, it is the songs that
linger in one's memory-or rather it is the singing, the intensity and depth
of the songs and their resonance in the bodies of the doers and the space
of the doing. In the vibration of the voices-especially Richards's-there is
something extremely emotional and real, like the voices of people speaking
just after a traumatic experience. But we know that Downstairs Action was
done repeatedly, even daily, over a number of years. It is in no way like the
spontaneous outpouring of feeling that follows a joyful reunion or a deadly
disaster. In Downstairs Action, the doers have managed to capture an enormous
flow of emotionality inside a precisely repeatable structure. In documenting
this, the ftlm Art as vehicle puts forth an irrefutable challenge to the performing
Action is a later opus in ''Art as vehicle," and it is a work of major
significance to me personally. However, since this work is described in detail by
Lisa Wolford in The Grotowski Sourcebook, I will limit myself here to mentioning
just the most salient differences between Downstairs Action and Action as they
are documented in the two fillns shown at Lincoln Center.
To begin with, the
primary axis now exists between Thomas Richards and Mario Biagini rather
than in Richards alone. The alignment of the space has also changed so that
there is a clear "front" and "back"; and a number of guests have been invited
to witness the work. This particular filln shows Action taking place not at the
Workcenter's home base but in the beautiful, vaulted space of the Aya Irini
church in Istanbul.
The quality of energy is different as well. In Downstairs Action one
perceives the burning energy of a group of people who seem to be living out
their whole lives in that small downstairs room. The dynamics of Action are
gentler, more open and subtle, and in some places more theatrical. This is still
not a theatre piece, but it is less wholly a ritual than Downstairs Action. In fact, it
seems to be some kind of bridge or hybrid of the two: a ritual that was made
to be witnessed. Perhaps, as Biagini suggests in his spoken introduction, this is
a new form of art-one that only the twenty-first century has needed.
A third film was also shown. Dies !rae: The Preposterous Theatrum lnterioris
Show Qacques Vetter, 2009) is a performance that grew out of the residency of
Singaporean artist Ang Gey Pin and her company Theatre Ox.
I do not know
much about the details of the residency, but I found the account given by
Richards and Biagini at Lincoln Center somewhat disconcerting. They seemed
to underplay Ang's contribution as an artist in her own right-as opposed
to merely their student-in a way that reminded me uncomfortably of the
22 Slavic and Ea.rt European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
questions Schechner had raised in the meeting with Maud Robart.
In any case, Dies !rae-unlike Downstairs Action and Action--is explicitly
a piece of theatre. As such, I found it to be a provocative but flawed work.
The pacing is relentless, the texts highly abstract and self-referential. Despite
many skillful performances, the piece as a whole does not hold together. Its
composition is clever rather than moving. Dies !rae is significant, however, in
being part of an ongoing attempt by Biagini and Richards tO forge a bridge
between ~ r t as vehicle" and theatrical work proper. It is also particularly
interesting in light of the fact that Biagini's next project-currently titled
Electric Parry or I Am America-is based on the poetry of Alan Ginsberg and
incorporates a range of musical influences from punk to blues to opera.
Equally important to these screenings were the two meetings that
took place that week with Thomas Richards and Mario Biagini: one in Lincoln
Center's classy Kaplan Penthouse, attended by atleast a hundred people, and the
other in a small room at the Italian Cultural Institute on Park Avenue. At both
meetings Richards and Biagini spoke with great energy and warmth, discussing
their work from a range of perspectives that included the artistic, the technical,
and the administrative. In doing so, they revealed a set of assumptions that are
diametrically opposed to those of the theatre industry. Simply put, Richards
and Biagini spoke as if acting were a valid practice in its own right; as if personal
transfor mation through performance were as significant as public showings;
and as if it were possible to conduct an artistic search with total integrity and
no concessions made to commercial pressure. Through these assumptions
they revealed a tremendous sense of digni!J in regard to their work, next to
which a commercial approach to acting looks positively debased.
Hearing Richards and Biagini speak this way was for the most part like
a breath of fresh air. But there were also moments in which the attitude that
I have just characterized as dignified seemed to cross the line into pretension.
I was uneasy to see, for example, how zealous Richards and Biagini were in
distinguishing their work from that of virtually all other artists-while at the
same time taking for granted the respect and interest of the rest of the theatre
world. No one could admire more than I do their devotion to the specificity and
rigor of their craft. At the same time, I have often wished that they could find
a more generous way to speak about the work of others. For if it is useful to
approach ~ r t as vehicle" as something completely unique and incomparable,
then it is also necessary to situate it in relation to other practices, both theatrical
and not. Otherwise we invite many problematic slippages, such as that between
authority and arrogance.
Questions of language- how to speak about the work, especially in
public-are not incidental to an analysis of Grotowski's legacy. Rather, they
are central to this legacy and to the development of the performing arts in
the twenty-first century. One of the things that Grotowski did was to show
that values like authority, hierarchy, and mastery cannot simply be rejected as
part of an ongoing struggle for democracy, secularism, and social justice. In
the performing arts, these seemingly anti-democratic values are essential. It
is likewise essential to find a way to speak about them in public, whether the
language we use to do so is theatrical, spiritual, scientific, or artisan. The fact
is that Grotowski's work has yet to be reconciled- in theory or in practice-
with post-colonial, feminist, and materialist perspectives. The need for such a
reconciliation, whether it takes place over decades or centuries, is part of the
legacy of Grotowski. And these questions only become more urgent when the
work itself is of such ferocious integrity as that of the Workcenter.
At the Italian Cultural Institute meeting, NYU/PCI Associate Curator
Dominika Bennacer remarked that the week's events should be viewed not as
a closing but as a series of openings. Indeed, openings provoked by Grotowski
continue to take place across a profound diversity of cultural and geographical
contexts. From the unique line of the Workcenter to the experimentation
of young ensembles in England, Columbia, Iran, Ghana and elsewhere-
Grotowski's name remains a dynamic force in the performing arts.
1. For detailed information on the NYU/PCI program as well as events in
Poland, England, Germany, Spain, and the United States, please visit <http://www.
urbanresearchtheater.com/ site/ family.htm>.
2. There were also a few "unofficial" events-not part of the NYU/PCI
program-that should nevertheless be counted as part of the Year of Grotowski in
New York. These include a panel discussion on Grotowski and the concept of ~ t as
vehicle" organized by Theatre Group Dzieci; a screening of two fllms on Grotowski
at the Philadelphia Society for Art, Literature and Music; and a performance by Nu
Classic Theater at PS122 that presented "two fragments inspired by and leaning on the
work of Grotowski and his actors." For more information, visit:
<http:/ / dziecitheatre.org/dzftles/ mass2009discussion.html> (accessed 8/30/09);
24 Slavic and East European Peiformance VoL 29, No. 3
<hup:/ /www.grotowski-psalm.org/> (accessed 8/30/09); and <http://www.
collectiveunconsciousnyc.org/ugz/replikas-of-apocalypsis/> (accessed 8/30/09).
3. I am currently looking for copies of these two films (I do not know their
publication dates) and would appreciate being contacted by anyone who has access to
4. Robart led one of two working groups in Pontedera for several years, until
funding cuts required a major reduction in staff. However, no work in English discusses
Robart's relationship with Grocowski and/or Richards in any depth.
5. For more information about "Art as vehicle," see Richard Schechner and
Lisa Wolford, The Grotowski Sourcebook (Routledge: 2001); TDR 52.2 (Summer 2008);
and Ben Spatz, "To Open a Person: Song and Encounter at Gardzienice and the
Workcenter" in Theatre Topics 18.2 (September 2008).
6. ACJJON in Aya lrini was fillned by Jacques Vetter of Atelier Cinema
de Normandie- A.C.C.A.A.N. The doers of Action in this film are Thomas Richards,
Mario Biagini, Marie de Clerck, Souphiene Amiar, Francese Torrent Gironella, and
j0rn Riegels Wimpel. (This team has changed over time, as a comparison with Lisa
Wolford's description in The Grotowski Sourcebook makes clear.)
7. For more on the development of One Breath Left and Dies !rae, including
photographs and a review of critical responses in Singapore, see Claudia Tatinge
Nascimento, Crossing Cultural Borders Through the Actor's Work: Foreign Bodies of Knowledge
(Routledge: 2009): 42-50 and passim. This book contains a valuable account of Ang
Gey Pin's "atypical professional trajectory" (63) and her work with Grotowski, Biagini,
and Richards.
8. Workcenter press release via email, August 28, 2009.
Kermit Dunkelberg
The participants of the Theatre of Sources are people from different continents, cultures, and
traditions. The Theatre of Sources is devoted to those activities which lead us back to the
source of life, to direct primary perception.
Jerzy Grotowski
Jerzy Grotowski's Theatre of Sources project can be divided into five
distinct periods: the first period of "hidden" work, at Brzezinka from 1976
to 1979; the international "expeditions" in August of 1979 and the winter of
1980; the opening to outsiders in the summer of 1980; work in Polish villages
in 1981 (prior to the declaration of martial law); a fmal period of closed work
with a small international team (after the declaration of martial law) at the
theatre space in Wrodaw; and in Umbria, Italy in 1982 (with a short trip back
to Poland, during which it was determined that it was not possible to continue
even closed work under the conditions of martiallaw).
In an earlier article, I
discussed the individual source techniques developed during what I termed the
"hidden work" of the flrst part of Theatre of Sources (1976-1979).
I argued
that this first period of "hidden" work was generative of all the later phases
of Theatre of Sources, as well as much of Grotowski's later research. But the
international expeditions were also important. At the time, they represented an
opening and verification of the individual source techniques, in new environs. In
retrospect, the expeditions demonstrate the growing intercultural commitment
that would characterize Grotowski's subsequent phases of research.
The expeditions were not part of the originally announced program
of Theatre of Sources, and were possible only due to new sources of
international funding.
This level of international support was one feature
which distinguished Theatre of Sources from all of Grotowski's previous
periods of work. It made possible the global scope of the project, and set
important fiscal and organizational precedents for Objective Drama and Art
as vehicle. But the nature of the work differed from that of the later projects,
particularly Objective Drama. The primary goal was not to "study specific
source techniques," as Robert Findlay and others assumed (or, perhaps, were
26 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 3
Jerzy Grotowski
led to believe).
Rather, it was to test the personal techniques developed in
Poland in the "charged" spaces of the host country. To repeat: the primary
contact sought was with landscapes, not with people. Contact with traditional
practitioners and their techniques was secondary to the objective of testing the
personal techniques in new environments. Moreover, traditional practitioners
were not called upon to teach techniques, since:
representatives of traditional cultures are often uneasy speaking of
something which they consider to be a personal secret or traditional
mysteries [sic]. So much the more it cannot be required of them that
they teach traditional techniques. It takes almost a whole lifetime to
learn a traditional technique.
The goal of the Theatre of Sources expeditions was to test "source techniques"
(whether traditional or personal) in the environment of traditional practice.
Grotowski deliberately revealed little about the expeditions. My
intention here, after presenting the itinerary and personnel, is to give a brief
overview of the unique character of each expedition, drawing on research for
my recently completed doctoral dissertation, "Grotowski and North American
Theatre: Translation, Transmission, Dissemination."
The itinerary and personnel of the expeditions appears here in
English for the first time:
Haiti,July 20-August 8, 1979
Jerzy Grotowski (Poland); Zbigniew (Teo) Spychalski
(Poland); Dominique Gerard (France); Franc;ois Kahn
(France); Elizabeth Havard (USA); Jairo Cuesta (Colombia);
Stefano Vorcelli (Italy)
Nigeria, August 9-15, 19 79
Grotowski; Eliczer Cadet (Haiti)
Bia!Jstok Region of Poland, August 22-25, 1979
Grotowski; Spychalski; Jacek Zmyslowski (Poland); Gerard;
Kahn; Havard; Vorcelli
Mexico,January 1-February 1, 1980
Grotowski; Spychalski; Zmyslowski; Gerard; Kahn; Havard;
Jairo Cuesta, Zbigniew Kozlowski; Micado Cadet (Haiti)
Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
India, February 2-25, 1980
Grotowski; Marek Musial (Poland); Pierre Guicheney
(France) ; Fran<_rois Liege (France) ; Micado Cadet; Katherina
Seyferth (Germany)
The international team traveling from Poland had been recruited
during various paratheatre projects. For instance, Havard (the only North
American) had been working in the "international studio" of Spychalski during
paratheatre, participating in the paratheatrical projects "Song of Myself"
during the 1975 Institute for International Research, "Openings" in France
and Poland in 1976, and paratheatre workshops with Spychalski in Canada and
Oregon in 1977. Cuesta was recruited to work with Grotowski during the large
para theatre project in La Tenaille, France in 1976. He participated in the earliest
versions of the work that became Theatre of Sources, before joining Jacek
Zmyslowski's team for the paratheatrical masterwork "Vigil" from 1977 to
Grotowski had intended for Jacek Zmyslowski to be a key collaborator
in Theatre of Sources but Zmyslowski's illness prevented this.
In Haiti, Mexico, and India, the team was also joined by participants
from the host country. These were usually of three distinct groups: students or
theatre artists from the cosmopolitan urban centers, people from local villages,
and traditional practitioners. Several participants from Haiti, Mexico, and India
were invited to Poland for further work. Micado and Eliezer Cadet-traditional
voudoun practitioners whom Grotowski met in Haiti-were exceptional in that
they participated in "expeditions" to other countries as well as to Poland.
Theatre of Sources in Haiti
Each Theatre of Sources expedition had a unique character. According
to Spychalski, "the Expedition to Haiti was of a visiting character, not so much
... elaborating anything for Theatre of Sources ... [as] gathering experiences."
The team spent most of their time near Port-au-Prince, with the group Saint-
Grotowski had learned of Saint-Soleil from the writings of Andre
Malraux and from the filmmaker Jean-Marie Drot.
Grotowski flrst visited
Haiti in 1977 and met Saint-Soleil on their home ground a year later. Maud
Robart recalls of this meeting:
When he came to us for the first time, I had never heard of him, and
I knew nothing about his activities and research ... At that moment I
chose to work with the man, and not with an icon, and that led to the
naturalness of our relationship during all my collaboration with him
up to 1993.0
Robart and her then-husband Tiga Oean-Claude Garoute), a painter,
founded Saint-Solei! in 1974 near Port-au-Prince. Saint-Soleil's practice
consisted of a search for the sources of creative expression through art,
including the ritual arts of dance/song related to voudoun:
In the 1970s, the Saint Soleil movement tried to overcome what was
then the decade-long stagnation in which Haitian painting found
itself, by proposing to rehabilitate the artistic process and above all to
unblock the people and their creativity.
