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vol ume 31, no.

Spring 2011
SEEP (ISSN # 1047-0019) is a publication of the Institute for Contemporary
East European Drama and Theatre under the auspices of the Martin E.
Segal Theatre Center. The Institute is at The City University of New York
Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309. All
subscription requests and submissions should be addressed to Slavic and East
European Performance: Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, T he City University of
New York Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309.
Daniel Gerould
Shari Perkins
Maria Mytilinaki
Barrie Gelles
Edwin Wilson, Chair
Marvin Carlson Allen J. Kuharski Martha W Coigney
Sruart Liebman Leo Hechr Laurence Senelick Dasha Krijanskaia
SEEP has a liberal reprinting policy. Publications that desire to reproduce
materials that have appeared in SEEP may do so with the following provisions:
a.) permission to reprint the article must be requested from SEEP in writing
before the fact; b.) credit to SEEP must be given in the reprint; c.) 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 2010. Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
Editorial Policy
From the Eclitor
Books Received
"Boleslaw Taborski, 1927-201 0"
Daniel Gerould
~ Yablonskaya, 1981-2011"
Shari Perkins
"Ellen Stewart, 1919-2011"
Krystyna Wakowicz
"The Truth of the Trash: Video Aesthetics
in the Performance of The Screech (201 0) by Video theatre"
Aneta Mancewicz
"Bringing New Russian Drama to the United States"
Robyn Quick and Yury Urnov
"Witkacy 2010 in Washington, DC"
David A. Goldfarb
"Ivan Vyskocil: A Life-Long Commitment to the Alternative"
Michal Cunderle and Alexander Komlosi
"Fomenko's Shadow of Ostrovsky's !VithoutA Dowry"
Olga Muratova
"The Woman Who Lost Her Garters
Translated and Directed by Silviu Purdirete"
Jeffrey Stephens
"A Dog's Heart at the English National Opera"
Joe Heissan
"Cheaper than a Psychiatrist:
Shadow Casters' Explicit Contents"
Visnja RogosiC
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
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 Gogol, but we cannot use original
articles discussing Gogol as a playwright.
Although we welcome translations of articles and reviews from
foreign publications, we do require copyright release statements. We will also
gladly publish announcements of special events and anything else that may be
of interest to our discipline. All submissions are refereed.
All submissions must be typed double-spaced and carefully proofread.
The Chicago Manual if 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. AU articles should
be sent to the attention of Slavic and East European Performance, c/o Martin E.
Segal Theatre Center, The City University of New York Graduate Center, 365
Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309. Submissions will be evaluated, and
authors will be notified after approximately four weeks.
You may obtain more information about Slavic and East European
Performance by visiting our website at http/ /web.gc.cuny.edu/metsc. E-mail
inquiries may be addressed to SEEP@gc.cuny.edu.
All Journals are available from ProQuest Information and Learning as
abstracts online via ProQuest information service and the
International Index to the Performing Arts.
All Journals are indexed in the MLA International Bibliography and are
members of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.
Starting in 2011, SEEP will be published biannually in the spring and
fall. The current issue, Slavic and East European Performance, Vol. 31, No. 1 is the
spring issue. There was no winter issue. Each of the two issues will carry more
articles than heretofore so that the total number of articles and of pages per
year will remain approximately the same.
Volume 31, No. 1 opens with tributes to three figures who have
contributed significantly to Slavic and Eastern European theatre and whose
deaths are occasions for special recognition and reflection. Shari Perkins
writes the IN MEMORIAM for the promising young Ukrainian playwright
Anna Yablonskaya, tragically killed in the Moscow airport bombing; Krystyna
IHakowicz honors Ellen Stewart for a half cenrury of pioneering work in
bringing Eastern European Theatre artists to La MaMa and the American
public; and I memorialize a friend and colleague, Boleslaw Taborski, who
survived the Warsaw Uprising and settled in London to become the premier
translator of Polish drama.
Four substantive articles dealing with Polish, Russian, and Czech
drama and theatre constitute the centerpiece of the issue. Aneta Mancewicz
discusses how an experimental group, Videotheatre, makes use of new
technologies. ext Robyn Quick and Yury Urnov explore how an international
project at Towson University in Baltimore has been bringing new Russian
drama to the United States. Then David Goldfarb reports on the activities
of Polish and American scholars in keeping alive interest in the Polish avant-
garde artist Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz at the Witkacy 2010 conference in
Washington, DC, featuring a performance at the Ambassador Theatre. Finally,
Michal Cunderle and Alexander Komlosi write about the legendary Czech
playwright, actor, and philosopher Ivan Vyskocil and his contributions to the
flourishing of Czech theatre and contemporary play theory.
Four reviews of current productions- Russian, Romanian, British,
and Croatian-complete the issue. Olga Muratova discusses a new reading
of an Ostrovsky play by a Russian master; Jeffrey Stephens describes Silviu
Pudirete's recreation of a Labiche farce; Joe Heissan analyzes Theatre
Complicite's operatic version of Bulgakov's A Dog's Heart, and Visnja Rogosic
takes us inside a complex devised theatrical work, Explicit Contents by the
Zagreb ensemble Shadow Casters.
6 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 31, N o. 1
New York City:
The Red Bull Theater presented The Suicide by Nikolai Erdman, in an
adaptation by Richard Nelson, directed by Kay Matschullat, on January 10.
The Ukrainian Museum presented the marionette musical show Babba
Liuba and Spzder Spiridon on January 16.
The Czech Center New York and the Untitled Theater Company #61
presented The Veiver Oratorio, a book launch and theatre performance at the
Czech Center, on February 3.
The Czech Center New York, Zlata Praha Productions, and the
Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Society presented actress Jiiina Bohdalova
and actor Martin Dejdar in a theatre performance in Czech at the Bohemian
National Hall on February 13.
The Polish Cultural Institute, in partnership with East River
Commedia presented the New York premiere of Dorota Maslowska's play,
A Couple of Poor, Polish-Speaking Romanians, directed by Paul Bargetto, at the
Abrons Arts Center from February 4 to 26.
Causa Artium presented Histories., Brands, and Other Illusions: The
Peiformance Art of Dmitry StraletJvsk;y at the Manhattan Theater on February 16.
One Way Theatre and the Bulgarian Consulate of New York presented
the New York premiere of The Revolver, a new play by Maia Pramotarova. It was
performed in Bulgarian with English subtitles at the Bulgarian Consulate on
February 25.
The Romanian Cultural I nstitute in New York, as part of its program
of performative readings, Reading the Tea Leaves-Pas de Deux: Romanian
Drama Now and Then, presented Dimitrie Cantemir's The lfieroglyphic Story
and Ion Budai-Deleanu's The Gypsiliad on March 8, Florina !lis's Tbe Children's
Crusade and Dan Lungu's Retail Prose on March 9, and Matei Decomposed
Theatre of the Human Trashcan on March 15.
The Czech Center New York presented the musical puppet theatre
Something Better, a translation of the Brothers Grimm tale "The Bremen Town
Musicians." Tt was performed by the Czech Center New York Contemporary
Toy Theater with a special guest, Czech visual and performing artist Petr Nikl
on March 12.
The Romanian Cultural Institute New York presented the US
premiere of Complete!J lnuented True Stories About the Town o/ Baia Mare on March
16. The play is the ftrst of a series that comprises the project Only the Best
About Romania, initiated by director Ana Margineanu in collaboration with
The Lark Play Development Center presented Hot!NK at the LARK:
A Festival of New Plays from Around the WOrld, which included the Bulgarian play
TheApoca!Jpse Comes by Georgi Gospodinov, from March 24 to 28.
The Romanian Culrural Institute New York presented a dramatic
reading of And It Came to Pass: The Inspiring Story o/ WOrld Wtlr II Veteran Teodor
Bodea by Ella Veres at the Ana Cristea Gallery on April 15.
La MaMA and the Public Theatre presented the Belarus Free Theatre
with performances of three contemporary Belarussian plays-Being Harold
Pinter, Zone of Silence, and Discover Love-in Belarussian with English superticles
at La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre from April 13 through May 15.
Chaverim Theatre Company presented Playing Chekhov, several one-
act comedies in Russian with English supertitles, at the Wild Project Theatre
from April 22 to 24.
The Theater for the New City presented the world premiere of
the Czechoslovakian-American Marionette Theatre's Mr. M, directed by Vit
Horejs, from April 14 to May 1, followed by a one-week engagement at the
Jewish Community Center in Manhattan from May 5 to 8.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol 31, No. 1
The Romanian Cultural Institute New York presented a production
of omad Theatrical Company, Polanski, Polanski, written by Saviana Stanescu
and directed by Tamilla Woodard, at the 9th Space from May 12 through 20.
The Czech Center New York presented The Voice of Anne Frank, a
visual and movement theatre performance by Mirenka Cechova on May 23.
The Czech Center New York presented Brundibar, a Holocaust-era
children's opera, with Newark Boys Chorus School and Mount Saint Mary
Academy on May 1.
US Regional:
Breaking String Theater, in association with the Rude Mechan.icals,
the Center for International Theatre Development, and Fusebox International
Theatre Festival, presented the 2011 Breaking String New Russian Drama
Festival, which featured work by contemporary Russian playwrights Maksym
Kurochkin and Olga Muk.hina, at Off Center in Austin, Texas from January 28
through February 19.
The Romanian Cultural Institute ew York presented Zalmoxis-A
Pagan Mystery (1921) by poet, philosopher, dramatist, and diplomat Lucian Blaga
(1895-1961), directed by Christina Beja, in the English translation of Doris
Plantus-Runey.lt was performed at the Embassy of Romania and Georgetown
University in Washington, DC on April 13, 29, and 30.
Charlestown Working Theater, in parmership with Double Edge
Theatre, presented Caesarian Section, a production by Teatr Zar and directed by
Jaroslaw Fret. It was performed at the Charleston Working Theatre from May
29 through June 1.
The Polish Cultural Institute in London presented Dementia Diaries by
Maria Jastrzc:bska, performed by Polish and British actors, at N uffield Theatre,
Southampton, from January 31 through February 2.
New York City:
The Film Society of the Lincoln Center and the Polish Film Institute
(Warsaw), in association with the Polish Cultural Institute in New York,
presented Jerzy Skolimowski's Essential Killing, a 2010 Venice Special Jury Prize
winner, in a double screening with his 1970s classic Deep End, followed by a
Q&A with the director on December 20.
The Czech Center New York included the following screenings:
The documentary ftlm A Beautiful Life I Will Have, about a theatre
organized in a refugee camp in the Czech Republic, on January 12.
Six Bears and a Clown, a ftlm screening for children, on February 16.
As part of its Film Club-Women Film Directors program, they
presented Some Secrets, directed by Alice Nellis, on March 8, Fruits of
Paradise by Vera Chytilov:i, on March 22, and the documentary flim .J&
20th Century by Olga Sommerova on March 29.
The Film Society of the Lincoln Center and the Czech Center New
York presented The Fantastic World of Frantisek V/dfil, a major survey of Vl:icil's
work, at Walter Reade Theater from February 2 through 10. Screenings
Adelheid (1969) on February 6 and 9.
The devil's trap (Dab/ova past, 1961) on February 4 and 6.
The little shepherd bqy from the vallry (Pasdcek z doli'!], 1983) on February
6 and 9.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
Marketa Lazarowi (1967) on February 2 and 5.
Sentiment (Tomtif Hejtmanek, 2003) on February 5 and 10.
Serpent's poison (Hadijed, 1981) on February 9 and 10.
The shad01v if the fern (Stin kapradiny, 1985) on February 2 and 10.
Shadows if a hot summer (Stiny horkiho leta, 1977) on February 4 and 9.
Sirius (19 7 4) with Art nouveau in Prague 18 9 5-1914 (Praha secesni /ita
1895-1914, 1975) on February 5.
Smoke on the potato fields (pjm bramborove nat{, 1976) on February 4 and
The vaiiV' if the bees ( Udoli vee/, 1967) on February 2 and 5.
The white dove (Holubice, 1960), screening with Glass skies (Sklenlna
oblaka, 1958) on February 2 and 4.
As part of the Prague Film Club, screenings included Death is Called
Engelchen by Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos, in a special event with an appearance by
actor Jan Kacer, on February 8, and Auto* Mat by Martin Marecek on February
The Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center
presented the New Directors/New Films festival, where Romanian director
George Bogdan Apetri's first feature film, Outbound, was shown on March 24
and 26.
The Czech Center New York and the Romanian Cultural Institute
in New York, in partnership with the Austrian Cultural Forum New York,
the Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia, the Consulate General of
Sweden in New York, the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York,
the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Goethe-Institut New York,
the Hungarian Cultural Center, lnstituto Cervantes-The Cultural Center of
Spain in New York, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Norwegian Consulate
General, the Polish Culrural Institute ew York, and with the support of the
Croatian Audiovisual Centre, the EYE Film Institute Netherlands, and the
Slovak Film i nstitute, presented the series of film screenings, Disappearing
Act III, which included nineteen European ftlms that are largely unknown to
American audiences. lt was an official project of EUNIC (European Union
National Institutes for Culture) with support from the EU Delegation to the
United Nations held at the Czech Center New York from April 6 to 14. Eastern
European films included:
Czech peace (Ceskj miry by Vir Klusak and Filip Remunda, Czech
Republic (2010).
The happiest girl in the world ( Cea mai fericitti jalti din lume) by Radu Jude,
Romania (2009).
Osadniby Marko Skop, Slovakia (2009).
The WOI!Jan with a broken nose (Zena sa slomfjenim nosem) by Srdan Koljevic,
Serbia (2010).
Tales from the golden age (Amintiri din epoca de aur) by Ioana Uricaru,
Hanno I l ofer, Razvan Marculescu, Cristian Mungiu, and Constantin
Popescu, Romania (2009).
Bibliotbeque Pascal by Szabolcs Hajdu, Hungary (2010).
The blucki (Crnet) by Zvonirnir ]uric and Goran Dcvic, Croatia (2009).
Snow (Sn!Jeg) by Aida Begic, Bosnia and Herzegovina (2008).
Mother Teresa of cats (Matka Teresa od k.ot6w) by Pawel Sala, Poland
Slavic and East European Petformance VoL 31, No. 1
US Regional:
Four Romanian flims were included in the 2011 Wisconsin Film
Festival program: Attrora, by Crisci Puiu; Tlmdqy, After Christmas, by Radu
Muntean; lJ I lPant to Whistle, I Whistle, by Florin and Medal of Honor,
by Peter Cilin Netzer. The festival ran from March 30 through April 3.
New York City:
The Czech Center New York and the Academy of the Performing
Arcs in Prague (DAMU) organized DAMU Dqys in NYC, a presentation of the
theatre faculty of the academy of DAMU from February 28 to March 5.
The interdisciplinary CUNY graduate student organization Mise en
Scene presented An Evening with the WOrkcenter of Jerzy Crotowski and Thomas
Richards, which included a screening of footage of "Action in Aya Irini," and
a conversation with the performers of the Workcenter about their past and
present work. The event was held at the CUNY Graduate Center on April27.
The Romanian Cultural Institute in New York presented "Theatre
Breaking Borders: The International Landscape of Theatre," a panel discussion
introduced and moderated by Corina with theatre director Gabor Tompa
and theatre and opera director Andrei Serban, on April29.
New York City:
The Czech Center New York and FAMU organized "History of
Czech Cinema: In Transition and Today," a lecture and seminar, on March 19
and 20.
The Ukrainian Studies Program at the Harriman Institute at Columbia
University, the East Central European Center at Columbia University, the
Ukrainian Museum and the Polish Cultural Institute in New York presented
"Nonconformism and Dissent in the Soviet Bloc: Guiding Legacy or Passing
Memory? An International Conference." The conference featured a special
screening of Yuri Illenko's censored film A Well for the Thirsty (1965), and a
North American concert by Victor Morozov. More than twenty scholars,
artists, and activists took part, including artist Vitaly Komar of the Russian
satirical duo Komar and Melamid; Ukrainian contrarian intellectual Mykola
Ryabchuk; Poland's Ewa Wojciak, the director of the legendary avant-garde
theatre ensemble Theatre of the Eighth Day; Solidarity co-founder Henryk
Wujec; and prize-winning emigre poet and director of the Polish language
program at Columbia University, Anna Frajlich. The conference was held at
Columbia University from March 30 to Aprill.
The Laboratorio Permanente di Ricerca Sull'Arte dell'Attore in
Torino, Italy, with support from the Grotowski Institute, organized the ongoing
educational project The Garden, focused on acting training, at the forest of
Brzezinka from April 9 to 13.
The Grotowski Institute will present a research seminar on acting
techniques led by Anatoly Vasiliev as part of its Masters in Residence program.
It will be held at the Grotowski Institute in Wrodaw from April 2011 through
June 2012.
The Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space will host
the DRAMplan2011 Symposium, an international meeting of playwrights,
literary managers, translators, festival programmers, and representatives of
theatre agencies on] une 16 and 17.
Compiled by Maria Mytilinaki
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
Cisar, Jan. The History of Czech Theatre: A Survry. Translated by Andrew Philip
Fisher ("Origins to 1862") and Julius Neumann ("From 1862 to 1945"). 375
pages. Contains twelve chapters, an appendix, glossary, selected bibliography,
abstract, and many illustrations.
Czech Theatre 25. Theatre Institute Prague, 2009. 77 pages. In English. Contains
an editorial by Barbara Topolov:i and nine articles by Jana Patockova, Marie
Reslov:i, Dora Vicenfkova, Lubos Marecek, Jan Kerbr, Petr Christov, Kamila
Hrdfnova, and Zdenek A. Tichy. Includes Kaleidoscope, Notebook, and many
Czech Theatre 26. Theatre Institute Prague, 2010. 92 pages. In English. Contains
an editorial by Kamila Cerna and fifteen articles by Jana Machalicka, Jana
Patockova, Kamila Cerna, Jan Kerbr, Karel Kraus, Georges Banu, Daniele
Sallenave, Vladimir Hulec, ]iii Adamek, Katei'ina Leskova-Dolenska, Daniel
Bechny, and Nina Malikova. Includes Kaleidoscope, Notebook, and many
Kosinski, Dariusz and Wanda eds. 5/owacki/Crotowski.
Rekontekstualizage. Wrodaw: Instytut im. Jerzego Grotowskiego, 2010.
164 pages. Contains ten chapters by Dariusz Kosinski, Marek Troszyriski,
Mateusz Borowski, Malgorzata Sugiera, Ewa Bal, Grzegorz Michal
Maslowski, Maria Prussak, Beata Baczylska, Wanda and Serge
Ouaknine. Includes summaries of the articles in English, sketches about the
authors, and an index of names.
Witkiewicz, Stanislaw lgnacy.lisry do zo'!Y (1932-1935). Edited and with notes
by Janusz Degler. Warsaw: Panstwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 2010. 686 pages.
Contains extensive notes, an index of names, and a list of the 103 illustrations.
