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volume 27, no.

3
Fall 2007
SEEP (ISSN # 1047-0019) is a publication of the Institute for Contemporary
East European Drama and Theatre under the auspices of the Martin E. Segal
Theatre Center. The Institute is at the City University of New York Graduate
Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309. All subscription
requests and submissions should be addressed to Slavic and East European
Performance: Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The City University of New York
Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309.
EDITOR
Daniel Gerould
MANAGING EDITOR
Margaret Araneo
ASSISTANT EDITOR
Christopher Silsby
CIRCULATION MANAGER
Catherine Young
Marvin Carlson
Stuart Liebman
ADVISORY BOARD
Edwin Wilson, Chair
Alien J. Kuharski
Leo Hecht
Dasha Krijanskaia
Martha W Coigney
Laurence Senelick
SEEP has a liberal reprinting policy. Publications that desire to reproduce
materials that have appeared in SEEP may do so with the following provisions:
a.) permission to reprint the article must be requested from SEEP in writing
before the fact; b.) credit to SEEP must be given in the reprint; c.) two copies
of the publication in which the reprinted material has appeared must be
furnished to SEEP immediately upon publication.
MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Daniel Gerould
DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS
Frank Hentschker
DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATION
Jan Stenzel
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center publications are supported by generous grants
from the Lucille Lortel Chair in Theatre and the Sidney E. Cohn Chair in Theatre
of the Ph.D. Program in Theatre at The City University of New York.
Copyright 2006. Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
2 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
Editorial Policy
From the Editor
Events
Books Received
ARTICLES
TABLE OF CONTENTS
"Nova Drama in Slovakia"
John Freedman
"Polish Theatre 2006: A Director's Report
Part II"
Kazimierz Braun
"The New Russian Hamlet.
Without a Hero"
Anna Shulgat
''A Timeline of New Romanian Playwriting:
In the Context of U.S.-U.K. -E.U. Exchange"
Roberta Levitow
REVIEWS
"Double Edge Theatre's Republic of Dreams
La MaMa, New York City, March 2007"
Victoria Nelson
"Photographic Memory:
Lydia Scheuermann Hodak's Marija's Pictures"
Kurt Tarof
5
6
7
19
21
31
38
47
54
59
3
" The SeagulL
Lost in Eifmann's Ballet Translation?"
Evelina Mendelevich
Contributors
65
71
4
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
EDITORIAL POLICY
Manuscripts in the following categories are solicited: articles of no
more than 2,500 words, performance and film reviews, and bibliographies.
Please bear in mind that all submissions must concern themselves with
contemporary materials on Slavic and East European theatre, drama, and
film; with new approaches to older materials in recently published works; or
with new performances of older plays. In other words, we welcome
submissions reviewing innovative performances of Gogo!, but we cannot
use original articles discussing Gogo! as a playwright.
Although we welcome translations of articles and reviews from
foreign publications, we do require copyright release statements. We will also
gladly publish announcements of special events and anything else that may
be of interest to our discipline. All submissions are refereed.
All submissions must be typed double-spaced and carefully
proofread. The Chicago Manual of Sryle should be followed. Transliterations
should follow the Library of Congress system. Articles should be submitted
on computer disk, as Word Documents for Windows and a hard copy of the
article should be included. Photographs are recommended for all reviews.
All articles should be sent to the attention of Slavic and East European
Performance, c/o Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The City University of New
York Graduate Center, 365 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309.
Submissions will be evaluated, and authors will be notified after
approximately four weeks.
You may obtain more information about Slavic and East European
Performance by visiting our website at http/ /web.gc.cuny.edu/metsc. E-mail
inquiries may be addressed to SEEP@gc.cuny.edu.
All Journals are available from ProQuest Information and Learning as
abstracts online via ProQuest information service and the
International Index to the Performing Arts.
All Journals are indexed in the MLA International Bibliography and are
members of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.
5
FROM THE EDITOR
Volume 27, no. 3 has a broad sweep in its survey of theatre in
Slovakia, Poland, Russia, and Romania. John Freedman takes the measure of
the contemporary theatre scene at the Nova Drama Festival in Bratislava,
2006. In the second and concluding part of his report on the state of theatre
in Poland, Kazirnierz Braun looks at the various Polish theatre institutions and
the emerging artists in the fields of acting, directing, and playwriting. Anna
Shulgat compares three different Russian Hamlets that bridge the transition
from Soviet to present day. Roberta Levi tow explores the interactions between
new Romanian playwrights and American theatre artists who have worked
collaboratively to advance their work and make it known in the United States.
Three reviews complete the issue. Victoria Nelson considers the Double Edge
Theatre's Republic of Dreams as a scenic embodiment of Bruno Schulz's
evocative prose; Kurt Taroff studies the re-enactment of the Balkan wars in a
Croatian memory play; and Evelina Mendelevich weighs the gains and losses
in Boris Eifman's wordless dance The Seagull.
I wish to share with our readership an announcement of the opening
on October 20 of the Jarka and Grayce Burian Theatre Reference Library at
the State University of New York at Albany. Named for the late Jarka Burian
and his widow Grayce, the Reference Library at the Department of Theatre
contains the bulk of their theatre collection of books, journals, research
materials, memorabilia, and special drawings and renderings. Readers of SEEP
will remember Jarka's frequent and important articles on Czech theatre over
many years (see SEEP 25:3 for a memorial tribute and full listing of these
articles).
With the current issue, Christopher Silsby takes on the position of
Assistant Editor, which has been so ably held by Carly Smith since Spring
2005. We welcome Christopher and thank Carly for her dedicated service.
6 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
STAGE PRODUCTIONS
New York City
EVENTS
The Polish puppet theatre Theatre Alfa presented a version of
Alexandre Dumas pere's The Three Musketeers at the Bohemian Hall in Astoria,
Queens on May 8.
The New York International Fringe Festival, presented by the Present
Company from August 10 to 26, included the following performances:
MN2 Productions (Cleveland, OH) presented Ancestral Voices, a
performance employing Ukrainian folk music, modern dance and
puppetry, written and directed by Nadia Tarnawsky with poetry by
Oleksander Oles, Lesia Ukrainka, Taras Shevchenko and Mykhailo
Drai-Khmara, choreography by Natalie M. Kapeluck and Mark
Tomasic, at the Linhart Theatre from August 15 to 18.
DMS Productions (New York, NY) presented Baaahhh!!! based on
Velurzakti by Stanislav Stratiev, adapted and directed by Stefano
Genovese and Maria Riboli, at the Bleecker Street Theatre from
August 10 to 25.
MONDAY Theatre at Green Hours (Bucharest, Romania)
performed Bucharest Calling and The Sunshine Plrg by Peca ~ t e f a n
directed by Ana Margineanu, at the Lafayette Street Theatre from
August 11 to 25.
Rebecca M. Quintet (Paris, France) performed Chekhov Jazv a jazz
performance based on Anton Chekhov's heroines, written by
Rebecca M., directed by Chloe Beasse, at the Village Theatre from
August 22 to 26.
Purple Man Theater Company (New York, NY) performed Drgs and
Nights: page 121, lines 11 and 12, based on Chekhov's The Seagull,
7
adapted and directed by Marc Stewart Weitz, at Lafayette Street
Theatre from August 10 to 24.
Jerernie Bracka (Melbourne, Australia) performed his Enough About
Me ... Let's Talk About jew!, an Australian Polish-Egyptian Jewish
comedy, directed by Rachel Forgasz, at the Players Theatre from
August 18 to 24.
Theatre Y (Chicago, IL) presented juliet by Andras Visky, directed by
Christopher Markle, at the Independent Theatre from August 10 to
24.
Rajeckas Theater of One (Stamford, CT) presented Notes to the
Motherland, a personal story about Lithuanian family heritage, glasnost
and a World War II family secret, created and performed by Paul
Rajeckas, directed by George L. Chieffet, at the Soho Playhouse from
August 10 to 26.
Act Provocateur International (London, England) presented Pigeon
Man Apoca!Jpse by William Whitehurst, directed by Victor Sobchak, at
the Independent Theatre from August 12 to 25.
Blue Cake Theatre Company (Brooklyn, NY) presented Theremin by
Duke Doyle and Ben Lewis, based on the life of Leon Theremin, the
Russian musical instrument inventor and creator of the Soviet spying
tool, "the bug," directed by Lee Overtree, at the Village Theatre from
August 11 to 25.
Studio Six Theatre Company (New York, NY) presented Too Clever By
Half by Alexander Ostrovsky, performed by graduates of the first
American Class of the Moscow Art Theatre School, directed by
Marat Yusim, at the Connelly Theatre from August 12 to 25.
Andrei Traveling Academy in New York City presented
Dead!J Confession, a work-in-progress based on a novel by Tatiana Niculescu
Bran, in Romanian with English supertitles at La MaMa on October 1.
8 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater revived johannes
Dokchtor Faust: A Petrifying Puppet Comet!Je, translated and directed by Vft
Horejs, at Bohemian National Hall, Manhattan from August 23 to
September 9.
The Polish Cultural Institute and Invictus Theater Company
presented Irena's Vo1J1 a play about Irena Gut Opdyke's heroism during the
occupation of Poland, by Dan Gordon, starring Tovah Feldshuh, directed by
Michael Parva, at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan on September
20.
The Plastic People of the Universe, the legendary band that inspired
V:iclav Havel and the Czechoslovakian Velvet Revolution, performed in
concert at Joe's Pub on September 27.
STAGE PRODUCTIONS
U.S. Regional
Long Wharf Theatre (New London, CT) presented Chekhov's Uncle
Vanya, adapted and directed by Gordon Edelstein, from May 9 to June 3.
Dada von Bzdiilow Theatre performed the dance-theatre work,
Several Witry Observations (a fa Gombrowici), directed by Leszek Bzdyl, at the
Philadelphia Live Arts Festival from September 12 to 15. See SEEP 27:2
(Spring 2007).
The Attic Studios (Los Angeles) presented Chekhov Mania: A Russian
Vaudeville, directed by James Carey, from September 21 to October 27.
The Arizona Theatre Company presented Monsieur Chopin, by
Hershey Felder, directed by Joel Zwick, at the Temple of Music and Art,
Tuscon, AZ, from October 5 to 7.
The Royal Shakespeare Company toured the U.S. with their
production of Chekhov's The e a g u f ~ in repertory with King Lear, directed by
Trevor Nunn, starring Ian McKellen. The tour stopped at the Brooklyn
9
Academy of Music, New York, from September 6 to 30; the Guthrie
Theatre, Minneapolis, MN, from October 5 to 14; and Royce Hall, UCLA,
Los Angeles, from October 19 to 28.
STAGE PRODUCTIONS
International
Teatr Biuro Podr6zy (Poznan, Poland) presented the world premiere
of H of D, an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness commissioned
by the Polish Cultural Institute and National Theatre, at the National Theatre
in London from July 25 to August 3.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland included the
following performances:
10
Unia Teatr Niemozliwy (Warsaw, Poland) presented Options of Life by
Marek B. Chodaczynski and Toporfand by Wojciech Olejnik, at the C
Venues from August 1 to 18.
Teatr Jaracza (L6dz, Poland) presented Trip to Buenos Aires at
Assembly Universal Arts' Freemason's Hall, from August 2 to 27.
blackSKYwhite (Moscow, Russia) presented Astrononry For Insects at
Assembly Aurora Nova from August 2 to 27.
Tbilisi Marionette State Theatre (Tbilisi, Georgia) presented The Battle
of Stalingrad, written and directed by Rezo Gabriadze, at Assembly
Aurora Nova from August 2 to 24.
Teatr Piesn Kozla (Wrodaw, Poland) presented Lacrimosa, directed by
Grzegorz Bral, at Assembly Aurora Nova from August 3 to 27.
Teatr La M.ort (Warsaw, Poland) presented Roscncrantz and Cuildenstern
Are Dead by Tom Stoppard, directed by Ewelina Kaufmann, at the C
Venues from August 3 to 14.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
Karbido (Wrodaw, Poland) presented The Table, "an audio-visual
spectacular," at Assembly Aurora Nova from August 3 to 27.
Teatr Biuro Podr6zy (Poznan, Poland) presented Macbeth: What
Bloodied Man Is That?, directed by Pawel Szkotak, at Old College
Quad, South Bridge from August 5 to 27.
DoTheatre (Russia/Germany) presented Hangman, a dance-theatre
piece, directed by Evgeny Kozlov, at Assembly Aurora Nova from
August 6 to 24.
The Les Kurbas Theatre held its Third International Festival
Theatre. Method and Practice: ALMA MATER in Lviv, Ukraine from September
16 to 23, and included the following performances:
Theatrical Studio of the Marionette Theatre (K.iev, Ukraine)
presented Shakespeare's Macbeth, directed by Mikhailo Yaremchuk, on
September 16.
Les Kurbas Theatre (Lviv, Ukraine) presented Beckett's Waiting for
Godot, directed by Oleksii Kravchuk, on September 17.
"DAKh" Contemporary Art Center (Kiev, Ukraine) presented Theatre
of Laughter and Sin, Love Den, or Ukrainian Decameron based on text by
KLIM, directed by Vlad Troitskyi, on September 18.
Lalish Theaterlabor (Vienna, Austria) presented the original research-
project no shadow, performed by Nigar Hasib and Shamal Amin, on
September 19.