Robart and Tiga (cosmopolitan artists rather than traditional voudoun
practitioners) purchased land in the mountains of Haiti and distributed art
materials to rural people with no artistic training. According to Robart:
Tiga's method consisted of giving the artists no technical advice at all
in order to allow them to become aware, on their own, of the act of
creation, each according to his own rhythm and through totally free
This was also a kind of "personal source technique," but as much within
the realm of avant-garde art as within the realm of voudoun. In the opening
of Theatre of Sources in 1980, many of the five-day guests from abroad
remembered their work with Saint-Solei! with particular intensity and emotion.
In contrast to later expeditions, Spychalski recalls that the team did
not practice their personal source techniques in Haiti at all, although they did
practice "short personal songs made up of fragments of The Gospel of Thomas,
which we had prepared before, while still in Wrodaw and Brzezinka during the
Spring of 1979." Toward the end of their stay, members of the team traveled
tO the north of Haiti for work with Eliezer and Micado Cadet. Eliezer- a
voudoun priest, the father of Micado, and one of Maud and Tiga's teachers-
30 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
was highly regarded by Grotowski. Spychalski recalls that:
He was considered, if not a priest, at least a Wise Man by Grotowski
. . . We followed Mr. Eliezer's wishes and tried not to make him
nervous or angry by our behavior. He was a truly interesting and
fascinating old (about 65, I suppose) man, full of strange reactions
and sometimes capricious acting. But very tender and really deep in
his perception of people around him.
Theatre of Sources in Nigeria
Little information is available about Eliezer Cadet's expedition with
Grotowski to Nigeria. Landing in Lagos, they proceeded to Oshogbo and
He. The expedition is significant in light of Grotowski's awakening interest in
Haitian voudoun and its African antecedents. In his essay "Tu es le fiLs de quelqu'un
(You Are Someone's Son)," Grotowski mentioned "the voodoo of the Yoruba
in Africa," along with other African techniques and "even ... certain techniques
practiced [by the Bauls] in India" as being "extremely sophisticated," so that
"one cannot bring from it an instrument which is simple." In contrast, "with
the derivatives of traditions" in the Caribbean and Hai ti, (and specifically in the
Haitian yanvalou), Grotowski argued, "we are truly in the presence of something
which we can master artistically, really as an element of dance and song."
concern with the discovery of a "simple instrument" (ayantra), is characteristic
of Objective Drama, not Theatre of Sources. However, it seems likely that
in this passage Grotowski was partly extrapolating from his experiences with
Cadet in Nigeria, drawing new conclusions for Objective Drama from his prior
research in Theatre of Sources.
Theatre of Sources in Bialystok
The expedition to Bialystok was an attempt to confront an indigenous
Polish example of a "possession cult,"
or what in the United States may
be called a "charismatic" religious tradition. Grotowski had read about the
survival of a small community of Pentecostals near the village of Wierszalin
in the monograph Wierszalin: Reportaz z korica fwiata, ( Wierszalin: Report from the
End of the Worla), by Wlodzimierz Pawluczuk. The Pentecostals in Bialystok
constituted a minority within a minority: an evangelical Protestant sect in a
predominantly Catholic country. Under communism, they were required to
affiliate with larger evangelical denominations, but they preserved elements of
their charismatic worship traditions. Spychalski recalls attending a Pentecostal
church service during which the "loud common prayer" had "particular
strength." The Theatre of Sources team's encounters with the Pentecostal
community had to be kept secretive, as the church was suspicious of contacts
from the outside.
Little if anything seems to have been carried on from the
Bialystok expedition into future Theatre of Sources work. But as a Protestant
source with North American roots, it is an interesting precursor to James
Slowiak's work on Shaker Songs, under Grotowsk.i's direction, in Objective
Theatre of Sources in Mexico
Theatre Sources in Mexico consisted of a selection process in Mexico
City and the Hidalgo region; two weeks among the Huichol Indians in the rural
Sierra Mountains; and two public conferences in Mexico City, one before and
one after the Sierra expedition. The project came about due to the invitation
of Nicolas Nunez, a Mexican theatre director who had participated in the
paratheatre project Tree of People in Wrodaw in 1979. Nunez had founded the
Taller de Investigaci6n Teatral (Theatre Research Workshop) in 1974 in a quest
to discover a Mexican approach to acting, grounded in an investigation of pre-
Columbian sources. Nunez describes his search as "not ... an archeological
return to our origins, but getting back in touch with our essential vitality."
Grotowsk.i always emphasized that his interest in the Huichol region
was to concentrate on "psycho-ecological aspects of Huichol culture: the
notion of 'sacred, charged spots,"' and on the performative possibilities related
to these kinds of places.
But when he explained to the local Huichol governor that they had
come "to make contact with the earth, stones and trees," misunderstandings
arose. The natural resources of the Huichol area had often been exploited
by oil corporations, mining firms, and timber companies. Asked to display
their permit for such investigations, Grotowsk.i replied that only the Huichol
community could offer them permission to conduct their pilgrimage, and if
it was refused, the group would return to Mexico City. Through a complex
linguistic negotiation (Grotowsk.i spoke in French, Cuesta translated into
Spanish, the local school teacher into Huichol), an agreement was reached.
Grotowsk.i's team could proceed with their project, provided they pay a small
32 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol 29, No. 3
sum for the benefit of the community, that they use no cameras or other
recording equipment (they had none), and that two young Huichols be assigned
to monitor their activities.
On the San Andres plateau, the first assignment to the group--as in
Brzezinka- was for each to find their special place of work. After a couple of
days, each took Grotowski to show the place they had chosen, accompanied by
one of the Huichol monitors. Cuesta recalls:
When I arrived to [my] place, I felt received, I felt well, I felt healthy.
I felt that my work would make a big jump in this place. I came back
very happy and said to Grot, "I found the place! I found the place!"
He came with me and he, too, was very touched by the place.
The guide, Refugio Gonzilez, expressed surprise that Cuesta, Spychalski,
and Kahn had all chosen important, yet unmarked, Huichol ritual sites.
The Theatre of Sources team took their discovery of these sacred places as
confirmation of their opening to the "currents" of the environment. Intrigued,
Gonzalez began to work alongside them, rather than observing. Later, he was
invited to Poland as a member of the Theatre of Sources team.
For the next few days, each member of the core group shared his/ her
personal techniques-running, walking, The Motions, etc.- with each of the
participants from Mexico City, until each had practiced all the techniques. This
was a way for Grotowski to "[test] his own group and the Mexican group" in a
process of dual verification and challenge.
According to Nunez:
The most important thing in this work was the sediment which
formed in each person. The essential content will never, in terms of
communication, find the path of explanation or description ... What
we can say is that the exercises, perfectly defined, require a complete
surrendering of the body, since only by going beyond its limits (as
anyone who was there could confirm) can we receive an orgamc
knowledge of which we are unaware in our current state.
In addition to working in the "charged" spaces of the sacralized
Huichol environment, the Theatre of Sources team was attentive to what Marcel
Mauss has termed the "daily, habitual techniques of the body."
Neither the
social rituals nor the formal sacred rituals of the Huichol interested them, but
rather a particular way of walking in relation to their deified landscape: "The
Huichols speak about the presence of the gods," says Jaime Soriano. "In fact
you can see them in the way they walk, and how they are in the night. That was
very interesting for Grotowski. Not ritual ... He was not looking for ritual."
Theatre of Sources in India
In Bengal, Grotowski collaborated with the Living Theatre of
Calcutta-a political street theatre group----as well as Chitrabandi, a center
for social communication studies in Calcutta. After a selection workshop
in Calcutta, work was conducted in rural Bengal, including traditional Baul
singers Gour Khepa, Chhayarani Dasi, and her father Ramananda Das Baul, "a
present-day legend among the Bauls."
Chitrabandi's Studies Coordinator, Deepak Majumdar, told a Calcutta
newspaper that Grotowski was "intensely interested in studying rituals,
customs, music, meetings, postures of people and man's relationship to the
environment.'m Grotowski's emphasis on contact with the environment comes
through even in Rustom Bharucha's skeptical account of Theatre of Sources in
India (based on interviews with participants). Bharucha speaks of:
those inevitable sojourns in secluded areas, where your associates
guided the Bengali actors to see their own landscape. Look at the
river, see how the water flows. Listen to the leaves. Don't throw the
matchstick on the ground-the grass is holy.
In my previous article, I suggested that Theatre of Sources represents
an even greater watershed in Grotowski's work than his break from Theatre of
Productions, since "the search for the 'primordial dramatic phenomenon' was
the beginning of the road to Performer.''
I was writing of the first, "hidden"
phase of work at Brzezinka and in Wrodaw. The expeditions represent a
watershed of a different sort, when the personnel, itinerary, and even funding
of Grotowski's research reflected for the first time its truly intercultural, global
basis. But it is important tO understand that the goal of the expeditions was not
to learn traditional techniques, but to work, alongside experienced traditional
practitioners, in the "charged" spaces of carefully chosen, hidden places in the
34 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 3
1. Jerzy Grotowski, "Wandering Toward Theatre of Sources," Dialectics and
Humanism, no. 2 (1980): 19.
2. For a reliable account of the opening of Theatre of Sources, see Ronald
Grimes, "The Theatre of Sources," The Drama Review 35, no. 3 (Fall 1981): 67-74.
Reprint: Lisa Wolford and Richard Schechner, The GrotOJvski Sourcebook (London and
New York: Routledge, 1997), 269-280.
3. Kermit Dunkelberg, "The Hidden Work of Grotowski's Theatre of
Sources," Slavic and East European Performance journa/29, no. 1 (Winter 2009): 21-31.
4. Jerzy Grotowski, "The Art of the Beginner," International Theatre Information
(1978): 7-1 1. Jerzy Grotowski, "Jerzy Grotowski on the Theatre of Sources," The Theatre
in Poland/ Le Theatre en Pologne 11, no. 255 (1979): 24. The expeditions to Haiti, Nigeria,
and India were funded in part by the Rockefeller Foundation; the work in Mexico by the
National University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Theater Research Center of I'vfilan.
Due to the complicated political and economic situation in Poland, the RockefeUer
money was channeled through Andre Gregory's The Manhattan Project in New York
(Andre Gregory, interview with the author, Truro, MA; September 10, 2004).
5. Robert Findlay, "A Necessary Afterword," in Grotowski and His Laboratory,
by Zbigniew Osiriski, trans. and abr. Lillian Vallee and Robert Findlay (New York: PAJ
Publications, 1986), 171.
6. Grotowski 1980, 20.
7. Kermit Dunkelberg, "Jerzy Grotowski and North American Theatre:
Translation, Transmission, Dissemination" (PhD diss., New York University, 2008) .
8. Robert Rozycki, editor, "Wyprawy Terenowe Teatru Zrodel:," excerpted
and edited from Leszek Kolankiewicz, "Poszukiwania etnologiczne wspolczesnej
awangardy teatralnej" (PhD diss.), Notatnik Teatralf!Y, no. 4 (1992), 142-57; Zbigniew
Osinski, W y s t ~ p y Go5cinne Teatru Laboratorium 1959-1984, Kronika Dzialalnosci
1978-1984," Pamitnik Teatrai'!J 49, no. 1-4 (2000): 627-90. Rozycki gives the starting
date of the Haiti expedition as July 18, Osinski as July 20. Neither lists Micado Cadet
as participating in Mexico, but both Jairo Cuesta and Pablo Jimenez have confirmed
that he was there.
9. Elizabeth Havard, e-mail message to author, November 11, 2002; Jairo
Cuesta, interview with author, Olszryn, Poland, August 20-21, 2003.
10. Zmyslowski, who had led the paratheatre projects "The Mountain
Project" and "Vigil" from 1976 to 1978, became iU after the Haiti expedition and was
diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. After the Mexico expedition, Zmyslowski went to
New York Ciry for medical treatment. He died on February 4, 1982. Grotowski was
profoundly affected by the death of Zmyslowski, whom he considered "the most
capable of my co-workers of the younger generation," of whom he often thought of
as "a successor." Grotowski, cited in Osinski 2000, 673. See also James Slowiak and
Jairo Cuesta,}e'iJ Grototvski (New York and London: Routledge, 2007), 46.
11. Zbigniev: Spychalski, e-mail message to author, January 4, 2005.
12. Drot's 1972 documentary Grotowski: Socrate est-il Polonais? (Grotowski: Wcls
Socrates a Pole?) was shown at the Festival Mondial du Theatre of Nancy in 1977, when
Saint-Solei! appeared live at the festival. Drot had filmed the group in action for a
popular French television series, Malraux and the Arts of the World. Malraux's 1976 book
La Metamorphose de Dieux: L'lntemporel contains a chapter on Saint-Soleil, emphasizing
the incorporation of voudoun trance techniques into a free painting practice.
13. Maud Robart, "Maud Robart" (Interview with Lilia Ruocco). In Ludwik
Flaszen, et al., Grot01vski: Testimonios (Bogota, Italy, 2000), 50-51. English translation
by University of Massachusetts Translation Center. Since 1994, Robart has continued
to lead investigations into the performative techniques associated with Afro-Haitian
traditional songs and dance, primarily in Europe, including her own space in France.
Just as Sa.int-Soleil's work was not easily categorized as theatre, dance, visual art, or
ritual; Robart's current investigations remain on the borders of performing and ritual
14. Nicoletta Marchiori, "Tra Arte Rituale 3 Pedagogia Deil'Attore: II Canto
Tradizionale Ha.itiano Nella Pratica Di Maud Robart," Culture Teatrali, no. 5 (2001): 70.
English translation by University of Massachusetts Translation Center. Several painters
from Sa.int-Soleil went on to achieve international recognition, including Tiga, Levoy
Exil, and Dieuseul Paul.
15. Robart, 49.
16. Marianne Ahrne, "Ougou Fera.iile," Avenryr, 1/ingslag (Stockholm, Sweden:
Norstedts, 1992), 95-100. Ronald Grimes, "The Theatre of Sources," TDR 35, no. 3
(Fall 1981): 67-74. Reprint: Wolford and Schechner, 269-280. Peter Rose, interview
with author, Wrodaw, Poland; October 17 and 18, 2003. Kevin Kuhlke, interview with
author, New York City; April16, 2004.