Slavic and East European Peifomtance VoL 31, No. 1
Boleslaw Taborski
Boleslaw Taborski was a Polish emigre poet, critic, and scholar who
lived in Britain since 1946. The author of eighteen volumes of poetry and six
collections of verse, he was also a prolific translator, from Polish into English
and from English into Polish, devoting much of his attention to creating
stageable versions of the modern repertory. He played a major role in making
Polish theatre known in the English-speaking world and was an eloquent
champion of Pope John Paulll both as a playwright and as a theorist of the
1940- 43
May 7, born in Toruri
Pursues his studies during the Nazi occupation, first in Cracow,
then in Warsaw
Joins the Home Army (AK)
Fights in the Warsaw Uprising and, following its defeat, is sent to
a German POW camp
Liberated and returns to Poland
Emigrates to England
Studies English Literature and Theatre at Bristol University
Begins publishing in Poland
Works at the BBC World Service Polish Section
Appears as the subject of a short Polish documentary drama, .tlfy
Uprising (directed by his daughter, Anna Taborska), in which he
revisits the Mokot6w district of Warsaw where he took part in
the 1944 uprising
2010 December 6, dies in London
Taborslci's translations from Polish to English include:
Kott, Jan. Shakespeare Our Contemporary. New York: Doubleday, 1964.
---.Theatre Notebook, 1947-1967. New York: Doubleday, 1968.
Woroszylslci, W.iktor. The Life qf Mt!Jakovski. New York: Orion, 1972.
Burzynski, Tadeusz and Zbign.iew Osillslci. Grotowski's LAboratory. Warsaw:
Interpress, 1979.
Wojtyla, Karol. Collected Plays and Writings on Theater. Berkeley: University of
California, 1987.
Przybyszewska, Stanislawa. The Danton Case, Thermidor, Two Plt:JS Evanston, IL:
Northwestern University Press, 1989.
He also published Polish Plays in English Translation-a Bibliograpf?y
(New York: Polish Instirute of Arts and Science in America, 1968) and Byron
and the Theatre (Salzburg: University of Salzburg, 1972). His translations from
English into Polish include many plays by Harold Pinter, John Arden, Arnold
Wesker, John Osborne, Edward Bond, and other twentieth-century authors.
Daniel Gerould
18 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
Anna Yablonskaya
The Ukrainian playwright, poet, and author Anna Grigor'yevna
Yablonskaya (also known as Anna Mashutina) was born on July 20, 1981.
A native of Odessa, she was the daughter of prominent journalist Grigoriy
Yablonsky and a graduate of the Odessa National Law Academy. A prolific
author who wrote in Russian, Yablonskaya had started to attract increasing
international interest from critics and producers when she was killed at the age
of twenty-nine in the terrorist bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport on
January 24, 2011.
Yablonskaya began her writing career early, publishing her first
work in the Odessa magazine Fontan at the age of fourteen. While still in
school, she cultivated a friendship with Natalya Knyazeva, the director of
the Tur de Fors theatre, who staged Yablonskaya's Door. In subsequent years,
Yablonskaya authored over a dozen plays and won critical acclaim in a number
of international competitions, including "Prem'era.t:xt-2005" (2nd place for
Monodialogues), "Evrazia-2006" (2nd place for Space), "Evrazia-2008" (3rd
place for Videocamera and Outlet to the Sea), and the Free Theatre of Belarus's
contemporary playwriting competitions in 2005 (special prize for Videocamera)
and 2009 (Contemporary P/01writing magazine's award for Pustosh). At the time
of her death, Yablonskaya was traveling to Moscow to accept an award from
Cinema Arts for her film adaptation of her play The Pagans.
Although not yet widely known at the time of her death, Yablonskaya
had a growing reputation as one of the most promising young playwrights
of the New Drama. In the last few years, her works have received readings
and stagings in Perm, Chelyabinsk, Belgorod, St. Petersburg, and Moscow.
In St. Petersburg, Anton Milochkin presented Videocamera and Yekaterina
Maksimova staged Somewhere and Nearby. Damir Salimzyanov's production of
the same play, which originated at Glazov's Paraphrase Theatre, also played at
the Stsena Molot in Perm and Praktika in Moscow. In 2010, Yablonskaya was
one of nine playwrights to take part in the Royal Court Theatre's International
Residency program, where she worked on Scenes from Fami!J Life. Upcoming
readings and productions include The Pagans at the Royal Court, The Irons at
Anna Yablonskaya
20 Slavic and East European Peifor7llance Vol. 31, No. 1
the Nottingham Playhouse, and Komchatsk;y Chatsk;y at Chelyabinsk's Maneken
In her plays, Yablonskaya created contemporary characters struggling
with domestic and interpersonal problems. While refraining from the shocking
and overtly political style of many of her peer playwrights, she nonetheless
"depicted modern life with a severity that could be lacerating,"
often focusing
on the experiences of female characters and misfits.
Her death has deprived
the theatre community of a valuable, vibrant young voice.
Dramatic Works
Scenes from ramify Life ( Cemei'!Je stse'!Y)
Irons ( Uryugz)
Pantheon (Panteon)
What If . . . ( Chtol:ylol:yeslz)
Warmth (Tep!o)
Sometvhere and Nearl:y (Gde-to i oko!o)
Abandoned Radio (Zabroshennqye radio)
The Boatman (Lodochnick)
The Prick U k o ~
Outlet to the Sea (T(ykhod k moryu)
Space (Kosmos)
Jlfonodia!ogues (Monodialogz)
Videocamera ( Videokamera)
The Concierge (Kons'erzhka)
Bermuda Square (Bermudskry Kvadraf)
Thumbelina and the Butterf!y (Dyl!Jmovochka i Morylek)
Letter to a Zoo (Pismo v zoopark)
The Dogless Cowbqy Show (Shou kovboya bez sobakz)
The Pagans (Yazychnikz)
Komchatsk:y Chatsk;y (Chatskry-komchatskry)
Newton's Fourth La1v (4-i zakon N'iutona)
Shari Perkins
1. Ellen Barry, "Playwright Anna Mashutina Among Victims in Moscow,"
New York Trmes,January 26, 2011.
2. Natalia Antonova, "Respect Those Who Died at Domodedovo," The
Guardian, January 25, 2011, accessed May 1, 2011, http:/ /www.guardian.co.uk/
commen tisfree/2011 /jan/25 / domodedovo-bomb-anna-yablonskaya/.
3. The texts of a number of Yablonskaya's plays are available on her website
at http:/ /www.lapir.com/.
22 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 31, No. 1
Ellen Stewart
La MaMa's iconic founder and leader, Ellen Stewart, died on
January 13, 2011, but her theatre is still "building bridges" to Jet "the artists
from around the globe share work and ideas."
Throughout her career, Ellen
Stewart's phenomenal theatrical intuition led her to explore new directions
and artistic concepts. Her approach to theatre was one of cross-pollination,
which abolished boundaries between all types of theatre, mixing the spoken
word with music, dance, and performance.
She made space available to new
directors and young actors, turning her theatre into a meeting place for all
nationalities, cultures, and languages. Stewart's La MaMa was an international
melting pot creating channels of communications with the world's theatrical
One of her bridges clearly reached out to Eastern Europe. A quick
glance at the repertory at La MaMa in the spring of 2011 shows a notable
presence of Eastern European and South-Eastern European theatre. The
Perforations Festival introduced New York to artists and theatres from
Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Macedonia. In January, the Free
Theatre of Belarus presented Being Harold Pinter. In April, Yara Arts Group,
directed by long-time La MaMa collaborator Virlana Tkacz, performed Raven,
a piece based on the poem by Ukrainian poet Oleh Lysheha. Still another
performance by Peter Scriscioli and Ana Sofrenovic brought together a New
York based artist and an actress and vocalist from Belgrade.
In the very early years, La MaMa's activity focused primarily on the
United States. Stewart promoted unknown American artists, such as Lanford
Wilson, Tom Eyen, Sam Shepard, Leonard Melfi, and H.M. Koutoukas. In
fact, this is how the La MaMa Cafe started in 1962 at 321 East 9th Street in
Manhattan's East Village. Soon she included Eastern Europe in her theatrical
vision. On December 26, 1965, the ftrst East European event at La MaMa took
place: a staging of Tadeusz R6iewicz's play The Witness, which was also its first
American production. Later, La MaMa presented R6iewicz's post-apocalyptic
The Old ijq;man Broods (1972), and, more recently, his PassingAwqy, adapted for
the stage and directed by Leszek ~ d z i k of Scena Plastyczna KUL (2006).
... - . - .
Ellen Stewart
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
In September 1965, La MaMa initiated the theatre's European Tours.
The first tour was limited to Western Europe (Germany, Denmark, France),
but during the second one in 1966, the group visited Zagreb, their first city
outside Western Europe. Subsequently, Ellen Stewart would invite artists
and companies from Estonia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Poland,
Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union/ Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
The performance of R6zewicz's The Witness started a very productive
relationship with Poland, which, as Andrzej Wirth recently argued, was "an
interim superpower of theatre" in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1967, Ellen Stewart
was instrumental in bringingJerzy Grotowski to New York. Although already
famous in experimental theatre circles in Europe, at that time Grotowski was
still unknown in the United States. While he was visiting Canada in 1967, La
MaMa co-sponsored (with ew York University and Richard Schechner) his
first workshop in New York. Then La MaMa co-sponsored the presentations
of three Polish Laboratory Theatre Presentations in 1969. Eugenio Barba, who
had a major role in bringing Grotowski ro the attention of the world and led
his own experiments at the Odin Teatret in Denmark, presented his work at La
MaMa in 1984 and 1999.
Another great theatre innovator from Poland, Tadeusz Kantor (1915-
1990), showed The Dead Class at La MaMa as early as 1979; it was followed
by productions of Wielopole, Wielopole (1982), Let the Artists Die (1985), and I
Shall Never Return (1988). To honor Kantor's death, Ellen Stewart invited his
ensemble, Cricot 2, to play The Dead Class and Today is A[y Birthday (1991).
Wlodzimierz Staniewski and his group Gardzienice visited the theatre on
several occasions between 2001 and 2007.
Many of the Eastern European events at La MaMa were inevitably
connected to the political situation in that part of the world. In 1969, a
year after the Prague Spring and the Soviet invasion, La MaMa presented A
Bridegroom for Marcella and .KJara, a play by Czech dissident author Ivan Klima.
Another famous Czech dissident, V:iclav Havel, was featured at East 4th Street
in 2008 through his play Temptation, directed by Zishan Ugurlu.
After the fall of communism, La MaMa opened its doors even wider
to Eastern European theatre artistS, who were now free to travel without
government restriction and harassment. The Yara Arts Group's workshops and
performances, which are based on Ukrainian poetry and music and the culture
of Kyrgyzstan, are frequently featured in La MaMa's repertory. This company,
created by Virlana Tkacz, has been connected to La MaMa since 1990. Their
mesmerizing performances, which combine music, poetry, movement, and
light, in many ways represent the essence of La MaMa's spirit.
In the 1990s and early twenty-first century, many groups from
Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia showed their work at "Mama Ellen's" theatre.
The Ivan Franko Theatre from Kiev presented Gogol's The Notes of a Madman
in 1994, and the Festival of Estonian Culture presented Estonian theatrical
traditions in 1995. Numerous Polish experimental theatres-such as Teatr
Provisorium, Scena Plastyczna, Piesri Kozla, and Wierszalin-visited La
MaMa in the two decades following the fall of communism. In 2008, to renew
the spirit of experimentation, La MaMa and the Polish Cultural Institute
launched a retrospective screening of Kantor's films of his "Theatre of
Death" pieces, followed by public discussions. In the following year, Ellen
Stewart commemorated the tenth anniversary of Jerzy Grotowski's death by
participating in the creation of events, panels, and discussions throughout
New York about Grotowski's legacy.
La MaMa was a hatchery of new directorial talents. Andre Serban's
story is emblematic. It was Ellen Stewart who helped him emigrate from
Andrew Coltcaux and Kat Yew in Raven, directed by Virlana Tkacz,
Yara Arts Group at La MaMa, New York, 2011
Slavic and East Eur-opean Peiformance Vol. 31, No. 1
Romania to the United States in 1969, enabling him to embark upon his
international career. In 1970 Serban directed Jarry's Ubu and the anonymous
Elizabethan tragedy Arden of Faversham at La MaMa, and since then he has
created numerous productions for Stewart and for prestigious theatres around
the world. Serban has not only collaborated with La MaMa on his own, but
he has also helped other Romanian directors such as Radu Penciulescu (Tis
a Pi!J She's a Whore, 1978) and Liviu Ciulei (Paul Foster's Elizabeth !, Ion Luca
Carogiale's A Lost Letter, 1979) direct in America. In 2007, a piece called Dead(y
Confession, performed by the Andrei Serban Traveling Academy from Romania,
marked the development of another bridge-a cooperation between American
and Romanian theatre artists.
Ellen Stewart's recognition of Eastern European theatre culture and
her efforts to bring that culture to America, to make them cross-pollinate,
as she would say, were greatly appreciated by theatre communities. Some
countries, like Poland and Ukraine, granted Stewart awards for her services to
art and culture. Now, our strongest impulse must be to strengthen the bridges
Mama Ellen created through her nurturing, deeply human energy, and her all-
embracing artistic vision.
Krystyna IHakowicz
1. "La MaMa," La MaMa Website, accessed May 23, 2011, http:/ jwww.la-
2. Bev Ostroska, "Interview with Ellen Stewart of La MaMa Experimental
Theatre Club, December 9, 1984," journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 6, no. 1 (Fall
1991): 101.
3. Andrzej Wirth, "The Paradox of Poland as Interim Superpower of The-
ater" Qecture, Yale University, New Haven, CT, March 2, 201 1).
28 Slavic and East European Peiformance VoL 31, No. 1
Aneta Mancewicz
Just as avant-garde turns into orthodoxy and iconoclasts into icons,
so do many experimental collectives become contemporary classics. This
may mark the end of their exploration-several radical performance groups
from the 1970s and 80s have either dispersed or grown into mainstream
companies, both institutionally and aesthetically. There are, however, others
that have remained on the margins, continuing to push the boundaries of
contemporary performance and challenge audience expectations. Such is the
case of Videotheatre (Videoleali'), which celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary
at the Theatre Institute in Warsaw with a premiere performance of The Screech
on june 10,2010.
Video theatre debuted in 1985 at the Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw with
the performance of Act-tress (Akt-orka). The show underwent several revisions
and variations, culminating in 1999 with the production of Act-resses (Akt-ork1).
The subsequent productions were conceived and staged in the Szuster Palace,
a nco-Renaissance, nco-Gothic building located in the park of Mokotow, a
residential district of Warsaw. On a small stage with a maximum audience of
for ty-four, Videotheatre has produced several shows, such as Operation Alcestis
Alkestis), KaBaKLli/ RE-animations (KaBaKai/ RE-animage), A Novel for
Hof!J'wood (PowiefC dla Hoi!J'riJoodu), and Hamlet from Gliwice. A Rehearsal (Hamlet
gfiwicki. Prrfba) .
Videotheatre was born out of an experience of death. In 1982,
Helmut Kajzar, a playwright and director with a thriving international career,
died of cancer at the age of forty-one. In the process of coming to terms
with his loss, ]olanta Lathe, his actress wife, and Piotr Lachmann, a Polish-
German t ranslator and Kajzar's close friend, began to reinterpret his work
on stage, leading to the creation of Videotheatre. Lathe embarked on the
project as a renowned theatre and film actress, celebrated for her work with
Polish experimental theatre directors Oozef Szajna, Helmut Kajzar, Adam
Hanuszkiewicz), but also known for her memorable creations in television
series, such as Doktor E11Ja on Channel 2 of Polish television. Lachmann is
recognized both in Poland and Germany as a poet, translator, and essayist (e.g.
Vorbereitung if'' Dichterlesung. Ein polemisches Lesebuch, or f.l5'wolane z pamir_cz).
His work is deeply influenced by the Polish and German literary tradition,
philosophical and dramatic writings, and twentieth century history.
In Videotheatre productions, Lathe and Lachmann reinterpret the
sense of the vulnerability and transience of human life which permeates
Kajzar's dramatic and stage work, and which manifested itself so brutally in
his illness and death. "For Kajzar, the theatre itself is suspended in the state
of moritorttm ['in the process of dying']," K.atarzyna K.wapisz observes;
she asserts that "the world of Kajzar's drama is the world of masks and
metamorphoses but also of the terror of physicality itself, a fear that translates
into a desire to resist biological constraint."
In an attempt to keep death at bay
and revive the ritual character of theatre art, Kajzar constructed plays from
everyday gestures and situations, from layers of experience which combine
multiple psychological perspectives and temporal frameworks.
Dissecting reality, identity, and time, Kajzar might have been inspired
by aspects of innovative Polish plays which he staged in Poland and abroad:
the polyphonous characters of Tadeusz R6iewicz and grotesque types created
by Witold Gombrowicz. Kajzar's experiments have also been compared to the
stage exploration of his contemporary,Jerzy Grotowski, yet with the emphasis
on the originality of the rwo practitioners, since each of them conducted
independent investigations of a ritual dimension of the theatre experience.
During his short, highly successful career, K.ajzar collaborated with theatres in
Wrodaw and Warsaw, worked on the development of radio plays in Poland,
and directed and taught in Germany and Sweden. His plays were published
as Szmki i eseje and S'{/uki teatralne 1972-1982, while many of his theoretical
writings were published posthumously as Nie drukowane.
Kajzar's most inventive and recognizable contribution to theatre
theory and practice was the concept of "Teatr Metacodzienny" (Kwapisz
translates it as "the Theatre of Meta-everydayness"), which he described in
his Manifesto of 1977. In this poetic, autobiographical piece, Kajzar advocates
for a theatre which breaks with classical unities in the process of combining
theatre with everyday practices, memories, and dreams. This type of theatre
calls for collaboration berween actors and audience members, each bringing
his or her own experiences to create a communion of disparate worldviews,
which occurs within a unique, unrepeatable here and now of performance as
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 31, No. 1
an event.
Although Kajzar's work as a theatre director only partly resonates
with his manifesto, his dramas show the influence of the "theatre of meta-
everydayness" to a much greater extent.
Lachmann and Lathe find his dramatic
output particularly stimulating in their theatre practice. Videotheatre relies on
Kajzar's work as a playwright rather than a director, and the company's creators
insist on the originality of their staging; their extensive, innovative use of
technology testifies to the highly individual character of their work. Selecting
and combining fragments of Kajzar's plays, the two artists create a new type
of theatre, which results from ingenious and highly innovative blends of live
and mediated action.
In combining dramatic texts with video images, Loch mann and Lothe
arc chiefly interested in the exploration of multiple temporal perspectives, as
well as in the break with the psychological realism of a character. Both these
features are central to Kajzar's manifesto, and they are reflected in his plays.
For instance, in Star (Gwiazda), which became the basis of The Act-tress, Kajzar
portrays a female performer who tries new roles and new identities as if they
were different dresses. The actress never establishes a stable self, leaving the
task of reconstruction and speculation to the audience. In the Videotheatre
adaptation of this play, Lathe performs a highly collaged version of Kajzar's
texts against several television screens, which show her different clones (old
and young, beautiful and ugly, multiplied and transformed) in dialogue with
each other. The screens in this performance become not only reflections of
a single character, or possibly of multiple personae, but they also function
as "mirrors of another time," since they allow for the dissolution of the
boundaries between past, present, and future-a universal theatre experience,
which Kajzar posrulated in his Manifesto.
In the productions of Videotheatre, the idea of "mirrors of another
time" refers to the expansion of the theatrical hie et nunc, in an attempt to
devise alternative forms of experiencing temporality on stage. Lathe and
Lachmann have translated Kajzar's preoccupations with the body, ageing, and
death into intricate interactions between live performers and video projections.
They have introduced an elaborate set of television monitors, video cameras,
projectors, cables, and consoles, which dominate the stage. The extent and the
complexity of the technological apparatus has grown over the years, opening
new possibilities for the artists to explore the interface between performance
and media. Advancements in digital technologies have granted Lathe and
Lachmann multiple ways of registering, modifying, and projecting images.