Gyula Illyes Hungarian National Theatre of Berehove (Berehove,
Ukraine) presented Death-Dream, based on themes from
Shakespeare's Hamlet, directed by Vlad Troitskyi, on September 19.
Les Kurbas National Center for Theatrical Arts (Kiev, Ukraine)
11
presented Homer's Ot!Jmy, directed by Oleksandr Bilozub, on
September 20.
Les Kurbas National Center for Theatrical Arts (Kiev, Ukraine) and
the Studio ''Theatre in the Basket" presented Richard after Richard,
based on Shakespeare, directed by Irina Volitska, on September 21.
Mariana Sadovska and the band Borderland (Koln, Germany)
performed on September 21.
ZAR Theatre (Wrodaw, Poland) presented Gospels of Childhood, based
on texts from apocryphal gospels, Dostoevsky, and Simone Wei!,
directed by Jaroslaw Fret, on September 22. See SEEP 27:1 (Winter
2007).
Les Kurbas Theatre (Lviv, Ukraine) presented Ma-na Hat-/a by
Ingeborg Bachmann, on September 23.
Maska Production presented Oblivjjon by Ivan Peternelj, a theatre-
dance performance at the Old City Power Station, Ljubljana, Slovenia, from
September 10 to 12.
Maska Production presented Pupilija, papa Pupilo and the Pupilceks-
Reconstruction, a restaging of the original 1969 performance by Dusan
Jovanovic, reconstructed and directed by Janez Jansa, at the Centre for
Cultural Decontamination, Festival BITEF, Belgrade, Serbia on September 19
and 20, Borstnik Meeting, Maribor, Slovenia on October 14, Old City Power
Station, Ljubljana, Slovenia on October 10, and at the Zagreb Youth Theatre,
Zagreb, Croatia on November 6 and 5.
ZAR Theatre presented Gospels of Childhood, based on texts from
apocryphal gospels, Dostoevsky, and Simone Weil, directed by Jaroslaw Fret,
at The Grotowski Institute, Brzezinka, Poland on September 29 and 30.
12 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 3
FILM
New York City
The Museum of Modern Art, Department of Film and Video, in
association with the Polish Cultural Institute in New York and the Goethe
Institute, New York, presented "An Evening with Andreas Hykade and
Mariusz Wilczynski" as part of its MediaScope series, at MoMA's Roy and
Niuta Titus Theater 2 on May 7. The program included the following films:
Wilczynski's Kizi Mizi, in its world premiere.
Wilczynski's Times Have Passed
Wilczynski's Unfortunate!J.
FilmArt, in association with the Kosciuszko Foundation, the
Association of Polish Filmmakers, and the Polish Film Institute, presented the
Third Annual New York Polish Film Festival at the Directors Guild Theatre
and Anthology Film Archive in Manhattan and Galapagos Art Space in
Williamsburg from May 9 to 13. The festival featured the following films:
What the Sun Has Seen, directed by Michal Rosa.
Retrieva, directed by Slawomir Fabicki.
Chaos, directed by Xawery Zulawski.
After the Season, directed by Janusz Majewski.
Solitude@Net, directed by Witold Adamek.
Persona Non Grata, directed by Krzysztof Zanussi.
Who Never Lived, directed by Andrzej Seweryn.
Facing Up, directed by Marek Stacharski.
13
Copying Beethoven, directed by Agnieszka Holland.
The Rape of Europe, directed by Richard Berge, N. Newham,
and B. Cohen.
Betrt!JaL The Battle for Warsaw, directed by Andrew Rothstein.
The Polish Cultural Institute and CUNY TV Ciry Cinematheque
presented Andrzej Wajda's Solidarity diprych, Man of Marble and Man of Iron as
part of the series "Three E;uropean Masters: Wajda, Schlondorff, Tarkovsky"
from May 18 to 25.
12:08 East of Bucharest, directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, was
screened at Film Forum from June 6 to July 3.
In Trust and Love, directed by Michal Herz, received its U.S. premiere
as part of the NewFest of LGBT Cinema at AMC Loews Thirry-fourth Street
Theatre on June 9.
Czech Dream, written and directed by Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda,
was presented at the IFC Center from June 15 to June 21, with Filip Remunda
appearing for a Q&A at the premiere.
NewFilmmakers and The Black Documentary Collective presented
When Thry Could F!J, directed by Piotr Kajstura, with a Q&A, at Anthology
Film Archives on July 18.
Summer Stage Cinema presented the following Czech films at the
Bohemian Hall in Astoria, Queens:
Pupendo, directed by Jan Hrebejk, on June 17.
Up and Down, directed by Jan Hrebejk, on June 24.
Bored in Brno, directed by Vladimir Moravek, on August 12.
14 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
Skritek, directed by Tomas Vorel, on August 19.
Divided We Fall, directed by Jan Hi'ebejk, on August 26.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 D19s, Romanian film and winner of the
Cannes Film Festival Palme D'Or, was presented as part of the New York
Film Festival, followed by Q&A with director Cristian Mungiu, at Lincoln
Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall on September 29 and October 1.
FILM
International
The Czech Centre London, Goethe Institute-London, Italian Cultural
Centre, Institut Franc;ais, Polish Cultural Institute, Embassy of Sweden in the
U.K., and European Commission organized "Vintage Films 1957," a selection
of films from 1957 (the year the Treaty of Rome was signed) to celebrate fifty
years of the E.U. Among the flims screened were:
Kanal, directed by Andrzej Wajda, at Cine Lumiere, Institut Franc;ais in
London on May 24.
The Wo!f Trap, directed by Jili Weiss, at the Goethe Institute-London
on May 25.
The Collector, directed by Feliks Falk, was presented as part of the
Picture Europe Festival with a post-screening Q&A at Curzon Soho in London
on june 9.
The Polish Cultural Institute and Second Run DVD presented a rare
double-bill of classic banned Polish films, Andrzej Zulawski's The Third Part of
the Night and Ryszard Bugajski's Interrogation, introduced by David Thompson,
at Riverside Studios in London on August 1.
We Are All Christs, directed by Marek Koterski, was released in the
U.K. and Ireland at various venues on August 17.
15
LECTURES, CONFERENCES, WORKSHOPS, and
EXHIBITIONS
American Theatre magazine held an event marking the release of its
May/June international edition, "Speaking in Translated Tongues," featuring
essays by Pamela Renner, Aaron Mack Schloff, Caridad Svich, and Ruth
Margraff with Saska Rakef addressing cross-cultural performances in the
U.S., Romania, Argentina, Mexico, Japan, Slovenia, and France. The event
featured participation by Romanian theatre directors Radu Afrim and Gabor
Tompa and was held at Romanian Cultural Institute of New York on May
14.
Romanian Cultural Institute took part in the annual conference of
IETM, the largest European-based network of contemporary performing
arts professionals. The conference was held in Montreal and ran from May
30 to June 3. Corina ~ u t e u Director of the Romanian Cultural Institute in
New York and long standing member of IETM, was a speaker on a panel
entitled "Cultural \X'arming" at the conference's opening on June 1.
The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center and the Polish Cultural
Institute presented an evening with Polish playwright, screenwriter, and
director Przemyslaw Wojcieszek, featuring staged readings of excerpts from
his two plays, Made in Poland and Whatever Happens I Love You, translated by
Alissa Valles, and a discussion of his work with Linda Chapman of New
York Theatre Workshop, at the CUNY Graduate Center's Segal Theatre on
June 7.
An exhibition of Oldrich Kulhanek's drawings and prints was held
at International Currents Gallery in Chicago from June 15 to July 31 as part
of the program Prague Days in Chicago, a series of official, cultural, social,
community and promotional events during the month of June aimed at
producing closer ties between the cities of Prague and Chicago.
An exhibition entitled Masters of Polish Animation was presented as
part of the London International Animation Festival at Curzon Soho in
London on August 25 and 26.
16 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 3
An exhibition entitled States of Mind: Dan and Lia Perjovschi will be
presented at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham,
North Carolina from August 29 to January 6. A panel regarding the
exhibition entitled "Perspectives on Romanian Culture: Then and Now"
took place there on August 30.
The Living Theatre presented a workshop entitled "Biomechanics
of Meyerhold," directed by Philip Brehse, at the Living Theatre's
performance space in New York City from September 8 to 10.
An exhibition entitled Romanian Sets in an American Setting, featuring
Oana Botez-Ban, Marina Draghici, and Nic Ularu, was presented at the
Romanian Cultural Institute of New York from September 20 to October
19.
The Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards are
presenting a project entitled Horizons (Part I) at The Grotowski Institute,
Wrodaw, Poland from September 1 to November 30. An open
demonstration entitled An Action in Creation was presented from September
26 to October 11. The project included performances and a conference
featuring Antonio Attisani, Florinda Cambria, Kris Salata, and Lisa Wolford
Wylam on October 13 and 14.
SPECIAL NOTICES
During a performance of Edward Bond's Eleven Vests by the Free
Theatre at a private house outside of Minsk, Belarus, on August 22, fifty
people were arrested when Belarusian special forces stormed the
performance and detained performer s and audience.
Mark Weil, founder of the Uzbek theatre company Ilkhom, was
fatally stabbed in the lobby of his apartment building in Tashkent on
September 7. With the founding of the Ilkhom Theatre in 197 6, Weil opened
the first independent theatre in the Soviet Union. Known for his provocative
direction and exploration of topics such as homosexuality and politics, Weil
often faced censorship from Soviet and Uzbek authorities. His last words
17
were, " I'm opening the season tomorrow, whatever happens." The likhom
Theatre's season premiere production of Aeschylus's Oresteia did open as
scheduled in Weil's honor. Memorial services were held in Tashkent on
September 12 at the Ilkhom Theatre Exhibition Hall and September 13 in
the Theatre of Nations (Teatr Natsiy).
Compiled by Cady Smith, with Christopher Silsby
18
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
BOOKS RECEIVED
Czech Theatre 23 Qune 2007), issued by Theatre Institute Prague. 94 pages.
Includes seven articles: Marie Reslova, "Stage Pictures-Guides on the Path to
Meaning"; Vera Velemanova, "The Czech Costume from One Prague
Quadrennial to the Next-or, a Not Quite Exhaustive Summary"; Marie
Zdeiikova and Kamila Cerna, "Persecution.cz"; Lenka Saldova, ''A Lesson in
Modern Theatre"; ]ana Machalicki, "Scootering through the Labyrinth of the
World"; Karel Kril, ''A Teacher of Humility-Hana Voi'iSkova's Little
Things"; Pavel Vasicek and Kamila Cerna, "Dvorak's Puppet Transposition";
and Kaleidoscope and Notebook. Includes over one hundred photographs,
many in color.
Marcin. Gombrowicza Cry z Kultura: Mit, Symbo4 Warsaw:
Wydawnictwa Akademickie i Profesjonalne, 2006. 291 pages. Chapter III (158-
226) is devoted to S/ub (The Marriage). Includes a bibliography.
Koecher-Hensel, Agnieszka and Nina Kiraly, eds. Teatr Polski, Lituy i Rosji XX
Wieku w Poszukiwaniu Wlasnego Oblicza: w Kregu Idei Stanislmva Wjspiatiskiego
(Stanislaw Wyspianski and the Polish, Lithuanian and Russian Theatre in
Search of Itself). Tczew: Stowarzyszenie Integracji Humanistycznej Pro-Most
Acrobat, 2007. 151 pages. All texts in both Polish and English. Contains 12
papers from a conference held on 7-8 September 2006 in Tczew during an
international Festival of Theatre and Visual Arts, Zdarzenia Tczew-Europe
2006; Ewa Nawrocka, "The Stage Visions of Stanislaw Wyspianski"; Nina
Kiraly, "The Return of Oc!Jsseus according to Tadeusz Kantor, Jerzy
Grzegorzewski and Krystian Lupa"; Alina Sordyl, "Stanislaw Wyspiari.ski's The
Acropolis and Bolestaw the Bold in Stagings by J6zef Szajna"; Dominika
Larionow, "The Ideas of Constructivism in Polish Theatre. Wladyslaw
Strzemiri.ski and Two More Directors"; Danuta Kuinicka, "Jerzy
Grzegorzewski and His Great Discourse with Stanislaw Wyspianski"; Ramune
MarcinkeviCiute, "Eimuntas Nekrosius and the Theatre of Images"; Rolandas
Rastauskas, "The Myth of Simplicity or Towards a New Intimacy. The Case of
Eimuntas Nekrosius"; Natalia Borisova, "Painting and Architecture as
Reference Worlds in the Theatre of Anatoliy Vasiliev"; Ramune Baleviciute,
"The Romanticism of Rimas Tuminas and Its Forms"; Sarune Trikunaite,
19
"The Korsunovas Effect. Montage Construction in the Theatre of Oskaras
Korsunovas"; Svietlana Novikova, "The Sweet Smell of the New Theatre";
Monika Z6lkos; "The Young Polish Theatre of the Last Decade (1996-2006)";
and Appendix (unnumbered pages) by Halina Kasjaniuk. Includes many
reproductions of art works by Wyspiari.ski and production photographs, all in
color.