17. Spychalski, e-mail message to author, January 4, 2005.
18. Jerzy Grotowski in Wolford and Schechner, 297. The Sourcebook edition,
translated by James Slowiak, differs in several respects from the version published in
TDR in 1987, translated by Jacques Chwat. I have re-inserted the phrase "by the Bauls,"
which appears in the TDR version.
19. R6iycki, 150.
20. Spychalski, e-mail message to author, August 30, 2004.
21. In the early twentieth century, North American Pentecostals sent
missionaries to Saint Petersburg, Russia, establishing a mission in 1913. During the
Revolution, some of these Russian Pentecostals escaped to Poland. I am not suggesting
any methodological connection between the Theatre of Sources research in Bialystok
and Slowiak's research in Objective Drama.
Slavic and East European Performance 1'01. 29, No. 3
22. Nicolas Nunez, Anthropocosmic Theatre: Rite in the PJnamics of Theatre, trans.
and ed. Deborah Middleton. (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1996), 55-
56. See also Deborah K Middleton, "At Play in the Cosmos: The Theatre and Ritual of
Nicolas Nunez," TDR 45, no. 4 (f172) (Winter 2001): 42-63.
23. Jerzy Grotowski, in Wolford and Schechner, 267. For Grotowski's
statements in a press conference in Mexico City prior to the team's departure for the
Sierras, see Nuiiez 1996, 58. Grotowski's emphasis on the investigation of "charged"
sacred spaces is confirmed by the testimony of four participants: Cuesta, 2003; Pablo
Jimenez, "Uno Tlamatinime Llamado Gerzy [sic] Grotowski," manuscript, 4 pages,
February 16, 1999. (For Mexican journal Mascara January-April 1999); Nicobis Nunez,
interview with author, Mexico City, Mexico, June 16, 2004; Jaime Soriano, interview
with author, Mexico City, Mexico, June 17, 2004.
24. Nunez 1996, 58-59; Cuesta 2003. The care with which these negotiations
were handled, and Grotowski's stated willingness to return to Mexico City if a
suitable agreement could not be reached, go a long way toward refuting suspicions of
misappropriation or cultural exploitation in the Theatre of Sources expeditions.
25. Cuesta 2003.
26. In her anthropological study of Huichol culture, Peyote Hunt, Barbara
Myerhoff writes that the sacred spaces of the Huichols include "the most minute
geographical features ... caves, groves of trees, water holes, springs, rivers, and rocks,"
and are easily overlooked by outsiders. Barbara G. Myerhoff, Peyote Hunt (Ithaca and
London: Cornell University Press, 1974), 56.
27. Cuesta 2003.
28. Nuiicz 2004.
29. Nunez 1996, 60.
30. Marcel Mauss, "Techniques of the Body," in Beyond the Boc!J Proper: Reading
the Anthropology of Material Ltfe, ed. Margaret Lock and Judith Farquhar (Durham and
London: Duke University Press, 2007), 50-68.
31. Soriano 2004.
32. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, "Advocate of Poor Theatre: Grorowski Visits
Rural Bengal," [n.d., n.p.], 1980 [?]. Archives of Jerzy Grotowski Institute, Wroclaw,
33. Mujumdar, cited in Thakurta. Majumdar was subsequently invited to
Poland, as were Gour Khepa and three members of the Living Theatre of Calcutta:
Abani Bizwas, Prabira Guha, and Ramakrishne Dhara. Of these, Majumdar and Bizwas
worked in Theatre of Sources the longest. Today, Bizwas lead the street theatre group
Mel an Mela, which frequently performs in Italy and Poland.
34. Rustom Bharucha, Theatre and the World Peiformance and the Politics of Culture
(London and New York: Routledge, 1990), 50.
35. Dunkelberg 2009,29.
Margaret Araneo
The Japanese term kuden is generally translated into English as "oral
transmission." &den is at the heart of the relationship between master and
student--or, to put it more precisely, between master and disciple. It has been
used to explain the process by which a medieval Japanese monk transmits his
knowledge to a novitiate or how a martial arts master trains his successor.
Zeami, in his treatises on N6 theatre, makes it essential to the training and mat-
uration of the N6 performer. Attaching kuden to the word oral in its English
translation, however, is inaccurate. &den cannot be tethered to language; it is
not a simple passing of information through speech. &den must be under-
stood as a "secret transmission," one that refuses words, linearity, and form.
This concept of kuden is at the heart of the NU Classic Theater, which
presented its work Replikas of Apoca!Jpsis cum Figuris and The Constant Prince at
New York's undergroundzero festival in July, curated by Paul Bargetto and
produced by East River Commedia in association with Collective Unconsious.
The actors, most of whom are graduates of Columbia University's MFA
program in Acting, train regularly with their director and former teacher,
Niky Wolcz, Professor of Acting at Columbia University. Wolcz's system of
training asks the actors to work with a collection of exercises that explore
the performance theories of masters such as Etienne Decroux, Vsevolod
Meyerhold, and Jerzy Grotowski. The training is extremely physical, offering
the actors an alternative to the psychologically based approaches found in many
U.S. training programs. It requires the performers to have a strong awareness
of their bodies as unique instruments, something Wolcz sadly admits they are
not often called upon to do in their professional work. Wolcz's relationship
to his actors is marked by a constant process of transmission-transmission
of knowledge, of inspiration, and of the rich history of theatrical practice of
which they are a part. The training then becomes an accumulation of concepts,
techniques, and direct experiences. What results is a group that performs with
full respect for theatrical tradition-their bodies on stage a palimpsest of
38 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
NU Classic Theater, "The Fool" etude
in Replileas of Apoca!Jpsis cum Figuris and The Constant Prince
Western theatre aesthetics.
Th.is exchange with a living tradition of the theatre grounds Replikas
of Apoca!Jpsis cum Figuris and The Constant Prince, a proj ect first conceived by
Wolcz for use in a presentation on actor training given at Berlin's Freie
Universitat in 2006. The piece is part confrontation, part exchange between
the young artists of the NU Classic Theater and three theatrical masters-
Jerzy Grotowski, Vsevolod Meyerhold, and Ryszard Cieslak. The legacies of
the masters are engaged through specific instances of their work: Grotowski
through Apoca!Jpsis cum Figuris (1969), wh.ich was the last professional project
directed by Grotowski; Meyerhold through h.is Biomechanics etude, "The
Fool," wh.ich he used as a prelude to h.is staging of Calderon de la Barca's The
Constant Prince in 1912; and Cie5lak through h.is legendary performance as the
martyred Ferdinand in Grotowski's production of The Constant Prince (1967).
The word Replikas in the title of the NU Theater's project should
not indicate in any way that the piece is an attempt to recreate the original
material. The performers-Laura Butler, Jon Froehlich, San am Erfani, Susan
Hyon, Daniel Irizarry, Kyle Knauf, David Skeist, and Isaac Woofter-instead
enter the space with the objective of engaging in a silent exchange with these
key figures in theatre history and their transformative theoretical ideas. For
Wolcz, the art of acting opens the path to remembering even what one has
not directly experienced. Wolcz explains that an actor, through the acquisition
of a technique can eventually earn the right to say, "I was not there, but I
remember." Knowledge lives inside the technique. Training, for Wolcz and
his actors, becomes a form of remembering while simultaneously offering a
completely new act of creation: the coexistence of past and present. Instead
of attempting to reproduce the work of their masters, the actors, according to
Wolcz, create their own work "under the influence" of their absent teachers.
Grotowski's production of Apoca!Jpsis cum Figuris, inspired by Albrecht
Durer's woodcut series of the same name, incorporated biblical texts along with
the work of T.S. Eliot, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Simone Weil in order to crack
open violently the Christian myth of sacrifice and salvation. Working "under
the influence" of this first production, the NU Classic Theatre began not with
Durer's imagery but with that of Paul Klee in his well-known line drawings
of angels. What results is a series of dialogues in which seven monks and
nuns, suffering from their individual crises of faith, confront seven of Klee's
angels in order to restore their spirituality and trust in the divine. The angels
appear only as reproductions on foam poster boards that the actors playing
the nuns and monks carry throughout the performance. Each actor, assuming
the role of one of the religious figures, develops his or her own thread of
action using text ranging from Kafka to Lou Reed. Here the autonomy of the
individual artist dances with what Wolcz calls the "master within." The result is
a vibrant production in which the performers live through their roles with rich
physicality and emotional authenticity.
"The Fool," a biomechanics etude by Meyer hold, links Apoca!Jpsis cum
Figuris to The Constant Prince. Meyerhold used this very idea in hi s own staging
of The Constant Prince in 1912. The etude begins with the seven actors from
the Apoca!Jpsis section. As the seven bodies flutter through the space, another
performer is at first almost inconspicuously added. Through the course of
the physical action, this eighth performer takes on the role of Ferdinand, the
central character of The Constant Prince. The etude serves on the narrative level
to reenact the capture of Ferdinand by the Moors, which will mark the start of
his journey toward martyrdom.
Cidlak's work in Grotowski's staging of The Constant Prince is
considered by many to be one of the greatest performances by an actor in
40 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
Laura Butler and Daniel Irizarry, The Constant Prince
in Replikas of Apocafypsis cum Figuris and The Constant Prince
Western theatre. His contorted body captured in still photographs and films
of his performance reveal not only the journey of the character of Ferdinand
but of the actor as well. Cidlak worked with Grotowksi over the course of
several years to build the grueling physical score of the role. The final section
of the Repltkas production, titled The Constant Prince, is a homage to Cieslak.
The last segment of Replikas explores only excerpts of Calderon's
original text of The Constant Prince. The section opens with Daniel Irizarry
as Ferdinand and Laura Butler as Phoenix, the Moorish princess he desires,
engaging in an allegorical love scene. The actors perform entirely in Spanish,
moving through the swift dialogue with a rich vocal style. It is, however, their
physicality that is most striking. Both muscular and lyrical, the dancelike
gestures drive the narrative of frustrated love forward. As the allegory comes
to a close, Phoenix exits, leaving Ferdinand alone in the space. The remainder
of this vibrant piece charts Ferdinand's individual journey toward martyrdom.
Irizarry fills every inch of the stage with his fluid and acrobatic movement. His
rhythm and intensity crescendos to a feverish pitch. Finally he is moved to a
place of personal violence, physically torturing himself as he assumes gestures
of Christ-like persecution. Amidst the storm of emotion and energy on stage,
Irizarry's physical control remains-a testament to his technique
What is so striking and commendable about Irizarry's performance
and Wolcz's direction is that Irizarry never at any point tries to be Cidlak.
There are no citations of Cidlak's choreography. In accordance with kuden
principles, Cieslak is one master to which Irizaary looks and receives. Irizarry's
work is an exploration of his own physicality and artistry in relationship to
the masters that have preceded him. Cieslak is a teacher, an inspiration-a
beginning, not an end.
NU Theater's Replikas of Apoca!Jpsis cum Figuris and The Constant Prince
was an important addition to the undergroundzero festival. It offered New
York audiences a chance to partake in an ongoing conversation between
contemporary theatre artists and the rich performance traditions that have
preceded them. The group's meditation on the work of Meyerhold, Grotowski,
and Cieslak never slipped into cult-like admiration. It always remained grounded
in a respect for the history of performance and a belief in the potential of the
young artist.
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 29, No. 3
Dassia N. Posner
In October 1910, Vsevelod Meyerhold, J\iikhail Kuzmin, and
Nikolai Sapunov opened the theatre-cabaret, "The House of Interludes,"
in St. Petersburg. Though this venture was short-lived, it featured one of
Meyerhold's most significant intimate theatre experiments: Columbine's Vei/.
Meyerhold's adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's Der Schleier der Pierrette, with
music by Ern6 Dohnanyi, has been described as a "chilling grotesque" in
the manner of E. T. A. Hoffmann.
While this description aptly hearkens to
the sinister aspects of Hoffmann's tales, it does not fully convey the German
Romantic writer's theoretical influence.
Why Meyerhold implemented the
theatrical grotesque as he did can be more deeply appreciated by examining
the libretto for Columbine's Veil, which provides insight into how the director
theatrically applied Hoffmann's literary style.
The premiere of Columbine's Veil featured Meyerhold's first public
appearance as Doctor Dappertutto, a diabolical character from Hoffmann's
"Story of the Lost Reflection," a tale within A New lear's Eve Adventure;
Meyerhold had adopted the pseudonym for the after-hours and studio
experiments he conducted while working officially for the Imperial Theatres.
However, in addition to being an indication of a sort of artistic "split
similar to the one Hoffmann himself had experienced during
his life, Meyerhold's Hoffmannesque borrowing was also part of a larger
movement that drew from the Romantic notion of two planes of existence:
mundane reality and an incompatible realm of art. Meyerhold's grotesque was
based on juxtaposing these and other irreconcilable elements of art and life.
In "Irony and Theatricality," a 1914 article in Love for Three Oranges:
The Journal of Doctor Dappertutto, Meyerhold's colleague Samuel Vermel defines
theatricality as the zigzag trajectory of the artist's fantasy:
Theatricality ... is the liberation of a person from the life that is granted to a life
that is selfcreated If life is the path of a straight line, then theatricality
is that same path, but traveling along a line that is wavy, zigzagged, or
any kind of indirect line. It is a person's eternal striving toward creative
work, toward the engendering of his own world .... In the theatre, not
a single path should be straight.
Although Vermel argues that that subjectivity defines the work of the artist,
this "zigzag" is also a synonym for the grotesque. In 1911, Meyerhold stated:
"Fundamental to the grotesque is a constant drawing of the spectator from
one scheme of perception he has only just guessed, to another he did not
expect at all."
Hoffmann's jarring literary juxtapositions provided Meyerhold with
a source of inspiration on how to create this artistic zigzag. Hoffmann often
places the absurd alongside the realistic using two basic methods, which I will
call "successive juxtaposition" and "simultaneous juxtaposition." In the former,
Hoffmann's objects and people transform sequentially from one thing to
another or real objects change into fantastical ones and back at a second glance.
In the latter, the writer features simultaneous combinations of incongruous
elements: human and animal characteristics are often fused uneasily in a single
Meyerhold consistently applied these same techniques to Columbine's
Columbine's Veil by "Schnitzler-Dappertutto" was not Meyerhold's
first Schnitzler staging, but it was the first he claimed to have coauthored.