This, in turn, has contributed to complex temporal and spatial perspectives in
Videotheatre's shows.
With technology, the artists blur the boundary between the onstage
and onscreen presence of the actors. In the course of every performance,
technological devices are operated by a video jockey, an onstage figure who
transmits images and music, enforcing the relationship between live and
mediated performance, as well as between actors and viewers. In Videotheatre
productions this role is played by Lachmann, who records live action and
projects it onto multiple screens, mixing and altering images and sounds.
He also imposes projections on the actors, blurring the boundary between
their onstage and onscreen appearance. Furthermore, in some Videotheatre
performances (e.g. Hamlet from Cliwice), the viewers entering the performing
space arc recorded and projected on screens located on the stage. Thus, their
arrival marks the beginning of the play and constitutes a part of its performance.
The anxiety about the passing of time and the desire to capture
ephemeral sensations or to retrieve them by means of performance has been
central to the plays of Kajzar and the theatre work of Lachmann and Lathe.
Videotheatre productions have continued to reflect upon the relationship
between media, memory, and mourning. Parallel to the exploration of video
imagery, the artists have turned to a variety of theatre traditions and textual
sources. The company's scenarios incorporate masterpieces from the Western
canon: Sophocles's Antigone (in The Act-ress), Euripides's Alcestis (in Operation
Alcestis), or Shakespeare's Hamlet (in Hamlet from CliJvice). Video theatre has also
been inspired by the Asian stage tradition, for example a Noh play, Aoi no Ue
(LAtfyAoz) by the Japanese playwright Zeami Motokiyo (in The Actresses), as well
as by non-dramatic texts, such as the Egyptian Book of the Dead of the Nurse Kai
(in KaBaKai/ RE-animations), or by Hanna Krall's journalistic account, A Novel
for Hol!Jwood (in the performance of the same title).
A wide range of inspirations has influenced the diversity of acting
techniques and design styles. KaBa&i, for instance, was based on the notion
of theatre as an archeological exploration of multiple layers of experience;
the production involved a sumptuous set and presented Lathe as a mummy,
suspended not only between a body and an object, but also between life and
death, and between the present and eternity. Apart from the symbolic use
32 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
Zbigniew Konopka andJolama Lothe in The Screech, Videotheatre, Warsaw, 2010
of props and images, the company's productions have been filtered through
Lachmann's poetic sensibility and his fascination with semantic and phonetic
aspects of language. The scripts which Lachmann contributed to Videotheatre
productions over the years abound in wordplay and puns. These metaphorical,
multilayered texts touch on themes from his biography and the history of the
company, as weU as on contemporary issues regarding media, society, history,
and the economy.
The Screech, the latest production of Videotheatre, relies on video
techniques and acting styles used in the earlier work of the company. As in other
shows, the stage is occupied by several screens, cameras, cables, and a console;
the set design resembles a rehearsal room. Apart from the technological
apparatus, the plain table and the chairs at the center of the stage are the only
set pieces. Konopka and Lethe enter in purple robes which give them a casual,
intimate look. The performers use almost no props; when they throw empty
beer cans on stage, the ascetic character of the space seems to be violated by
signs of consumerist culture.
Lachmann's poetic script is a debate about justice and compassion
in a world of unequal distribution of goods. The argument is developed by a
man and a woman (played by Zbigniew Konopka and Lethe) who represent
contrasting approaches to economic inequality. He is an aggressive entrepreneur,
troubled by the determination of the poor to survive despite hardship. She is
his life companion, filled with empathy and admiration for the human instinct
of self-preservation. The show could be interpreted as a morality play: the
dialogue's didactic frame becomes most evident when Konopka and Lothe
hold a white trash bag on which Lachmann projects their faces. While the
actors remain silent, the video pronounces their principal arguments. The
scene creates an ironic effect of transcendence (the truth of trash), but it also
creates psychological distance between performer and character.
Like aU other Videotheater productions, The Screech mixes onstage and
onscreen material as well as the presence and absence of performers. What
distinguishes this production from other shows of Videothearre, however, is
the mixrure of dream and reality and the extensive use of film quotations.
The play opens with a sequence from Mullholand Drive, a trancelike, surrealist
movie directed by David Lynch. The scene shows two men who are sitting in
an American diner. "I had a dream about this place," says one of them. The
sentence (in Polish translation) is repeated by Konopka, as he comes omo the
34 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
stage. He addresses Lothe, who is projected in real time on several screens,
while she is lying on the bed upstage. During the performance the actors
change places, both physically and between live and mediated performance
while they are trying to determine whether what they are experiencing is dream
or reality.
Discussing these questions, the actors appear live and mediated
against ftlm fragments that deal with the dissolution of borders between
reality and dream. Most of rhe images parallel themes from the play. Several
visual elements, however, contrast wirh rhe dialogue, creating the effect of
a semantic clash. For example, images of Christ's wounded body from Mel
Gibson's PaSiion or Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Chn'st are shown
during Konopka's contemptuous speech against the poor, whom he calls rats.
The combination suggests a parallel between rhem, yer creates dissonance
due not only to the contrast between Christian compassion and capitalist
exploitation, but even more markedly, due to rhe discord between sacrum
and projamtm. The two spheres merge when Konopka takes blood from the
image of Christ's flogged body. This moment constitutes a profane version of
transubstantiation, showing how a word turns into an image and how an image
turns into a gesture in real life.
The images in the performance reflect on rhe idea of popular culture
as a depository of meanings which can be recycled in new contexts. Such is
the function of a short amateur film clip from the 2010 Polish Air Force Tu-
154 crash which appears briefly and almost accidentally among images of
Christ's passion. The clip signals one of the most widely-discussed events in
the Polish public life in the spring of 2010, which led to heated discussions
about political consequences of the death of prominent politicians and the
media's responsibility in the face of the national tragedy.
The visual and the
verbal context in which the video appears, however, does not give the audience
time to reflect on these issues. Instead, the decision to squeeze a blurred clip,
lasting a few seconds, among a series of other images suggests an excess of
The notions of image recycling and information surplus complement
the theme of consumerist culture, which is symbolized in the play by the empty
beer cans. The cans are described in the dialogue as objects efficiently collected
by the poor, who noisily crush rhem to the displeasure of the rich. They also
appear on several screens, accompanied by the screeching sound of crushed
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 31, No. 1
metal. Later in the show they are thrown on stage as material evidence of mass
consumption and the unequal distribution of resources. Lachmann does not
resolve the conflict between the two radically di fferent approaches to poverty.
Nevertheless, in some shows he appears in the fmale at the center of the stage
to collect the cans, thus suggesting to the audience where his sympathies lie.
In all the productions, however, towards the end of the play Konopka reads
a quotation from Jonathan Littell's World War II novel The Kind!J Ones (Les
Bienveillantes, 2006), in which an unremorseful SS officer describes the Nazi
massacres. The selected excerpt states that the killings in the East have
enlightened us about the force of human solidarity, since all the Nazi soldiers
must have recalled their beloved ones during the executions. The paradoxical
nature of this quote stresses the contradiction in the statement of Konopka's
character, who claims that it is out of compassion for the poor that he wants
to exterminate them.
Owing to the paradoxes contained in these claims, The Screech does
not end with a clear ethical message. Although the recent production of
Videotheatre may not have the historic complexity of some other shows of
Lachmann and Lothe, such as A Novel for Hoi!Jwood or If am let .from G/iwice, the
play still testifies to the visual and linguistic mastery of the Warsaw artists.
These two earlier productions portrayed the Second World War through
authentic, individual stories; they also involved a more intricate play of
temporal perspectives. Hamlet, for instance, was based on wartime memories
of Lachmann himself, and the director's presence on stage in the role of
the VJ not only authenticated the story, but also added a touch of nostalgia
to Konopka's portrayal of Lachmann as a child. Furthermore, The Screech is
less metatheatrical than earlier productions of the company, relying more on
cinematic allusions than on theatre traditions or stage experiences of the artists.
These changes, however, do not have to be viewed unfavorably, as they testify
to the unceasing exploration of new ways of stage expression in the work
of Lachmann and Loth e. Having accumulated twenty-five years of experience
in producing video-based performances, the artists still seek to create works
which are challenging in terms of images and ideas.
1. Videotheatre's website, which documents twenry-five years of stage
experimentation, technological innovation, and personal experiences, features short
videos from selected productions, along with theatre reviews, critical assessments, and
the program of the anniversary celebrations in the Theatre Institute. It can be viewed
at http:/ /videoteatrpoza.pl/.
2. Katarzyna Kwapisz, '"Always in the Likeness': The Virtual Presences of
Helmut Kajzar's GJviazda in the Lothe Lachmann Theatre," Modern Drama 48, no. 3
(Fall 2005): 530.
3. Ibid., 527.
4. Ibid.; Ewa W:tchocka, "Teate Kajzara," Dziennik Teatralny, accessed March
22,2011, http:/ / www.teatry.art.pl/pomery/kajzar_h/teatrk.htm.
5. W:tchocka, "Teatr Kajzara."
6. Piotr Lachmann, Program: Hamletgliwicki. Proba [Playbill: Hamlet from Gliwice.
A Rebearsa4, 2006.
7. The tragedy occurred near the Russian ciry of Smolensk and resulted in the
death of ninery-stx people on board, including the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski
and his wife. The event has provoked a wide debate concerning the causes of the crash.
Amateur clips from the place of the catastrophe have become popular, giving rise to
further rumor and speculation.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
Robyn Quick and Yury Urnov
When Hilary Clinton made her first trip to Russia as the US Secretary
of State, she presented a small gift-a red button meant to symbolize t he
Obama administration's desire to "reset" relations between the two countries-
to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. In a now-famous episode of
translation gone awry, the button displayed the wordperegruzka, which Lavrov
noted actually means "overcharge."
This story symbolizes two equally strong
characteristics of current relations between the two countries: a desire to move
beyond our troubled past, and the difficulty of doing so. As much as we might
seek mutual understanding, the Cold War and its legacy have left many citizens
of both countries-as well as our leaders-with memories of when the other
was a source of fear or mistrust and there has been little new information to
help alter those impressions.
The glimpses of Russia that US audiences are most likely to experience
on stage-through plays by Chekhov or occasional adaptations of novels by
Tolstoy or Dostoevsky-may provide a sense of the country's rich cultural
history, but fail to acquaint them with the concerns of contemporary Russians.
In many ways, this gap is perfectly understandable. The restrictions placed
upon drama written under Soviet rule produced little work that found a place
on stages outside that country. In the years immediately following the birth of
the Russian Federation, playwriting took a back seat to more essential tasks-
and to the dramas playing out on the streets.
But the anarchic environment of the time allowed artists the freedom
to create without the formal and informal rules that had determined both the
form and content of Russian drama for so long. Many young writers turned
their attention to the issue that was occupying conversations outside the
theatre: an examination of and attempt to understand what was happening
in the rapidly changing moment. By and large, these playwrights spoke from
a particular generational perspective as well. They began writing as twenty-
somethings who had grown up in the Soviet Union, only to have all that had
defined their world disappear as they srood on the brink of adulthood. Their
perceptions of the country they inherited and their dramatic portraits of the
experience of their peers were soon recognized as a movement, dubbed "new
Joseph Ritsch (Okhlobystin) and Caroline Reck (Zina) in Tanya-Tanya, directed by Yury Urnov,
Towson University, Baltimore, 2010
In the fall of 2006, the writers of this article, together with partners in
Russia and the United States, began searching for ways to acguaint American
artists, scholars, and audiences with this new Russian drama. Ultimately, our
discussions led to the New Russian Drama Project, a collaboration between
Philip Arnoult's Center for International Theatre Development (CITD) and the
Towson University Department of Theatre Arts.
Through a four-year series
of translations, classes, productions, and professional gatherings, we explored
how the study and performance of these plays in the United States might
engender conversations about the relationships between the two countries.
Creating the project, however, became its own cultural laboratory, leading
to revelations about the similarities and differences between our cultures at
every stage of our work. One source of this dialogue was the collaborative
relationship between the authors of this article, Yury Urnov, a Russian
director and Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at Towson from 2009 to 2011, and
Robyn Quick, a Towson professor who served as the project coordinator and
dramaturg. The following discussion reflects some of the insights we gained
throughout our project.
Robyn first encountered the plays through CITD founding director
Philip Arnoult, who gave her several translated scripts and invited her to join
a CITD trip to the 2006 New Drama Festival in Moscow. She sensed that Lhe
young characters, frank language, and contemporary settings typically found
in the plays would immediately appeal to the interests and artistic tastes of
students at the university. At the same time, the plays would take these young
theatre artists on a journey into unfamiliar features of life in contemporary
Russia. Conversations with Yury and John Freedman, a translator and Moscow
Times theatre critic, helped deepen her understanding of the relationship
between the intensity and urgency in the plays and the turmoil in contemporary
Russian society. She grew eager to help US audiences engage with the plays and
with the people and culture that created them.
Sharing Russian concerns with American audiences also appealed to
Yury, who had been involved in staging new dramas in Russia and encouraging
the writers- most notably by both directing and performing in Maksym
Kurochkin's Vodka, Fucking, and Television-for many years. Yury felt that seeing
a crowd of "aliens" laughing and crying over their creations might produce an
important "cathartic moment" for Russian artists. In this moment, he hoped
the Russians would discover that people who frightened them throughout their
childhood could truly care about the troubles and hopes of a character such
as Worm from Yury Klavdiev's The Polar r u t ~ a drug-addicted young man
from the polar city of Notilsk, who seems to have no prospect finding love or
acceptance in any form. At the same time, the pragmatist and producer in Yury
noted that the project might provide another benefit to the writers. Given the
Russian saying that "a prophet is never recognized in his own land," he felt that
overseas publication and production could convince the authors' compatriots
to pay more attention to their work.
Arnoult designed a selection process to ensure that the plays in the
project would satisfy the partners from both countries. Each member of a five-
person Russian advisory board created a list of ten recent plays which they felt
best reflected the new drama movement.
These suggestions were compiled
into a list of twenty plays. Yury and John Freedman created English-language
descriptions of these plays to present to Arnoult's US board of advisors and to
the planning team in Towson's Department of Theatre Arts. The summaries
allowed the Towson collaborators to consider casting and technical issues during
selection. Aside from those concerns, the planning team at Towson was eager
to learn from the Russians and felt that the panel's strongest recommendations
could meet Towson's goals for the project.
Yet one play that found its way into the Towson season through
a class project and student workshop resonated very differendy with the
Russians and Americans. Our reflections on the possible reasons for this
disparity led us to contemplate the way that theatre and social history in the
two countries may have shaped our differing perceptions. Although the work
of Yury K.lavdiev was prominently featured in the recommendations of the
Russian board, The Polar Truth did not appear on anyone's list as a candidate
for a mainstage production. This portrait of a group of HIV-infected young
people who create an alternate society reminded some Russians of strategies
for detailing and solving problems found in early Soviet socialist realism-a
42 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 31, No. 1
Anthony Conway in Martial Arts, directed by Yury Urnov, Towson University, Baltimore, 2010
tradition Russian theatre artists wish to keep buried in the past. Meanwhile,
students in the Towson University course " Russian Theatre and Politics"
overwhelmingly voted The Polar T r ~ ~ t h their favorite play of the semester, and a
workshop production in the fall of 2009 was received enthusiastically.
American readers and audience members were inspired by the fact that these
young people, rejected by the rest of society, form their own community. The
different ways that the plot resonated in the two cultures led us to reflect on our
different experiences of collective action. Russian history is rife with examples
of efforts to form alternative communities that were crushed-often violently
so-by the forces in power. Though US history has its share of such events,
the success of various American civil rights movements may make Americans
more inclined to believe in the power of the characters' collective actions and
the potential for a happy ending.
In order to give these plays a life on the US stage, we needed
translations. This part of the project was an opportunity to explore methods
of creating an understandable performance text for the target audience that
still retains distinct features of the original. Therefore, we applied a range of
approaches, allowing the individuals and translation teams we commissioned
to create their own method of translating. American playwright Kate Moira
Ryan, for example, worked off of both John Freedman's existing translation
of Olga Muk.hina's Ta'!}a-Tarl)'a and a literal translation that she commissioned
from a Russian student. She then adapted the text by altering the language and
cutting parts that she felt would not translate to an American audience while
striving to maintain the poetry of Mukhina's language.
John Freedman, a bilingual translator, took sole responsibility
for Vyacheslav Durnenkov's Frozen in Time, Yury Klavdiev's The Polar T r ~ ~ t h
Maksym Kurochkin's The Schooling of Bento Bonchev,
Olga Mukhina's Fb'ing, and
two monologues by Yaroslava Pulinovich that we presented as The Natasha
With his work for this project, as for other translations, he aimed to
"bring out American qualities-things that Americans can identify with
easily- without eclipsing the original Russian qualities. It is a hard thing to do,"
he noted, "but the ultimate goal is to make an American audience aware of a
foreign experience while also recognizing much in the work that is familiar."
44 Slavic and East European Performance Vol 31, No. 1
Yury's collaborations with Juanita Rockwell on Pl'!}ing Dead by the
Presnyakov Brothers and with David M. White on KJavdiev's Martial Arts
allowed for an exploration of translation as a dialogue between a translator
from Russia and a US playwright. As the translator, Yury not only delivered
the equivalent English language for the original, but also provided a sense of
context, intonation, and rhythm. The playwrights then created the texts that
formed the basis of their next conversations. Then they tested the new text
against the original, seeking together to find what Yury calls a third, Russian/
American version of the play.
No matter what the approach to translation, each work was developed
and refined through a combination of readings, workshops, and productions.
This development process allowed a number of collaborators, including
students at the university, to consider how language reflects and informs the
experience of people in both countries.
Regardless of the overarching goals of the translators or the method
of translation, choices often had to be made on a case by case basis. For
example, in their translation of Martia/Arts, Yury and David M. White decided
that several elements of distinctly Russian mythology were so important to the
script that they must remain in their original form, despite their strangeness
for US audiences. There could be no substitute for the very Russian figure of
the Queen of Spades without robbing Klavdiev's world of the dark magic in
its deus ex machina.
On the other hand, some references would have had such different
resonances in the United States that the team felt the original needed to be
altered. Klavdiev uses harsh Russian slang for a Somalian character, in a way that
reflects the rough language used throughout the play. But Yury's literal translation
of "Negro" could be so distracting and distressing to most US audiences-
particularly when uttered by a young Russian child-that the translators chose
the more generic term "black guy." Some of their considerations also touched
upon differences between the structure and history of the two languages. Yury
sees the creation of a text in English as relying upon the rearrangement of
grammatical structures that have characterized the language for centuries. By
contrast, the many reinventions of Russian society over the last hundred years
were accompanied by reinventions of the language. In some cases, as with
the early Soviet era, words, letters of the alphabet, and grammatical structures
were altered, deleted, or imposed by the government. Contemporary Russian
playwrights take full advantage of the sense of the Russian language as still
being formed, and their inventiveness can create challenges for translation into
the more established words and structures of English. The translation team
ultimately found freedom in the tendency of the Russian language to keep
creating words. David's original terms like "redonkulous" as a come-back in
the midst of a conversation between children, or the exclamation "nuckin futs"
in a similar context allowed him to mirror that inventiveness throughout the
text he crafted.
Ultimately, our project brought ten new Russian plays from page to
stage through readings, workshops, and full productions.