Mrozek, Slawomir. Baltazar: Autobiografia. Warsaw: Blanc sur Noir, 2006. 252
pages. Includes an introduction by Antoni Libera and forty-three photographs,
many of them never reproduced before.
Welmiri.ski, Andrzej. Trumpf, trumpj Lalki, manekiny i przedmiory ze spektaklu
"Umaria klasa" Tadeusza Kantora. Warsaw: Green Publishers/ Akademia
Wyobrazni, 2005. 59 pages. Includes an introduction by Lech Stangret and 25
color plates and three black-and-white pictures.
WorldjT/isegrad & Theatre [WAT] 2007. 162 pages. Contains 21 articles about
Czech, Hungarian, Polish, and Slovak Theatre. Includes many photographs.
20 Slavic and East E uropean Peiformance Vol. 27, No.3
NOVA DRAMA IN SLOVAKIA
John Freedman
It comes as no surprise that the notion of new drama has swept
across Central and Eastern Europe in the last decade. The search is on to find
the voices that will define newly reborn nations. In Slovakia people generally
admit that their culture suffered something of a blow when they seceded from
Czechoslovakia on January 1, 1993. "Most of the cultural riches remained
north of the border when we gained independence," one woman told me at a
cocktail reception following the opening of the Nova Drama festival in
Bratislava in May 2007. Like others I heard expressing similar opinions,
however, she said that with a smile and without the slightest shade of envy or
regret.
1
In fact, the very existence of Nova Drama is a sign that Slovakian
theatre is actively moving towards the future. The third annual festival
organized by the Theatre Institute of Slovakia ran from May 9 to 15, 2007, and
showcased 12 productions- 11 from Slovakia and one from Romania. As is
often true of new drama anywhere, some entries were short on production
values and were little more than experiments with delivering new texts in a live
format. There was a small, but noticeable, Irish presence; homegrown stagings
of Mark O'Rowe's Howie the Rookie and Marina Carr's Portia Coughlan each
claimed awards at festival's end. According to Romana Maliti, the festival 's
program director, Irish drama began exerting a noticeable influence on
Slovakian theatre following the discovery of Martin McDonagh. Carr's plays
are now being staged throughout the country, as are those of O'Rowe. The
other foreign presence was Gianina Girbunariu's mat!J-baf?y.edu, the
internationally renowned piece about human trafficking by an unscrupulous
Romanian immigrant in Ireland. Produced by Teatrul Mic from Bucharest,
Romania, this energetic, well-acted production was the festival's only non-
Siovak entry. Primarily Nova Drama's spotlight was on Slovakian writers and
the themes they presently are exploring.
Viliam Klimacek (b. 1958) is one of the most important
contemporary writers in Slovakia. The founder of the GUnaGU theatre in
Bratislava in 1985, he is a poet, prose writer and author of works for children.
As of 2005 he had written some 26 plays, was a two-time winner of the
DRAMA competition for best Slovak play and a six-time winner of the Alfred
21
Radok Foundation prize (the biggest drama and theatre award in the Czech
Republic, for which the drama competition is open to texts in Slovak).
2
His Kio
sa bo;i Beatles? ( Whos Afraid of the Beatles?), as directed by Peter Mikulik for the
Slovenske Nirodne Divadlo, opened the festival, while his Dr. Gustav Husak-
viizen prezidentov, prezident viiznov, (Dr. Gustav Husak: The Prisoner rf Presidents, the
President of Prisoners), directed by Martin Cicvik for the Divadlo Arena, was the
closer.
Kio sa bo;i Beatfes? is a moderately eccentric drama exploring the inner
conflicts of Emil, a military historian whose life has been turned upside down
by the loss of his daughter and the coming of a new world ruled by pop
culture and young people with little understanding of the past. Emil and his
wife Milka (an anesthesiologist) take in young female boarders as replacements
of sorts for their long-lost daughter whose favorite group was the Beatles.
Meanwhile, Emil is on the verge of becoming obsolete at the institute where
he works because his young boss Hirkovi believes he has lost touch with
reality. She is not interested in publishing his latest book, or, at least, she isn't
until Emil suddenly lands a job as the host of a television cooking show with
his talking bird. Complications arise, however, when the bird dies and Emil
finds himself in the middle of an affair with the hated Hirkovi. Not until Emil
and Milka overcome their fear and aversion for music by the Beatles do they
begin to flnd a balance in their lives.
Mikulik kept the performance moving at a quick pace, much in the
manner of a television sitcom. Textual and physical jokes tumbled one after
the other; mood changes were swift and frequent. The production gave
expression to a world in flux where old values have been superceded or
forgotten, but not entirely lost. If it did not boast great sophistication as a
performance, it did reveal its thematic concerns with admirable clarity.
Dr. Gustav Husak seemed significantly more adventurous both as
drama and as theatre. In this biographical piece about the last president of
Czechoslovakia, Klimicek cobbled the text together from Husak's memoirs
and speeches while adding segments and transitions of his own composition.
\'V'hat he achieved was a relatively neutral portrait of a man who grew up,
matured and worked in an extraordinarily difficult and paradoxical era. The
neutrality, however, was colored noticeably by two things - the obvious desire
to let a man who lived a complex life have his own say and defense, and the no
less obvious desire to be frank and unsentimental about the dubious mark this
22 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
man's life and actions left on history. Husak's story is told in the form of
monologues leading the audience through key moments in his life - his
involvement with the underground Communist Party before World War II; his
imprisonment by the Communists in the 1950s; his rehabilitation and rise to
prominence in the 1960s; his role in backing the Soviet invasion of
Czechoslovakia in 1968; his refusal to fight when the Velvet Revolution swept
him and the Communists out of power in 1989.
In a simple, but clever, move the young Husak is played by two actors
simultaneously Q:in Gallovic and Marian PrevendarCik). They do not look alike
and, aside from their similar costumes, they don't try to resemble each other in
gestures or mannerisms. What arises is a kind of stereoscopic vision of a man
seeking to shape history, but who is actually swept along by it. The dual
portrait can't help but evoke visions of circus clowns, although the cast and
director Cicvak never allow things to descend into ridicule. This production
balances on a fine line between respect for the individual being portrayed and
a compulsion to get to the bottom of what his life meant for a nation.
Predictably, perhaps - but no less impressive for that - the older, post-
Prague-Spring Husak is played by a single actor (Emil Horvath). This
effectively reflects the monolithic nature of the time. It also makes the older
Husak more reflective and contemplative. He constantly goes back over his
thoughts and deeds, submitting them to question, defending them and
doubting them again. "It was an occupation," he declares adamantly about the
Soviet invasion in 1968, but he insists that is precisely why someone had to
defuse the situation by playing along with it. One might argue with the
conclusion, but there is no doubting in this production that the man who came
to that conclusion did so out of a desire to follow the dictates of his
conscience. Dr. Gustav Husak was engaging as theatre and thought-provoking
as drama.
Milos Karasek (b. 1960) is another prolific writer who began his
theatre career in the mid-1980s, both as a theatre architect and a stage designer.
He began collaborating on theatre texts with others, primarily Blahoslav Uhlar
(b. 1951), in the late 1980s. Since then, in collaboration or alone, he has written
some 22 plays. His own production of Zivot na mieru (The Made-to-Measure Life)
for the Divadlo Alexandra Duchnovica of Prdov is a relatively light-hearted
farce about a small group of intellectuals orphaned by the age they inhabit. A
woman working in an antiquarian bookstore realizes that she and her books
23
24
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
have become anachronisms. No one needs her wares and no one cares about
her knowledge anymore. A man wanders into the store, however, and the rwo
stumble upon common ground- he has lost all sense of purpose in life. Their
shared misfortune leads to love and, almost, sex, but is interrupted when an
opera diva bursts in looking for a book of memoirs she once wrote.
Unfortunately, she cannot remember what the title was. Things grow stranger
when a hoodlum barges in and threatens to burn the store down. He later is
revealed to be a formerly beautiful woman who had a sex-change operation,
while the singer is revealed to be the forgotten wife of the amnesiac customer
who was a famous conductor in the distant past. The play is a stew of images
reflecting the fear of losing culture, memory and meaning. As director,
Karasek essentially backed off and let the play speak for itself. He introduced
little or no action to speak of and the actors generally stood on a single plane
to deliver their lines.
:Cubomir Burgr (b. 1964) is a co-founder of Bratislava's Divadlo
SkRAT. Influenced by the collaborative work of Blahoslav Uhlar and Milos
Karasek at the STOI<A theatre of Bratislava, he has developed a method that
is based on texts improvised during rehearsals.3 His production of Smutnj zfvot
Ivana T. (The Sad Life of Ivan T.) for SkRAT is partly fantasy and partly the
stenographical record of an actual emergency meeting that took place at a
radio station in 2006. Various members of the cast are listed as authors of the
scenes they perform within the production as a whole. To the extent that there
is one, the plot follows rwo radically different lines - a woman looking for her
husband who has run off to live in the woods; and the radio station board
which is embroiled in a debate that is constantly interrupted by phone calls,
people's hunger, their desire for sex, their personal rivalries or merely by their
lack of attention to what is happening. What exactly is happening is never
entirely clear. But what emerges is a portrait of a society that has gone so far
over the edge into absurdity and triviality that the only solution for a person of
sensitivity is to escape. Paradoxically, however, that is no solution either, for
the destruction of family and the alienation of human ties is no less
devastating. The bitterly humorous opening monologue of the runaway man's
forlorn wife, written and performed by Dana Gudabova, is arguably the
highlight of this performance.
Ce!J (Cells) is a one-woman script compiled by Slavka Daubnerova (b.
1980) from writings by the French sculptor Louise Bourgeois. It was produced
25
The Emotional Upbringing of a Snake Woman by JUlie Meinholmove,
the Bibkove Divadlo na Rizcesti (Puppet Theatre at the Crossroads)
of Bansk:i Bystrica
by Phenomenontheatre and P. A.T. of Prievidza. Daubnerovi also designed,
directed and acted the piece which explores the seemingly conflicting states of
nostalgia for youth and family and hatred for the hypocrisy of authority as
reflected in her memory of a father. Daubnerov:i speaks and moves about the
stage with a care and self-effacing quality that implies her character would
rather blend into the background. Only rarely does she allow herself an
outburst. The primary aspect of the design is a chair hanging incongruously in
the air over a series of glass bottles spread out on the floor that the actress
constantly rearranges into various configurations of stars, circles and
rectangles. This thoughtful, introspective piece leaves one wondering not only
about the arbitrary psychological violence parents do to children, but also
26 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 27, No.3
about how hyper-sensitive children may later misrepresent their forbears in the
interest of art.
Citovri rjchova hade) zef!.Y (The Emotional Upbringing o/ a Snake Woman)
was a piece by JUlie Meinholmove for the Babkove Divadlo na Razcesti
(Puppet Theatre at the Crossroads) of Banska Bystrica. In it Meinholmove
combined her experience as a puppet actress and a writer to create a fairy-tale
or dream-like work exploring stereotypes of female behavior. The primary
conflict is between two sisters - Maja, a rebellious social dropout presently
undergoing treatment at a mental clinic, and Ada, a conformist, respected
literature professor and feminist. Their confrontations are mediated by a
mutual friend, a psychotherapist who encourages them to work out their
differences in a play Ada wrote about their mother. In this play-within-a-play
caricatures of rutting males and caring mothers seek to impose their will on
the two sister figures even as they continue to battle one another. As directed
by Iveta Skripkova, this production tends to cancel out the extremes
represented by the two sisters. Ultimately, as the sisters are at least partially
reconciled by the wise and peaceful image of their mother, this show suggests
that the overriding aspect of the female nature is to nurture and find
compromise.
Karol Horak (b. 1943) is a scholar, theorist and writer from Presov
who has written over 20 plays. His Domov z plastelif!Y (Faidra. Vertikdlf!Y m:)
(House Made if Pft!Jdough. [Phaedra. Horizontal Cut]) is a brief, but ambitious
work based loosely on the Greek myth of the rivalry that arose between
Hippolytus and his father. Here the father Samuel is an arrogant international
arms dealer whose motto is to believe nothing and trust no one. Having little
interest in his family, he leaves his son and second wife Hortenzia in the care
of his friend the Tutor. Hortenzia seduces Hippolytus but hangs herself when
he refuses to continue the relationship. Hippolytus, estranged from everyone
including Nadezda, the woman he loves, abandons his home and begins taking
on his father's cynical philosophy.
As directed by Jan Simko for the Divadlo Alexandra Duchnoviea of
Presov, this was an atmospheric, multi-layered work. Employing a live video
feed on a screen above the stage, as well as sheer screens that could be opaque
or transparent depending upon the angle of the lighting, it foreshortened
distances of time and space and created numerous locales of action that could
be employed simultaneously. The old Samuel often sat in a chair high above
27
28
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 3
Whoj Afraid of the Beatles? by Viliam Klimacek,
the Slovak National Theatre of Bratislava
the stage floor, an unimposing, even anonymous figure in the flesh as
compared to the large, menacing close-up of his face broadcast on the screen.
Hippolyte's trysts with Nadezda and Hortenzia were played out almost
consecutively, but in separate spaces under different lighting, so that the sense
of shift in time and space was still evident. Images of fascism and violence
occasionally flashed on the screen, adding to the production's mood of
foreboding and doom. Dr. Gustav Husak and Domov zplastelif!J were arguably
the festival's rwo most successful examples of combining probing texts with
inventive direction.