As a supplement to the performance, the House of Interludes published a
"libretto," a summary of the pantomime's action, presumably for distribution
to spectators; the first English translation of the libretto follows this essay.
Though contemporary accounts confirm that the libretto omits several
performance details, it is a fascinating window into how director-auteur
Meyerhold/ Dappertutto reshaped dramatic texts. Meyerhold's abundant
changes center around two fundamental principles: to create succinct action
devoid of realistic clutter and to take the grotesque to its extreme in a
multiplicity of ways.
Schnitzler's original centers around a commedia-inspired love triangle:
Bohemian lovers Pierrot and Pierrette, and Pierrette's wealthy fiance
Jovial friends and a rotund pianist try to no avail to cheer up
Pierrot, who is pining over the fact that Pierrette is off marrying Harlequin.
Left alone, he considers death, when a distraught Pierrette appears in wedding
gown and veil, producing a vial of poison for them to drink. They share final
Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
moments, he imbibes, she wavers, and he angrily knocks her glass onto the
floor before dying. Frantically, she tries to drink the poison, but it has spilled.
She flees, forgetting her veil.
At the wedding ball, Pierrette's parents argue over her absence while
the Dance Master induces guests to dance and a different pianist conducts
a musical ensemble. When Harlequin discovers Pierrette's absence, he
vindictively smashes the musical instruments accompanying the festivities.
Pierrette returns, convinces Harlequin that she was nearby the whole while,
and they dance until Pierret's ghost appears to Pierrette. Pierrette recoils, and
Harlequin, suspicious, inquires after her missing veil. Pierrette leads Harlequin
to Pierret's room in search of her veil. Once there, Harlequin locks Pierrette
in with her dead lover and leaves. Her gestures of terror metamorphose into a
dance of death. Just after she expires, Pierret's friends break in merrily and fall
back in horror at what they find. Though the pantomime is wordless (written
dialogue was expressed physically), it abounds in detail, from the meticulous
description of the setting to characters who add local color and comic relief.
As Meyerhold prepared Columbine's Veil for production, he sought
to shatter theatrical illusion, restructuring both the theatrical setting and the
pantomime. Inside the House of Interludes, barriers between performer and
spectator were eliminated: Meyerhold removed the footlights; shallow stairs
connected the stage with the auditorium; the performers entered and exited
through the audience; and spectators ate and drank while sitting around small
Meyerhold fragmented Schnitzler's pantomime into fourteen brief
episodes, something he was to do with many later productions. His changes to
Schnitzler's text heightened contrast, made the relationship between Pierrot and
his surroundings more sinister, and eliminated extraneous detail, structuring the
piece instead around successive and simultaneous juxtapositions. As Meyer hold
wrote later in "The Fai rground Booth [Balagan]": ''Art dismantles reality,
depicting it now spatially, now temporally. For this reason, art consists either
in images or in the alternation of images; the first yields the spatial forms of
art, the second- the temporal forms."
He applied Hoffmannesque successive
juxtapositions as sequences of interrupted actions and as alternating contrasts,
and implemented simultaneous juxtapositions as concurrent collisions of
dissonant moods, styles, and colors. These collisions were commented on
metatheatrically through the augmentation of minor characters who served as
46 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
framing devices.
In the opening scene (Picture 1, Scene 1), Meyerhold focused on
Pierrot's relationship to a few objects, signifiers of Pierrot's futile love. He
replaced the Vienna locale with a Pierrot-the-artist-versus-philistine-world
changing the sympathy of Pierrot's friends to cruel mocking (Picture 1,
Scene 2). Rudnitsky's description of this scene contributes details absent from
the libretto, emphasizing the extremes to which the friends go: they drag
Pierrot down the steps and into the audience to wake him up.
Once Pierrot is
finally roused, they tease him by confiscating his sweetheart's portrait; when he
tries to retrieve it, "suddenly, long paper noses are directed at Pierrot from all
Rudnitsky identifies this as a significant moment because it reinforces
the theme of "the lyrical hero versus the cynical, derisive crowd."
is similarly altered in Meyerhold's version; not only does she have a new
name, Columbine, but shortly after she enters (Picture 1, Scene 3) it becomes
clear that she has no intention of dying and is merely another aspect of the
unforgiving world that that drives Pierrot to his doom. These first three scenes
are structured as a series of actions and emotions that are abruptly, often
violently interrupted just as they reach their height: Pierrot's sleep is interrupted
by the friends; the oblivious Pianist's waltz is interrupted by the slamming of
the harpsichord lid; the Pianist's attempt to beat Pierrot is interrupted by the
dancing sweethearts.
Columbine's arrival interrupts Pierrot's suicide attempt,
while his suicide interrupts their merrymaking.
In the nine brief scenes that comprise Picture Two, the central ball
sequence, lively group dances alternate with intimate conflicts involving
Harlequin and Columbine. The dances mask the scandal of Columbine's
disappearance, but in doing so take on an increasingly frantic quality. Each
time the music is different; each time it contrasts more with the undercurrent
of repressed emotion; each time the inertia of stopping, then starting again
increases (Figure 1, note the Pianist conducting the action while the Dance
Master argues with Harlequin). Finally, after the action has built to an emotional
pinnacle, intensified by the rhythm of a "furious galop," a "little Moor"
appears to offer drinks to the guests and to the audience, to be replaced by
Pierrot's ghost, who changes the tempo almost to the point of making the
action stand still, and whose floating movements contrast eerily with the
preceding chaos.
In his experiments with simultaneous juxtaposition, Meyerhold found
a ready partner in Sapunov, the production's scene and costume designer and,
according to Meyerhold, "co-author."
Sapunov used color to evoke visual
dissonance, contrasting Pierrot's white costume with the garish wedding guests'
attire, and crowding the ball with clashing colors that were "striking in their
strange combination of insolent bad taste and nervous excitement."
also merged animal and human characteristics, inspired in part by the grotesque
ornamentation of Renaissance architecture and probably by the etchings of
Jacques Callot.
This was especially apparent in the costume of Gigolo, the
wedding ball's dance-master. Meyerhold recalls: "Sapunov transformed Gigolo
into a parrot by combing his wig from back to front to resemble feathers, and
by arranging the tails of his frock-coat in the form of a real tail" (Figure 2).
Meyerhold juxtaposed dissonant emotions most effectively in the
final scene. He delayed the detection of the corpses for as long as possible,
drawing out the tension in the audience until the ultimate discovery onstage.
Bonch-Tomashevskii describes this moment: while Pierrot's friends freeze,
the full realization of what has happened drives the Pianist mad. He hurls
himself through the audience, overturning tables and chairs as he flees.
an audience as yet unaccustomed to the removal of the footlights, this violent
invasion of their space must have been somewhat terrifying. Additionally, the
status of the Pianist as both participant and observer allowed Meyerhold to
implement performance extremes while having an emotional barometer to
process the results of their collisions.
Schnitzler's pantomime has two pianists, one for the scenes in
Pierret's room, and another for the ball. Meyerhold conflated the two, linking
the action in all locales and making his Pianist the pantomime's rhythmical and
emotional center (Figure 3).
Meyerhold's deformed and diabolical Pianist
dictated the rhythm of the production both literally and figuratively.
represented the inevitability of fate, although while he controlled the action, he
was also the victim of it. His importance in conducting the action is reinforced
in the ball scene by his location center stage, elevated above the wedding
guests on a small platform (Figure 3). It is his bright music, played clumsily
on instruments broken by Harlequin's fit of rage, that compels the unhappy
couple to prance merrily for the sake of social appearances. The Pianist/
Kapellmeister additionally functions as a symbolic Hoffmann who conducts
the performance like a maniacal puppetmaster,
and as a theatrical incarnation
of Meyerhold himself.
As such, he was a visual metaphor for Meyerhold's
48 Slavic and East European Peiformance VoL 29, No. 3

Figure 2. Nikolai Sapunov, Costume Design for
Gigolo, the Dance Master, Columbine's Veil (191 0)
Figure 3. Nikolai Sapunov, Costume Design for
The Pianist, Columbine's Veil (191 0)
t ,. T
Slavic and East E uropean Perfonnance Vol. 29, No. 3
search for artistically subjective theatrical productions developed along musical
In his excitement always to stage something new, Meyerhold never
forgotwhat he had learned from his previous experiments. AlthoughMeyerhold's
"Dappertutto" period officially ended with the Revolution, Hoffmann entered
Meyerhold's aesthetic and the Russian theatre in an enduring way. Meyerhold
revived Columbine's Veili n 1916, and other variations on Schnitzler's pantomime
were staged by Alexander Tairov (Pierrette's Shawl; 1913, 1916), Sergei Eisenstein
(Columbine's Garter, 1920, unrealized), and George Balan chine (Columbine's Veil;
1923). The legacy of Meyerhold's first overtly Hoffmannesque experiment is
also apparent in much of the director's subsequent work. Examples include
the altered audience/performer relationship in Don Juan (191 0); the grotesque
classes at the Studio on Borodinskaia Street (1913-1917); the "Hoffmaniana
[sic]" column in Love for Three Oranges: The Journal of Doctor Dappertutto (1914-
1915); the continued use of ominous, metatheatrical framing characters such
as the "Stranger" in Masquerade (1917); the emphasis on leaping from stillness
into full motion in biomechanics; and the precise rhythmical scoring of The
Inspector General (1926).
At the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art, appended to the
libretto is a sheet of paper with the words "Columbine's Veil," "Hoffmannade,"
and "balagan" in Meyerhold's hand, implying that in this production these
concepts were inseparable. Meyerhold would doubtlessly have created artistic
zigzags regardless of Hoffmann, but examining his process as he applied ideas
from sources like Hoffmann not only provides a better sense of the director's
seemingly fathomless knowledge base, but also a more concrete understanding
of how and why Meyerhold's aesthetic developed as it did.
1. Translations are my own unless otherwise indicated. Sincere thanks to
Natasha Brege! for editing my libretto translation and to Laurence Senelick, Andrew
Wachtel, Claire Conceison, and Tom Connolly for their insight and expertise.
I have followed Marjorie Hoover's lead in translating the title as Columbine's Veil (literally
Columbine's Scarf). For an English translation of the pantomime, see Arthur Schnitzler,
"The Veil of Pierrette," in Parcelus and Other One-Act Plqys, trans. G. J. Weinberger;
afterword by Herbert Lederer (Riverside, CA: Ariadne Press, 1995), 184-205.
2. Edward Braun, Mryerhold on Theatre (New York: Hill and Wang, 1969), 113.
3. For information on the "cult" of Hoffmann in Russian theatre, see Z.
Zhitomirskaia, E. T. A. Cofman. Bibliografia Russkikh Perevodov i Kriticheskoi l.iteratury
(Moscow: Kn.iga, 1964), 18.
4. E. T. A. Hoffmann, Fantasy Pieces in Callot's Manner: Pages from the Diary of
a Traveling Romantic, trans. Joseph M. Hayse (Schenectady: Union College Press, 1996),
5. Konstantin Rudnitsky, Meierkhol'd (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1981), 165-66.
6. Vermel's emphasis. Samuil Vermel', " Irony and Theatricality," Liubov' k
Trem Apel'sinom: Zhurnal Doktorra Dapperfutto 2 (1914): 44-45.
7. "Novye Puti (Beseda s Vs. E. Meierkhol'dom)," Rampa i Zhizn', no. 34
(1911): 2.
8. Sergei Eisenstein made similar observations on Hoffmann's grotesque and
Russian theatre. Sergei Eizenshtein, "Iz Lektsii v VGIKe. 31 December 1935." Vladimir
Zabrodin, ed., Eisenshtein o Meierkhol'de, 1919-1948 (Moscow: Novoe Izdatel'stvo, 2005),
9. Vsevelod Meyerhold, "The Fairground Booth," in Braun, Mryerho/d on
Theatre, 140.
10. "Sharf Kolombiny." Pantomime libretto. Ourlines and comments. (Saint
Petersburg: Tipograflia Siriius, 191 0). RGALI, f. 998 (l'vleierkhol'd, Vs. E.), op. 1, ed. 70.
11. The premise of Der Schleier der Pierrette was similar ro that of Schnitzler's
full-length play Der Schleier der Beatrice (1898-1899).
12. Meyerhold, "The Fairground Booth," 137.
13. Clayton observes that Meyerhold's interpretation also hearkens to the
"Deburau tradition of the masochist Pierrot." J. Douglas Clayron, Pierrot in Petrograd
The Commedia Dell'arte/ Balagan in Russian Theatre and Drama (Buffalo:
MeGill-Queen's University Press, 1993), 84.
14. Rudnitsky, Meierkho/0', 166.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid., 167.
17. In Rudn.itsky's description, as the Pianist tries to catch Picrrot, the latter
52 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
flies about the stage, flapping his long, white sleeves like a butterfly, until the ladies
whisk the Pianist away to the ball. Ibid.
18. Meyer hold used his "little Moors" to greatest effect in Don }t1an, which
opened at the Alexandrinsky on November 9, 1910. They were "proscenium servants,"
modeled after the Kabuki kurogo, who changed scenery and tended to characters in full
view of the audience.
19. Ludmila Tikhvinskaia, Povsednevnaia Zhiifi' Teatral'noi Bogemy Serebrianogo
Veka: Kobare i Teatry Miniatiur v Rossii, 1908-1911 (Moscow: Molodaia Gvardiia, 2005),
20. Rudnitsky, Meierkhol'd, 168.
21. Meyerhold, "The Fairground Booth," 140.
23. M. M. Bonch-Tomashevskii, "Pantomima A. Shnitslera v Svobodnom
Teatre," Maski 2, no. 22 (1913-1914): 53.
24. The Russian word used is tapeur. Tapeur, derived from the French for "to
tap," indicates a piano player, or, more accurately, a piano plunker, a musician for hire;
the word also describes the accompanist for silent fJ.!m. In the libretto, he is referred to
as the tapeur, but reviews also describe him as a Kapellmeister, and Sapunov's costume
design (figure 3) indicates that he is the "tapeurand Kapellmeister."
25. Bonch-Tomashevskii, "Pantomima A. Shnitslera v Svobodnom Teatre."
Translated in Clayton, Pierro! in Petrograd, 83.
26. Braun, Mryerho/d on Theatre, 114. See also Nikolai Dmitrievich Volkov,
Meierkhol'd 1908-1917, vol. 2 (Moscow; Leningrad: Academia, 1929), 130.