We knew that engaging
with Russian culture through production of these plays would necessitate
research into the issues raised by each play as well as the cultural practices
represented therein. This dramarurgical research and its pedagogical potential
was, in fact, part of what inspired Robyn to pursue the project. Dramaturgy
courses team-taught by Yury and Robyn involved students in the creation
of voluminous dramaturgical casebooks for each play. Students investigated
topics such as social class for Taf!)a- Taf!Ja, orphanages for The Nata.sha Plqys,
and attitudes towards sexuality for Vodka, Fucking, and Television. In each
case, the research provided directors, actors, and designers with a context for
understanding and presenting the actions in the play. In one particular example,
engaging in this level of research helped a student actor-who was portraying
a forty-five-year-old former soldier in Frozen in Time--understand roots of the
character's frustration and distrust of others in his military service during the
Soviet war in Afghanistan. Our investigation into the experiences of soldiers
who fought lengthy and losing battles on difficult terrain in an unpopular war
and often returned home deeply frustrated and disaffected helped the actor
build a context for the actions of his character.
This research also helped him
reflect upon parallels in the United States, such the experiences of soldiers who
served in Vietnam.
Just as we designed our srudy and production of the plays to engage
46 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
Christopher H. Zargarbashi (Klim), \X'ill Dalrymple (Voronko), Alex Kafarakis (Yura), and Eric Poch (Sasha)
in Frozen in Time, directed by Peter Wray, Towson University, Baltimore, 2010.
students in an exploration of Russian culture, we hoped our productions might
serve our audience members as a point of departure for exploring the world in
which the plays were created. Together with the students, we designed a series
of resources to support that audience experience, including extended program
notes, a project website, and post-show conversations with scholars on various
aspects of Russian history and culture.
During those discussions, audience
members asked about various topics, ranging from specific cultural references,
such as mushroom hunting in Ta'!)'a-Tmrya, to more complex issues of historic
context, such as the experience of the grandparents in Frozen in Time, who were
raised during the Stalin era.
In some cases, audience members were surprised by the presence of
familiar cultural elements in the plays. The style of Martial Arts, for example,
reflects the playwright's interest in American action fJ.lm.s, which flooded the
"video-salons" of new Russia in the early nineties. In this play, Klavdiev adapts
the genre's imagery and mythology to the drug trafficking and violence found
in many Russian cities today. This cultural interplay generated a vigorous
discussion about the ways our cultures are already in dialogue with each other.
We also conducted professional outreach. CITD organized readings
and panels throughout the year at conferences and professional gatherings,
including several events at the Martin E. Segal Center. In May 2010, nearly
one hundred theatre artists and scholars were invited to a CITD conference
held at Towson.
Participants attended readings and performances, received
a CD with twenty-six translated texts, and participated in discussions with the
artists. One central theme of those discussions was the artistic issues involved
in presenting a Russian text to an American audience. For example, in Yury's
production of Martial Arts, he chose to reflect the playwright's high level of
abstraction with a visual language that would be clear and recognizable to US
audiences. He hoped the use of an aesthetic drawn from comic books, a form
more native to the United States than to Russia, would express the physicality
and theatricality of the piece while still providing the audiences with a glimpse
into the real world of drugs and crime that forms the context for the play's
Durnenkov's Frozen in Time, on the other hand, was based upon a
very different theatrical style-the sprawling character-driven work of Eugene
O'Neill. Director Peter Wray visited a small town in Russia like the one that
inspired the writing of the play and worked with his cast to understand
48 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 31, No. 1
Yury Urnov and Robyn Quick (right) leading a post-show discussion with the cast of
Vodka, Fucking, and Television, directed by Stephen unns,
Towson University, Baltimore, 2010
the distinctly Russian experiences in the play. But his production, in which
Durnenkov noticed a kind of echo of O'Neill, also sought to highlight the
connections between the characters and the audience. Wray noted that the play
presents experiences of families and communities that we all share, although we
live under different circumstances. Discussing the resonances of each choice
that we had made during this project allowed those assembled to consider the
many kinds of intercultural conversations that live performance can embody.
The conversation started by our project will now continue in the work
of colleagues in the United States who, as a result of our professional outreach,
are planning to study and produce the plays featured in our project. Conference
attendee Graham Schmidt of Breaking String Theater collaborated with the
Rude Mechanicals to present a festival of new Russian drama in January 2011.
Generous Company's production of Klavdiev's I Am the Machine Gunner has
toured to Baltimore, Chicago, and San Diego. In addition, John Freedman and
Philip Arnoult are taking the logical next step in the dialogue by initiating a new
project, New American Plays for RussiaY Artists in both countries are working
together to translate and produce American plays in Russia.
While the path to
resetting relations between the United States and Russia may be fraught with
potential missteps, theatre gives us a new way of understanding and relating to
each other.
50 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 31, No. 1
1. The proper term for "reset," according to Lavrov, would have been
pmzagf11zko. Glenn Kessler, "Clinton 'Resets' Russian Ties-and Language," Washington
Post, March 7, 2009.
2. CITD support for the project came from the Trust for Mutual
Understanding, NY; CEC ARTSLINK, NY; the New Drama Festival, Moscow and
St. Petersburg; and the Golden Mask Festival, Moscow. Towson University support
came from the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, a division of the
Institute of International Education; the Maryland Humanities Council; the Rosenberg
Distinguished Artist Endowment; the Towson University Faculty Development
Research Committee; and the Literary Managers and Dramarurgs of the Americas.
3. This panel, drawn from prominent critics, producers, and festival curators,
included John Freedman, Yelena Kovalskaya, Oleg Loevsky, Pavel Rudnev, and Yury
4. John Freedman's translations of The Polar Tf11th and Olga Mukhina's F!Jing
appear in The Mercurian 2, no. 1, available at http:/ /drama.unc.edu/mercurian.html.
A staged reading of F!Jing was presented at Towson University as part of the New
Russian Drama Project in the fall of 2008.
5. Freedman's translation of The Schooling of Bento Bonchev was published in
PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 32, no. 2 (May 201 0): 86-112.
6. Director Stephen Nunns chronicles his production of these plays for our
project in "The Natasha Plays: Yaroslava Pulinovich at Towson University," Slavic and
East European Performance 30, no. 3 (Fall 2010): 43-54. Freedman's translations of the
two Pulinovich plays and of Yury Klavdiev's I Am a Machine Cunner were published in
Theatrejourna/62, no. 3 (October 2010): 421-450.
7. David Gregory, ''A Conversation with the Translator," interview with John
Freedman, New Russian Drama: Voices in a Shifting Age, accessed April 27, 2011,
http://www. towson.ed u/ theatre/ russia/pttrans.h tml.
8. In addition to the plays previously mentioned, we also presented a workshop
of Maksym Kurochkin's Vodka, Fucking and Television, translated by John Hanlon.
9. Among other sources, we consulted William Maley'sAMhani.rtan Wars (New
York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).
10. Much of the dramaturgical support contained in the programs for each
production is available on our project website at http:/ /www.newrussiandrama.org.
11. Kathleen Cioffi discusses the conference panels and productions in "New
Russian Drama: The Familiarity of the Strange," Slavic and East European Performance
(Fall 2010): 35-41.
12. Support for the project comes from the US Embassy in Moscow, under
the auspices of the Bilateral Presidential Commission. US partners include New York
Theatre Workshop, The Humana Festival, The Sundance Theatre Lab, and The O'Neill
13. For a range of additional collaborative artistic projects between the
United States and Russia, see John Freedman's Moscmv Times article from February 2011,
"The New Intertwining of Russian and American Theatre." The article is available
online at http:/ /www.trnt-index.com/blogs/432775/post/the-new-intertwining-of-
russian-and-american-theater/ 433231.html.
52 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 31, No. 1
David A. Goldfarb
Scholars and admirers celebrated the 125th anniversary of the birth
of Polish dramatist, novelist, painter, photographer, and philosopher Stanislaw
Ignacy Witkiewicz (1885-1939), known as "Witkacy," at the Washington home
of the Kosciuszko Foundation with a conference running from April 29 to
May 1, 2010, which was organized by British actor and director Kevin Hayes
and Mark Rudnicki of George Mason University.
Daniel Gerould (Graduate Center, City University of New York)
delivered the opening keynote, ''Witkacy and Conspiracy Theories." He
explored the conspiracy motif in many of Witkacy's works, beginning with
his early play Madej Korbo111a and Bellatrix-recently translated by Gerould-
and extending through his novel, lnsatiabili!J, in which the protagonist faces
encroaching forces "where malevolent doubles lurk." The source of this
malevolence is never clear, so the reader cannot be sure who is running the
show. This reading raises the question of whether Witkacy is "a purveyor or
parodist of paranoia." Witkacy denies ideology as motivation, but his Theory
of Pure Form comes out as the ultimate conspiracy theory, controlling all other
The first panel, "Witkacy as an Artist: Within and Against Tradition,"
explored Witkacy's legacy as a painter and portraitist. Anna Zakiewicz of the
National Museum in Warsaw, which has significant holdings of Witkacy's pastel
portraits, considered Witkacy's early development as an artist in her paper
"Witkacy: A Lonely Star in the Sky of Polish Art." Witkacy was home educated
through secondary school, but took secondary exams as an extramural student
and joined the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow in 1905. Although his father
objected, young Witkacy needed to make contact with peers in order to see his
own individuality against the art of others. He joined a group that exhibited
as "Expressionists" in 1917, changing their name to "Formists" the next year.
Later, Witkacy wrote his "Regulations of the Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz
Portrait Painting Firm" (1925), which parodied the cult of individualism
associated with the Young Poland movement.
Zakiewicz, following the "rules" of the firm, divides Witkacy's body
of portraits into three general groups. Some arc conventional, like the work
Self-portrait by Witkacy, 1938
Slavic and East European Performance VoL 31, No. 1
of a provincial photographer, others surrealist, possibly combined with hyper-
realistic figures (Type A) in an exotic background (Type B), some made under
the influence of drugs (Type q, and some of a fantastic nature made without
drugs (Type D). Showing examples of the various types, Zakiewicz observed
that the theory behind the "rules" and the Theory of Pure Form had grown
out of Witkacy's conversations about the "plurality of reality" with painter,
mathematician, and philosopher of science Leon Chwistek. Chwistek thought
artwork should show one reality, while Witkacy believed that multiple realities
could be combined, reflecting the influence of multi-perspectivalism in film.
In his paper "Discovering Witkacy's Real and Virtual Trails," Marek
Sredniawa (Instirute of Communications, Warsaw Instirute of Technology)
looked at the influence of Witkacy on artists in other media, including jazz
(Tomasz Stariko), chamber opera (Michal ejtek, "Dementia Praecox"),
photography Oeremy Millar, who traced Bronislaw Malinowski's steps in
Kiriwina and imagined what sorts of photographs Witkacy might have made,
had be not broken with Malinowski in 1914), and installation art (Stefka
Amman, Jozef Robakowski, and Krzysztof Wodiczko). Sredniawa compared
Witkacy with Andy Warhol, a fellow artistic polymath who played with the idea
of art as a commercial enterprise in his Factory.
Via video, Janusz Degler gave a brief history of Witkacy srudies,
describing the evolution of a small "Witkacy Mafia," including figures like
himself, Gerould, Lech Sokol, Anna Miciri.ska, Bogdan Mihalski, Alain van
Crugten, Konstanty Puzyna,Jan Blonski, and others. Degler began by discussing
Anna Micinska, who provided some of the initial Witkacy texts for the special
issue of Teatralny in 1968. Now there are translations of Witkacy in
more than twenty languages and performances throughout the world. Degler
also recalled the history of international conferences on Witkacy, including
one in 1978 which was a turning point in the international dissemination of
Witkacy's work.
The next panel, ''Witkacy: Portrait of an Artist" looked at the idea
of self-portraiture in Witkacy's work. Dorota Niedzialkowska (Catholic
University of Lublin), in her talk "Witkacy's Self-Portraits as Manifestations of
the Dandy," began from Lcch Sokol's contention that dandyism is central in
Witkacy, but placed that contention in opposition to a view that that portrays
dandyism is a self-discrediting strategy. In "Witkiewicz: Father and Son, the
Double Portrait," Malgorzata Kosrnala examined the relationship between
Witkacy and his father, emphasizing family relations and drawing from Letters
to his Son (Listy do syna). She argued that is that there is more in common
between them than usually recognized: both address crises of culture, the cult
of authenticity, and the need to search for deeper reality, and both share an
antipathy to popular culture.
Daniel Gerould returned to the podium to present his ideas on
"Translating Witkacy" as part of the panel, "Acting, Directing, and Translating
Witkacy." Gerould first visited Poland in 1965, where he metJerzy Sokolowski
(later the editor of Teatr) and learned about Witkacy from a two-volume,
uncensored edition of Witkacy's complete plays which were published in a
small run of three thousand copies in 1962. Gerould mentioned that he takes
Witkacy's poems seriously-though they are often dismissed as doggerel-
working on them for several months before translating the larger texts of which
they are part. He noted that this verse has its roots in the cabaret tradition as
work intended for performance. As Gerould sees it, the translator is a medium
at a seance, bringing the author's voice from the other world.
Kevin Hayes, one of the conference organizers, discussed his personal
history as an actor and director in "Witkacy: Acting and Directing- An English
Practitioner's Perspective," beginning with his transition from a bureaucratic
job to the theatre. He was introduced to Polish through Teatr Blik in the United
Kingdom, became interested in modern European theatre, and took part in
a production of The Madman and the Nun. Next, he acted in The Pragmatists,
playing the role of von Telek. Hayes traveled tO Poland, studied scenography
with Strzelecki and Krystyna Mazur, and was a frequent guest in their homes.
He received a scholarship from the Polish Cultural Institute in 1985, sat in on
classes in Warsaw, met directors, and attended performances. Ultimately, he
wrote a biographical monodrama about Witkacy, "Ja, Witkacy" ("I, Witkacy'').
The conference adjourned to the Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint
for a staged reading of Country House (W mafpn dworku) which was directed by
Robert McNamara and produced by Hanna Bondarewska of the Ambassador
Theatre Group with support from the Embassy of the Republic of Poland. In
a discussion following the performance, McNamara said that he approached
the work as a parody of the nineteenth-century play and novel of manners,
which proved a strong approach for bringing to the stage what is often esoteric
intellectual debate in Witkacy's texts.
Marta Skwara began the second day of the conference with another
Slavic and East European Performance VoL }1, No. 1
keynote address, "What is Still Not Known About Witkacy's Intertextuality?
On Witkacy and Slowacki." She noted that there was little written on this
topic, though there is evidence that Witkacy greatly admired Slowacki (as well
as Wyspianski and Micinski). She cited their work as examples of Pure Form
and recognizing the connection of theatre to ritual and religion as a source of
metaphysical feelings.
The next full panel looked at the topic, "Witkacy as a Dramatist:
Theatrical Encounters." In "Witkacy and Ghelderode: Goethe's Faust
Transformed into a Grotesque Cabaret," Christine Kiebuzinska (Virginia
Tech) compared Witkacy's Beelzebub Sonata to Michel Ghelderode's play The
Tragic Death of Dr. Faust: A Tragecjy for a Music Half. Both 1925 plays were about
struggling artists. Both feature Mephistophelian characters, who-stripped
of their powers of negation-come off as dandyish, third-rate demons. Ewa
~ c h o c k a (University of Silesia) took a psychoanalytic approach to the topic
of "Traps of Identity in Witkacy's Dramas," looking at doubles, mirroring,
the family structure. She proposed that the Lacanian problem of the false
"I"-the double of the self- might be a way into Witkacy's idea of "unity in
multiplicity" and the problem of the "unity of personality" in works like The
Wtzter Hen and The Metapf?ysics of the Two-Headed Calf.
John Barlow (University of Indiana-Indianapolis) offered a
speculation about "Witkacy's Music," first trying to pin down his theory of
music and considering what modern composers might have written music
similar to that composed by Witkacy's characters. Barlow particularly considered
the work of Iannis Xenakis, Pierre Boulez, John Cage, and Morton Feldman.
In The Beelzebub Sonata, Istvan wants to create music that captures the absolute
isolation of every individual in the universe, and works of spatial conceptions
from another dimension. Tengier's music from Insatiability is described in
Expressionist terms, banged out against a vast sky, unplayable, like a work by
Xenakis that uses a C-sharp that is higher than the piano can play. Tengier
destroys the piano brutally, savagely, with "sounds flooding the experience of
being," and "convert[ing] insatiability into sound patterns."
"Witkacy as a Novelist: Essential Conversations" was the first of
two panels looking primarily at philosophical issues. Rudnicki considered
"The Profane and the Sacred in Insatiability," taking the plot of the work
as Genezyp's attempt to solve the mystery of the self in the context of the
search for "the all," framed within Bataille's notions of profane and sacred
time, transgression, and taboo. The author of the present article looked back
at his earlier essay on masochism in lnsatiabili!J, published in The Polish Review in
1992, which had taken a psychoanalytic approach, and reframed the problem in
aesthetic and philosophical terms in his paper, "Witkacy and the Sublime: The
Dominant Woman Reconsidered." He looked at the theme of "the feeling of
unity in multiplicity" as Witkacy's spin on Kant's theory of the Sublime. Michal
Pawel Markowski (University of Illinois- Chicago) took a fresh approach to
the seemingly endless philosophizing of Witkacy's theatrical characters in
"Idle Talk: Witkacy, Heidegger, and the Fall of Language," asserting that the
characters lose their individuality through speech in the form of an "inverted
mimesis"--emptywords follow empty lives. "Witkacy's characters," Markowski
argued, "are hysterical marionettes in a theatre of inauthenticity." Lech Sokol
also considered the question of identity in his recorded presentation, "Witkacy's
Particular Existence vs. Modern Conceptions of Identity," proceeding from
Ingarden's idea that personal identity is unchanging throughout life and from
Ibsen's concept-worked out in Peer 0nt--that the hero is a bundle of drives
("what is in my head and makes me me"). A reading of the idea of individualism
in relation to Witkacy through Peer 0nt followed.
The panel "Witkacy as Philosopher: Origins and Development''
explored Witkacy's formal attempts at philosophy. In "The Witkacy-Cornelius
Letters, or How to Cure Gout with Transcendental Philosophy" (one of the
most interesting papers of the conference), Agnieszka Marczyk-a doctoral
candidate in History at the University of Pennsylvania-looked at the curious
exchange between Witkacy and the German philosopher Hans Cornelius, a
mentor to Horkheimer and Adorno who attempted to reconcile Kant and
Mach. The letters, archived in the Bavarian State Libraries in Munich, are part of
the correspondence which was published by Heinrich Kunstmann in German
and later in Polish. Marczyk has found other letters which had previously been
considered missing.
Witkacy wrote to Cornelius in 1935 after studying his work since
approximately 1906. The ftrst letter is missing, but Cornelius's response indicates
that Witkacy described himself as a student and a follower who disagreed
with him ftfteen percent. Although Cornelius and Witkacy could not fmd a
common philosophical language, they maintained a friendly correspondence.
In one curious letter, Witkacy told Cornelius that Hitler was the greatest man
of his time, but this was likely a ploy to get letters past Nazi censorship, since
58 Slavic and East European Petformance Vol. 31, No. 1
Danielle Davy, Stas Wronka, and Chris Henley in Ambassador Theater's staged reading of CoNntry HoNse,
dtrected by Robert McNamara, \X'ashington, DC, 2010
authoritarianism is one of Witkacy's main objects of parody and critique and
in Unwashed Souls he took the opposite position.