Mihal Vajdicka's production of Carr's Portia Coughlan for the Divadlo
Andreja Bagara of Nitra was noteworthy primarily for Zuzana Kan6cz's
superb performance in the title role. Her interpretation of a strong, intelligent
woman who is drawn incontrovertibly towards death by the memory of her
29
dead twin brother and the banality of her life easily held up an otherwise
uneven cast. Kan6cz, incidentally, can also be seen in the critically acclaimed
Czech ftlm Roman pro zef!Y (sometimes rendered in English as From Subwqy with
Love).
NOTES
1 I must declare that I do not speak Slovak. My Russian and basic Polish allowed me
to understand more than expected but much less than desired. As such, I depended
largely on conversations with festival participants, as well as on the detailed materials
prepared in English by the festival organizers, for much of the insight I gained
throughout the festival. Wrongheaded declarations and silly conclusions are of my own
doing.
2 Here and subsequently I draw many of my facts from the very useful Kata/Og sulasf!Ych
slovenskjch dramatikov [in Slovak, English, French and German] (Divadelny ustav:
Bratislava, 2006).
3 For more on STOKA see Juraj Sebesta, ''The STOK.A Group of Bratislava and the
Slovak Theatre," JEEP 16, No. 1 (Winter 1996): 28-35.
*I would like to thank Philip Arnoult and the Center for International Theatre
Development for a travel grant that made my visit to the Nova Drama festival possible.
30
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 27, No.3
POLISH THEATRE 2006: A DIRECTOR'S REPORT
Part II
Kazimierz Braun
The theatrical infrastructure supporting and surrounding institutional
theatres (about which I wrote in the first part of this report) consists of drama
schools, university theatre programs, and theatre criticism.
Four state-run schools of drama are the foundation for the high
professional level of Polish theatre artists in all the different areas of
specialization. The Warsaw School of Drama (recently renamed "The Theatre
Academy'') offers training in acting, directing, dramaturgy, and puppetry (at
the Department of Puppetry in Bialystok); the Cracow School in acting and
directing; the Wrodaw School (a subsidiary of the Cracow School) in acting
and puppetry; and L6dz School in acting and fllm directing. Every year
approximately eighty to one hundred young professionals graduate from these
departments.
Theatre history and theory are taught at the leading universities located in
Warsaw, Cracow, Wrodaw, L6dz, Lublin, and Gdansk. Scores of students elect
to study theatre, acquire the technical skills to write about it, become scholars,
critics, or dramaturgs. Theatre scholarship is a thriving business, producing
books and articles on all the different arts of the stage.
Theatre criticism has always been an important part of cultural life in
Poland. Several theatre journals devoted to contemporary performance have
been in existence for many years, including two with long traditions: Teatr and
Dialog. There are those who tell me that "nowadays there's no theatre criticism
in Poland." If we think of the golden age of Polish criticism in the 1950s and
60s, which boasted of such writers as Edward Csato,Jan Kott, and Konstanty
Puzyna, such an assessment might seem to be true. The problem is more
complex, however. There are wise, mature, and knowledgeable critics today,
such as Janusz Kowalczyk, who has a theatre column in the Warsaw daily
Rzeczyospolita, or Leszek Pulka in Wrodaw; great hopes are placed in Jacek
Kopciriski, the new editor-in-chief of the bi-weekly Teatr, and there are others.
But there are also powerful critics, especially Roman Pawlowski of Gazeta
U;7borcza and Piotr Gruszczynski of Tjgodnik Powszechtry who seem to disregard
tradition, including time-honored values, and support novelties to the
31
exclusion of all else; they catapult to instant fame directors of unconventional
works; they praise mediocre plays provided they are written in various kinds of
jargon and slang; and they acclaim productions about sexual minorities,
advocating alternative life styles. Besides writing reviews, Pawlowski has edited
and published two volumes of new plays by young playwrights under the
revealing title of one of these unorthodox works: The Porno Generation and Other
Theatre Plqys in Bad Taste.
The repertory of Polish theatre today is less diverse than in the past.
Traditionally we identify different segments of the repertory as "classical" or
"contemporary," as well as "tragedies," "comedies," or "dramas." Yet in the era
of deconstruction and postmodernism, practically every classical play may be
reinterpreted and modernized; every contemporary play may be turned by the
director into a multimedia production; and traditional literary genres are,
almost as a rule, turned upside down. Although I am aware of the inadequacies
of traditional theatre history and critical language, I will, nonetheless, try to
present the material in some sort of order.
As a rule, the classics are given short shrift in the Polish theatre today. The
Romantic masterpieces-which for years were the core of the national
repertory-are rarely staged. During my three month stay I did not see or hear
of any productions of the plays of Juliusz Slowacki or Zygmunt Krasinski;
Adam Mickiewicz's Forefathers' Eve has not been revived for years. Only
Aleksander Fredro, a master of classical comedy called "the Polish Moliere,"
was produced with any regularity. However, his plays were often totally
modernized: the text was adapted to include contemporary references, and the
titles were even changed. One of Fredro's comedies was performed as
EuroCiry (the name for the European express train system). Milieus and
settings were made present-day; modes of behavior, manners, and gestures
were updated; and contemporary costumes were introduced. A critic titled his
review of a Fredro play, Fredro After Remodeling. "Remodeling" aptly describes
almost all the productions of classics nowadays. But, of course, every rule has
its exceptions. I saw a splendid production of Shakespeare's Richard II at the
National Theatre directed by Andrzej Seweryn, which used "traditional"
medieval costuming and armor. Seweryn is the Polish actor who has had the
greatest international career since Helena Modrzejewska (Modjeska). He was a
member of Peter Brook's International Center for Theatre Research in Paris
and performed in English the lead in the celebrated production of the
32 Slavic and East European Perjom1ance Vol. 27, No.3
Mahabarata. He also performed in French and eventually became member of
the Comedie Fran<;aise, where, among other major roles, he appeared as Don
Juan in Moliere's play. Still with the Comedie Fran<;aise as a sociitaire, Seweryn
returns to Poland from time to time to act on stage or in film, and recently to
direct as well.
"Contemporary classics" are produced, but infrequently. Witold
Gombrowicz among Poles and Samuel Beckett among foreigners still seem to
attract attention. Yet the recent staging of Waitingjor Godot at the National
Theatre was most often described by critics as "innocuous," "correct," "well
performed," "without passion," and "universal." It is worth noting that the
director of this production, Antoni Lbera, is one of the world's leading
experts on Beckett, who has translated all of Becket's plays into Polish and
directed all of them, some many times.
Contemporary plays, both indigenous and foreign- from Germany,
England, Ireland, the Balkan countries, Russia, and elsewhere- have recently
been flooding the Polish stage. Although, of course, they are all very different,
these plays have a few common denominators, both of substance and of style.
They usually take place in dark, gloomy, hopeless milieus and settings. The
characters are fallen beings who have been betrayed and degraded, but are
searching in vain for love or at least understanding; frequently they belong to
minorities, sexual or social. The productions feature scenes of physical cruelty,
such as beating, torture, and molestation, as well as acts of copulation. The
language is ridden with obscenities, curses, and jargon from various
subcultures. Among the means of expression, nudity seems to be highly
prized. Almost without exception these productions of contemporary plays
make use of modern electronic technology. Either large film screens or small
television and computer screens flicker throughout the performance-
whether specifically required or not. Loud, trendy music accompanies the
action.
Both the literary and production styles of all these plays can be described
as "brutal realism." Indeed, the authors have been called "brutalists," a label
first given to the British nee-realists of the 1990s. Some of these plays were
successful, especially in theatres frequented by young audiences, such as the
Rozmaitoci (Variety) Theatre in Warsaw; others failed. The progenitor of this
school was the late Sarah Kane, whose four plays were widely staged in Poland
a few years ago. Now there is no single leader of the movement. Dirk Dobrov
33
(whose Alina To the West I saw at the Dramatic Theatre in Warsaw), Evgeni
Grishkovec, Abi Morgan, and Mikhail Ugarov are some of the popular foreign
authors produced in Poland. Among the new Polish playwrights, special
attention (not always favorable) has been paid to Anna Burzyriska, Pawel
Demirski, Marek Koterski, Maciej Kowalewski, Tomasz Man, Dorota
Maslowska (also a novelist), Marek Modzelewski, Jerzy Pilch, Marek
Pr6chniewski, Andrzej Saramowicz, Michal Walczak, and Przemyslaw
Wojcieszek (also a filmmaker), among others.
To raise the level of contemporary Polish drama, individual writers and a
few theatres have created special programs, workshops, and competitions for
new playwrights. Tadeusz Slobodzianek (a noted playwright himself) offered a
"Drama Laboratory." Marek ~ b a c z decided to teach comedy writing at his
"Comedy Stage." The National Theatre in \X'arsaw sponsored a "Drama
Studio," and the Variety Theatre established a program "TR/PL" for young
authors. Will these initiatives lead to a new breed of writers comparable to
Tadeusz R6zewicz, Slawomir Mrozek, and Tymoteusz Karpowicz? Let us
hope so. But as long as inferior, poorly written, and chaotic plays are published,
produced, and praised by critics, the situation probably will not change much
in the near future.
Acting and directing have been trade-marks of Polish theatre for more
than two centuries, as witness the line of great actors from Wojciech
Boguslawski, through Helena Modrzejewska (Modjeska), to Juliusz Osterwa,
and contemporary stars like Andrzej Seweryn, and the tradition of outstanding
directors from Stanislaw Kozrnian, through Leon Schiller, to Jerzy Jarocki, and
the new generation of emerging twenty-first century directors.
Acting, the backbone of Polish theatre, is still very diverse. It appears that
there is a generational gap between the old masters and the up-and-corning
stars. The masters are well and still active: Teresa Budzisz-Krzyzanowska,
Anna Polony, Anna Seniuk, Jan Englert, Janusz Gajos, Olgierd Lukaszewicz,
Daniel Olbrychski (who recently created a powerful King Lear), Jerzy
Radziwilowicz,Jerzy Stuhr,Jerzy Trela, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz-to name only
a few of a whole pliiade. But they meet with stiff competition from younger
and younger stars, who achieve their popularity from "TV Series" (the Polish
equivalent of soap operas) and sitcoms. Here I am thinking of four beautiful
and talented young women: Magda Cielecka, Maja Ostaszewska, Maria Peszek,
and Maria Seweryn. Of course, there are also brilliant young male actors, such
34
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 27, No.3
as Michal Zebrowski, Wojciech Malajkat, Zbigniew Zamachowski, and Marcin
Hycnar, among the youngest. Not satisfied with making money on the small
or large screen, these artists also appear on stage, to the extent that their studio
schedules permit. Those who are members of permanent companies play in
their home theatres; others work with "off" groups or prepare one woman or
one man shows. This last form is very frequently used, for it allows performing
in non-theatrical spaces, even in the most remote small towns.
Stylistically, the Polish variant of the realistic-psychological method still
prevails. It is rooted inJuliusz Osterwa and his Reduta tradition-enriched by
Jerzy Grotowski's acting technique-and taught by many acting teachers in the
schools of drama and practiced by the majority of actors. "The truth" is the
objective and ideal. "The truth" is based on the actor's personal experiences,
memories, feelings, emotions and shouJd permeate the role. Thus, the
performed role acquires a special, intimate, and personal nature. At the same
time, the best of Polish acting has always been, and still is, a bit poetic and a
bit distorted. The old masters still care for building complex, profoundly
psychological characters with specific vocal and physical features. The younger
generation accentuates the expression of its own personality.
Directing has been the Polish theatre's forte for years. The best directors of
the twentieth century include intellectuals of the first rank (Wadaw Radulski,
Erwin Axer, Zygmunt Hubner), and some of them were also scholars
(Leopold Kielanowski, Bohdan Korzeniewski, Jerzy Kreczmar). They knew
and loved the national tradition Quliusz Osterwa, Wilam Horzyca, Kazimierz
Dejmek). They have situated their productions within the realm of human
spirituality (Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk, Tadeusz Byrski, Leszek they
were lucid visionaries (Stanislaw Wyspiariski, Leon Schiller, Krystian Lupa).
They had highly developed visual imaginations and were painters themselves
(Andrzej Wajda, Tadeusz Kantor, Jerzy Grzegorzewski). They expressed
themselves through utterly profound and skillful work with actors Qerzy
Grotowski, Konrad Swinarski,Jerzy Jarocki). Actually, many of the best Polish
directors have combined vision and artistry with knowledge and
craftsmanship.
Of the old masters, after the premature passing away of Jerzy
Grzegorzewski (in 2005), only Krystian Lupa and Jerzy Jarocki are still active.
There is a solid middle-aged group represented by Anna Augustynowicz and
Mikolaj Grabowski. Much fanfare always accompanies the openings of
35
productions by Grzegorz Jarzyna and Krzysztof Warlikowski. There is a new,
ascending group of young directors that includes first of all Maja Kleczewska,
but also Roma Gq_siorowska, Ewelina Pietrkowiak, Weronika Szczawir\.ska,
Michal Bajer, Redbad Klynstra, Pawel Passini, Jan Klata (also a playwright),
and many others. All of them mistrust any tradition, opting for a direct
communication with the public. They promote the use of foul language on
stage, rely on extensive use of music and electronically generated images, and
resort to all sorts of blunt, forcible means of expression.