27. This kind of onstage, deranged piano player also appeared in Fedor
Komissarzhevskii's production of Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann (1919) and in an
unrealized production by Sergei Ignatov of Hoffmann's Princess Blandina, both of
which used pianists as signifiers for the hallucinatory artist-musician Hoffmann. For
a staging plan for lgnatov's production, seeS. S. Ignatov, " Hoffmaniana I (E. T. A.
Gofman na Stsene)," Liubov' k Trem Apel'sinam: Zhurnal Doktorra Dappertutto 4-7 (1915).
This image was inspired in part by "Kreisler's Musical-Poetic Club," the third tale from
the second half of Hoffmann's Kreisleriana. See Hoffmann, Fantasy Pieces, 261-65.
28. Clayton, Pierro/ in Petrograd, 85.
29. In April 1916, Meyerhold revived Columbine's Veil for the premiere
performance at Boris Pronin's cabaret "The Players' Rest." See Mikhail Kuzmin,
Oboifenie Teatrov no. 3076. (20 April 1916): 12. Quoted in A. M. Konechnyi et al.,
"Artisticheskoe Kabare 'Prival Komediantov'," in Pamiatniki Kul'tmy. Norye Otkrytiia:
Pis'mennost', Iskusstvo, A rkheologiia. Ezhegodnik 1988 (Moscow: "Nauka", 1989), 112-13.
30. RGALI, f. 998 (Meierkhol'd, Vs. E.), op. 1, ed. 70.
A Pantomime in Three Pictures after Arthur Schnitzler
Doctor Dappertutto 0f sevolod E. Meyerhold)
Music by Dohn:inyi
Pierrot's Room
Scene 1. In love with Columbine but deserted by her, Pierrot weeps.
Pierrot's servant enters. Seeing Pierrot lying on the bed, the servant
thinks he is sleeping and gingerly leaves the room.
Pierrot broods over memories of his beloved, looks through letters,
admires a portrait of Columbine and a rose that he once received
from her, and, overcome by tears, falls asleep in a dark corner of his
Scene 2. The servant enters again, but, unexpectedly, Pierrot's fri ends and their
sweethearts arrive. Having convinced the new arrivals that Pierrot is
sleeping, the servant leads the guests to Pierrot's bed and is perplexed:
Pierrot is not there. The servant runs to fetch a candle. The merry
guests look for Pierrot. The servant returns with the candle. The
guests see that Pierrot is sleeping in the corner. They laugh at him,
want to wake him up. One of the friends remembers the Pianist,
who had stayed behind in the entryway and who was dragged along
by them everywhere they went, and recommends waking Pierrot up
with raucous dances; he calls the Pianist. The Pianist enters. The
merry couples ask him to play on the harpsichord. The Pianist plays
a waltz. Pierrot's friends dance, snickering at Pierrot, who does not
wake up either from the sounds of the waltz, or from the jostling of
the dancers. At last Pierrot wakes up. The friends reproach him: how
can he sleep when there are such charming ladies nearby? Pierrot is
out of sorts. The friends are offended by the inhospitable Pierrot.
One of the friends seizes the portrait of Columbine and is ready to
fling it to the ceiling. Pierrot leaps up, wants to snatch Columbine's
portrait, but he is surrounded by noses on all sides. Pierrot suffers.
Slavic and East E uropean Performance VoL 29, No. 3
The friends make a sign to the Pianist; he plays a waltz while the merry
couples, dancing, mock the poses of the suffering Pierrot. Finally the
friends grow tired of Pierrot and run off. The Pianist, not noticing
their departure, continues to play the waltz. The sounds of the waltz
irritate Pierrot; slamming down the lid of the harpsichord, he abruptly
stops the Pianist's playing. The Pianist is indignant. He is about to give
Pierrot a thrashing, but the sweethearts of Pierrot's friends rush in
and forcibly drag the Pianist away.
Scene 3. Pierrot is alone. He decides to end his life in suicide. Having
locked the door with the key, he tears up letters and flowers, kisses
Columbine's shoes, which he has decorated, and goes into the other
room for poison. He returns with a goblet and a bottle of some kind
of potion. Just when he is f.t.lJing the goblet with the deadly drink,
someone knocks at the door. Pierrot hurriedly places the poison on
the harpsichord, unlocks the door and, in horror, sees Columbine in a
wedding dress. Pierrot tears off her wedding veil.
Columbine begs him not to be angry and to listen to her explanation.
But Pierrot, pointing at the wedding ring (meaning that the marriage
ceremony has already been performed), thinks it pointless to talk.
Now his resolve to end his own life becomes inevitable. Columbine
is prepared not to stop him; she is ready to die with him. Pierrot is
enraptured, thanks her. Columbine asks to wait just a little while:
"First we will be merry, drink, dance, and after that: death."
Columbine hopes that Pierrot, drunk on wine and love, will forget
about the poison. But Pierrot, just when their merry-making is at its
height, remembers the poison. He resolutely takes the goblet with
the poison and invites Columbine to take a sip. Columbine hesitates.
Pierrot laughs maliciously, drinks, and again proffers her the goblet.
She doesn't drink, and Pierrot, after drinking more, dies. Columbine
flees in horror.
Scene 1. A wedding ball in full swing at Columbine's parents' house. The waltz
ends. The dance master announces a quadrille.
Scene 2. They wait for Harlequin and Columbine, but Harlequin enters alone.
The dance master at first doesn't notice this, but later, having given
the orchestra a downbeat at the beginning of the quadrille, suddenly
notices that Harlequin has no partner. With difficulty the orchestra
stops, the dance master calls to Columbine's parents and informs
them that Columbine is missing.
Scene 3. The mother explains that her daughter is probably arranging her attire,
and goes to call her. The father asks Harlequin to forgive Columbine.
Scene 4. The dance master, in order to avoid scandal, invites the dancers to
promenade in the garden to the music of a minuet.
Scene 5. Columbine's father and Harlequin wait. The mother returns. She
announces that Columbine is nowhere to be found. Harlequin flies
into a rage. He pulls the Pianist, whose music even further underscores
the horror of the deceived Harlequin, down off the stage; he beats
the Pianist and his musicians.
Scene 6. The guests rush over; they want to calm the out-of-control Harlequin,
but he himself collapses out of exhaustion.
Scene 7. Columbine enters. Harlequin hurls himself at her: "Where were you?"
"I was fixing my gown." "That's a lie." Columbine begs Harlequin
not to be angry and the guests to continue dancing. But Harlequin
demands an explanation.
Scene 8. In order to quell the buzz of scandal, the quick-witted dance master
gives the Pianist the signal to play a furious galop, while inciting the
guests to begin a wild dance. At the very moment when everyone,
even Harlequin, is ready to collapse from exhaustion from the wild
dance, a little Moor appears to offer the guests a refreshing drink.
Scene 9. Columbine reaches out her hand to take a glass; the little Moor
vanishes, and in his place Pierrot's Ghost appears with the veil in
his hands. Columbine wants to catch hold of the veil, but Pierrot
vanishes. The Phantom taunts her, appearing first in one doorway,
then in another. Columbine runs after Pierrot's Ghost. Harlequin
rushes after her.
56 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 3
Pierret's Room
Scene 1. The candles burn out. Onstage is the dead Pierrot. Columbine runs
in. In the doorway Harlequin comes to a halt, watching her. She
doesn't see him. Columbine, seizing the veil, rushes out of the room.
Harlequin stops her. Harlequin looks all around but does not notice the
prostrate Pierrot. Harlequin runs into the adjoining room and returns
immediately. He is dumbfounded-he hasn't found anyone. As he is
mounting an assault on Columbine, Harlequin stumbles over Pier rot's
corpse. He thinks that Pierrot is drunk. Everything becomes clear to
Harlequin: Columbine ran away from the ball to a rendezvous with
Pierrot. Harlequin is furious-he is ready to kill Columbine, but this
would be too contemptible a revenge. Harlequin has an idea. He tries
to wake Pierrot, takes hold of him and shakes him, but Pierrot's body
slips and just keeps falling. Harlequin realizes that Pierrot is dead. He
is first stunned, then glad. Now he knows how to exact revenge on the
perfidious Columbine. Harlequin sets up Pierrot's corpse at the table
with Columbine-half-dead with fear-next to him, and, locking the
door with the key, runs away. Columbine, locked in with the corpse,
drinks the poison out of despair; the pre-death agony grows into a
dance. Dancing, Columbine falls dead at Pierrot's feet.
Scene 2. Pierrot's friends and their sweethearts enter. It seems to them that
Pierrot and Columbine are merged in a passionate kiss. The Pianist
enters. The merry couples wish to wake up the spellbound lovers
with a dance. Sprinkling them with flowers, the couples dance, but
Pierret and Columbine are motionless. One friend pushes Pierrot.
The latter falls, as does Columbine. The friends see two corpses; they
are paralyzed by horror. The Pianist nearly goes out of his mind.
Translated by Dassia N. Posner
David A. Goldfarb
The seventieth anniversary of rhe death of the Polish playwright,
novelist, artist, and philosopher, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, known widely
as ''Witkacy," was remembered in London by an ambitious series of events in
September 2009 including performances of The Madman and the Nun together
with Slawomir Mrozek's Out at Sea, new translations of Witkacy's letters to
his wife, exhibitions of art inspired by Witkacy including a show of pastel
portraits in the Witkacy style made by middle-school students, and a scholarly
conference on the theme of "Witkacy as a Social and Political Visionary,"
fearuring papers that will, we hope, be collected with some additional material
into a new volume of critical studies on Witkacy's creative work and legacy.
"Witkacy 2009" was conceived and organized by Kevin Anthony Hayes, a
British actor and director who has worked extensively in theatre in Poland, and
who directed the two theatre pieces using a cast of young Polish and British
actors for this celebration of Witkacism. While the multiplicity of events-
some of which did not come to fruition, such as a satellite link to the Witkacy
conference happening simultaneously in Slupsk, Poland, a fashion show,
and masked ball-and the eclecticism of the participants were not entirely
typical of the atmosphere of an academic conference, the unity that brought
all these elements together was Witkacy, and this peculiar combination of
experimentalism, drama, anarchy, madness, and striving for scientific rigor all
seemed appropriate to the enterprise.
The festival took place in the Regent Street campus of the University
of Westminster, the historic home of the Royal Polytechnic Institution,
founded in 1838. Its theatre, built with a grand balcony in 1848 and known
in the Victorian period for magic lantern shows and later as the site of the
first public cinema screening by the Lumiere brothers in England for a paying
audience, proved a very interesting space for the staging of the two plays,
particularly The Madman and the Nun. Hayes said that the auditorium had not
been used for a theatrical production in at least ten years and had required
new engineering inspections to permit the use of a balcony over the stage at
the same elevation as the house balcony, which made it possible to articulate a
division at the opening of Witkacy's drama between the space of the doctors
above and the space of the madman below.
58 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 29, No. 3
Stanisbw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Zakopane, circa 1931
The conference, ably coordinated by Dr. Jennifer Plastow of the
School of Education at the University of Hertfordshire and Steven Barfield
from the English Department at Westminster, featured presentations by a
mixture of academic specialists in Witkacy and Polish culture, such as keynote
speaker Daniel Gerould from CUNY and editor of this journal; Shah Ahmed,
a graduate student working on Gombrowicz at the Jagiellonian University;
Bryce Lease from the University of Kent; Mark Rudnicki from George Mason
University; Anna Zakiewicz from the National Museum in Warsaw; and myself;
as well as participants from other fields, including John Barlow, a Germanist
from Indiana University at Indianapolis; l\1ichael Goddard, a ftlm scholar at the
University of Salford; Jeremy Millar, an artist working mainly in the medium
of photography; Greg Perkins, a scientist with a deep interest in literature;
and Gordon Ramsay, a specialist in Italian Futurist drama at the University
of Nottingham. All cross-disciplinary interchange was enhanced by the
excellent and authentic Polish cuisine contributed by the Knaypa Restaurant
in Hammersmith, not to mention a supply of Russian vodka that materialized
during lunch on the first day of the conference.
Mark Rudnicki, in his paper, "On History and Suffering in The
Madman and the Nun," opened the discussion with a look at themes from the
early Nietzsche, considering Walpurg, Witkacy's madman, as a test case for
Nietzsche's proposition that memory is a precondition of moral conscience,
and used this to explore Witkacy's idea of "unity in plurality," which would
become a recurring topic in several of the papers. On Rudnicki's reading,
Walpurg's suffering facilitates the recognition of the uniqueness of the self in
the face of totality, which is the beginning of a return to conscience. Gordon
Ramsay pursued related threads in his paper, "Unity within Diversity: The
Alogical and the Connected in Witkacy's Dramatic Vision," comparing Witkacy
to the Italian Futurists. Ramsay argues that the "diversity" in Witkacy's theatre
consists in the collision of spaces, images, and contrary ideas, which form a
"dream-like" unity within the play. Bryce Lease found another unity in the
plurality--or at least duality--of gender, considering the Lacanian proposition
that "woman is the symptom for man" in TheAnO'!)'mous l1Jrk, arguing that the
"demonic woman" grounds Witkacy's male figures in their symbolic identity.
Several other papers considered Witkacy's place on the map of
modernism and avant-gardism. Greg Perkins found common elements of
humor in the works of Witkacy, Beckett, and faulkner. John Barlow applied
60 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
Out At Sea by Mroiek,
directed by Kevin Anthony Hayes, scenography by Magdalena Rutkowska
University of Westminster Theatre
Witkacy's idea of Pure Form to the music of Morton Feldman, proposing that
music might be the form of art that is most capable of Pure Form as the most
distant from representation, and that Feldman might embody this ideal as a
composer who avoided programmatism, Romantic displays of virtuosity, or
succumbing to the possibility of music that could function as background. At
the same time, Daniel Gerould in the second of two papers at the conference
looked at the uses of Witkacy in cabaret, jazz, and rock music in Poland,
observing that Witkacy has had an appeal both as high and as low culture,
and that Witkacy absorbed and digested low culture even as he attempted at
great length to explicate the philosophical underpinnings of the theory of Pure
Form. Shah Ahmed looked at the difficulty of classifying Witkacy in relation
to the Theatre of the Absurd, noting Martin Esslin's observation in the 1968
edition of his study of the absurd that "Witkiewicz and Gombrowicz might
be the most important thinkers of the absurd." Ahmed argues that for Esslin,
the Theatre of the Absurd replicates an absurd reality, while Witkacy eschews
even this degree of mimesis.