Marek Bartelik returned to the affinity between Witkacy and Andy
Warhol, using Marcel Duchamp as a lens, in his paper ''Witkacy and Warhol,
From the October to the Sexual Revolutions." He asked what happens when
artists create their own institutions of dissemination of art. Warhol's Factory,
according to Bartelik, kept the audience guessing about the artist's identity-
an institution not unlike the salon in Maciljj Korbowa that materialized art but
not the artist. Bartelik sees Warhol and Witkacy as "perverse romantics"-
believers in art for art's sake, sex for sex's sake, for whom only perversity in art
could cause a strong aesthetic response.
Pawel Polit presented his talk "The Philosophical Marginal Notes of
S. I. Witkiewicz" through a video presentation based on an exhibition that he
curated in 2004 on Witkacy's marginalia of the 1930s. Witkacy always carried
books, mosdy philosophical texts in various languages--one in his jacket
to read on the tram, and another in his pajamas for the toilet-all of which
contained critical marginal notes. The books include works by Kotarbinski,
Metallmann, the Logical Positivists, Whitehead, Russell, Tarski, Friedrich
Schwegler, and others. Some of the notes read like stage descriptions, drama tis
personae, narratives, and dramas about philosophers.
The ftnal panel of the conference considered the topic "Witkacy: The
'V:'ay Forward." Anna Brochocka, Assistant Curator at the Slupsk Museum,
sent her comments, "Forty-Five Years of the Witkacy Collection in Slupsk,"
via e-mail; they were read by Kevin Hayes. The collection began with a private
donation of over one hundred drawings in 1982; many works have been added
since. Kevin Hayes and Marek Sredniawa discussed their project "Virtual
'X'itkacy," which began with a conference at Swansea on Cultural Analytics
and its founder, Lev Panovich. They seek to go beyond a website or digital
library-making content more accessible-and to add a social-networking
dimension for collaboration among Witkacy enthusiasts and professionals.
Further possibilities are an educational platform and, perhaps, a Cultural
Analytics approach (data-mining, identifying trends and relationships, tag
clouds, presentation of culture, and teaching) which would use social tagging
as a means of producing new data. This effort would be oriented more towards
popularization than scholarship.
60 Slavic and East European Petfor/Jlance Vol. 31, No. 1
1. The credits for !:he performance are as follows:
Co11ntry Ho11se
By Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz
Translated by Daniel Gerould
Directed by Robert McNamara
Sound by David Crandall
Diaphant Nearly: Stas Wronka
Amy: Carina Czipoth
Sophie: Caitlin Staebell
Jibbery Penbroke: Christopher Henley
Annete Warbling: Molly Coyle
Anastasia early: Dan.ielle Davy
Wendell Poundwood: Christopher Mrozowski
Joseph Criswold: Buck O'Leary
Ursula Fusty: Mary Blake Suib
Michael Sumpter: Russell Jonas
Intern: Ekaterina Korotkikh
Ivan Vyskocil (left) with ]iii Suchy in Text-appeals Revisited, Malostranski beseda, Prague, 1988
Michal Cunderle and Alexander Komlosi
Writer, performer, psychologist, and teacher Ivan Vyskocil was born
in Prague in 1929. He was one of the leading figures in the Czech small-
forms theatre movement in the 1960s.
Over the past two years, Vyskocil has
received a host of awards and honors, perhaps more than any other figure
in the arts in the Czech Republic during such a short period. He himself has
jokingly remarked that these distinctions were given to him for "surviving until
eighty years old." In truth, the accolades have come in acknowledgment of
the significant contribution Vyskocil has made to Czech theatre culture. He
has received an award for his contribution to Czech theatre from the Czech
Ministry of Culture; a Thalie for Unique Contribution to Theatre; the Josef
Hhivka Medal; the Humanist of the Year Award; a Presidential Plaque, and
more. This sudden flood of official recognition is in contrast with the way
Vyskocil and his work were often spurned by the official state apparatus in the
past, and it highlightS his life-long commionent to the alternative in theatre,
education, and life.
Vyskocil's E ducation a nd the Reduta
Vyskocil studied in the theatre department of the Academy of
Performing Arts in Prague (DAMU). After graduating in 1952 in acting with a
minor in directing, he decided not to pursue work in the theatre. Certainly he
had no desire to enter the rigid network of repertory theatres steeped in official
Communist ideology. He made this choice because, as he himself states, "I
studied acting. I didn't study to become 'an actor' .. . I wanted to cognize."
For these reasons, he went on to study psychology and philosophy at Charles
University. One of his teachers was Jan Patocka, one of the foremost Czech
philosophers of the time.
Vyskocil only returned to the theatre after his "non-
theatrical" studies, when he began performing in a wine-tavern (Vyskocil goes
so far as to call it "a dive") named Reduta.
At the time, Reduta was completely off the official cultural radar
(for that matter, there was almost no culture in Communist Czechoslovakia
other than official culture).
It was at Reduta that Vyskocil and ]iff Suchy-a
friend from youth who would eventually become a popular singer, song-writer,
musician, theatre practitioner, and co-founder of Divadlo Semafor-began
performing "text-appeals," as they themselves dubbed their performances.
During the 1957- 58 season, text-appeals suddenly became the hit of intellectual
and artistic Prague. These literary-musical evenings, which Jan Roubal would
later compare to events at Cafe Cino and Cafe La MaMa in New York, were
ostensibly simple.
Formally, text-appeals looked like poor literary cabaret in a
wine tavern: the spectators sat at their tables and drank. Vyskocil cajoled the
public, reading, telling, or improvising his bizarre and absurd short stories.
Once in a while, he and Suchy would chat. Suchy sang his original songs; his
music was inspired by jazz, blues, and rock 'n' roll, and his lyrics drew on avant-
garde traditions of the 1920s and 30s such as poetism and surrealism. Both the
stories and the songs were rooted in playing with language. Their style pitted
a playful and sultry nonsense against a dark and chilling absurdity. The small
stage at the Rcduta left no room "for any activity apart from the activity of the
Vyskocil's and Suchy-'s text-appeals attracted a large public as well as
the wary attention of the political regime-and not solely because of their
artistic merit. The significance of these "wine-tavern experiments" lay equally
in their ethic. Vyskocil and Suchy performed in front of a public with their own
stories and songs and actively cultivated an open dialogue with the audience,
something rare at that time. They did not refer to contemporary life direcdy
(the censors would not have allowed that), nor did they hide a message in
between the lines.
What they did offer audiences, however, was an experience of
honest, palpable free-play-a world seemingly detached from the oppressive
life outside. The post-war years in former Czechoslovakia were a dark period
characterized by hard-line Communism, imprisonment, and repression. It
was precisely the experience of freedom-made-manifest that gave audience
members what they were consciously or unconsciously yearning for, what was
painfully absent during the totalitarian regime. Thus, evenings at the Reduta
served an important social and therapeutic function. They were a revelation
and beacon of hope in a dark time. Yet they were not escapism. They were a
profound process of (self-)understanding. It had not been in vain that Vyskocil
had studied psychology and philosophy in addition to acting.
64 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 31, No. 1
The significance of Reduta to Czech theatre, however, rests primarily
in that it helped initiate the so-called "small-forms" theatre movement.
Havel states that Vyskocil "is inseparable from the history of small theatres
in the 1960s. VyskoCil was one of the godfathers of that movement."
movement, which began at the end of the fifties and experienced its hey-day in
the "golden sixties," was the most fertile current of modern, post-war Czech
theatre. It was during this era that a host of small-scale, off-Broadway-type
theatre and performance spaces were born, such as Theatre on the Balustrade,
Semafor, the Drama Club, Rococo, Paravan, Evening Brno, and Studio Ypsilon.
Theatre on the Balustrade
Encouraged by their success at Reduta, Vyskocil, Suchy and their
colleagues founded the Theatre on the Balustrade in the center of Prague
in 1958. This move was a significant step in expanding and structuring their
irregular performances at Reduta. At the Balustrade, Vyskocil continued his
theatrical experiments "focused on the actor-audience relationship: the appeal
of the performance was primarily through its performers, and central to the
appeal was the creation of a relaxed, playful mood between performers and
Vyskocil's reputation flourished at the Balustrade. A talented
constellation of actors, singers, and musicians gathered at the theatre to craft
and present their own original pieces. Compositionally, these pieces resembled
revues. Like at the Reduta, they were characterized by word-play. In contrast,
the subject matter of these performances made more obvious reference to
contemporary life. The Balustrade attracted critical attention, albeit inconsistent
in its p raise.
Vyskocil and Suchy firmly established themselves as writers, as did
Vaclav Havel. Creatively and intellectually, the Balustrade was at the forefront
of the small-forms theatre movement. Vyskocil remained at the Balustrade as
an actor and artistic director until 1962, during which time he co-authored five
plays and planted the seeds of so-called "appellative theatre," whose primary
proponents became Vaclav Havel and director J iH Grossmann. Havel describes
the uniqueness of Vyskocil's appellative approach:
And without necessarily being intellectuals, perceptive members of
the auclience felt that even the most grotesque escapade by Vyskocil
touched something essential in them, the genuine drama and the
genuine ineffabili ty of life, things as fundamental as despair, empty
hope, bad luck, fate, misfortune, groundless joy.
Non-theatre (Nedivadlo)
Not satisfied by the institutionalized structure of the Balustrade,
Vyskocil returned to Reduta, doing everything in his power to make Non-
theatre as small an institution as possible, ideally not one at all (hence the
negative prefix in the name). Non-theatre was rooted in rehearsing, searching,
and experimenting. At the Reduta, Vyskocil was once again at the source of
his original aesthetic and ethic. He developed new text-appeals with a greater
number of authorial partners, or "co-players." These included: the passionate
improviser Pavel Bosek, with whom Vyskocil formed a dynamic duo until
Bosek's death in 1980; translator and actor Leos Suchai'fpa; and future emigre
author Josef Skvorecky. Non-theatre gradually became known as a progressive
alternative stage.
Apart from its contribution to the small-forms movement and
appellative theatre, Vyskocil's Non-theatre (1963-1990) had other significant
influences on the development of modern Czech theatre. It profoundly
developed narrative theatre, theatre in statu nascendi, theatre emerging from
an authentic encounter, theatre as collaborative work, and theatre as open
dramatic play. Vyskocil's Non-theatre was a laboratory like Grotowsk.i's. Like
Grotowski, Vyskocil also advocated "poor theatre," but he privileged joyous
poverty over venerable asceticism.
Vyskocil's Hey-day During the "Golden Sixties"
The 1960s in Czechoslovakia were a period of liberalization and
rich cultural and economic growth known as the "golden sixties." During this
decade, Vyskocil's raclius of cultural activity rapidly expanded. He worked in
radio as co-moderator with Jiif Suchy and Jan We rich and on a series of " raclio
text-appeals" with Emanuel Fryma. Czech National Raclio produced three of
his radio plays. In the 1960s, Vyskocil began performing in ftlm as well, most
notably in one of the masterpieces of the Czech New Wave, Jan Nemec's "A
66 Slavic and East European Performance vaL 31, No. 1
Ivan Vyskocil (right) with Eva Holubov:i and Petr Lebl, Theatre on the Balustrade, Prague
Report on the Party and the Guests" (0 slavnosli a hostech, 1966).
It was also during the 1960s that Vyskocil made his name as a prose
writer. He was an articulate storyteller searching for identity in tense siruations.
His style was characterized by a thoroughly Kafkaesque absurdity and a
fascination with playing with narrative. He published three books drawing on
his work at Reduta, the Baulstrade, and Non-theatre in terms of content and
form. Now more progressively-minded, the critical public welcomed his prose
enthusiastically, calling his work a compliment to Milan Kundera, Bohumil
1-Irabal, or Vera Linhartova.
Vyskocil continued his work as a psychologist
by working with troubled youth and collaborating with Ferdinand Knobloch, a
Czech psychiatrist who would emigrate to Toronto in 1970.
In the spring of 1968, when forces of the Warsaw pact occupied
Czechoslovakia, Vyskocil was at his prime at thirty-nine years of age. His work
was difficult to classify: he was an unmistakable original, too bohemian, creative,
and playful to be "just an intellecrual," and too meditative and educated to be
"just an artist." Yet this made his place in Czechoslovakian culture unique.
Vyskocil was seen as the prototype of a provocative experimenter whose range
of activity unconventionally encompassed theatre, literature, and psychology,
and was always outside the mainstream.
VyskoCil was forced to leave Reduta at the end of the 1960s. The
occupation of Czechoslovakia meant that the brief period of freethinking
"socialism with a human face" of the Prague Spring had been turned on its
head. Normalization, a twenty-year period of Communist repression that
would last from 1969 to the Velvet Revolution, dug in its heels.
Vyskocil Develops His Pedagogical Approach
Once again, a rigid, totalitarian Communist regime ushered in an era
of somberness, repression, and despair. Normalization meant total censorship
of news media, elimination of the freedom of speech, denial of free political
assembly, and de facto one-party rule. Vyskocil, like many others, was severely
restricted from performing in public, publishing, etc.
For some time, he was
forbidden from performing his Non-theatre in Prague, so he toured it across
the country.
These dark times did bring Vyskocil one positive opportunity.
In 1972, he became a teacher at and the director of the Literary-Dramatic
68 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 31, No. 1
Department at the People's Art School for the Worlcing Man (now the Jaroslav
Jezek Conservatory). Hidden under this obscure socialistic title was a three-
year study program in theatre, focused primarily on acting. The studies were
both practical and theoretical, and boldly competed with contemporary
university-level art schools. Its students were those who did not want to go to
official schools, or were often not accepted for ideological reasons, and thus
had to work. Graduating from the program led almost nowhere, which meant
that the students who regularly came to afternoon and evening classes were
highly motivated, often very experienced and discipuned individuals genuinely
interested in studying for its own sake. These were ideal students for Vyskocil's
educational ethos. Vyskocil's experiences with alternative approaches to
theatre, and, perhaps more importantly, the questions that emerged from these
experiences, were themes he continued to explore through Non-theatre and
his developing educational approach. In this sense, the Non-theatre laboratory
was complimented by an educational (academic) laboratory-a "Non-school."
VyskoCil gradually gathered together a talented team of teachers and began
conceiving and experimenting with studies in "authorial acting" as a path of
personality education and cultivation. He would have eighteen years to develop
his pedagogical philosophy and approach until the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
After the Velvet Revolution, Vyskocil was invited to teach at the
Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (DAMU), founding the
Department of Authorial Creativity and Pedagogy in 1992 and the Institute
for the Research and Study of Authorial Acting in 2001. He also returned to
public life, now a cultural legend. His books were reissued. His life and work
is reflected upon in numerous interviews, articles, books, and documentary
films. Due mostly to his deteriorating hearing, Vyskocil ended his Non-theatre
activity in 1990.
During his tenure at the People's Art School, VyskoCil began to
perceive cultivating a "fitness" for acting, performing, and play as one of the
fundamental creative and self-actualizing possibilities of the human being.
became less and less important to him as art, as something artificial
(arlificium). Instead, he explored acting as "pubuc activity" (from teaching to
politics) and as a natural aspect of being human.
At DAMU, Vyskocil was able
to pursue these investigations more fully, arguably giving birth to VyskoCil's
single greatest contribution to education, acting training, and personality
development, a psychosomatic disciptine he created that is known as (Inter)
acting with the Inner Partner.
(Inter)acting with the Inner Partner
The keystone of Vyskocil's pedagogical approach gradually became
(Inter)acting with the Inner Partner.
Vyskocil developed this unique
psychosomatic solo improvisational discipline from his knowledge of drama,
psychology, education, and-most importantly-his experiences from Reduta
and Non-thcatre.
It starts from an experience familiar to all: talking to or
interacting with oneself. Vyskocil explains:
The basis of (Inter)acting with the Inner Partner is the experience and
experiencing of action/acting (speaking, playing) with yourself (with
your inner partner or partners), as a rule, on your own. After some
self-reflection, each one of you should be able to recall the experience
of talking tO yourself or playing on your own with yourself. (Inter)
acung with the Inner Partner is about studying and learning how to
engage in similarly authentic, spontaneous, playful, and co-playful
I van Vyskocil, 1962
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
acting (behavior and experiencing); generating this behavior in public
in the presence and attention of "spectators" in a situation of "public
Vyskocil eschews pegging (Inter)acting with the Inner Partner in one
hole. He insists it is neither a method nor a technique-nothing "ready-made"
for "deployment" for a particular use.2
Instead, he states that it is a methodology
of study that can open up numerous possibilities and opportunities for a
student, for example: as a path of self-discovery, self-acceptance and self-
realization; as a means of developing psychosomatic fitness for creative
communication, thus "a more profound, 'conductive' empathy"; and as a
process of studying the principles of dramatic play.
(Inter)acting with the
Inner Partner was profoundly meaningful in the totalitarian society in which it
was conceived because it offered an alternative mode of existence where one
could experience and explore individuality, joy, and personal freedom. It has
found similar significance in today's consumerism-dominated society.
In the Czech Republic, (Inter)acting with the Inner Partner and
Vyskocil's holistic pedagogical approach have permeated cultural and
educational life. In the performing arts, it has infused the work of luminaries
like director Perr Ubi, actor-improviser Jaroslav Dusek, visual artist Petr ikl,
writer Jill Kratochvil, playwright and singer Premysl Rut, and actress Jaroslava
Pokorna, not to mention a younger generation of theatre and performance
artists in the Czech Republic and internationally. It has been integrated into the
programs of a number of higher educational institutions, including Charles
University, Masaryk University, the University of Southern Bohemia, Tomas
Bata University, and the Theatre Academy Helsinki, in addition to its original
home at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Workshops in the
discipline have been given internationally since 2001, and Vyskocil has trained
numerous "assistants" who continue to develop the discipline.
The Lasting Resonances of Vyskocil's Vision
Summarizing the import of Vyskocil's work, Vaclav Havel writes in
Disturbing the Peace:
He brought several important elements into the theatre: first,
intellectual humor; second, an entirely original fantasy; third, learning
(he had stuclied philosophy and psychology); fourth, a sense of the
absurd; and fifth, a completely unconventional aesthetic impulse.
He managed to link playfulness with obsession, and philosophy
with humor. His need to push a playful idea to absurd extremes, and
constantly to be trying something new, was infectious.
Vyskocil has been a remarkable and clistinctive figure in the Czech
post-war theatre whose life-long commitment to the alternative in the theatre
and beyond has finally received commensurate recognition.
l.Vaclav Havel, Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Hvizd'ala (New
York: Vintage Books, 1990): 43.
2. Ivan Vyskocil, "Uvodem," in Hie Sun/ Leones (0 Autorskim I Jemtvi), ed.
Michal Cunderle (Praha: Akademie muzick}ch umeni v Praze & Ustav pro vyzkum a
srudium aurorskeho herecrvl, 2003), 9.
3. In 1963, Patocka wrote the first serious analysis of Vyskocil's work, which
until then had met with skepticism, thus attracting the attention of theatre and literary
critics of the time. See Jan Parocka, "Svet Ivana Vyskocila," Casopis Divadlo 10 (1963):
4. Reduta still operates in the center of Prague, now primarily catering to
5. Text appeal: d la sex appeal, or appealing and attracting by and through text.
6. Jan Roubal, "Dve alternativni tendence Nedivadla Ivana Vyskocila," in
Hra fkolou-Dvakrdt o lvanu Vyskofilolli, eds. Michal Cunderle and Jan Roubal (Praha:
Nakladatelsrvi Srudia Ypsilon, 2001), 174.