Theatre space is now a flexible notion that can be stretched to mean
practically any venue used for a production. Some professional directors
experiment with space. Many "off" groups perform not in theatres (which
they usually do not have), but in a variety of venues, which they use with little
or no stage design. Favorites are abandoned factories, halls in public buildings
(after hours), supermarkets, subway and railway stations, or simply streets.
Some groups offer productions that can be ordered by phone or on the
internet and per formed in private homes or apartments. It is hardly surprising
that, while experiments in the domain of space are bold and frequent, stage
design on both institutional stages and in experimental venues is not a
prominent aspect of these productions.
The "Polish Stage Design Kingdom," as it was called in the times of Karol
Frycz, Andrzej Pronaszko, Jan Kosinski and so many others great master
designers, belongs to the past. There are, of course, many skilful, imaginative
designers, such as Tadeusz Smolicki or Dorota Kolodyr\.ska, yet designers no
longer determine the look and feel of contemporary theatre in Poland.
When I saw a few of these productions in non-theatre spaces and read
Magdalena Golaczyr\.ska's article Wroclaw-Breslau. Searching for New Theatrical
Space and Local Identity in Slavic and East European Performance (Vol. 26, No 2,
Spring 2006), I thought nostalgically about the seeds that I and handful of
other directors had sown in the 1970s and 1980s, and which had brought about
such a harvest I am referring here to my productions, such as Cleopatra and
Caesar by Cyprian Norwid performed at the Museum of Architecture in
Wroclaw (1975); Forefathers' E ve by Adam Mickiewicz (1978), a production in
which different sections were performed throughout the theatre as well in
other locations; or The Piague(1983), based on Albert Camus and Daniel Defoe,
played in five different places in the theatre building. At that time Poland was
under the constraints of martial law, and it was impossible to locate a
36
Slavic and Ea.rt E uropean Peiformance Vol. 27, No.3
production anywhere outside the theatre building. But the theatre used-as it
were-"upside down" was itself a metaphor for the city and the world when
"the time is out of joint."
Generally speaking, Polish theatre in 2006 still seems to be in a state of
transition, even if the fundamental change of the system happened seventeen
years ago.
Artistically, it is losing its former identity as a theatre deeply embedded in
the spiritual and cultural traditions of the nation, expressing the country's
aspirations for freedom, and forging new means of expression, being at the
same time intellectual and visionary. It is struggling to formulate its new
identity within the changing political and cultural landscape of a unified
Europe (with Poland as a member of the European Union) and the age of
postmodernism, or even, as some say, "post-postmodernism."
Structurally and economically, it continues to function based on models
and practices formulated under communism, which are outdated, inefficient,
and not adaptable to the new economic order of a free market economy. Yet
new structures are slowly emerging.
Sociologically, Polish theatre is gradually adapting itself to the new
expectations of the public, which is more diversified than ever before. There
are those who demand more easily accessible entertainment; those who want
theatre to be a newspaper; and still others who are hungry to receive spiritual
nourishment, who want to listen to debates over moral issues, and who seek
true human values in theatrical productions.
I have been talking to many theatre people in Poland. One of them told
me, "The worst thing is that in both the Warsaw and Cracow theatres 'the
theatre' has ended. Now kitsch reigns supreme." Another said, 'What is most
uplifting is to see that people are still coming to the theatre in droves."
Theatre in Poland is still popular, needed, and loved. Many people
continue to put a great deal of trust and hope in the theatre. It still occupies
an important place within the system of the national culture. All this presents
a very serious challenge. I wonder if the Polish theatre will be able to meet
these challenges. I hope so.
37
THE NEW RUSSIAN HAMLET:
WITHOUT A HERO
Anna Shulgat
Perhaps the most influential Soviet versions of Hamlet were the film
by Grigori Kozintsev (1964) and the stage production by Yuri Lyubimov at the
Taganka Theatre (1971). If Innokenty Smoktunovsky in the fum version played
Hamlet as a thinker, philosopher, observer, Vladimir Vysotsky in the same role
in the Taganka production presented a man of action, a modern hero-
"Harnlet in jeans." Both directors used the Russian translation by Boris
Pasternak. Lyubimov enriched his version with elements from Pasternak's
poetry and excerpts from Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Kozintsev's ft.lm, on the other hand, made at the end of the Soviet "thaw," was
marked by the condemnation of Stalin's "cult of personality." It was set in the
Elizabethan period and centered on the "universal" meaning of Shakespeare's
play. Lyubimov's production, in contrast, was staged within a climate of Soviet
"stagnation" when the country was experiencing major setbacks. Lyubimov's
language was highly metaphorical. Rather than setting the production in his
time (this would have been impossible, given the increasing vigilance of the
Soviet censorship), the director chose an atemporal night as the time of action.
According to Vadim Gaevsky, Lyubimov staged the tragedy of a man who was
destined to live and die at night. Longing for the inaccessibility of the day
became the lyrical subtext of his rolel
Perestroika and the following period did not bring forth any Hamlets
who could rival those of Smoktunovsky and Vysotsky. Even the two most
notable productions of the 1990s, starring top Russian actors Yevgeny Mironov
and Konstantin Raikin, hardly became must-see events. Interestingly, both
productions were done by guest directors, the German Peter Stein and the
Georgian Robert Sturua, signaling that Russian directors were either
uninterested in doing Hamlet or too intimidated by the famous versions of 1964
and 1971 to tackle it. Probably the most notable post-Soviet I-lamlet was
directed by the Lithuanian Eimuntas Nekrosius, who brought Shakespeare's
story to a truly mythological scale. Magically using real ice and fire, the
Lithuanian director showed an ignorant yet innocent son, whose mighty,
god-like father could not foresee how the madness of vengeance would lead to
38 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
the loss of his son. The production by the Menofortas Theatre, starring the
legendary actor Vladas Bagdonas as the Ghost and the young rock-singer
Andrius Mamontovas as Hamlet, became by far the most articulate 1990s
version of Shakespeare's tragedy within the boundaries of the former Soviet
Union. Choosing "Hamlet by Nekrosius. Lithuania: Post-Soviet Syndrome" as
the title for her unwritten review of this production, critic Natalia Kazmina
suggested that this mythological, metaphorical and metaphysical story was
highly resonant with the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. and subsequent claims of
the nations formerly suppressed by the Soviet government.2
However, if Hamlet was the principal character in the major
productions of the past, recent versions, following in Stoppard's footsteps,
tend in a different direction. In the production by Nekrosius, the Ghost
seemed to be at least as important as Hamlet. In the most recent Russian
productions-the Stanislavsky Theatre production, directed by Dmitry
Krymov (2002), and the Moscow Art Theatre version, directed by Yuri
Butusov (2005), the situation with the hero was even more problematic.
Dmitry Krymov, a well-known theatre designer, the son of the famous
director Anatoly Efros and the renowned critic Natalia K.rymova, decided to
direct the new translation of Hamlet, done by the poet Andrei Chernov.
Chernov is also known as an archaeologist and political journalist, translator of
the Russian epic The Tale of lgors Campaign from the Old Slavonic, and co-author
of the book, Coming into Power, by the first democratic mayor of St. Petersburg,
Anatoly Sobchak. The translator produced his version of the text, using a
word-for-word translation by Mikhail Morozov, in order to reveal certain
mysteries he discerned. Chernov offered new and unusual interpretations of
certain characters, especially of Horatio, whom he found guilty of conspiring
against Hamlet and even causing the death of Ophelia. Chernov's
interpretations were clearly influenced by his political experience. Witnessing
the KGB taking back power in the country, the translator, as a strong advocate
of democracy and open society, obviously wanted to draw analogies between
the kingdom of Denmark and Putin's Russia. In his version, he particularly
accentuated the atmosphere of suspicion and fear that started to permeate the
society in the recent years.
However, Krymov did not seem to find an adequate theatrical form
for the translator's ideas. The majority of critics mentioned the show's lack of
coherence and its failure to add anything new to the existing interpretations.
39
40
s
&
0
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
Vladimir Vysotsky as Hamlet, Hamlet,
directed by Yuri Lyubimov, Taganka Theatre, 1971
41
Even Ophelia's pregnancy could not be regarded as innovative. A pregnant
Ophelia was introduced to the Russian audience by the cinema genius Andrei
Tarkovsky in his 1972 stage production (with Anatoly Solonitsyn and Inna
Churikova). Krymov's production was considered a theatrical failure.
Most reviewers criticized the new translation, which they found either
too free or less poetic than that of Boris Pasternak.3 The harshest criticism was
directed towards Valery Garkalin, who played Hamlet. This talented actor,
having spent too much time acting in slapstick comedies, was found too
superficial and crude for the philosopher-prince. At the same time all reviewers
spoke highly of Claudius and the Ghost-Nikolai Volkov-the brilliant old
actor who had starred in the productions by Krymov's father Efros.
4
This
suggested a parallel between the production and real life, between the young
director Krymov and "the Ghost" of his famous father, Anatoly Efros;
between an emerging theatre and the memory of a great theatre of the past.
Critic Marina Tokareva even called her review "Directed by Hamlet," a tide that
gestures to the particular context of the production, which seemed to add
another dimension to the already metatheatrical quality of the play.s
The Moscow Art Theatre production in 2005 was also charged with
metatheatrical meanings. Hamlet, Claudius, and Polonius were played by the
well-known young actors Mikhail Trukhin, Konstantin Khabensky, and Mikhail
Porechenkov, who graduated from the same class at St. Petersburg Theatre Arts
Academy and soon became TV and cinema stars, playing in popular criminal
series and blockbusters. Yuri Butusov, who in fact discovered these actors,
directing them in the memorable St. Petersburg productions of Beckett's
Waiting/or Godot, Buchner's W ~ z e c k Camus's Caliguia, and Pinter's Caretaker, had
been planning to bring them together for years, which had not been possible
because of their tight schedules. Eventually, in 2005 Butusov managed to
realize his project, gathering his favorite gang on the stage of the Moscow Art
Theatre. By then Khabensky and Porechenkov had already joined the company,
so the only logistical problem was to bring Trukhin from St. Petersburg to
Moscow-a problem that was eventually successfully solved.
Casting three friends as Hamlet, Claudius, and Polonius, Butusov
introduced a very modern motive. The three characters turned out to be peers,
classmates, former companions, who chose different ways in life and became
enemies. The same actors also played Elsinore guards at the beginning of the
show, and with identical costumes, the similarity between them became even
42 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
Valery Garkalin as Hamlet and Irina Grineva as Ophelia, Hamlet, directed by
Dmitry Krymov, Stanislavsky Theatre, 2002
more striking. For some reason Butusov edited out Horatio, which made the
critic Dina Goder suggest that probably Claudius and Horatio were merged
into one character, and actually it was Horatio who killed Hamlet's father and
married his mother.6
However, many critics found it hard to accept the interpretation of
Shakespeare's tragedy as a story of three friends. Some suggested that Butusov
oversimplified the play, getting rid of the characters and motives he was not
interested in. For example, Oleg Zintsov titled his review "Hamlet-shashlik,"
implying that the director cut out all the long and obscure passages demanding
a more sophisticated approach, and turned Hamlet into a meal, edible for wide
audience.? Certain reproaches were based on the fact that all the three stars of
the production had gained their popularity on TV, so their appearance on the
stage of the Moscow Art Theatre was seen purely as an extension of their TV
43
Vladimir Vysotsky as Hamlet, Hamlet,
directed by Yuri Lyubimov, Taganka Theatre, 1971
work. This was regarded by many as an attempt to popularize rather than to
modernize Hamlet. Hamlet's soliloquy was also seen by many as a failure.
Trukhin, after playing a militia captain in the TV series, had difficulty finding
the right character for the prince of Denmark.
None of the recent Russian productions of Hamlet presented the title
character as a real hero. This, it seems, is characteristic of our time, which
appears not to give birth to real heroes. None of the productions proved as
deeply philosophical as Kozintsev's movie or as politically charged as
Lyubimov's version. This may be a signal of a serious "Hamlet crisis." Is
Russian theatre, which bore such great Hamlets in the past, incapable of
producing a coherent modern version of the play?
44 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
Innokenty Smoktunovsky as Hamlet and Anastasiya Vertinskaya as Ophelia in
the film Hamlet, directed by Grigori Kozintsev, 1964
It cannot be that Hamlet simply does not resonate as modern enough
for today's audiences. On the contrary, our time, whether we speak in terms of
Russia or the rest of the world, appears perfectly "out of joint" and ready to
engage Shakespeare's Hamlet. The esteemed scholar Jan Kott, in his essays on
Shakespeare's plays, described them as depicting the "Grand Mechanism of
History."
Indeed, history was virtually knocking on the door in 2002 when
Krymov produced his Hamlet in Moscow. On October 23, the night of the
dress rehearsal at the Stanislavsky Theatre, another Moscow playhouse, Theatre
Center on Dubrovka, was seized by armed Chechen terrorists. Eight hundred
and fifty hostages were taken. During the siege of the Center and its liberation
45
by the Special Forces, thirty-nine terrorists and one-hundred-twenty-nine
hostages were killed.