Michael Goddard introduced several renditions of Witkacy's work in
ftlm, and while these cinematic versions of In a Small Country House, Farewell to
Autumn, and Insatiabili!J might not exactly create or even represent Witkacy's
feeling of Pure Form, they raise the question of why Witkacy did not become
involved in the small community of experimental ftlm makers in Poland
between the wars. ln my own paper, "Witkacy and Socialist Realism in Pre-
Communist Poland," I looked at Witkacy's play The Shoemakers as a response to
Soviet Socialist Realism in the films of Dziga Vertov and in the fiction of the
1930s and noted that during his time in St. Petersburg Witkacy had certainly
manifested an interest in the ftlms of Vladimir Mayakovsky as evinced by his
photographic self-portrait as a character from Mayakovsky's The Lacfy and the
Hooligan. While we could imagine many reasons why Witkacy did not pursue
work in ftlm, Witkacy's affinity for photography and experimental cinema
suggests that while a particularly successful rendition of Witkacy on the screen
has not yet been achieved, the idea is very much worth pursuing.
Jeremy Millar is very much an outsider in the world of Witkacy
studies, and it is only by coincidence that his exhibition at the National
Maritime Museum in Greenwich, planned two years in advance, coincided
with the conference, and he told me that he consciously avoided seeking too
much input from scholars of Witkacy or Malinowski at the beginning of his
62 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 3
The Madman and the Nun by Witkiewicz,
directed by Kevin Anthony Hayes, scenography by Magdalena Rutkowska
University of Westminster Theatre
project, so that he could allow his own artistic ideas to develop in an original
and authentic way, and I think the results speak very well for his approach.
Witkacy was to have traveled with his great friend, Malinowski, on his
expedition to the Trobriand I slands, now known as Kiriwina, ostensibly as a
draughtsman and a photographer. Witkacy and Malinowski had a falling out
in Australia at the outbreak of the Great War, and Witkacy returned to Poland
as a Russian citizen to enter the officer training academy, while Malinowski
continued his research. Millar visited Malinowski's research site and made
portraits as he imagined Witkacy might of local villagers and of Mark Mosco,
a contemporary anthropologist working in the same village. Millar observed
in his presentation at the conference that Malinowski's photographs generally
transform individuals into types, and that only four out of about two thousand
photographs are individual portraits, while Witkacy was above all a portraitist.
Millar also staged a production of The Metapf(ysics qf the Two-Headed Calf with
actors from two indigenous theatre troupes in Port Moresby. The actors had
never performed a work from a fixed script before, but they adapted the
English translation into the local pidgin and added musical prologues to each
act in their native language. This is particularly curious since there are passages
in the play that are in Witkacy's own invented Polynesian language, but Millar
said that the actors did not translate the prologues for him, so he could not
be sure of what they were about, and he did not note any particular reaction
to Witkacy's imaginary language, but he did note that the Kiriwinans were
generally sympathetic toward Malinowski and the international interest that he
generated in their culture.
Anna Zakiewicz in her paper "Witkacy's Paintings as a Frozen
Theatre" and Daniel Gerould in his keynote lecture "Genesis of a Playwright:
Maciej Korbowa and Bellatrix, 1918" both considered the genesis of Witkacy's
ideas in the theatre. Zakiewicz identified grave digging scenes from several
paintings that would evolve into the opening scene of The Ano'!}mous Work,
as well as paintings from 1920 containing elements that would reappear in
Janulka, Daughter qf Fiz:flejko, and The Water Hen. Gerould classified six elements
of Witkacy's fust mature play, a new translation of which from InkerMen
Press was released at the conference, that would defme his subsequent work:
a defensive stance toward the audience, the main character as the author's
alter ego, the threat of the mechanization of life in the subordination of the
individual to the state, an overdefmed dramatis personae evoking an autonomous
64 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 3
world of colors and shapes, a theatre within the theatre, and a violent intrusion
from the external world. Gerould connected these elements to Witkacy's
experience during the War in Petersburg, which was itself a spectacle of
Revolution, mysticism, suicide cults, occultism, and sex clubs.
"\X'itkacy 2009" evinced that Witkacy's work attracts a diverse group
of curious, dedicated, and passionate advocates, and the exploration of this
wide-ranging figure of twentieth-century avant-gardism demands attention
from a wide range of perspectives and approaches. People who become
involved with Witkacy really want to know what is at the edge of the cutting
edge, and the artist's work does not fail to raise more questions than it answers.
Casts for the productions:
The Madman and the Nun
Jakub Drzewa as Alexander Walpurg, Madeleine Hutchins as Sister Anna,
Anne Midow as Sister Barbara, Adrian Ross-Magenty as Dr. Jan Bidello, Nick
Richards as Dr. Ephraim Grun, Tony Gibbons as Professor Ernest Walldorff,
Marcus Harris as Alfred, and Dave Thompson as Paphnutius
Out At Sea
Marcus Harris as Fat, Adrian Ross-Magenty as Medium, Tony Gibbons as
Thin, Stanislaw Forczeck as Postman, and Nick Richards as Butler
The production team for both plays included Director Kevin Anthony Hayes,
Assistant Stage Manager John Sole, Scenographer and Sound Designer
Magdalena Rutkowska, Lighting Designer Frank Usher, Sound Operator and
Assistant Scenographer Balint Kovaks, Assistant Scenographer Tomas Myliaz,
and Program Dessign Karian Schuitema.
Eugene Brogyanyi
Among Hungary's contributions to this past summer's Lincoln Center
Festival was a production titled Peasant Opera by Bela Pinter and Company, one
of the alternative theatre troupes that sprang up since the change of regime.
Pinter founded his company at the age of 28 in 1998 at the Szkene Theatre
of the Technical University of Budapest. He functions as the group's writer,
director, and one of its actors. He did not have conventional dramatic training;
his background is more in keeping with what we might call experimental
theatre. He also trained in folk dance and music, which strongly manifests itself
in many of his works, especially Peasant Opera which premiered in 2002.
The support now enjoyed by Pinter's company contrasts sharply
with the fate of another alternative Hungarian theatre troupe, led by Stephan
(Istvan) Balint, which was officially denounced and driven into exile in 1976
only to resurface in New York as the now-legendary Squat Theatre. As a
theatre-goer of Hungarian origin watching the remarkably inventive and
innovative Pinter production, I caught myself lamenting the lost opportunities
for the Hungarian theatre during four decades of communist stranglehold.
But then, contemplating Peasant Opera, my eyes have opened to the fact that
Pinter is addressing precisely this kind of sentimentally self-pitying attitude,
unfortunately easily indulged by a people with so tragic a history. He does so
in neither a condemnatory nor in an approving way. His work seems to be
simply asking: What does it mean to be Hungarian today? And the only answer
is that no answer is possible. He shows what the Hungarian people-and what
any others, if the particulars of Peasant Opera are regarded symbolically-have
become in a world ruled by a reality we cannot come to know because of our
distorted, sentimentalized perceptions of our past, and our cliched perceptions
of the present.
These perceptions and the reality they color are given expression in a
work that plays with genres by layering contrasting styles, undoing and redoing
conventions, and seamlessly mixing humor and tragedy, to create a synthesis
that provides no catharsis but leaves us a little wiser as we ask our now inevitable
66 Slavic and East European Peiformance VoL 29, No. 3
Peasant Opera, directed by Bela Pinter
Ti.inde Szalontay (Bride's Mother) and Sandor Bencze (Bride's Father)
question: What does it mean to be Hungarian (or other identity) today?
Peasant Opera takes place in the seemingly uncomplicated, timeless
world of a village in Transylvania (a region Hungary lost to Romania in the wake
World War I, which lives on in popular Hungarian imagination as preserving
the "true" national spirit). Set on the joyous day of a wedding, lurid details
of past events are revealed involving greed, mistaken identity, unintentional
incest, and parental murder of a son-the stuff of timeless myths tapped by
writers from Sophocles to Camus. But here, all is delivered without pathos until
the very end, using instead a great deal of irony, parody, and especially humor.
The 70-minute piece is the result of a collaboration between Pinter
and the composer Benedek Darvas. With no pre-existing text, the final work
came together during the rehearsal process based on Pinter's ideas, not on
improvisation by the actors. Composer and playwright worked together on
each line of recitative, which carries forward the story, so that melody and
words came into being simultaneously. The actors' untrained voices are more
suited to the village than the opera house and are accompanied by five expert
musicians. Men dressed as peasant women in mourning sit at the side of the
stage, playing violins, viola, and double bass, as well as a harpsichord on which
Darvas himself provides the continuo for the baroque-style recitatives between
arias. The stage is strewn with straw, and contains a few crude, wooden set
pieces suggesting a timeless village ambience. The actors' faces are encrusted
with what looks like chalky mud, giving them a puppet-like appearance that
reinforces their stylized acting. During arias they often freeze into tableaux,
though sometimes break into ankle-slapping folk dance.
The wedding is undermined when it turns out that the child the bride
is carrying is a product of incest. Before the groom's birth, his older brother
left the village to seek his fortune abroad and briefly returned incognito some
decades ago. By then a wealthy cowboy from the American Wild West whom
no one in the village recognized as a native son, he soon vanished. It turns out
that while there, he not only impregnated the woman who would become the
bride's mother- i.e., the bride is the groom's niece- but the groom's parents,
unaware that they were the cowboy's parents, murdered him for the money he
was planning to give them.
The plot unfolds out of sequence. Flashbacks of the cowboy's
mysterious visit are interlaced with the present. These shifting time planes are
only part of the blending and juxtapositions that make Peasant Opera unique.
Slavic and East European Perjor1'tlance Vol. 29, No. 3
Peasant Opera, directed by Bela Pinter,
Back row (L toR): J6zsef T6th (Groom's Father), Szilvia Baranyi (Groom's Mother), Sandor Bencze (Bride's Father)
o. Front row (L to R): Eva Enyedi (Groom's Stepsister), Sarolta Nagy-Abonyi (The Bride), Ti.inde Szalontay (Bride's Mother)
The language of the musically sophisticated-sounding baroque recitatives,
which serve as the dialogue and exposition, is derived from the linguistic detritus
of a politically and socially confused society. It contains bureaucratic jargon,
the cliches of a commercialized global worldview, class contempt for the very
peasant folk the characters represent, and plenty of vulgarity. The "arias" are a
mixture of Hungarian folk songs and pop and rock tunes with lyrics adjusted to
the situation. Thus, the cowboy sings a John Denver song (in English!) during
his spectacularly hilarious entrance, with the lyrics, "Country roads, take me
home I to the place I belong I Transylvania, mountain mama." Elsewhere we
hear the theme from the 60s rock group Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of
Pale," which happens tO contain a]. S. Bach reference, appropriately enough,
given the "baroque" nature of Peasant Operds basic musical style. Of course,
this use of various popular forms of song, with lyrics rewritten to suit the work
at hand, is a direct tribute to John Gay's Beggar's Opera (1728), clearly a reference
point for Pinter and Darvas.
Thanks in large part to the superb lighting design, the flashbacks often
take on a dreamlike quality in the midst of the gritty irreality of the present.
Perhaps the most memorable of these flashbacks is the cowboy's seduction
of his brother's future mother-in-law in a slow coital dance culminating in
her straddling his mid-section. She is dressed in what she wears throughout,
a stereotypically "slutty," tight-fitting, slit, leopard-print dress. The cowboy, on
the other hand, has stripped for this encounter. He has on nothing between
his ten-gallon hat and his boots except an enormous, strategically-placed, pink,
rhinestone-encrusted, erect phallus. The term "larger than life" would at this
point seem to apply equally to the character and his costume.
The shifting time planes allow the opera to build to the murder of
the cowboy by his parents. This climax is followed by the brief and striking
denouement that ends the opera. The parents, dressed in nightshirts, are
sitting on their bed upstage; the mother is pregnant with their second son,
the eventual groom at the doomed wedding. Facing the audience in front of
them and isolated in light, sits the groom, played by Pinter himself. In other
words, the same character is present simultaneously as a fetus in the past and as
a grown man in the present. Pinter wails a mournful Transylvanian folk song,
the end of which may be paraphrased thus: "Oh mother, my mother, would
you had given birth to a stone rather than a Hungarian son." Curiously, this
pathos-filled ending does not violate the flippant tone of the work in general.
70 Slavic and East European Performance Vol 29, No. 3
Peasant Opera, directed by Bela Pinter
Tamas De:ik (The Cowboy)
I t just adds another layer to the seemingly inexhaustibly layered Peasant Opera.
As the opera starts, the bride sings about springtime as if she were
confused about the season, so she is reminded that the date is October 28. It's
a small detail, but that date has a certain resonance. It was on that day in 1956,
during the Hungarian revolution which broke out five days earlier, that a cease-
fire was declared and the Soviet troops began withdrawing. In other words, it
was the day the revolution seemed to have succeeded, only to be crushed by the
Soviet invasion of November 4. Peasant Opera is so rich in such fleeting details
that it merits revisiting again and again. Fortunately, the repertory system in
Hungary makes that possible.
Slavic and East European Perjorn1ance Vol. 29, No. 3
Stuart Liebman
The venue for this rare opportunity to see Leszek M3.dzik perform in
one of his own theatre pieces-the first time in thirty years!-was unusual and
somewhat unnerving. ~ d z i k was asked to stage his newest spectacle coupling
strong visual imagery, intense gestures, and imposing sounds in barrack 56 of
the infamous Majdanek concentration camp located close to the Polish city of
Lublin. The occasion was the seventieth anniversary of t he treacherous Soviet
invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939 in the early days of World War II,
and Bruzda was only one of a series of events organized by the Panstwowe
Museum na Majdanku under the rubric of the "Dni Majdanka," the Majdanek
Days, that commemorate the unspeakable horrors that took place here and
elsewhere on Polish soil decades ago.
The barrack was about thirty yards in length, and the audience sat
in two tiers of seats to either side of a fifty-foot-long, shallow trough, lined
in black and filled with water. Two narrow aisles behind the seats filled out
the building's approximately fifteen-yard width. Four simple wooden frames
covered with brown wrapping paper punctuated the trough at approximately
ten-foot intervals. The lighting was simple and dim: four shaded light bulbs
created zones of dark and light on different parts of the set. To the right of
the entry way th.rough which the audience entered, a small space was blocked
off by an almost unnoticed black curtain hanging across the building's corner.