7. The best of these texr-appeals appeared in Vyskocil's book -"Vier All, F!Jing
is Easy (Vztfyt pfece lilaiJe snadni, 1963).
8. Michal Cunderle, "Ivan Vyskocii--Cesry ke hie," in Hra Skolou-Dvakrdt
o lvanu Vyskofilovi, 53.
9. Burian describes the Reduta's role in Czech theatre as "the seedbed of
the 'small-forms,' assemblage type of production," which he characrerizes as "a looser
assemblage or montage of literature and music, consisting of 'small forms' such as
stories, anecdotes, songs, poetry, mime, and dialogue." Jacka Burian, Modern Czech
Theatre: &foetor and Consdence of a Nation (Iowa City: Universiry of Iowa Press, 2000),
10. Havel, 46.
72 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 31, No. 1
11. Burian, 118.
12. Havel, 52.
13. For comparisons between Vyskocil and Kundera, see Ji!i Kratochvil,
"Cerven je zv!ailtni mesic," Casopis Ndrodni3, no. 4 (2008): 75-76, and for comparisons
between Vyskocil and Lindhartova, see Helena Koskova, Hleddni &aceni generace
(Prague: H&H, 1996), 118-138. Both these authors make marginal comparisons
between Vyskocil and Hrabal.
14. It was at this time that Vyskocil contracted tuberculosis. His life was saved
by Soviet antibiotics, but the tragic side effect was gradual hearing loss, after which
Vyskocil required a hearing aid.
15. Roubal, 172.
16. Parallel interest in the extra-theatrical significance of performance
developed at approximately the same time in the West, through the work of Richard
Schechner and the field of performance studies, for example.
1 7. Translated from the Czech, dialogicki jedndni or diafogicke jedndni s vnitfim
partnerem. The Czech noun "jednani'' can also be translated into English as behaving,
behavior, conduct, action, interaction. So, other translations of "dialogicke jednani,"
could be "Dialogical Behavior"; "Dialogical Action"; "Dialogical Action with the Inner
Partner"; or "Interacting Dialogically with the Inner Partner."
18. This is not the place for an exhaustive discussion of (Inter)acting with the
Inner Partner. For more information about the discipline, including how it is studied,
please see http:/ /www.ivanvyskocil.cz, or contact the authors for books and articles
about the discipline available in English.
19. Ivan Vyskocil, "Rozprava o dialogickem jednani" in Diafogicki jedndni s
vnitfnim partnerem, ed. Michal c': underle (Brno: Janackova akademie muzickych umeni v
Brne, 2005), 13.
20. Ivan Vyskocil, "Dialogicke jednani (heslo k autorizaci)," in Hie Sunt Leones
(0 Autorskem Herectvg, ed. Michal Cunderle (Praha: Akademie muzickych umeni v Praze
& Ustav pro vyzkum a studium autorskeho herectvi, 2003), 176.
21. Each person who has studied and teaches the discipline has his or her
own understanding of what it is about. For example, Slavlkova agrees that it is about
the "holistic development of the individual." Cunderle has called it a discipline that
"continually monitors ... fundamental play principles." Kornlosi sees it as primarily
about the study and training of psychosomatic fitness for creative performance and the
development of authorial themes io performance situations, and compares it to what
Buddhism understands as experiential wisdom. See Alexander Komlosi, "Aspects of
Acting: Studying and Practicing Fundamental Acting Principles through Acting with
the Inner Partner" (unpublished dissertation, Prague, 2009), 31.
22. VyskoCil, Diafogicki jedndni (heslo k autorizaci), 177.
23. Havel, 228.
74 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
Olga Muratova
Ostrovsky's Without a Dowry premiered at the Fomen.ko Workshop
Theatre in Moscow in January 2008. The theatre, classified by most critics as
cerebral and highbrow, is relatively young: it opened officially in 1993, even
though Pyotr Fomenko, its artistic director and founder, started forming his
company as early as 1988, when most of its future actors were still his students
at the Russian Academy of Theatrical Art. Without a Dowry is the third play by
Ostrovsky that Fomenko personally directed-after WO/ve.r and Sheep in 1992
and Guilty Without Guilt in 1993. All three productions are still on the boards,
and co this day every performance is sold out months in advance.
Fomenko's Without a Dowry begins at a fast pace, with a half-comic,
half-dramatic dance performed by Ivan (Tomas Motskus), a pub server. At the
sound of a gramophone recording of "Ugolok" ("A Corner"), he breaks into
a tango, grabbing tablecloths off the tables as his imaginary partners. Striking
and holding exaggerated poses against the beam of light, Ivan prepares the
audience for shadow theatre, a staging technique used extensively in the show.
The back wall of the stage is a screen that, in the first act, serves
as a backdrop onto which a cityscape image is projected. J Iowever, for the
remainder of the play, the screen functions as a partition behind which a
shadow-theatre performance accompanies the center-stage action. Shadow
is a key element in Fomenko's direction. Shadows, fl at projections of three
-dimensional forms, not only juxtapose the inner and the outer, the essence
and the appearance-they also provide clarification of the play's eventS and
insight into the characters' psyches. In Without a Dowry, the shadows forewarn
us of actions to come or consequences to follow, reveal the truth about
the characters' motives and intentions, and, ironically, shed light on what is
deliberately veiled in the dialogue by social etiquette. They also emphasize the
contrast between the bubbling of life and the stasis of death.
After the lively, energizing dance (which is not present in Ostrovsky's
text and therefore might be interpreted as an allegory of life outside Bryakhimov,
the city on the Volga river where the action takes place), the play's opening
dialogue starts, and the show slows and shifts temporarily to a much more static
paradigm. By lengthening the pauses in the actors' speech, Fomenko draws
attention to what is not said, what remains deliberately omitted in the dialogue,
what stays hidden in the shadows. But most importantly, the director starts
preparing us for the main message in Without a Dowry--that a life where the
biblical dictum "love thy neighbor as thyself" is neglected qualifies as "godless"
in Ostrovsky's terms.
This message is elucidated by Fomenko for the twenty-
first-century Moscow audience, who might not be overly receptive to the
Christian moraliry that shines through in all of Ostrovsky's plays. To reinforce
the playwright's doctrine visually, Fomenko uses shadows and shadowing to
point out the difference between a full-blooded life and its flayed skin.
Foreshadowing-that is, placing a projection or a shadow of an
action before the action itself-is the basis of Fomenko's production. The
technique prepares the audience for the drama's main message, familiarizes
the viewers with a challenging concept of a semi-forgotten behavioral matrix,
and sets the mood. In the fust act, for example, Vasya's (Pavel Barshak) first
entrance is accompanied by the toss of a coin. Vasya flips the coin only once,
as he enters the pub, but his action is deliberate and cannot be missed. Later,
Larisa's (Polina Agureeva) fate will be decided with exactly the same single and
deliberate coin toss: Vasya or Knurov (Aleksey Kolubkov), life or death. While
Ivan's dance is metaphoric in nature, the coin toss is much more direct, akin to
a rifle that is shown hanging on the wall in the first act and will necessarily be
fued in the last one.
The key word of Without a Dowry, for both Ostrovsky and Fomenko,
is "godlessness," conceived as the quintessence of human tragedy. Ostrovsky's
Larisa does not utter this word until the fourth act, but Fomenko starts
preparing his viewers early on, so that they are ready to absorb its full weight
when they finally hear it. As early as in the first act, Fomenko suspends the
Knurov-Vasya dialogue to let us and the characters listen to the sound of
church bells. The chiming, absent in Ostrovsky's text, takes a full thirty seconds,
and those present on the stage at the moment, Gavrilo (Sergey Yakubenko),
Ivan, Knurov, and Vasya, rum their heads in the direction of the sound. All
action freezes and the dialogue stops; we fully expect the characters to cross
themselves at the onset of the harmonious ringing of the bells, in keeping
with traditional practice, still prevalent in present-day Russia. I Iowever, the
thirry seconds pass without the characters crossing themselves, and as soon
as the chiming stops, the action and dialogue resume as if they were never
interrupted. The same characters are present again at the scene of Larisa's fall.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
Larisa (Polina Agureeva) and Karandyshev (Yevgeny Tsyganov) in Ostrovsky's Without a D01vry, Moscow, 2008
Instead of sounding a warning and stopping her before she goes too far, all of
them keep egging her on for their personal amusement, luring her closer and
closer to ruin. "Love thy neighbor," a God-given commandment, is forgotten,
just as the practice of crossing oneself at the sound of a church bell has been.
Foreshadowing is also used for the purpose of characterization.
Fomenko assigns gestures and movements to the characters that serve as
indicators of their future choices and of other people's opinions of them.
Changing neither the original text nor the original meaning, the director
highlights what the playwright has hidden between the Lines. The effect is that
of a black-and-white negative: what Ostrovsky only hinted at gets emphasized
by Fomenko's production, and what was articulated in the dialogue becomes
secondary to visual portraiture.
Textually, the first glimpse into Karandyshev's (Yevgeny Tsyganov)
persona comes in his dialogue with Larisa in the first act. Before that, his
actions and Lines suggest ver y little and keep this character out of the spotlight.
In the mise-en-scene preceding the dialogue, Vasya, Knurov, and Kharita
(Nataliya Kurdyubova) are supposed to bring the action center stage, while
Karandyshev stays in the shadows. Fomenko changes the focus by freezing
the Vasya-Knurov-Kharita discussion and making Karandyshev trip on the
chair at the center of the stage. This is followed by a pause and a short tableau
that add significance to the moment. Later, when Larisa narrates the episode
of Paratov's (Ilya Lyubimov) shooting a glass off her head at a party, she acts
out the scene, striking graceful and dignified poses. Karandyshev mockingly
takes the glass from her and places it on his head, but absent-mindedly puts it
upside down, making the glass look like a dunce's cap. As soon as he releases
his grip on the glass, it topples over and falls on the floor with a loud crash. A
short pause in the action and Larisa's stare that follow mark Karandyshev as
Paratov's antithesis in every way.
In the production, forewarnings come in various forms. A hint that
Paratov's arrival will not bring joy to the city dwellers is given through lighting.
At his first appearance, when Vasya announces that Larisa is getting married,
the stage lights change from daylight-yellow to sepulcher-gray, as an ominous
portent of Paratov's involvement in Larisa's tragic fate. The same shadowy tint
will be used once again in the fourth act, in the scene of Larisa's death.
From the beginning of Ostrovsky's second act to the end of the
drama, Fomenko relies heavily on the shadow-theatre technique. The back wall
78 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 3 1, No. 1
is permanently converted into a partitioning screen onto which shadow images
of the props and actors are projected. Sometimes these images appear in a
tableau, like a silhouette-that is, completely static and thus creating the effect
of a sepia photograph or an old, faded negative. At other rimes, they come in
a mechanical-doll mode, sculpting simple gestures with light and darkness, as
the actors behind the partition resort to minimalistic, repetitive movements
that do not draw the audience's attention away from the center-stage action,
but rather help reinforce its significance. In the second act, for example, when
Kharita asks Knurov for money for her daughter's birthday party, Larisa is
seen putting on her stockings and dress in front of an oval mirror. She does it
slowly, distractedly, and unpretentiously.
Later in the same act, when Kharita is talking to Paratov, Larisa and
Karandyshev are seen behind the screen sitting face to face, as if conversing.
Soon, Larisa hangs her head and hides her face in her hands in a gesture
of despair. She remains in this position for the rest of the Kharita- Paratov
dialogue. In the third act, the shadow of Paratov pretends to befriend that of
Karandyshev, and they even mimic drinking Briiderschaft. While this shadow act
represents a socially accepted behavioral norm, it happens to be the opposite
of what the characters really feel for each other. The perverse etiquette of
inviting ill-wishers to your house and then hiding your animosity behind smiles
is portrayed as another form of lying, another form of sacrificing the essence
for the sake of appearances, which is censured equally by Ostrovsky and
In both the text and the production, Larisa is depicted as the opposite
of her mother. She abhors lying and does not pretend to be something she is
not. In the text, this is mentioned in Vasya's descriptions of her and voiced
numerous times in Larisa's own monologues. Fomenko places special emphasis
on this contrast by showing Larisa and her mother in a nonviolent, albeit
persistent, power struggle. Larisa asks Kharita to help her button her dress.
Kharita obliges but tosses Larisa's braid over her shoulder so that it is now
resting on her daughter's chest. This is how Larisa's beautiful hair will get more
attention and possibly appeal to more potential suitors. Larisa, who does not
care much about appearances, flings her braid back. This interplay is repeated
seven or eight times, with the gestures of both women growing progressively
more stubborn and agitated.
Ostrovsky stresses the distinct individualism of Without a Dowry's
Slavic and East European Performance VoL 31, No. 1
characters, and so does Fomenko. This individualism hampers their peaceful
coexistence, resulting in their inability to understand one another and,
therefore, to find middle ground. Fomenko places polar-opposite pairs inside
light wooden door or w:indow frames, which they move around the stage.
Paratov and Karandyshev pretend to discuss barge-haulers while, in fact,
jealously competing for Larisa's attention. During this discussion, they both
stand at the opposite ends of the stage inside their respective frames, which are
identical-probably to suggest that they are equally wrong for Larisa, equally
constrained by their respective limitations, and equally anchored to their areas
of selfishness. Neither character can put a toe out of his circumscribed space
or begin to act "outside the box," as it were.
Kharita and Larisa also communicate through a frame. They use the
same one, to indicate the family tie, but they speak to each other standing on
opposite sides, turning it around on its axis when it is their tum to speak. The
same power struggle as the one described above is shown again, but this time
the division between them takes a physical form. The frame does not allow the
women to reconcile their differences, cross the threshold, and get on the same
After Larisa's fourth-act dialogue with Paratov, in which he declares
his intention to marry another woman, Fomenko makes Larisa look and act
like a Raggedy Ann doll. There are no more supporting frames, no bounding
or restricting contraptions. The actress appears to have lost her inner core, as if
all her bones had disappeared from her body. She is a shadow of the woman we
have seen in the previous acts. She is all form, albeit disheveled, and no essence.
Paratov drapes Larisa, who suddenly looks like a deflated balloon, over his
shoulder to support her. The director's allusion to a lifeless object accords
w:ith Larisa's declaration in that she is nothing more than a toy or a thing to
everybody around her.
The impression is strengthened when the recording
of her song from the third act is played at Larisa's death. The gramophone
recording of her song sounds lifeless, soulless, and mechanical. Life has gone
out of Larisa, but the form, her recorded voice, still exists to entertain her
acquaintances. The person has perished, but her shadow is still there.
For the other characters in the play, the "love thy neighbor" part of
the famous dictum is lost and only the "love thyself" part remains. Larisa, as
an entity, as an individual, never elicited true love from anybody around her.
They loved her selfishly, as a means to their ends. Kharita wanted to marry
her off to a wealthy gentleman and thus achieve respect and financial stability.
Paratov needed her to sow his wild oats. Karandyshev sought to boost his
prestige and self-esteem with a beautiful trophy wife. Vasya and Knurov saw
in her an ego-stroking possibility. To the rest of the characters, she was but a
gifted entertainer. Locked in their own selfish agendas, Bryakhimov dwellers
never regarded her as a human being worthy of altruistic love. Selfishness kills
compassion, and thus kills the very essence of a person. Larisa becomes a
sacrificial lamb to human egoism long before she is shot by Karandyshev. The
world around first reifies her, then godlessly uses her, and finally sends her to
the land of shadows without remorse. Like Ostrovsky, Fomenko insists that
it is not Karandyshev's bullet that kills Larisa. The shot itself is downplayed
in the production. It does not present a sensational climactic moment. The
scene is acted matter-of-factly, as if in passing. According to Ostrovsky and
Fomenko, what kills Larisa is the godlessness of others.
Unlike the original text, the performance does not end with Larisa's
final words of forgiveness and the kiss that she sends to the world before closing
her eyes forever, nor does it end with the loud gipsy chorus signifying that life
goes on despite Larisa's tragic fate. Fomenko ends his production with Paratov
unceremoniously dragging Larisa's lifeless corpse off stage. Her physical form
is no longer an asset but a liability; however, her shadow projection will be
preserved in time as a gramophone recording for other people's amusement.
1. The production used Varya Panina's rendition of a nineteenth-century
Russian romantic song (music by M. Steiman; lyrics by V. Mazurkevich).
2. In the scene where Paratov shows Larisa his engagement ring after spend-
ing the night with her, the word she uses bezbozhno. In the English translation by Nor-
man Henley, whose accuracy and faithfulness are commendable, the word is rendered
as "shameless." See Alexander Ostrovsky, Without a Dowry, in Without a Dowry and Other
Playi, trans. and ed. Norman Henley (Dana Point, CA: Adris, 1997), 199.
3. Ibid., 202 and 203.
82 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 3 1, No. 1
Jeffrey Stephens
Eugene Labiche is best known as the author of An Italian Stratv Hat,
a five-act farce that was first performed in Paris in 1851. A new Romanian
version of The Woman Who Lost Her Garters-Labiche's more obscure play of
the same year-premiered at the Sibiu International Theatre Festival in Sibiu,
Romania on J une 6, 2010. Bucharest's Teatrul de Comedic secured renowned
Romanian director Silviu Purdirete to stage the play. Little known in the US
but a major force in European theatre, Purd.rete directed a wildly popular
"promenade" production of Goethe's Fal(stwhich has become legendary since
its 2007 premiere at the Radu Stanca National Theatre and its subsequent
success in Edinburgh in 2009. So completely disparate are the two productions
that few would guess they were directed by the same person.
Tht Woman Who Lost Her Garters begins very much as An Italian Straw
Hat does, with an object dear ro the bourgeois who possesses it, a botched
carriage ride, and an expedition to recover a lost item. This time, the plot revolves
around a garter. The former servant Laverdure has inherited his master's estate
and title and Gaspard has arrived to serve him. Laverdure has fallen in love
George i h a i ~ a in Tbe Woman Who Lost Her Carters, Sibiu, 201 0
Horapu Ma.Iaele and Mihaela Teleoad in The Woman Who Lost Her Garters, directed by Silviu Purcarete,
Teatrul de Comedic at the Sibiu International Theatre Festival, 2010
with Fideline, a seamstress, and therefore summoned her to his new home to
make twelve dozen shirts. While Laverdure changes into his former master's
clothes, Gaspard reveals to the audience that he has had an encounter with
a woman while travelling. When the carriage wheel shattered, a woman-in
fact, Fideline-fell on top of him and "something happened very quickly"
between them. Gaspard has the woman's garter and wants to show his love
for her. He knows that his love for Fideline can never supplant his obligation
to serve his new master, but he will nonetheless attempt a rendezvous behind
his Laverdure's back. In typical nineteenth-century French fashion, there are
titillating references hidden in the characters' knowing gestures and oblique
Fideline arrives to make Laverdure's shirts while we hear her
soldier and fiance ominously beating his drum outside, the sound of which
accompanies much of the action. She explains to the audience that although
her soldier is dear to her, "such a fortune as Laverdure has is to be married."
Fideline persuades Gaspard to provoke her fiance, knowing that the latter will
challenge Gaspard to a duel. The resourceful Gaspard, unable to convince
Fideline's fiance to leave, finally blows him up offstage. Just then, a rock with a
note is hurled through the window. The note reveals to the men that Fideline
is not the virginal woman that they imagined.