8
During those four days the nation was overwhelmed with
feelings of horror, loss, and sorrow. The prevailing atmosphere of mourning
was close to that in the last act of Shakespeare's tragedy, and all we could do was
to repeat after Hamlet: "The rest is silence."
NOTES
1 Vadim Gaevsky, Fleita Cam/eta [Hamlet's Flute), Moscow: STD, 1990, 119.
2 Natalia, Kazmina, "Moi bedny, bedny Gamlet" [My Poor, Poor Hamlet). !6tltura.
1998: 9.
3 Chernov himself characterized it as an adaptation, rather than a translation.
4 Volkov died of leukemia a year later, in 2003, and the production was closed.
5 MarinaTokareva, "Spektakl stavit Gamlet" (Directed by Hamlet). Moskovskie novosti,
26 October 2002.
6 Dina Goder, "Menty v Elsinore" [Militiamen in Elsinore]. www.gazeta.ru, 15
December 2005.
7 Oleg Zintsov, "Hamlet-shashlik," Vedomosti, 16 December 2005.
8 According to unofficial sources, there were one-hundred-seventy-four killed.
46 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
A TIMELINE OF NEW ROMANIAN PLAYWRITING
IN THE CONTEXT OF U.S.-U.K.-E.U. EXCHANGE
Roberta Levitow
A timeline of new Romanian playwriting and international exchange over the
past two decades can, I believe, be of service to Romanian and international
theatre artists, to the funders who have invested in these exchanges, to the
academic institutions that have trained these artists, and also to the critical
communities that document and record the development of theatre in their
respective domains.
Striving for accuracy and inclusiveness, I have worked on this tirneline
as a collective enterprise, which has taken on a life of its own, as Romanian
theatre artists have willingly and enthusiastically offered their experiences for
the record. The desire to have one's work documented can certainly be self-
serving, but what emerges to my eye is something larger than notes on a
collective resume. It is instead a surprising document, albeit a work-in-
progress, about a movement of new writing by the younger theatre artists of
Romania and the international reactions to that writing on the part of their
foreign counterparts. Even glanced at in a cursory fashion, this document
shows that the sense of isolation, felt and articulated by so many writers as
Romanian reality, has in fact been decreasing at an accelerating rate over the
last fifteen years, since the fall of in 1989.
I first arrived in Romania on a Fulbright Senior Specialist grant in
March 2004 to teach a six-week class in Contemporary American Political
Theatre at the National University of Theatre and Cinematography (UNATC)
in Bucharest. With the support of UNATC Professor Nicolae Mandea, the
dramAcum (Drama Now) project, and Roxana of Teatrul ACT, I also
conducted a five-session workshop in new writing for the theatre.
To continue working with some of these new young writers, I
returned in August of 2004 and again in September 2005, thanks to the
collective effort and the crucial support of Gavril Tarmure and the Societatea
de Concerte of Bistrita, the UNATC; Mark Wentworth and the U.S. Embassy
in Romania; and the TCG (Theatre Communications Group) ITI
(International Theatre Institute) Travel Grant, funded by the Trust for Mutual
Understanding. In summer of 2006, I was the Project Director (working with
47
Marcy Arlin of Brooklyn's Immigrants Theatre Project, Playwright-Dramaturg
Saviana Stanescu, Frank Hentschker of the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
CUNY, and Corina $uteu and Ioana Radu of the Romanian Cultural Institute
of New York) for After the Fall: Reality and the New Romanian Theatre,
which brought three young Romanian playwrights (Gianina Carbunariu,
Bogdan Georgescu and Vera Ion), a young theatre critic (Iulia Popovici) and
UNATC's playwriting/directing teacher (Professor Nicolae Mandea) to New
York City for a series of interactions and presentations.
During my visits, I met many of the artists whose names appear on
this timeline, and I saw some of the work in production. To me, it is clear that
Romanian theatre, like all of Romanian culture, is in the midst of an exciting
and challenging transformation. These young writers will chart the course of a
new world. It is a world troubled by complex questions, not satisfied by simple
answers, but rich in possibility. And perhaps most important, it is now a world
where writers can speak freely through many mediums, but especially through
the theatre, about the realities of contemporary Romanian experience.
Fortunately for those of us who love theatre in a world-wide context, this new
writing is being welcomed on U.S., British, and European stages. As the
timeline suggests, the excitement once generated by the brilliance of the
Romanian directors' theatre of the 1960s and 1970s is being replaced by a
growing appreciation of the accomplishments of the Romanian playwrights
(and filmmakers) of the early twenty-first century.
TIME LINE
Romanian Playwriting after 1990
Early 1990s
Romanian playwrights Horia Garbea and Alina Nelega part1c1pate m
Romania-U.K. playwrights exchange at the Bush Theatre and Royal Court
Theatre, London.
1994
48
Royal Court Theatre invites emerging Romanian playwrights for annual
international residencies.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
1997
Playwright Alina Nelega creates DRAMAFEST to support and foster the
emergence of new playwrights.
1998
DRAMAFEST introduces, produces, and publishes new playwrights,
including Andreea Valean, Stefan Caraman, Saviana Stanescu, and Vlad
Zografi.
1998-2000
DRAMAFEST playwrights receive productions in small/alternative
theatres throughout Romania and abroad, including residencies at the
Royal Court Theatre, U.K.; the International Theatre Academy, Germany;
KulturKontak fellowships, Austria; among others.
2000
* Saviana Stanescu wins the UNITER Award for the Best Play of the
Year.
* UNITEXT publishes After Censorship: New Romanian Plays of the 1990s,
edited by Marian and Elena Popescu.
2001
*Alina Nelega wins the UNITER award for Best Play of the Year.
* Andreea Valean receives awards at Cannes for screenwriting efforts.
* Saviana Stanescu receives a Fulbright Fellowship to study Performance
Studies and Dramatic Writing at NYU.
* Teatrul Imposibil in Cluj is founded by director M. Chris Nedeea and
serves as the main promoter of new plays in Transylvania. It publishes the
monthly magazine man.infest, creates the Impossible Theatre Library,
which publishes a list of theatre books, and organizes the man.in.fest
international theatre festival in Romania.
2002
*Playwright Andreea Valean is a finalist for UNITER Award for the Best
Play of the Year.
49
* The organization dramAcum is created, dedicating itself to fostering
new writing for theatre through collaboration among playwrights,
directors, and actors.
*The bi-annual play contest dramAcuml is established. The first winner
is Ziua Futatd a Lui Nils (Nils' fucked up day) by Peca
* As part of a play development process called Bulandra Underground,
Peca Ziua Futatd a Lui Nils and Punami are workshopped under
the direction of Alexandru Berceanu at the Bulandra Theatre, Bucharest.
2003
* Playwright/Director Gianina Carbunariu directs a production of her
own play, Stop the Tempo, at the Green Hours Cafe.
* Saviana Stanescu receives a Doris Duke New Generations International
Fellowship to work as an international advisor with The Lark Play
Development Center in New York City, during which time she writes two
plays.
2004
50
* Roberta Levitow goes to Bucharest as a Fulbright Senior Specialist and
leads a New Writing Workshop at Teatrul ACT with Professor Mandea
and students from the UNATC. Students in attendance include Gianina
Carbunariu, Vera Ion, and Bogdan Georgescu.
*The first Master's Degree in Playwriting is created at UNATC (National
University of Theatre and Cinematography).
* dramAcum is awarded the AICT (International Theatre Critics'
Association) Award for Best New Theatre Project.
* Roberta Levitow returns to Romania to lead, with Professor Mandea,
the workshop How to Write Something New, held in Bistritza and
Colibitza, Romania, with support from Societatea Concerte de Bistritza
and with funds from the U.S. Embassy in Romania.
* Nicoleta Esinencu's Fuck You Europa is directed by Alexandru Berceanu
at the "Fani Tardini" Theatre in Galati.
* dramAcum creates a partnership with The Very Small Theatre in
Bucharest where dramAcum directors stage flve Romanian new plays:
89, 89 . .. ; macfy-bai?J.edu; Elevator; Vitamins; and Sado Maso Blues Bar.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
2005
* Cornel George Popa wins the UNITER Award for the Best Play of the
Year with 1l{y Sexual Life.
* Teatrul Imposibil in Cluj publishes an anthology in Romanian, edited by
Iulia Popovici, featuring the five winning plays of the dramAcum2
competition.
* In Bistritza, Roberta Levitow and Professor Mandea lead the workshop
Training Trainers supported by a TCG/ITI Travel Grant and the
Societatea Concertea in Bistritza. The workshop results in the creation
of The Tanga Project, led by Bogdan Georgescu and Vera Ion along with
other workshop participants.
* The Tanga Project holds its first successful new play development
process for UNATC students and faculty in November, encouraging the
creation and production of new short Romanian plays.
* Radu Apostol and Alexandru Berceanu receive CEC Artslink
Fellowships to travel to the U.S. and interact with Cornerstone Theatre
Company, Los Angeles, and The Lark Play Development Center, New
York City, respectively.
* Peca ~ t e f n is commissioned by The Dublin Fringe, working with a
group of Romania actors, performing in English.
2006
* dramAcum3 recognizes five winning plays and playwrights: Maria
Manolescu, Maria-Silvia Pitea, Ioana BHinaru, Mihaela :Michailov, and
Laurentiu Banescu.
* Vera Ion's play Vitamins is produced at the Very Small Theatre in
Bucharest.
* Marcy Arlin, Artistic Director of Immigrants Theatre Project,
Brooklyn, NY, serves as a Fulbright Senior Specialist at Universitatea
Babes Bolyai in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. She directs Wllxing West by
Saviana Stanescu at the National Theatre in Cluj, co-sponsored by Teatrul
Imposibil.
* Charmides Press of the Societatea Concerte de Bistritza publishes Six
Short Plqys, an anthology of plays developed in the 2004 How to Write
Something New workshop.
51
* Immigrants Theatre Project produces After the Fall: Reality and the
New Romanian Theatre, designed by Marcy Arlin and Roberta Levitow to
introduce three of Romania's most promising young playwrights: Gianina
Girbunariu, Vera Ion, and Bogdan Georgescu.
* Theatre Communications Group (fCG) hosts the taping of a
conversation between journalists Randy Gener and Iulia Popovici.
* Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The Graduate Center, CUNY,
presents readings of Romania. Kiss Me!, and Stop the Tempo.
* Saviana Stanescu goes to Bucharest to teach a playwriting workshop
for young writers, ages seventeen to twenty-five, at Desant Theatre.
* The ARTE Program continues with major exchanges between the
Lark Play Development Center, New York City, and the Odeon Theatre,
Bucharest. To initiate these ARTE Program exchanges, Saviana Stanescu
leads a group of distinguished American theatre artists (Doug Wright,
Tanya Barifield, Gordon Eddlestein, Randy Gener, and John Eisner) to
Bucharest.
* ARTE brings playwright Peca and new play director Ana
Margineanu to New York City to present Romanian actors in Bucharest
Calling.
* Maria Manolescu's Sado Maso Blues Bar wins dramAcum3's Best New
Play award Five of the contest plays are developed and presented in June
and October.
* The Sunshine Pfqy by Peca $tefan is awarded Best Play/Relationship
Drama by The London Fringe Report for performances in English in
Dublin, Ireland.
* Kate Loewald of The Play Company in New York City produces
Romania. Kiss Mel, an evening of six short Romanian plays, including work
by Cristian Panaite, Vera Ion, Ioana Moldovan, Nicoleta Esinencu, and
Bogdan Georgescu.
2007
52
* Mihaela Michailov wins the UNITER award for Best Play.
* As the second part of the ARTE Program exchange, The Lark Theatre
and the Romanian Cultural Institute of New York welcome Romanian
theatre artists: Dorina Lazar, actor and the Artistic Director at the Odeon
Theatre; Alina Moldovan, Director of Programs at the Odeon Theatre;
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
and Alina Nelega Cadariu, playwright and Artistic Director of the Ariel
Theatre in Targu-Mures.
* American Theatre magazine, in its May International Issue, publishes an
article by Randy Gener: "New Waves in Romanian Theatre."
* New theatre director Ana Margineanu comes to New York City to
participate in Lincoln Center Directors' Lab.
* CEC Artslink 2007 Fellowships are awarded to Peca $tefan and Gianina
Carbunariu.
* mady-bal!J.edu (using the English title Kebab) by Gianina Carbunariu, is
developed and produced at The Royal Court Theatre with subsequent
performances at the International Festival in Dublin.
* The Sunshine Play and Bucharest Calling by Peca $tefan (directed by Ana
Margineanu) are selected for the NYC Fringe Festival 2007.
*The Green Hours in Bucharest offers to sponsor writers but also young
Romanian actors and directors to present a complete production of New
Drama abroad.
* Koinonia Publishing House in Cluj publishes an anthology of new
Romanian drama translated into Hungarian featuring work by Peca $tefan,
Gianina Carbunariu, and Vera Ion, among others and edited by Julia
Popovici.
* The anthology roMANIA 2000: Romanian Playwriting Since 1990, edited
by Daniel Gerould and Saviana Stanescu, is published by the Martin E.
Segal Theatre Center, CUNY, in conjunction with Romanian Cultural
Institute of New York.