The other end of the barrack was draped with a primitive, wrinkled jute curtain
hanging from a plain black wooden bar. The set's overall mood was sober, and
the audience tacitly acknowledged this, speaking in low tones while waiting
for the show to begin. Amplified drum beats announced the start of the
An actor-it is M3.dzik himself--dressed in a nondescript dark gray
suit pushed aside the black curtain covering the small space to the side of the
door. He pushed a very squeaky wheelbarrow laden with a large lump of paper
and dumped the bundle onto the ground at the end of the water-filled channel.
He then wheeled the barrow behind the spectators on the right hand side of
the set, finally thrusting it vigorously down the aisle. After it creaked to a halt,
~ d z i k repeated the action three more times, alternating the aisles, ftrst right,
then left, down which he pushed the wheelbarrow. By this point, the character
of the bundles seemed to have changed. They appeared to have weight, to
contain something. Indeed they did.
The next phase of the performance began as Mq_dzik pulled on a
cord one had not noticed, unleashing a brief cascade-it was, the program
note tells us, grains of wheat-that rattled on the paper bundle lying on the
floor. The paper stirred, and Mq_dzik helped to tear it open so that a man, head
shaven and attired in a blue robe, could emerge. Mq_dzik hovered close to him,
his facial emotions not entirely legible; was he angry, even potentially violent?
The expression was ambiguous. As the two men moved slowly and haltingly
forward, an ominous shadow was projected onto the first framed piece of
paper. Mq_dzik's shadow appeared to raise his arm to strike the man. One heard
a sharp rapping noise as the raised man fell through the paper, which seemed
to confirm the violence of the blow. The man fell into the narrow trough and
remained there. One began to entertain identities for the two players: guard
and inmate, perpetrator and victim, murderer and Musulman (in camp slang, a
prisoner about to die of fatigue).
This sequence was repeated three times with the other bundles with
slight differences. Each time a similarly dressed "inmate" emerged from his
paper wrapping, he stepped over the previous victim and then fell through
the next frame. Each subsequent time, however, only the sound of the tearing
paper suggested violence, because the "guard's" attitude had changed as well.
The implied swagger and threat of his truculent proximity to his victim's face
yielded to softer, more caring and concerned expressions. With these changes,
other personae were suggested: was he the Angel of Death? A fellow prisoner?
Once all four had been exhumed and then fallen, Mq_dzik's character
began to wash the feet of the victims in reverse order. He helped them to
their feet and ushered them, one by one, through a narrow rent in the tan
jute curtain at the end of the hall. He was careful to pull the edges of the jute
curtain back together, blocking any vision of the backstage area. Some fifteen
minutes elapsed-a long time to lie in the narrow gutter of water-before the
first victim finally left the set. When all had been safely escorted through the
backstage curtain, Mq_dzik vigorously pulled down all the remaining traces of
paper hanging on the frames and also gathered up in his arms the papers in
which the men had been initially wrapped. He threw the large wad of paper
back into the black space from which he had first emerged. He then carefully,
74 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 3
Leszek ~ d z i k Bruzda. A cascade of wheat
almost meticulously, swept the grains from the floor.
Only after the space had been cleared did he open the barrack's main
door, creating natural backlighting for a beautiful blond girl, about seven
years old, dressed in a white robe--<J.uite clearly an angelic figure. At some
point, a musical score with distinct religious overtones by Arvo Part began
and gradually became more insistent. ~ d z i k then solemnly led her down the
gutter and allowed her to exit through the rear curtain like the four men before
her. Only then did he slowly drop the curtain to reveal the four men, two on
each side of the Little angel, their backs facing us, seated at a long rectangular
table. Slowly, the men rested their heads on it. The curtain slowly rose again,
in silence. The lights dimmed. The silence lingered and lingered until someone
in the audience began, awkwardly, uncertainly-and unfortunately-to clap,
bringing the silence, as well as the performance, to an end.
Leszek ~ d z i k has been working with his group "Scena Plastyczna
KUL" (Catholic University Lublin) for more than three decades, and with
the completion of Bruzda, he has produced nearly two dozen, similarly
wordless spectacles. This was not the premiere of the work-that had already
taken place in a church in Lublin earlier in 2009. Nevertheless, setting this
dramatically sparse but intense spectacle-remarkably economical in its means
but symbolically rich-in the barren, forbidding space of a barrack-where
so many had suffered-undoubtedly shifted the meanings of the sets and
gestures from those in the locale of its premiere. The symbolic power of the
densely polysemic imagery was undoubtedly enhanced by the location, while
others certainly now appeared more sentimental, even more trite, than one
might have hoped. Bruzda is clearly a work of deep feeling and informed by
an almost religious conviction in the power of repetition to transform actions
into a kind of ritualistic allegory of the camp experience.
In this respect, the props were exceedingly well-chosen and resonated
with an intensity they were unlikely to have had during the earlier performance
in the church. The wheelbarrows, often in disrepair, were common instruments
of tortured labor in the camps. The black gutters recalled the gullies, both
natural and artificial, that marked the landscape of the camp. The somber
black, brown, and navy blue hues of the costumes, props, and set recalled the
sobriety and colorlessness of the camp: the mud beneath the prisoners' feet on
the Appelplatz; the lowering, indifferent sky above; and the black uniforms of
the SS guards.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol 29, No. 3
Leszek M:tdzik, Bruzda. Frames, troughs, and victims
Into this all too mundane, but charged, world of evil, however, Mll.dzik
injected a set of specifically Christian religious imagery-the humble washing
of the feet, the arrival of the angelic child, the clear allusions to the Last Supper
and Last Judgment-that ultimately seemed too easy, too pat, and in a certain
sense, too superficial. How amenable, after all, is a prisoner's experience of
the concentration camps-and it should be remembered that the vast majority
of prisoners killed at Majdanek, as at all the major death camps in Poland,
were Jews-to comprehension through the tenets of another faith? Can those
who view this abstract portrayal of devastating loss really so readily console
themselves by recourse to a theological grid promising ultimate redemption
and absolution in a distinctly Christian-indeed, Catholic-heaven?
I, for one, could not, even as I respected the deep conviction that
animated every aspect of this truly memorable theatrical invocation of a
profound Trauerarbeit, a work of mourning that sounds the depths but never
finds the bottom.
Marvin Carlson
The Polish city of Gdansk holds a special place in the history
of Shakespearian production, since members of Shakespeare's company
performed in that city for a number of years at the beginning of the seventeenth
century. This significant cultural exchange has been celebrated in Gdansk
annually the first week in August for the past sixteen years. The Shakespearean
Days which began in 1993 evolved into a full-blown international theatre
festival in 1997, and in the twelve years since that time thirty groups from
seventy countries have appeared in the festival. The 2009 Festival was the most
ambitious to date, offering 16 productions from eight countries, for the first
time held in conjunction with an international conference on Shakespearean
The main venue for the festival was the major stage of Gdansk, the
Teatr Wybrze:ie, at the edge of the old town. Here the festival was launched
on August 1 with an all-male production of The Merchant of Venice by the
Propeller Theatre Group from the Watermill Theatre of Great Britain. The
same company presented A Midsummer Nights Dream the following evening.
Both productions were directed by Edward Hall. The use only of men,
apparently the standard practice of the company, suited the first play better,
since it seemed appropriate to the setting of a three-tiered prison, but both
plays suffered from an overall crudeness of tone, in keeping with which the
cross dressed characters tended to fall back on predictable camp or obvious
cross-dressing cliches.
The headline production of the festival opened the following evening
at the rather remote Teatr Muzyczny in Gdynia, the northernmost of the three
separate cities that make up the metropolitan Gdansk area. The well-known
production of Hamlet by the American Wooster Group was given here for
three evenings. The very large auditorium of the Muzyczny was cut in half
by curtains, but even so was rather too large for the intimate Wooster Group
production. Even so, the production, using a much edited film of Richard
Burton's Hamlet as intertext, remained a powerful one, and was generally
considered the outstanding event of the festival. The other most familiar
name in the festival was Peter Brook, whose Ularum, Ularum was created in
78 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
Visky Bence, Richard III
Hungarian Theatre in Cluj, directed by Gabor Tompa
the spring of 2008 in Zurich before departing on the predictable tour of
theatre festivals. The piece is typical of Brook's minimalist theatrical research
pieces, with an almost empty stage, a single actress (Miriam Goldschmidt, who
has often worked with Brook in the past) and a single musician (Francesco
Agnello, playing the hang, a little-known Swiss percussion instrument with
which he created a sensation this year at Avignon). The haunting music of
Agnello dominated the production, though the collage of theatrical texts, from
Shakespeare of course, but also from Craig, Meyerhold, Artaud, Dullin, and
Zearni, were winningly delivered by Goldschmidt, who brought a wide range
of theatrical styles to this eyocative, if ultimately rather thin text.
The final festival production in the Wybrzeze was a deconstructed
Othello, designed and directed by Agata Duda-Gracz of the Stefan Jaracz
Theatre in L6di, Poland. Rather oddly, this production, like the opening
1\1erchant, presented tiers of cages at the rear, but there the similarity ended.
Instead of the rather amateurish, one-idea presentation of the British
company, the Polish one presented a far more daring and more polished
reworking, with radical changes to the text, breaking up and adding lines and
playing fragmentary scenes striking but minimal set pieces and curtains. To
Anglo-Saxon eyes, Andrzej Wichrowski was surprisingly lacking any hint of
the Moor, rather a distinguished, portly, elderly and clearly white gentleman
given to being wheeled in a large statue of a white horse. The major contrast
with Justyna Wasilewska as Desdemona was thus not race but age, with her
appearing as a very attractive willowy blond trophy. Izabela Noszczyk was an
almost ubiquitous and winning, if rather frumpy Emilia, but Marek Kaluzynski
as Iago quite dominated the production, orchestrating the plot in which the
destruction of Cassio (Sambor Czarnota) seemed even more central than that
of Othello. Indeed the grieving Othello is left alive at the end to mourn over
Desdemona's corpse while Iago, who has just dispatched both Emilia and
Cassio, comes down to the footlights to boast that he will live on to do more
Adjacent to the main stage of the Wybrzeze is a smaller black box
theatre, which presented three productions, all presented with minimal staging
and stressing audience intimacy. The theatre's own company in residence
emphasized the games of gender and power in its dark and intense reading of
The Taming o/ the Shrew. The 45-minute Midsummer Night's Dream by the Warsaw
Theatrical Academy reduced Shakespeare's play to four characters: Titania,
Oberon, Bottom, and Puck, and concentrates on Oberon's cruel manipulations
of aU those around him. More ambitious was the Merchant o/ Venice by the
Bremer Shakespeare Company from Germany, whose six members played a
variety of roles against a flexible setting of folding semi-transparent screens,
often enriched by film projections. Individual scenes were performed with
passion and clarity, stressing the economic basis of the action, but the decision
to leave Shylock alive at the end, while Antonio succumbs to some mysterious
and protracted death scene left me quite puzzled. More straightforward,
though almost equally dark, was the Wybrzeze's resident company, presenting a
contemporary, minimalist, intimate production of The Taming o/ the Shrew in this
same space. Piotr Domalewski as Petrucio and Dorota Androsz as Katherine
led an energetic young company in a very contemporary interpretation of the
play, focusing on the dynamics of power within the expectations of traditional
gender roles.
Although twelve of the sixteen productions of the festival were
presented in Gdansk and seven of these at the Wybrzeze, festival-goers were
offered productions in a wide range of venues scattered throughout the city:
Klub ZAK, an attractive black box theatre in the suburbs; the former Royal
Rifle Factory, an experimental space in the south of the city; and the Ldny, an
80 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
attractive outdoor theatre in a park in the Gdansk suburb of Wrzeszcz. A fmal
Gdansk venue was unquestionably the most interesting and unusual, the Two
Windows Theatre on Dluga Street in the very center of the old city. New York
theatregoers may remember the Hungarian Squat theatre which presented
productions in a storefront window. Two Windows is a similar experiment in
an even smaller space, consisting of two matched windows, each little larger
than a conventional door. Here are regularly staged happenings, tableaux
vivant, songs, art displays, and actual theatre performances on what is claimed,
with justification, to be the smallest stage in the world. Two productions
were mounted here for the festival. The first, using only the windows, was a
series of actions and posed tableaux by an artistic company, SPINX from the
neighboring city of Sopot. The other utilized a temporary platform in front
of the windows to present an updated and much adapted farcical version of
the only play in the festival not derived from Shakespeare, The Alchemist, by
Shakespeare's contemporary, Ben Jonson.
I have already mentioned productions in Gdansk's neighboring cities,
the resort town of Sopot, immediately to the north, and the industrial center
of Gdynia, further north still, the whole making up essentially a single urban
complex and all involved in the Shakespeare Festival. Gdynia has a municipal
theatre even larger and more impressive than that of Gdansk. The major festival
offering here was the Wooster Group Hamlet, but two impressive Romanian
productions received one performance each. First was Richard III, by the
Hungarian Theatre in Cluj, directed by Gabor Tompa. Carmencita Brojboju
created a stunning set, largely composed of glass cases contained mummified
heads and bodies, suggesting powerfully the ongoing carnage behind and
within the play. TV screens and electronic gadgets gave the production a
sharply contemporary feel, with many original touches, and Visky Bence
was an engaging and often very funny Richard, suggesting to me a kind of
deformed Robin Williams. The Radu Staoca National Theatre of Sibiu began
their Hamlet, as did the Wooster Group, with a classic interpretation, in this case
the Olivier version, which they also challenged and reworked in contemporary
form, though using less electronic technology and more experimentation with
acting styles.
Sopot's main connection with the festival was through its contribution
of the local "Small Stage" (Scena Kameralna), which is officially the third
theatre of the Gdansk Wybrzeze. Here in a small flexible performance space
Hamlet, Radu Stanca National Theatre of Sibiu, directed by Radu Alexandru Nica
Mariana Presecan as Gertrude, Adrian Matioc as Polonius
In background: Ofelia Popii as Ophelia, Ciprian Scurtea as Hamlet
82 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
located in a attractive park near the beach, the Naxos theatre group presented
an unusual and engaging experimental Hamlet, performed by a single actor,
Thomas Marceul, a troubled teenager whose situation suggests that of the play
and who acts it out the play using dolls and toys from his bedroom.