The compromising situation that occurred between Gaspard and
Fideline in the carriage is discovered when the two of them and Laverdure
make their way into a wardrobe. It is by means of multiple wardrobes, lining
both sides of the stage, that Purdirete transforms a pedestrian text into an
enchanting and satisfying production. Unseen actors manipulate the wardrobes
at various moments during the performance, causing the structures to dance
in an anthropomorphic carnival of muted imagery. The balletic dances of the
wardrobes-some of them large enough to hold all three actors at once-are
enchanting in their cumbersome, plodding, simple movement along the floor.
Characters enter and exit via the wardrobes, which revolve, hide props and
costumes, serve as lecterns, and, at times, even upstage the actors.
The production venues in Sibiu range from traditional stages to
massive warehouses with pigeons cooing among the rafters and sunlight
streaming through the cracks in the walls. Purdirete's production took place
in a factory that once manufactured scales, which now lay discarded along the
path into the expansive space. The decrepit edifice put the theatrical event and
its themes into high relief. Since the play satirizes the frivolity of the French
bourgeois, the characters' situations reflect the topsy-turvy state of affairs in
the period, the rise of Louis-Napoleon, and the economic insecurity felt by
many in mid-nineteenth century France.
The histoncal context notwithstanding, a lost garter seems
preposterously unimportant, but for those on stage, the quest for it dominates
their lives. Nevertheless, Purdirete adds a magical sheen to the play's hard,
farcical edges that generously serves a negligible text with a memorable staging.
The Labiche play provides the accomplished actors of the Teatrul de Comedic
three deeply felt characters on which to hang their superb interpretations. All
of the performers are skilled and well known Romanian actors. Two of them,
George Mihaita as Laverdure and Horatiu MaHielc as Gaspard, arc masterful.
As the wide-eyed woman without her garters, Mihaela Teleoaca holds her own
against her two larger-than-life colleagues. Lucian Maxim-added to the cast
by Purdirete-plays Vasile ~ i r l i s often haunting original score on saw and
drums throughout the show.
If Purcarcte, one of Europe's most flamboyantly theatrical directors,
was attemptmg to draw parallels between mid-nineteenth century France and
post-Ceausescu Romania in his production, he does so very subtlety. One
assumes that a director of Purcarete's stature would not devote his considerable
energy and vision to such a trifling play-that he must have a goal besides
diversion. Indeed, there was much talk among Romanians during the spring and
early summer of 2010 about the government's recent austerity measures. Many
were frustrated by the moribund economy and were compelled to eliminate
"frills" from their budgets. ln this sense, the production served to remind its
audience that an obsession with the pursuit of such frills is, at best, misplaced.
However, according to Corina Constantinescu, an artistic consultant
with the theatre who served as my translator, the Tearrul de Comedic's production
was described by Purcarete himself as his "comic intermezzo." Directing it
provided rum with a break from his more monumental undertakings such as
Faust and Metamorphosis, the latter of which was also staged at the fesoval. \.XIhile
the production of The !'f'7oman Who Lost Her Garters was theatrically effective,
what one takes from It is an appreciation of Purdirete's capacity for moving
easily between the kind of colossal theatre with which he has become associated
and this no-Jess-entertaining production.
86 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
George Mihil..ita, Hora{iu Mataele, and Lucian Maxim in The Woman Who Lost Her Garters, directed by Silviu Purdrete,
Teat(Ul de Comedie at the Sibiu International Theatre Festival, 2010
Puppeteers create the dog Sharik inA Dots Hearl, directed by Simon McBurney,
Engush Nathional Opera, London, 2010. Photograph: Monika Rittershaus
Slavic and East European Performance VoL 31, No. 1
Joe Heissan
The idea that "man must recognize the existence of limits to his
powers; that there are realms, divine and natural, where he cannot tread without
the danger of creating something blasphemous and unnatural" was rejected
by the Communists in early twentieth-century Soviet Russia.
Their "entire
programme was based on the notion that God did noL exist, and that nature
was infiniLely plastic-that they could create a new, better man"
-a "New
Soviet man," an ideal person who would work for the good of the community,
for the good of the coUective. Mikhail Bulgakov satirized this notion in his
1925 novel A Dog's Heart, which centers on a medical doctor named Professor
Preobrazhensky and a stray dog on which he performs a gruesome experiment.
The doctor-whose name can be translated as " Professor of the
Transfiguration"-belongs in a rogues' gallery of literary mad scientists with
Drs. Frankenstein, Thavas, and Moreau. He is a member of the Moscow
intelligentsia, warily attempting to maneuver through mid-1920s Soviet society.
In his large apartment/office, Preobrazhensky conducts experiments in human
"rejuvenation"; his seemingly successful results mean he is in great demand
with the powerful and influential. Bur the doctor's research goes too far when
he lures home an abused, stray dog-whom the doctor ironically names Sharik
(the Russian equivalent of "Fluffy"). The doctor fattens up the poor dog only
to subject him to a radical operation. He and his staff implant the testicles
and pituitary gland of a recently deceased, quasi-criminal drunkard into the
dog's body. Over a recovery period of about two months, Sharik transforms
into a human being and assumes the name "Sharikov." As far as the doctor
is concerned, the outcome of this process is questionable. Sharikov not only
associates successfully with his proletarian neighbors and frequently quotes
from Marx and Engels, he also curses up a storm, drinks like a fish, retains an
instinctual hatred of cats, and behaves with increasing disrespect and brutality
toward the doctor and his household. When the situation gets out of control,
Preobrazhensky decides to dismantle his creation, forcibly removing the
human implants from Sharikov, who soon reverts to his former state as an
obedient pet.
Bulgakov's novel has inspired a number of adaptations, including
those for the stage by Frank Galati (1985) and Deloss Brown (1990), and for
the screen by V1aclimir Bartko (1988).
More recently, Bulgakov's tale served as
the source for an impressive operatic adaptation by Alexander Raskatov with
a libretto by Cesare Mazzonis. This opera was brilliantly directed by Simon
McBurney and co-produced by Complicite, first with De Nederlandese Opera
in Amsterdam in] une 2010, and then at the English National Opera in London
in November.
In each of these adaptations, the character of Sharik(ov) provides a
particular challenge-and opportunity-for the creative team. One cannot get
around the question "what do you do with the dog?"-especially when that
dog has to talk or sing. In Bartko's film, Sharik is played by a dog, and Sharikov
by the actor Vladimir Tolokonnikov. In the stage adaptations by Galati and
Brown, Sharik(ov) was played by an actor. In this opera, building Sharik(ov)
became a collective effort involving puppets, four puppeteers, and three
singers/performers. The decision by the opera's creative team to construct
Sharik(ov) in this way was particularly effective because they so fully integrated
this approach into the entire production.
At the English National Opera in London, A Dog's Heart opens on an
almost bare stage. The floor consists of a large, white square, with an equally
large, white square establishing a back wall for the space. Off in the wings,
lighting and stage equipment are visible to the audience. The only object on
stage looks like the lifeless, blackened, skeletal remains of an animal. A warm
spotlight gradually shines down on the object as a group of six people, dressed
like workers in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, approach it. Words being typed
on a piece of white paper are projected on the white wall, providing basic
background information on Bulgakov's life and the history of the novel upon
which the opera is based. In particular, we learn that government officials
quickly prohibited the publication of A Dog's Heart in the Soviet Union,
and that this ban lasted for more than six decades. Projections of a Moscow
snowstorm move across the entire stage. All but two of the workers pick up
different sections of the animal, and slowly, this object comes to life. Four of
these workers are puppeteers (Robin Beer, Finn Caldwell, Josie Daxter, and
Mark Down from Blind Summit Theatre) and the object is a dog who seems
to be starving and in desperate need of kindness. Though these puppeteers
animate this dog, the two remaining workers provide his voice. Sometimes the
dog's voice sounds pleasant, but at other times, it is unpleasant. The haunting
90 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
Sharikov (Peter Hoare) inA Dog's Heart, directed by Simon McBurney,
English Nathional Opera, London, 2010. Photograph: Monika Rittershaus
and pensive "pleasant voice" is created by counter-tenor Andrew Watts.
The aggressive and harsh "unpleasant voice" is created by soprano Elena
Vassilieva-with the unsettling twist that she sings through a distorring, hand-
held, electronic megaphone. And so the dog Sharik is pieced together, both
vocally and physically, out of many parts and performers.
In one of the program notes, Simon McBurney tells how Sharik was
developed by the creative team. Rastikov had "suggest[ecfJ the dog's presence
in the music. Nothing [was] quite explicit, it [was] all imagined."
original idea was to create the physical presence of the dog as a puppet made
out of a pile of trash, but a workshop prior to the formal rehearsal period
eventually led to this skeletal creature, inspired by a Giacometti sculpture. The
dog's voice was to be created musically by two singers. Ultimately, audience
members stitch together these different parts of Sharik in their minds to
construct the character for themselves. This approach to the challenge of
creating the dog works well because it encourages the audience to establish a
strong imaginative bond with Sharik-something that Bulgakov himself did in
his novel by opening it with a first-person speech by the dog:
Whoo-oo-oo-oo-hooh-ho-oo! Oh, look at me, I am perishing in this
gateway. The blizzard roars a prayer for the dying, and I howl with
it. I am finished, finished. That bastard in the dirty cap-the cook
of the Normal Diet Cafeteria for employees of the People's Central
Economic Soviet-threw boiling water at me and scalded my left side.
The scum, and he calls himself a proletarian! Lord, oh lord, how it
hurts! My side is cooked to the bone. And now J howl and howl, but
what's the good of howling?
The decision to make Sharik a character that gets pieced together by the
audience mirrors the procedure that the doctor performs to create Sharikov.
Both acts involve suturing together dog and human parts with the imagination
to make a new whole.
In the London production, the staging of Sharik's transformation into
Sharikov is both brutal and funny. Most of the operation is not directly shown,
but is instead suggested through sounds and shadows projected onto the large
back wall of the set. We do not see the surgical team, sharp instruments, or the
buckets of blood that the operation entails, but we can imagine them. Indeed,
92 Slavic and East European Petjom1ance VoL 31, No. 1
visualizing in my mind what happened to the dog was far more unnerving
than if the procedure had been shown directly. When Sharik finally emerges
from the operating room, he is still the dog puppet, but soon, bits and pieces
of the puppet are replaced by the human hands or legs of the puppeteers, and
the man Sharikov gradually emerges. In the end, the dog puppet, puppeteers,
and even the two performers creating Sharik's voice(s) are replaced by a whole
new performer, the tenor Peter Hoare. Hoare is both the body and voice
of Sharikov. All that was Sharik seems to be gone, and in his place we get
Bulgakov's satirical and disturbing version of the "New Soviet man."
What makes this production particularly satisfying is the way in which
the idea of a dog-man was incorporated into the added epilogue. In Bulgakov's
novel, Sharikov is finally forced by the doctor into a second operation that
removes the human testicles and pituitary gland. Sharikov reverts to Sharik,
and life for the doctor appears to go back to normal. ln this opera, Sharikov
undergoes the second operation surrounded by a pack of doctors who pin him
down on the floor in the same location on stage where the skeletal remains
originally appeared. A river of blood runs out from this huddle toward the
audience and the front of the stage. Peter Hoare's Sharikov is replaced briefly
by a shockingly monstrous half-dog, half-human puppet before the original dog
puppet eventually resumes its place as Sharik. For the doctor, his household,
and his neighbors, it is almost as if Sharikov never existed.
The epilogue builds on the decisions that the creative team embraced
when conceptualizing the dog-man in one of the most powerful moments
of the production. The epilogue places the doctor center stage, sitting in a
formal chair in his drawing room. In an echo of the opening sequence, a warm
spotlight shines down on him, with Sharik now obediently sitting on the floor at
his side. From out of the wings, the large chorus of proletarians come crawling
in on all fours, like a pack of dogs. The doctor seems oblivious to the chorus
as they close in on him, singing. Significantly, there are no "pleasant voices" in
this pack. These "dogs" have only "unpleasant voices," sung through hand-
held electronic megaphones. As the chorus move in on the doctor from the
shadows, a vicious, barking dog is projected onto the back wall of the doctor's
drawing room.
This fmal chilling image is not part of Bulgakov's story. At the time
that Bulgakov wrote his novel, the path that Soviet society would soon take was
not yet ftxcd. This disturbing addition to the tale suggests what we know only
The epilogue of A Dog's Heart, directed by Simon McBurney, English Nathional Opera, London, 2010
Photograph: Monika Rittershaus
too well from history: "[a] Communism which claims to be about building a
new world, but [which] is, in fact, about plunder and class revenge" is about to
be unleashed on the Soviet people by Stalin.
1. James Meek, "The Hound of Hell," program for A Dog's Heart, November
2. Ibid.
3. One can find clips of Bortko's Heart of a Dog on YouTube. They are in
Russian, with English subtitles.
4. Simon McBurney, director's notes, program for A Dog's Heart, November
2010, 14.
5. Mikhail Bulgakov, Heart of a Dog, trans. Mirra Ginsburg (New York: Grove
Press, 1968), 1.
6. Meek, 13.
Slavic and East European Performance VoL 31, No. 1
Visnja Rogosic
In spite of its non-institutional status, within ten years of its emergence
in 2001 the Croatian performance group Shadow Casters, located in Zagreb,
has achieved visibility in the mass media, popularity among a wider audience,
and artistic relevancy in professional circles. These successes were conftrmed
by a number of awards from signiftcant institutions and long-standing regional
festivals: the company won the Croatian Theatre Scene Award in 2004, and
were prize winners at MESS theatre festival (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
in 2008 and BITEF (Belgrade, Serbia) in 2007 and 2009. Comments on their
work frequently discuss the populist appeal of their performances, which are
open, lifelike, inclusive, communicative, and approachable-characteristics
that one has to consider in an age of increasing theoretical hcrmetization in
experimental performance and of the proliferation of more available, more
profitable media. With those traits in mind, I will describe a paradigmatic
example of their poetics, Explicit Contents (2010).
Opening in June as a co-production with Zagreb Youth Theatre, the
theatre with one of the most vivacious programs in Croatia, Explicit Contents
develops many recognizable markers of Shadow Casters' past work. The
performance is the fust part in the Trilogy on Community, continuing a tendency
towards tripartite formations which was already manifested in Process City (2004-
2008), a trilogy inspired by Franz Kafka's The Trial.' Next, it takes the potent
form of an episodic performance, where a complex network of performative
"rest stops" emerges through a series of individual journeys. It elaborates the
dramaturgy of the hypertext already introduced in their initial project, Shadow
Casters (2001- 2003), and explored in their ambitious attempt to archive the
public performance of the city of Zagreb, Re-collecting City Re-Collecting Time
(2006-). Thus, in Explicit Contents, the viewer's focus is fragmented, while any
privileged position is annulled by the development of the performance in
several directions, each offering a number of performative "rest stops."
In the foyer, audience members are sent individually to one of six
odd-numbered rows in the auditorium. Divided into six. groups, they listen
to the voices of Katarina Pejovic and Boris Bakal, the directors/dramaturgs/
authors of the concept, who metaphorically announce the beginning of
the performance by summing up the desired recipient's perspective in ten
statements, one of which is Anaudian: "We are not free. And the sky can still
fall on our heads." The coordination of the performance is then left in the
hands of six pairs of actors (Goran Bogdan and Ivana Buljan Legatti, Niksa
Butijer and Nada Perisic Nola, Edvin Liveric and Barbara Prpic-Biffel, Vilim
Marula and Lana Baric, Maro Martinovic and Lada Bonacci, Ursa Raukar and
Vedran Zivolic), who slowly appear sitting in, walking among, or wiping the
floor underneath the empty rows of seats. However, traditional performance
space is used very sparingly The auditorium hosts the initial recognition of
"belonging" to a certain group and the establishment of contact with the
performers; they then take each group to wander briefly through the entire
theatre building only to ftnd its permanent place in the attic, cellar, or rooftop,
where they create a performative unit together. Most of the event happens not
only "somewhere else" but also "to somebody else," since audience members
cannot transfer freely from one part of the performance to another. The stage,
where groups return at the end, is reserved for the final sequence of mini-
activities and one convention-the collective bow of all the participants to the
empty auditorium, which echoes with pre-recorded applause.
The relatively harmless unconventionality of Explicit Contents is
intriguing, but the performance is not interesting just because of its site-
specificity, nor is its excitement exhausted through a multichannel structure
potentially accessible through six visits to the theatre. The performance is
rooted in the aesthetics of performance arts, emphasizing what Erika Fischer-
Lichte would call "the transformative power of performance" and making the
performance inexhaustable, according to the analysis elaborated in her book
The Transformative Power of Peiformance: A New Aesthetics (2008).
Shadow Casters
stretch that aesthetics to an extent that demands exceptional sensibility from
the performers and benevolence from the visitors. Entangling and multiplying
an approach that can be found mostly in performance art, they move beyond a
postdramatic eruption of the real through the fixed fictive scheme, shaping the
whole performance from the amalgam of fiction and reality.
As the first indicator of such "high risk dramaturgy," Explicit Contents
replaces a finalized performance text with their own version of canovaccio,
walking the path of intentional unpredictability. Performance, thus, exists only
as an elaborated concept which includes the performer's "energy of intention"
98 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
and "an internal sequence of connotations," but "no other situation than the
one going on." From this, the performers take in, sort out, and construct the
performance: "Whether the outcome will be the sentence 'have a nice day,' 'to
be or not to be,' or running in a circle for twenty minutes is irrelevant and a
question of the performer's ftnal decision."
The fixed performance "skeleton" comprises six thematic journeys,
each with its own distinctive atmosphere, relationship between the guiding
actors, and costumes or props. For example, the first-row guides (who are
serious and informative and wear wolves' tails on their everyday clothes)
lead their group across the stage to one of the actors' dressing rooms where
everybody has a chance to introduce themselves. With their own or invented
identities, the group proceeds down the stairs to the very bottom of the
theatre's cellar to talk about their fears and play games of trust. A much more
reserved pair, however, waits until all the other groups have left to approach
the fifth-row audience and urge them up the backstage stairs to the restrooms.
If no one volunteers to retell a "restroom event,'' the group ends up in the
second-floor theatre bar, Ferzenk, where they sip liqueurs, eat snacks, smoke
cigarettes, and indulge in small talk. A playful duo appears blowing pink and
blue (female and male) balloons and takes the third-row audience to the roof,
where they spend the next two hours playing identity games and dealing with
In addition to the scenario, each journey relies on a separate resource
of stories, dialogues, actions, and group scenes, devised and/or rehearsed in
advance, then collaged according to the discretion of the performer. While
those from the seventh row listen to actresses' melancholic stories about
friendships ending, the first-row group gets a detailed description of how
theatre architecture is adapted for fire safety. The eleventh-row audience sets
off on their journey after an enacted quarrel between the rwo actors, and the
seventh row has to wait until their humble guides clean the floor and soles of
audience's shoes with buckets of water. Some visitors are invited to perform
a Christian ritual of offering peace to each other with a handshake, whereas
others receive a number of awards, such as "best rnissus," "most benevolent
girls," or "bravest person."
Echoing the trilogy's title, in Explicit Contents special attention is given
to individual and collective tasks and games, which remind us that "performance
is taking place between actors and spectators,"
or, in Max Hermann's words, that
it is "a social game-played by all for all."
The project originated in a two-
week contest for "the biggest and most serious problems and misfortunes,"
organized in April201 0, by the project's crisis staff in the Gallery VN in Zagreb.