* In France, Stop the Tempo and mady-bal!J.edu (or Kebab) by Gianina
Carbunariu are produced and published in Acts Sud In addition mady-
bal?J.edu is produced at both the Schaubi.ihne Theatre in Berlin and the
Kammerspiele in Munich.
53
DOUBLE EDGE THEATRE'S REPUBliC OF DREAMSI
LA MAMA, NEW YORK, MARCH 2007.
Victoria Nelson
The international fame of the Polish Jewish writer Bruno Schulz
(1892-1942) rests on two slender volumes of stories published in Poland
between the world wars and issued in translation in English and the major
European languages in the decades after the second war. When the story
collections appeared in the Penguin Writers from the Other Europe series in
the 1980s, Schulz made a strong impression as a fabulist and prose stylist in the
United States and his spirit continues to be invoked in novels by Cynthia
Ozick, Israel's David Grossman, and others.
At the same time, demonstrating precisely that destabilization of
form which was one of Schulz's dearest obsessions, his works began a steady
transmigration off the printed page onto the stage and screen. Wojciech Has's
film Sanatorium pod Klep{)'drq_ (issued in English as Sandglass) in 1973, Tadeusz
Kantor's brilliant improvisation on Schulzian themes, Umaria Klasa (The Dead
Class), staged in Krakow in 1976, and Zbigniew Rudzinski's opera Maneki'!J
(Mannequins), produced in 1981, were notable Polish dramatic adaptations of
Schulz's work. In 1986, the American-born, London-based Quay Brothers'
surreal-animated film The Street of Crocodiles (after the English title of his first
book of stories, Cinnamon Shops) brought Schulz to a wider international
audience. Since then, a steady stream of dramatic productions have sought to
bring Schulz's baroque imaginary universe to life, including Theatre du
Complicite's 1992 London production of The Street of Crocodiles, which toured
internationally and regional U.S. theatre productions such as Portland-based
Hand2Mouth Theatre's From a Dream to a Dream (2006). The Quays are
currently in production on their own version of Schulz's second story
collection, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass.
This is an unlikely reincarnation for an author whose stylistic
pyrotechnics bound him so firmly to the written word, a master of literary
conceit who visualized the natural world around him as a sublime Book whose
pages open like the leaves of a cabbage. His artist's obsession with visual
imagery helps explain the attraction of filmmakers to Schulz's work, but the
deep pull his nonlinear, contemplative, deeply interior stories continue to exert
54 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
Republic if Dreams, Double Edge Theatre, La MaMa, 2007
55
on theatre directors is not so readily apparent. As Schulz's narrator/alter ego
Joseph says of his friend Rudolph's magical stamp album in the story "Spring,"
"You need some perspicacity, some courage of the heart, some imagination in
order to find the fiery thread that runs through the pages." The unusual
creative osmosis between Schulz and the theatre is perhaps more easily
understood by the fact that his popularity lies mainly with performance
groups, not conventional theatrical companies. Reconceived as spectacle, his
anarchic, open-ended metaphors offer real possibilities for the stage.
Schulz's latest theatrical reincarnation is Double Edge Theatre's The
Republic of r e a m ~ which opened in New York in early 2007. Like the story
"Spring," which "follows many tracks punctuated by springlike dots," this
ingenious production is based primarily on the Sanatorium stories
supplemented with material from essays, story fragments, and letters. Where
other adaptors have typically used Schulz's works as a portal into their own
imaginary cosmos, Double Edge may be unique in its close and faithful
following of this author's complex text, and it skillfully addresses the inherent
untheatricality of Schulz's lyrical tales by fmding a dramatic spine in their
underlying dialectic of mundane reality versus extravagant imagination.
Mining and refining Schulz's sometimes tangled visual metaphors, Double
Edge presents a coherent sequential weaving of the main themes of the
Sanatorium stories seasoned with a generous helping of Schulz's bravura verbal
riffs. The great passage from "Spring" tracing the roots of reality to "whispers
gathered underground" in an underworld "deep" that is not dark but "pulsates
with light" and Father's magus-like disquisitions on the infinite flexibility of
matter from "The Treatise on Tailors' Dummies" in Cinnamon Shops are
delivered with appropriate fervor by Matthew Glassman and Carlos Uriona,
respectively.
From the outset, Glassman in his double role as Bruno and Joseph
ably captures the gnomelike obsessive physical postures of the persona we
have come to know from Schulz's pencil-drawing self-portraits and
illustrations for the stories. Audience members filing into the theatre pass
Bruno/Joseph crouched on the floor, miming the painting of an eye on a
piece of multicolored fabric. This is the Book, styled as a "peacock-hued
fragment" in the opening story of the Sanatorium collection. Following Schulz's
notions of alchemically transforming the objects of the material world within
his imagination, succeeding images drawn from the "text" of the world are
56 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 3
57
translated into a series of mutable tableaux vivantes. Governed by Schulz's
idiosyncratic laws of thermodynamics, forms emerge only to mutate
unexpectedly into other forms: a woman regrows her hair in a magazine ad,
Emperor Franz Joseph morphs from a stamp album image to a female trapeze
artist in a frilly tutu, waxworks dummies march out of a cupboard only to
collapse into other characters. The catalyst that dissolves each tableau is usually
a puncturing remark challenging the legitimacy of the vision: after a parade of
fantastic characters evoked from the exotic images of the stamp album,
Rudolph's curt dismissal, "They're just stamps," brings Bruno/Joseph's cloud
castles crashing to the ground. Tangos by the royal brothers Franz Joseph and
Maximilian and Bruno/Joseph's father and mother (both duos played by
Carlos Uriona and Carroll Durand) are followed by a taunting complaint
lodged by Schulz's real-life literary colleague \X!itold Gombrowicz: ''Why don't
you come down to earth and dance with a real woman?"
To these assaults on his "fortress of the fantastic," Bruno/Joseph
responds in the production's climax with an impassioned Schulzian defense,
triumphantly concluding: "No dream however senseless or absurd goes wasted
in the universe."
For lovers of Schulz, the pleasures of this production are many.
Newcomers to the Polish Jewish writer will ftnd its broad strokes of staging
and pacing an accessible introduction to the seductive beauty of Schulz's
philosophical language, which quite literally embodies the thinking system of
a visual artist as images, not intellectual abstractions. Jacek Ostaszewski's music
evokes a between-wars ambiance by turns haunting and louche. Mira
Zelechower-Aleksiun's gauzy tapestries of barely visible Hebrew characters
serYe as subliminal cabbalistic markers for the mystic transparency of Nature's
text. Offstage double pistol shots bookending the performance's opening and
end reflect, finally, the fatal last intrusion of reality into Bruno Schulz's soaring
imagination: his murder by an SS officer on a street of his hometown
Drohobycz in 1942.
NOTE
1 Conceived and directed by Stacy Klein. Co-created with Carlos Uriona, Matthew
Glassman, and Carroll Durand. Sets by Mira Zelechower-Aleksiun. Music by Jacek
Ostaszewski.
58 Slavic and East E11ropean Performance Vol. 27, No. 3
PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY:
LYDIA SCHEUERMANN HODAK'S MARI]A'S PICIVRES
Kurt Taroff
Originally published in Croatia in 1996 and performed in Austria in
1999, Lydia Scheuermann Hodak's Marija's Pictures recently received its
American professional premiere in a production by St. Louis's Upstream
Theater from October 27 to November 5, 2006. Like many of the new plays
now emerging from the war in the former Yugoslavia, Marija's Pictures makes
no attempt to consider the complex politics or larger-than-life villains of the
conflict. Instead it demonstrates the devastating impact that the chaos of the
war wreaked on a family and on individuals, particularly on the women, whose
bodies became the battleground on which at least part of the war was fought.
Marija's Pictures depicts its title character in a hospital after she and her
daughter have been forcibly removed from their home by an invading army.
We are introduced to Marija (Linda Kennedy) as she agonizes over whether to
sign papers that will put her daughter's newborn child up for adoption. Her
daughter, we soon learn, died during the child's birth, and Marija, preparing to
leave Croatia, must decide whether or not to accept responsibility for the child.
This painful decision spurs in Marija a process of remembering that serves as
the plot of the play, and the adoption decision serves as a framing device, the
moment at which the play both begins and ends.
Marija is guided in her journey through memory by Ksenija Gane
Paradise), a psychologist assigned to her by the hospital. Even as she serves as
a sounding board for Marija's tragedy, Ksenija experiences a hardship of her
own, revealing that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. While Marija
briefly accuses Ksenija of competing with her for the title of the one who has
suffered the most misery, ultimately the two women share a powerful bond. In
her first appearance in the play, moments after Marija's opening monologue,
Ksenija convinces Marija that the best way for her to deal with her sorrow is
to recount her experiences not in words, which would be insufficient to
express the horror of her struggle, but in images, as Marija takes up paint and
brush. ""'hat follows is a remarkable conceptual move that both validates and
yet completely contradicts Ksenija's advice. Marija prepares her paints, and
then begins to recount for us the events that have led her here. At the same
59
60
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MARIJA S
PICTURES
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Marija's Pictures by Lydia Scheuermann, Upstream Theater, 2006

Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
time, in a very clever bit of staging by director Philip Boehm and designer
Patrick Huber, the dilapidated set behind Marija contains a window in wruch
there is a screen onto wruch paintings, meant to reflect Marija's experience, are
projected from behind. (fhe paintings themselves were by Andrea Musa, a
resident of Split, Croatia.) Marija's words, then, become merely the verbal
expression of the images that she has produced on canvas. This is not to say
that Marija is merely describing or elaborating on the pictures we see in the
frame/window-indeed, there is little correlation between them, but the
process of recovery that the pictures represent can only be communicated to
us through Marija's words.
Marija recounts a tale rife with the horrors of war. Marija's daughter,
Lucija (Elizabeth Birkenmeier) comes home bloodied, telling of her
boyfriend's murder by unidentified soldiers, and not long after that we learn
that Lucija is pregnant. Soon, the same soldiers arrive at Marija and Lucija's
house, forcing them into an abandoned building that they share with several
Marjja's Pictures by Lydia Scheuermann, Upstream Theater, 2006
61
62 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
other women, but no men. Over the course of their horrific stay in this
building, Marija is raped by one of the soldiers, becoming pregnant herself.
While she had assumed it had been the boyfriend by whom Lucija had become
impregnated, she now realizes she has endured the same experience as her
daughter and feels all the worse for it, as she knows that when her daughter
needed her most she had failed to see the trauma Lucija experienced. Marija,
Lucija, and an older woman they meet bond as they wonder if they will
survive. Marija recounts that the woman had been a teacher, that she
recognized several of the soldiers as former students, and that she knew they
recognized her too, as they couldn't look her in the eye. Finally the three
women are forced by the soldiers to cross enemy lines as the soldiers mock
them, assuming they will be shot by their own side. The anxiety takes its toll as
the older woman collapses and Marija, although able to make it across, feels
blood trickling down her leg and a pain that leads her to realize that she has
lost the child she was carrying. Marija's immediate reaction is joy that she will
not give birth to the soldier's issue, but then a deep guilt that Lucija will have
to do just that.
Indeed, it is this very dilemma over the possible birth of the child of
a rape that serves as the frame for Marjja's Pictures. The play opens with Marija
reading the document that will put her daughter's now motherless child up for
adoption. Her agony over this decision spurs the memories that form the bulk
of the play. After hearing Ksenija tell Marija that the doctors would like her to
keep the child, we return to where we began: with Marija, her bags packed and
ready to leave her war-ravaged homeland, agonizing over the adoption
document. She is prepared to sign until, in the play's closing image, Marija
steps into the sole remaining light, and rears the document to shreds.
I n a panel discussion prior to the play's opening at the Upstream
Theater, the playwright joined experts in Slavic Studies (Professor Milica
Banjanin), Psychology (Dr. Zvjezdana Prizmic-Larsen), and Latin American
Literature (Professor John Garganigo) for a discussion focused primarily upon
the issue of the use of rape as a weapon of war, with Mar!Ja's Pictures standing
as a vivid example of the issue. Foremost on the minds of both the panel and
many members of the audience was the unfortunate continuing relevance of
this issue, particularly in light of events in Darfur. In situations such as Darfur
and, as seen in Mar!Ja's Pictures, the former Yugoslavia, rape becomes a
particularly egregious and effective weapon when ethnicity plays a central role
63
in the conflict at hand. That is not to say that rape is not a problem in conflicts
where ethnicity is not the central issue; but in these ethnic wars, rape has the
uniquely devastating impact on its victims of incurring the disdain not only of
the enemy forces who practice such horrific acts, but of the men (even the
husbands) of the same side-who now view the victim as incurably tainted by
the experience. Furthermore, as is the case in Marija's Pictures, the prospect of
offspring from these rapes becomes part of the crime, fracturing families,
resulting in children often unwanted by either side. Recent events,
unfortunately, demonstrate that this horrendous practice is unlikely to end
anytime soon.