Although the productions were somewhat uneven in quality, as is
of course true of most festivals, and the British offerings were on the whole
unfortunately not up to the level of those from Eastern Europe, the Thirteenth
Gdansk Shakespeare Festival offered a stimulating sampling of contemporary
reworkings of the world's most produced playwright, and with the rapidly
developing plans for the new multiple Shakespearian stage, promises to
continue to make a major contribution to such production.
MARGARET ARANEO was the Managing Editor of Slavic and East Euro-
pean Performance from 2005 to 2009. She teaches in the Theatre Department
at Brooklyn College and the Drama Department of New York University's
Tisch School of the Arts. Margaret 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 York.
EUGENE BROGYANYI is Artistic Co-director of the Threshold Theater
Company, dedicated to presenting international drama unfamiliar to American
audiences and readers. His scholarly work includes contributions to the
Cambridge Guide to Theatre and the Columbia Enryclopedia of Modern Drama. He is
the editor and translator of DramaContemporary: Hungary (PAJ Publications), and
Moment of Sincenry: Nine Plqys 1!J Giza Pdskdndi (Polis Books). His translation of
Chicken Head by Gyorgy Spiro appears in the forthcoming anthology Pfqywrights
Bifore the FaiL Eastern European Drama in Times of Revolution published by the
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
MARVIN CARLSON is Sidney E. Cohn Professor of Theatre, Comparative
Literature, and Middle Eastern Studies at the Graduate Center, City University
of New York. He has received an honorary doctorate from the University
of Athens, the ATHE Career Achievement Award, the ASTR Distinguished
Scholarship Award, the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism,
and the Calloway Prize. He is the founding editor of the journal Western
European Stages, and the author of over one hundred scholarly articles in the
areas of theatre history, theatre theory, and dramatic literature. Among his
books are The Theatre of the French Revolution (1966), Goethe and the Weimar Theatre
(1978), Theories of the Theatre (1984), Places of Performance (1989), Performance: A
Critical Introduction (1996), The Haunted Stage (2001), Speaking in Tongues (2006),
and Theatre is More Beautiful than W'ar (2009). His work has been translated into
fourteen languages.
84 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 29, No. 3
KERMIT DUNKELBERG received his Ph.D. in Performance Studies from
New York University in 2008. This article draws on research for his doctoral
dissertation, Crotowski and North American Theatre: Translation, Transmission,
Dissemination. He has published articles and reviews in Slavic and East European
Performance, The Drama Review, American Theatre, Theatre Forum, and Theatre journaL
DAVID GOLDFARB holds a doctorate in Comparative Literature from
the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is a regular
contributor to SEEP and has published articles on Bruno Schulz, Zbigniew
Herbert, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Mikhail Lermonrov and narratology,
and East European cinema in East European Politics and Societies, Indiana Slavic
Studies, Philosophy and Literature, Prooftexts, The Polish Review, and book chapters
on J6zef Wittlin, Witold Gombrowicz, and Nikolai Gogol and Giuseppe
Arcimboldo. He has written the introduction and notes for Tolstoy's The Death
of Ivan I!Jch and Other Stories and Turgenev's Fathers and Sons for the Barnes and
Noble Classics series, and for the Penguin Classics edition of The Street of
Crocodiles and Other Stories by Bruno Schulz. He is working on two book projects,
one on the Marquis de Sade, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, and the genre of the
pornosophic novel, and one on Bruno Schulz.
STUART LIEBMAN is Professor of Film and Media Studies at Queens
College and a member of the Ph.D. programs in Art History and in Theatre at
CUNY Graduate Center. He is currently writing a book on the representation
of the Holocaust in world cinema during the ftrst decade after World War II.
He has authored many critical articles on European films and filmmakers Oean
Epstein, Dusan Makavejev, Andrzej Wajda, Andrzej Munk, Alexander Kluge,
Valie Export, and Helke Sander, among others), and his edited anthology,
Claude Lanzmann's Shoah: Key Esstqs, was published by Oxford University Press
in 2007.
DASSIA N. POS lER is an Assistant Professor-in-Residence in Dramatic
Arts at the University of Connecticut and the Dramaturg at the Connecticut
Repertory Theatre. Her current research examines the history, theory, and
practice of directing in Russian and early Soviet theatre. She is the recipient
of a post-doctoral fellowship from the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian
Studies at Harvard University and a Mellon dissertation fellowship from the
Council on Library and Information Resources. She was recently awarded
the Order of Diaghilev for contribution to Russian culture. Her articles and
reviews have appeared in Theatre Research International, Communications from the
International Brecht Society, and Puppetry International.
BEN SPATZ is a doctoral student at the CUNY Graduate Center, a teaching
fellow at Brooklyn College, and the founder of Urban Research Theater in
New York City. He has been leading projects in experimental theatre and
performance research for over a decade, and has spent the last five years
exploring embodied technique at the intersection of song, movement, and
action. Ben lived in Poland from 2003-2005, working with the Gardzienice
Theatre Association and several artists associated with the legacy of Jerzy
Grotowski. He is currently in the planning stages of a dissertation on the
diverse orientations (performance, therapy, ritual, research) of embodied
practice. For more information, please visit www.urbanresearchtheater.com.
86 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 29, No. 3
Photo Credits
Replikas oJApocalypsis cum Figuris and The Constant Prince
Photos courtesy of NU Classic Theater
Jerzy Grotowski
Pami(tnik Teatralf!J, 2000
Columbine's Veil
St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music
Sylwester Adamczyk
Gdansk Shakespeare Festival
Photos courtesy of Hungarian Theatre in Cluj
and Radu Stanca National Theatre of Sibiu
Peasant Qpera
Gabriella Gyorffy, www.gimagine.com
Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz
J6zef Glogowski
Out to Sea and The Madman and the Nun
Magdalena Rutkowska
Correction: In the Winter 2009 issue of SEEP, in the article "The Hidden
Work of Grotowski's Theatre of Sources, note 7 should read: James Slowiak
and Jairo Cuesta,je"{J Crotowski (London and New York: Routledge, 2007): 40.
Czech Plays: Seven New Works
Edited by Marcy Arlin, Gwynn MacDonald, and Daniel Gerould
Czech Plays: Seven New Works is
the first English-language antholo-
gy of Czech plays written after the
1989 "Velvet Revolution." These
seven works explore sex and gen-
der identity, ethnicity and vio-
lence, political corrupt ion, and
religious taboos. Using innovative
forms and diverse styles, they
tackle t he new realities of Czech
society brought on by democracy and globalization with char-
acteristic humor and intelligence.
Price US$2o.oo plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Pl ease make payments in US dollars payable to: Martin E. Segal Theat re Center.
Mail Checks or money orders to: The Circulation Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The CUNY
Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NYtoo164309
Visit our website at: http: //web.gc.cuny.edu/ mestc/ Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212817-1868
jan Fabre: I Am A Mistake. Seven Works
for the Theatre
Edited and foreword by Frank Hentschker
Flemish-Dutch theatre artist Jan
Fabre is considered one of the most
innovative and versatile artists of
his day. Over the past twenty-five
years, he has produced works as a
performance artist, theatre maker,
choreographer, opera maker, play-
wright, and visual artist. This vol-
ume represents the first collection
of plays by Jan Fabre in an English
Plays include: I am a Mistake (2007), History of Tears (2005),
je suis sang (conte de fees medieval) (2001), Angel of Death
(2003) and others.
Price US$15.00 plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Please make payments in US dollars payable to : Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
Mail Checks or money orders to: The Ci rculation Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The CUNY
Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY10016-4309
Visit our website at: http://web.gc.cuny.edu/mestc/ Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212-817-1868
Witkiewicz: Seven Plays
Translated and Edited by Daniel Gerould
This volume contains seven of Witkiewicz's most
important plays: The Pragmatists, Tumor
Brainiowicz, Gyuba/ Wahazar, The Anonymous
Work, The Cuttlefish, Dainty Shapes and Hairy
Apes, and The Beelzebub Sonata, as well as two
of his theoretical essays, "Theoretical
Introduction" and "A Few Words About the Role
of the Actor in the Theatre of Pure Form."
roMANIA After 2000
Edited by Saviana Stanescu and Daniel Gerould.
Translation editors: Saviana Stanescu and Ruth Margraff.
This volume represents the first anthology of new
Romanian Drama published in the United States and
introduces American readers to compelling playwrights
and plays that address resonant issues of a post-totali-
tari an society on its way toward democracy and a new
European identity. includes the plays: Stop The Tempo
by Gianina Carbunariu, Romania. Kiss Me! by Bogdan
Georgescu, Vitamins by Vera I on, Romania 21 by t e f n
Peca and Waxing West by Saviana Stanescu.
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, NY1oo16-4309
Visit our website at: http: //web.gc.cuny.edu/mestc/ Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212-817-1868
Barcelona Ploys: A Collection of New Works by
Catalan Playwrights
Translated and edited by Marion Peter Holt and Sharon G. Feldman
The new plays in this collection represent outstand
ing playwrights of three generations. Benet i Jornet
won his first drama award in 1963, when was only
twenty-three years old, and in recent decades he has
become Catalonia's leading exponent of thematical-
ly challenging and structurally inventive theatre. His
plays have been performed internationally and
translated into fourteen languages, including
Korean and Arabic. Sergi Belbel and Llu"isa Cunille
arrived on the scene in the late 1980s and early
1990s, with distinctive and provocative dramatic
voices. The actor-director-playwright Pau Mir6 is a
member of yet another generat ion that is now
attracting favorable critical attention.
}osep M. Benet I }ornet: Two Ploys
Translated by Marion Peter Holt
Josep M. Benet i )ornet, born in Barcelona, is the author of
more than forty works for the stage and has been a lead-
ing contributor to the striking revitalization of Catalan the-
atre in the post-Franco era. Fleeting, a compelling
"tragedy-within-a-play," and Stages, with its monological
recall of a dead and unseen protagonist, rank among his
most important plays. They provide an introduction to a
playwright whose inventive experiments in dramatic form
and treatment of provocative themes have made him a
major figure in contemporary European theatre.
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, NY1oo16-4309
Visit our website at: http:/ / web.gc.cuny.edu/ mestc/ Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212-817-1868
Buenos Aires in Translation
Translated and Edited by jean Graham-jones
BAiT epitomizes true international theatrical collabora-
tion, bringing together four of the most important con-
temporary playwrights from Buenos Aires and pairing
them with four cutting-edge US-based directors and
their ensembles.
Plays include: Women Dreamt Horses by Daniel
Veronese; A Kingdom, A Country or a Wasteland, In the
Snow by Lola Arias; Ex-Antwone by 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 New York.
Price US$2o.oo plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Four Works for the Theatre by Hugo Claus
Translated and Edited by David Willinger
Hugo Claus is the foremost contemporary writer of Dutch
language theatre, poetry, and prose. Flemish by birth and
upbringing, Claus is the author of some ninety plays, nov-
els, and collections of poetry. He is renowned as an enfant
terrible of the arts throughout Europe. From the time he
was affiliated with the international art group, COBRA, to
his liaison with pornographic film star Silvia Kristel, to the
celebration of his novel, The Sorrow of Belgium, Claus has
careened through a career that 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 payabl e to : Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
Mail Checks or money orders to: The Circulation Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The CUNY
Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY100164309
Visit our website at: http://web.gc.cuny.edu/mestc/ Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 2128171868
The Heirs of Moliere
Translated and Edited by Marvin Carlson
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This volume contains four representative French comedies of
the period from the death of Moliere to the French Revolution:
The Absent-Minded Lover by Regnard, The
Conceited Count by Philippe Nericault Destouches, The
Fashionable Prejudice by Pierre Nivelle de Ia Chaussee, and
The Friend of the Laws by Jean-Louis Laya .
Translated in a poetic form that seeks to capture the wit and
spirit of the originals, these four plays suggest something of
the range of the Moliere inheritance, from comedy of charac-
ter through the highly popular sentimental comedy of the
mid-eighteenth century, to comedy that employs the Moliere tradition for more con-
temporary political ends.
Pixerecourt: Four Melodramas
Translated and Edited by Daniel Gerould & Marvin Carlson
This volume contains four of Pixerecourt's most important
melodramas: The Ruins of Babylon or }afar and Zaida, The
Dog of Montargis or The Forest of Bondy, Christopher
Columbus or The Discovery of the New World, and Alice or
The Scottish Gravediggers, as well as Charles Nodier's
"Introduction" to the 1843 Collected Edition of Pixerecourt's
plays and the two theoretical essays by the playwright,
"Melodrama," and "Final Reflections on Melodrama."
Pixen?court furnished the Theatre of Marvels with its most
stunning effects, and brought the classic situations of fair-
ground comedy up-to-date. He determined the structure of
a popular theatre which was to last through the 19th centu-
ry. Hannah Winter, The Theatre of Marvels
Price US$2o.oo each plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Pl ease make payments i n US dollars payable to : Marti n E. Segal Theatre Center.
Mail Checks or money orders to: The Ci rculation Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The CUNY
Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY10016-4309
Visi t our website at: htt p:/ / web.gc.cuny.edu/ mestc/ Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212-8171868
Four Plays From North Africa
Translated and edited by Marvin Carlson
This volume contains four modern plays from the
Maghreb: Abdelkader Alloula's The Veil and Fatima
Gallaire's House of Wives, both Algerian, )ulila Baccar' s
Araberlin from Tunisia, and Tayeb Saddiki's The Folies
Berbers from Morocco.
As the rich tradition of modern Arabic theatre has recent
ly begun to be recognized by the Western theatre commu
nity, an important area within that tradition is still under
represented in existing anthologies and scholarship. That
is the drama from the Northwest of Africa, the region
known in Arabic as the Maghreb.
The Arab Oedipus
This volume contains four plays based on the Oedipus
legend by four leading dramatists of the Arab world.
Tawfiq AI-Hakim's King Oedipus, Ali Ahmed Bakathir's
The Tragedy of Oedipus, Ali Salim's The Comedy of
Oedipus and Walid lkhlasi's Oedipus as well as Al
Hakim's preface to his Oedipus on the subject of Arabic
t ragedy, a preface on translating Bakathir by Dalia
Basiouny, and a general introduction by the editor.
An awareness of the rich tradition of modern Arabic the-
atre has only recently begun to be felt by the Western the-
atre community, and we hope that this collection will con-
tribute to that growing awareness.
Edited by Marvin Carlson
Price US$2o.oo each plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Please make payments i n US dollars payable to : Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
Mail Checks or money orders to: The Circul at ion Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The CUNY
Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY1oot64309
Visit our website at: http://web.gc.cuny.edu/mestc/ Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212-817-1868