Having invited those with troubles to discuss their problems in a twenty-minute
presentation in front of a three-member committee, Shadow Casters chose
six winners whose problems became the basis for the development of the six
journeys' themes. For example, the confessions of a theatre public relations
agent who cannot estimate the value of her work or her professional status, or
of a university professor worried about the world crisis, reverberate through
Explicit Contents. But Shadow Casters did not stop there.
The inclusive nature of the work continued developing with open
rehearsals in May and June bringing out the implications of its aesthetic frame-
the necessity of introducing the audience to the creative process at a very early
stage. Within the complex structure of the performance, actors' activities were
established simply as an invitation to a performative dialogue. The story about
theatre architecture and fire safety was authenticated just minutes later in one
of the side halls by the joint sounding of the emergency and end-of-emergency
signals. Friendship stories were juxtaposed with the attempt to catch an eye of
another audience member in an almost completely dark escape passage. Finally,
every group rehearsed a separate collective performance-such as an a cappella
song or a group dance which was presented at the end of the performance.
Of course, sharing creative power with the audience resulted in
significant oscillations in the realization of the basic scheme, ranging from the
spectator who decided to remain in the auditorium and exclude herself from
the event, to the group that decided not to bother with the collective task at
all, but instead to support a single performer as a representative. The greatest
challenge to the first part of the Trilogy on Communi!) was, however, presented
by the group that failed to form a temporary aesthetic community, questioning
not the event itself (which was then simply realized as a struggle- to find an
interesting task, to involve all audience members, to switch roles, etc.), but its
transformative potential. The question of whether or not the world could still
be "re-enchanted" (to use Fischer-Lichte's term) if audience members chose
the subversive instead of the collaborative co-performing role, remained open.
The intense activation of the audience did not leave actors with less
to do, but, in fact, broadened the range of their performative tasks. Since all
the actors performed themselves to a certain degree-using their actual first
100 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 31, No. 1
Ur5a Raukar and the ninth row audience members, Explicit Contents, Zagreb, 2010
names, biographical material, and sincere reactions-within a constructed
performance, their acting mostly ranged between the complex and the received
It became difficult to differentiate between fictional quarrels and the
genuine emotional problems that an actor avowed during a conversation.
Also, in the largest portion of their performance, "deskilling" in acting was
accompanied by the aquisition of moderating skills. Performers would, for
example, suggest conversation topics, coordinate the staging of a chosen
scene by the audience, or nonobtrusively start a song, inviting the others to
Similarly, the performance space was not determined in advance,
but was constantly produced by the performance itselC Explicit Contents
imaginatively utilized the main theatre spaces (foyer, main stairs, and house),
auxiliary rooms, and halls (rehearsal studios, dressing rooms, etc.), as well as
rarely seen places and passages (the rooftop, the cellar, the fire escape). These
spaces were evenly distributed on the building's different floors, so that the level
of the unpredictability of mo,ement was always changing. Rather than denying
the outside world, Explicit Contents incorporated it into the performance, even
suggesting that one group keep their cell phones on- in case something
important happened. Although the alienation effect was used, the performance
spaces were thematically appropriate to the stories: the possibility of inventing
a new identity was offered in the changing room, the audience faced their fears
deep down in the cellar, and informal conversation was encouraged in the
theatre's bar.
Nevertheless, what was most impressive about the performance was its
extraordinary ability to affect everyone who participated in it. There were many
exceptional moments and interesting anecdotes. A spectator was "punished" by
the rest of the group for his continuous attempts to subvert group's activities
by getting a negative role in a devised collective scene. A lady who kept coming
to rehearsals and performances claimed they were cheaper than a psychiatrist.
A student admitted that she felt at home for the first time in a long period.
That also included profesional performers who, according to Croatian theatre
critic Natasa Govedic, were "often more closed and careful (and less serious)
than their audience" but their "enthusiasm and concentration grew when
they received completely unexpected reactions from the spectators."
Thus, in
accordance with the initial question about the possibility of "evolving from a
community of 'polite strangers' to a true community of people with all existing
102 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 31, No. 1
differences but still tied by the same passion," Explicit Contents successfully
tested social and creative skills in overcoming internal barriers. In the words of
the a cappella song composed for the performance:
You are my prejudice,
deep and permanent.
What would happen, if you were gone,
will remain a secret.
1. Its second part, {R)evolution: MaJter Class (co-produced with the Belgrade
theatse Atelje 212), opened in Belgrade in September 2010. The third part, Male/
Ftmak-Female/Malt (co-produced with Zagreb's &TD Theatre and MESS) opened in
Sarajevo in April 2011.
2. According to the analysis elaborated in Erika Fischer-Lichee's The
Transformative Power of Peiformance, such an approach to theatre is the result of the
performative turn taken in the 1960s, which led to the increased exploration of
performance as an event. Consequently, projects realized within these new aesthetics
do not offer previously determined content for interpretation, but instead generate
meaning during the performance via the "auropoietic feedback loop" established
among all the participants. To achieve this, artists use staging strategies that enable
role reversal between the performers and the audience, as well as the formation of
a temporary aesthetic community, destabilizing all creative functions. According to
Fischer-Lichee, the final aim of the new aesthetics of performance is to establish a
liminal context and enable the participants to undergo a transformative experience.
Erika Fischer-Lichte, The Transfomrative Power of Perjom1ance. A New Aesthetics (New
York: Routledge, 2008), 50.
3. Visnja Rogosic, "Trudimo se mnoge stvari ne znati," Kazali!le 29/30
(2007): 66-73.
4. Erika Fischer-Lichte, Theatre, Sacrifice, Ritual. Exploring Forms of Political
Theatre (New York: Routledge, 2005), 23.
5. Ibid., 22.
6. Michael Kirby, "On Acting and Not-Acting" in Acting Re-Considered, ed.
Phillip Zarrilli (New York: Routledge, 2002), 40-52.
7. Fischer-Lichee, The Transformative Power of Peljom1ance, 107- 114.
8. Natasa Govedic, "Traganje za izgubljenom zajednicom," Novi list, May 13,
MICHAL CU DERLE studied theatre and Czech language and literature at
the Philosophical Faculty of Masaryk University in Brno and authorial acting at
the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (DAMU) . . His doctoral dissertation,
Ivan T(yskofil Paths Toward Play, was published as part of Hra fkolou with Jan
Roubal in 2001. His research focuses on contemporary Czech acting and drama
and has been published in various journals, including Svet a divadlo. He also
works as a screenwriter for Czech Television and as a playwright for Theatre
Minor. He has been a member of the teaching faculty at the Department of
Authorial Creativity and Pedagogy at DAMU OIP, dramatic interpretation of
literature) since 2001 and has been vice dean of the school since 2006.
DAVID GOLDFARB serves as Curator of Literature and Humanities at the
Polish Culturallnstitute in ew York. He holds a doctorate in Comparative
Literature from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He
has published articles on Bruno Schulz, Zbigniew Herbert, Stanislaw Ignacy
Witkiewicz, Mikhail Lermontov and narratology, and East European cinema
in East European Politics and Societies, Indiana Slavic Studies, Philosopl!J and Literature,
Proojiexts, Polish Review, Slavic and East European Performance, and book chapters
on J6zef Wittlin, Witold Gombrowicz, and Nikolai Gogo! and Giuseppe
J OE HETSSAN is a graduate student in the Ph.D program in Theatre at the
CUNY Graduate Center, currently writing his dissertation on devised theatre
and Theatre de Complicite. He is a Writing Fellow at the City College of New
York, where he has also taught theatre history, acting, and directing, and has
directed several theatre department productions.
KRYSTYNA ILLAKOVICZ is a senior lecturer in the Slavic Languages and
Literature department at Yale University. She received her M.A. from Warsaw
University and her Ph.D. from New York University in Comparative Literature
with a specialization in Polish Language and Literature. Krystyna's research
interests include Polish language and culture in the global context, theatre and
language acquisition, theatre, fum, Polish and European modernity, and Polish
women and history.
104 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 31, No. 1
ALEXANDER KOMLOSI is a Czech-American actor, director, author,
translator, researcher, and teacher who has lived in the Czech Republic since
1998, where he is now a permanent resident. He completed his master's
studies in authorial acting and doctoral studies in theatre at the Academy of
Performing Arts in Prague (DAMU). He began studying (Inter) acting with the
Inner Partner with Professor Vyskocil in 1998 and started teaching it in 2001.
His dissertation was the first exhaustive study of the discipline. He is currently
translating a series of seminal texts about the discipline into English to be
published in 2011. In addition to working as an adjunct professor (IIP, authorial
performance) at the Department of Authorial Creativity and Pedagogy at
DAlviU, he works as a scientific researcher for the Institute for the Research
and Study of Authorial Acting.
ANETA MANCEWICZ is an Associate Professor of English Literature at
Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz, Poland. In 2010- 2011, she was a
Visiting Scholar at the CUNY Graduate Center as a Kosciuszko Foundation
Fellow. In 2009, she was a Visiting Lecturer at universities in Padova, Italy
and Greifswald, Germany. Her book about the deconstruction of Hamlet in
contemporary European drama was published as Biedf!Y Hamlet by
Akademicka, in Cracow, Poland (2010). She received her Ph.D. from Cracow's
Jagiellonian University. She publishes articles and reviews on contemporary
theatre and performance, and her research focuses on adaptations of
Shakespeare and intermediality.
OLGA MURATOVA is a native of Moscow, Russia. She teaches Russian
Studies in the department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at John Jay
College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. She received her
M.A. degree in Linguistics at the Moscow University of Linguistics and her
Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is a regular
contributor to Slavic and East European Peiformance.
SHARI PERI<JNS has worked as a dramaturg, stage manager, and production
assistant at regional and on- and off-Broadway theatres. She is a student in the
doctoral program in Theatre at the CUNY Graduate Center. Shari has taught
at Hunter College and Harvard University, writes reviews for various online
publications, and is currently the managing editor of S/m;ic and East European
ROBYN QUICK is a professor and coordinator of the theatre studies track
in the department of Theatre Arts at Towson University. She served as the
dramaturg and coordinator of the New Russian Drama Project, a collaboration
between the Center for International Theatre Development and Towson
University's Department of Theatre Arts. She received the 2010 Elliott
Hayes Award from the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas
for her work on this project. In the fall of 2011, she will teach dramaturgy
at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow as a Fulbright
VISNJA ROGOSIC is a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at the Martin E. Segal
Theatre Center of the CUNY Graduate Center. She is a student in the Ph.D.
program in Literature, Performing Arts, Film, and Culture at the University of
Zagreb, where she is writing her dissertation on devised theatre in Croatia. She
teaches introductory courses in theatre in the Faculty of Humanities and Social
Sciences at University of Zagreb.
JEFFREY STEPHENS is an Assistant Professor in the Department of
Theatre and Dance at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He has
published production reviews and essays in Slavic and East European Performance,
Journal of American Drama and Theatre, Theatre Topics, and Theatre Journal.
YURY URNOV is a theatre director and translator. He graduated from the Russian
Academy of Theatre Art with an M.F.A. and has directed over thirty productions,
including Dostoevsf<;y-trip by Vladimir Sorokin, Yvonne, Princess of Burgundia by V
Gombrowicz, Vodka, Fucking, and Television by Maksim Kurochkin, and Dead
Man's Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl. Urnov has taught in Russia, Africa, Europe, and
in the United States. For the last two years, he has worked on the New Russian
Drama Project at Towson University as a Fulbright Scholar in Residence.
106 Slavic and East European Peiformance VoL 31, No. 1
Photo Credits
Boleslaw Taborski in Afy Uprising
Still from a film by Anna Taborska
Anna Yablonskaya
Photo by Alexey Zhiryakov
Ellen Stewart
Photo by D. E. Matlack
Courtesy of the La MaMa Archive
Photo by Lee Wexler
Courtesy of the La MaMa Archive
Courtesy of the archive of Videotheatre
The Screech
Photos by Hanna Musial6wna
Tanya- Ta!J,ya and Martial Arts
Photos by Jay Herzog
Frozen in Time
Photo by Robyn Quick
r?odka. Fucking and Television
Photo by Kate Bateman
Country House
Courtesy of the Ambassador Theater
I van Vyskocil and Jin Suchy in Text-appeals Revisited
Photo by Dus"an Dostal
Ivan Vyskocil with Eva Holubova and Petr Lebl
Bohdan Holomicek
Ivan Vyskocil. 1962
Photo by Emanuel Frynca
"Kharita and Larisa" and "Larisa and Karandyshev" in Without a Dowo
Photos by Larisa Gerasimchuk
Larisa in tPithout a Dowo
Photo by Yekaterina Tsvetkova
The Woman Who Lost Her Carters
Photos by Mihaela Marin
Photos by Moo.ika Rittershaus
Expliat Contents
Photos by Danilo Balaban
108 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 31, No. 1
Quick Change is full of surprises. It is a
nicely seasoned tossed-sa/ad of a book
concocted by an ironic cookmeister with
a sometimes wild imagination. And how
many quick changes has he wrought
in this book of 28 pieces. The writings
range from translations of letters and
plays to short commentaries to fully-
developed essays. The topics bounce
from Mayakovsky to Shakespeare, Kantor
to Lunacharsky, Herodotus to Gerould's
own play, Candaules, Commissioner,
Gorky to Grotowski, Shaw to Mrozek,
Briusov to Witkacy. From ancient Greeks to
Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe,
from pre-revolutionary Russia to the
Soviet Union, from France and England
to Poland. From an arcane discussion of
medicine in theatre to a "libertine" puppet
play from 19th century France.
Richard Schechner
' . '
Quick Change: Theatre Essays and Translations, a volume of previously uncollected
writings by Daniel Gerould from Comparative Literature, Modern Drama, PAJ, TOR,
SEEP, yale/theater and other journals. It includes essays about Polish, Russian and
French theatre, theories of melodrama and comedy, historical and medical simula-
tions, Symbolist drama, erotic puppet theatre, comedie rosse at the Grand Guignol,
Witkacy's Doubles, Villiers de L'lsle Adam, Mroiek, Battleship Potemkin, and other
topics. Translations include Andrzej Bursa's CountCagliostro'sAnimals, Henry Mon-
nier's The Student and the Tart, and Oscar Metenier's Little Bugger and Meat-Ticket.
Price US $2o.oo plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Please make payments In US dollars payable to: The Graduate Center Foundation, Inc.
Mall 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: www.segalcenter.org Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 2128171868
Barcelona Plays: 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 outstanding
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 thematically chal-
lenging 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 198os and early 1990s, with distinctive and
provocative dramatic voices. The actor-director-play-
wright Pau Mir6 is a member of yet another generation
that is now attracting favorable critical attention.
Price US $2o.oo plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
}osep M. Benet I }ornet: Two Plays
Translated by Marion Peter Holt
josep M. Benet i jornet, born in Barcelona, is the
author of more than forty works for the stage and has
been a leading contributor to the striking revitalization
of Catalan theatre in the post-Franco era. Fleeting, a
compelling "tragedy-within-a-play," and Stages,
with its monological recall of a dead and unseen
protagoni st, 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 Sts.oo plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Please make payments in US dollars payable to: The Graduate Center Foundation, Inc.
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: www.segalcenter.org Contact : mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212-817-1868
Czech Plays: Seven New Works
Edited by Marcy Arlin, Gwynn MacDonald, and Daniel Gerould
Czech Plays: Seven New Works is the first English-
language anthology of Czech plays written after the
1989 "Velvet Revolution." These seven works explore
sex and gender identity, ethnicity and violence, political
corruption, and religious taboos. Using innovative forms
and diverse styles, they tackle the new realities of Czech
society brought on by democracy and globalization with
characteristic humor and intelligence.
Price US $2o.oo each plus shipping {$3 within the USA, $6 international)
jan Fabre: Servant of Beauty
and I AM A MISTAKE - 7 Works for the Theatre
jan Fabre Books:
I AM A MISTAKE - 7 Works for the Theatre
Edited and foreword by Frank Hentschker
Flemish-Dutch theatre artist Jan Fabre has produced
works as a performance artist, theatre maker, choreog-
rapher, opera maker, playwright, and visual artist. Our
two Fabre books include: I am a Mistake (2007),
Etant Donnes (2ooo), Little Body on the Wall (1996),
Je suis sang (2001), Angel of Death (2003) and others.
Price US $15.00 each plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Please make payments in US dollars payable to: The Graduate Center Foundation, Inc.
Mail Checks or money orders to: The Circulation Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center,
The CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NYtoo16-4309
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roMANIA After 2ooo
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-totalitarian 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 ion, Romania 21 by Peca, and Waxing West
by Saviana Stanescu.
Buenos Aires in Translation
Translated and Edited by Jean Graham-Jones
BAiT epitomizes true international theatrical
collaboration, bringing together four of the most
important contemporary playwrights from Buenos
Aires and pairing them with four cutting-edge US-
based directors and their ensembles. Throughout a
period of one year, playwrights, translator, directors,
and actors worked together to deliver four English-
language world premieres at Performance Space 122
in the fall of 2006. 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 support of lnstituto Cervantes
and the Consulate General of Argentina in New York.
Price US $2o.oo each plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Please make payments in US dollars payable to: The Graduate Center Foundation, Inc.
Mai l Checks or money orders to: The Circulation Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center,
The CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY1oo164309
Visit our website at : www.segalcenter.org Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 2128171868
Witkiewicz: Seven Plays
Translated and Edited by Daniel Gerould
\J\J I t ~ I f IJV I (' 7
This volume contains seven of Witkiewicz's most
important plays: The Pragmatists, Tumor Brainiowicz,
Gyubal 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."
Witkiewicz ... takes up and continues the vein of dream
and grotesque fantasy exemplified by the late
Strindberg or by Wedekind; his ideas are closely
paralleled by those of the surrealists and Antonin
Artaud which culminated in the masterpieces of the
dramatists of the Absurd . ... It is high time that this
major playwright should become better known in the
Eng/ish-speaking world. Martin Esslin
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, novels, 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
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Please make payments in US dollars payable to : The Graduate Center Foundation, Inc.
Mall Checks or money orders to: The Circulation Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center,
The CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY1oo164309
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Theatre Research Resources in New York City
Sixth Edition, 2007
Editor: Jessica Brater, Senior Editor: Marvin Carlson
Theatre Research Resources in New York City is the
most comprehensive catalogue of New York City
research facilities available to theatre scholars. Within
the indexed volume, each facility is briefly described
including an outline of its holdings and practical
matters such as hours of operation. Most entries
include electronic contact information and web
sites. The listings are grouped as follows: Libraries,
Museums, and Historical Societies; University and
College Libraries; Ethnic and Language Associations;
Theatre Companies and Acting Schools; and Film and
Comedy: A Bibliography
Editor: Meghan Duffy, Senior Editor: Daniel Gerould
This bibliography is intended for scholars, teachers,
students, artists, and general readers interested in
the theory and practice of comedy. The keenest minds
have been drawn to the debate about the nature of
comedy and attracted to speculation about its theory
and practice. For all lovers of comedy Comedy: A
Bibliography is an essential guide and resource,
providing authors, titles, and publication data for over
a thousand books and articles devoted to this most
elusive of genres.
. .._.,_ . ...__._._ __ ._
-- -
Price US Sto.oo each plus shipping ($3 within the USA, $6 international)
Please make payments in US dollars payable to : The Graduate Center Foundation, Inc.
Mall Checks or money orders to: The Circulation Manager, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center,
The CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NYtoot64309
Visit our website at: www.segalcenter.org Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 2128171868