In regard to the play itself, playwright Lydia Scheuermann Hodak,
visiting St. Louis expressly for the play's premiere, noted that the drama was
based on true events, that she had known the psychologist she depicted in the
play, and had heard the story from her. Furthermore, Hodak noted that the
play had originally been written as a one-woman show for the character of
Marija, but that early critics had pointed out that there were other rich
characters buried in the narrative, begging to be given life. The version staged
in St. Louis was obviously one result of those criticisms, though Hodak also
noted that she had written a version with eight speaking characters.
lv!arija's Pictures is rich in imagery and emotion, and is a deep and
sorrowful depiction of the impact of war on its most defenseless victims. It
would surely be successful whatever the length of its cast list. But however
many characters appear on stage, Hodak's play is undoubtedly Marija's play,
and in her tale of the ravages of war we get a story that is at once a personal
story of struggle, a metaphor for the universal travails of women in wartime,
and a document of a once flourishing country in collapse and disarray.
64 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 3
1HE SEAGUlL:
LOST IN ElFMAN'S BALLET TRANSLATION?
Evelina Mendelevich
A production of Chekhov's The Seaguli is never an arbitrary endeavor.
The play is notoriously difficult to stage; its production history is marked by
crashing failures and startling triumphs. In other words, it is never just another
project, but a statement on the director's part-a declaration of strength, of
artistic maturity. In addition to testing the director's skills, the play, focused on
art and four individuals who serve it, offers an opportunity to reflect on one's
own artistic career. l t is not surprising then that celebrating the thirtieth
anniversary of his ballet company, Russia's famous revolutionary
choreographer Boris Eifman turns to Chekhov for an inspiration for his new
celebratory ballet.
Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, established by Boris Eifman in 1977,
is well-known worldwide as Russia's most innovative and original
contemporary ballet company. Combining classical ballet, modern dance,
acrobatics and pantomime, Eifman revolutionized and reinvented the very
concept of modern ballet with his dramatic, highly expressive choreography.
The result is thrilling, original, often shocking performances in which the
human body becomes the instrument of expression-twisting, folding,
extending, tangling as human emotions take physical form on stage.
Like many of Eifman's fans, I eagerly await the company's regular
tours to the United States-especially his new works, which, even when
predictable, never fail to thrill and fascinate me. As a literary critic, I am
particularly attracted to Eifman's translation of great novels from literary to
body language. One of the recent examples is Anna Karenina, premiered at the
New York City Center in 2005. As always, something is lost in such a
translation, but there is enough passion and desire in Tolstoy's novel for
Eifman to do what he does best-turn the human body into emotion
incarnate. The case, however, is different with The Seagull, performed at the
City Center on April 19, 2007.
The first step of Eifman's translation of Chekhov's legendary play
into the ballet involves the setting, which he transfers from the Russian
countryside estate to an urban ballet studio. In the process, Eifman also drops
65
66 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 3
most of the play's characters, focusing on the quadrangle of the famous
prima-ballerina Arkadina (Natalia Povoroznyuk); her son, and young,
innovative choreographer Treplev (Oleg Gabyshev); his love, the young
aspiring ballerina Nina Zarechnaya (Anastassia Sitnikova); and the already
established classical choreographer Trigorin (Oleg Markov). "The four leads,"
explicates Boris Eifman, "and their uncommon fates-creative and
personal-have taken on an emotional embodiment in movement that
expresses our view of the Chekhov work."
As the curtains rise, we see Treplev confmed inside a metal frame or
cube, his body uncomfortably twisted. Soon he realizes that the borders that
keep him confined can be moved if pushed, which allows him to step out of
the cube, leaving behind him something of an avant-garde metal sculpture-
the symbol of Treplev's innovative artistic vision.
Overall, Eifman remains faithful to Chekhov's plot: Treplev anxiously
seeks approval and recognition from callous, uncaring, self-absorbed Arkadina
by staging for her his abstract work about the universal soul, represented by
dancers moving under a huge white sheet, with Nina Zarechnaya dancing the
lead part. The heartless mother falls asleep during the performance. Overall,
the Arkadina-Treplev ambivalent relationship is rendered most successfully in
this production. In one of the most poignant scenes, Treplev, as if going back
to his childhood self, seeks motherly affection from Arkadina, following her
on his haunches as he holds her hand. Arkadina, self-absorbed and narcissistic,
walks (on her toes) regally and gracefully ahead, eventually dropping her son's
hand. Lonely and abandoned, Treplev seeks her, as if in the darkness, but in
vain. Here and throughout the ballet, Natalia Povoroznyuk's performance as
Arkadina is stunning, and not only because of her extraordinary flexibility and
both classical and modern ballet skills-the trademarks of Eifman Ballet
Company-but also because of her remarkable artistic insight into the
character of Arkadina. The play's duel of artistic visions-Trigorin's safe
classical ballet and Treplev's audacious experimental dance-culminates when
Treplev attempts to bring street hip-hop into Trigorin's studio. He attempts to
disrupt Trigorin's monotonous rehearsals (accompanied by the rhythmic
sound of a metronome) by introducing daring modern Eifmanesque
movements to his classical studio. The young dancers-Eifman's indefatigable,
startling corp de ballet-follow Treplev until Trigorin's commanding
appearance puts them back on the classical track.
67
Fans of Eifman's signature-his spectacular love duets and triangles
which combine ballet, acrobatics and pantomime-enjoyed ballet's numerous
pas de deux, sensual, sexual, and stunning. Here, as everywhere in Eifman, the
force and complexity of love and jealousy, passion and despair, is expressed in
the bodies tangled together, twisting, bending, sliding, and gliding against the
floor or each other.
As in Chekhov's play, Nina Zarechnaya, rejected by Trigorin and
unrealized as a dancer, is associated with the white seagull needlessly
destroyed. Her fall is depicted in a powerful scene: Zarechnaya wearing a white
tutu dances before a group of rich gentlemen in what appears to be a nightclub
or gentlemen's club. Her body twists awkwardly in a grotesque imitation of a
dying swan from the famous classic The Swan Lake as she stands behind a
transparent target. The gentlemen of the club slowly aim their guns and shoot,
leaving stains of paint on the target. In this scene, Zarechnaya appears at once
as a prostitute (each man slowly raises his gun and shoots the target) and as a
symbol of degraded art.
One of the noteworthy features of Eifman's ballet version of the play
is the cleverly interpreted finale. At the end of Chekhov's play, Treplev tears
up his manuscripts and shoots himself offstage. In Eifman's ballet, Treplev,
misunderstood and unrealized, returns to his prison-the metal cube or box
which again appears on stage-an act which for the artist is tantamount to
suicide.
Despite some clever reworkings, extraordinary performances, and
inventive choreography, Eifman's ballet leaves the audience almost as confused
as stunned. In Chekhov's play, the line between making art and reflecting on
art is never obscure. After all, writing about writing has a long history, and so
does the play within a play. But how does one dance about dancing? And
perhaps even more importantly, how does one inform the audience when the
character stops dancing and begins acting in a work where dance is the only
language? In the first act, the problem was solved successfully-not so much
by Eifman as by Chekhov: the audience, which consisted mainly of Arkadina,
made us aware that we are witnessing a ballet-within-a-ballet- Treplev's play
(Chekhov) or ballet (Eifman) about the universal soul. In the rest of the ballet,
however, it was difficult to tell whether the character is dancing the dance or
the dancer. The problem is further complicated by the fact that Eifman's Seagull
is in many ways autobiographical. Therefore, Treplev's experimental
68 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
The Seagu/4 Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, City Center, New York, 2007
69
choreography is virtually Eifman's choreography. As a result, The Seagull's
central theme-one that makes it so appealing to artists-namely, the meaning
of art and life, the relationship between them, is virtually lost in Eifman's
ballet, which turned out to be visually exciting and entertaining, and as always
emotionally eloquent, but which keeps its focus on Eifman's familiar
territory-emotions-without the intellectual depth of Chekhov's play.
Chekhov's power lies in making the unsaid tell more than words. The darkest
agony is expressed in the most trivial words; the most thrilling events happen
under the most ordinary circumstances. Chekhov is quiet, which forces the
reader or spectator to listen to what he says or shows with the same attention
with which the author must have observed life, and that is how he brings his
audience to a revelation. Eifman is loud. The suffering he portrays is the
suffering of a classical hero. His presentation may be cathartic, but it is not
illuminative. But those who came to see the essential Eifman reveled in the
company's always breathtaking, awe-inspiring performance; it was pure
Ei&nan, which means that there was no place for Chekhov on this stage.
70 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 3
CONTRIBUTORS
KAZIMIERZ BRAUN is director, writer, and scholar, formerly the Artistic
Director and General Manager of the Contemporary Theatre in Wrodaw,
Poland. He has directed more than 140 productions both professionally and
in university theatre in Poland, the United States, Germany, Ireland, and
other countries. He has taught at Wrodaw University, Adam Mickiewicz
University in Poznan, the School of Drama in Cracow, New York University,
University of California Santa Cruz, and Swarthmore College. He is
Professor of Theatre at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has
published more than thirty books: plays, novels and works on theatre,
including A Concise History of Polish Theatre from the Eleventh to the Twentieth
Centuries (Mellen Press, 2003).
JOHN FREEDMAN has been the theatre critic of The Moscow Times since
that paper's inception in 1992. His books include Silence's Roar: The Life and
Drama of Nikolai Erdman, Moscow Performances: The New Russian Theater
1991-1996, and Provoking Theater: Kama Ginkas Directs (with Kama Ginkas).
ROBERTA LEVITOW is director, dramaturg, teacher, and co-founder of
Theatre Without Borders. Her international work includes a Fulbright Senior
Specialist award and various international theatre workshops in Romania and
East Africa. Her writing has appeared in American Theatre magazine, Theatre in
Crisis: Performance Manifestos for the New Century, and Writing the World On
Globalization. She has served on the faculty at UCLA and Bennington
College.
EVELINA MENDELEVICH teaches comparative literature and world
humanities at City College, City University of New York. She is a doctoral
student in the Ph.D. Program in Comparative Literature at the Graduate
Center, City University of New York, where she specializes in nineteenth-
century Russian, British, and French literature. Her research interests include
the psychological novel and nineteenth-century Russian women writers and
poets.
71
VICTORIA NELSON's most recent books are The Secret Life of Puppets and
a collection of stories, Wild California. She was co-translator of Letters,
Drawings, and Essqys of Bruno Schulz and teaches in Goddard College's
graduate creative writing program in Port Townsend, WA.
ANNA SHULGAT is a theatre critic and translator. A native of St. Petersburg,
she graduated from St. Petersburg State Theatre Arts Academy. Currently, she
is a Fulbright grantee, pursuing an MFA in Dramaturgy at the State University
of New York at Stony Brook, with interests in Russian, British, and U.S.
theatre. Her list of Russian publications includes seventy essays and nine
translated books.
KURT TAROFF is a lecturer at Queens University Belfast. Prior to joining the
faculty at Queens, he was a two-year Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Drama at
Washington University in St. Louis. He received his Ph.D. in Theatre from the
Graduate Center, City University of New York, in July 2005. He was the
Managing Editor of Slavic and East European Performance from 2001 to 2003.
72 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 3
Photo Credits
Nova Drama
Photos courtesy of Divadelny ustav, Bratislava.
Hamlet (film) directed by Grigory Kozintsev
Photos courtesy of Russian Cinema Council (RUSCICO)
Hamlet, directed by Yuri Lyubimov
Photos courtesy of the Tanganka Theatre
Hamlet, directed by Dmitry Krymov
Photo courtesy of the Stanislavksy Theatre
Republic of Dreams
Photos courtesy of Double Edge Theatre and Robert Tobey
Marjja's Pictures
Photos courtesy of Upstream Theater
The Seagull
Photos courtesy of the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg
73
MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
Comedy:
A Bibliography
\ r sue. AI'ltv :. 0UT.4: '-"' [ , , ... mt ltnt,..
( .. 4( 110 01 Lt>MUJ\ l' ()a-'UA. flll\fU A!VU rt.uoi.\I.A'CI Editor
Meghan Duffy
1u ""f !tu .. u 1
Senior Editor
Daniel Gerould
lnitiated by
Stuart Baker, Michael Early,
& David Nicolson
This bibliography is intended for scholars,
teachers, students, artists, and general
readers interested in the theory and
practice of comedy. It is a concise
bibliography, focusing exclusively on
drama, theatre, and performance, and
includes only published works written
in Engli sh or appearing in English
translation.
Comedy is designed to supplement older, existing bibliographies by including new areas
of research in the theory and practice of comedy and by listing the large number of new
studies that have appeared in the past quarter of a century.
USA $10.00 plus shipping $3.00 USA, $6.00 International
Please make payments in U.S. Dollars payable to:
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
Mail checks or money orders to:
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Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212-817-1868
MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
THE ARAB OEDIPUS
FOUR PLAYS
The Arab Oedipus:
Four Plays
Editor
Marvin Carlson
Translators
Marvin Carlson
Dalia Basiouny
William Maynard Hutchins
Pierre Cachia
Desmond O'Grady
Admer Gouryh
With Introductions By:
Marvin Carlson, Tawfiq Al-Hakim,
& Dalia Basiouny
This volume contains four plays based on the
Oedipus legend by four leading dramatists of the
Arab world: Tawfiq AI-Hakim's King Oedipus, Ali
Ahmad Bakathir's The Tragedy of Oedipus, Ali
Salim's The Comedy of Oedipus, and Walid
lkblasi's Oedipus.
The volume also includes Al-Hakim's preface to his Oedipus, on the subject of Arabic tragedy, a
preface on translating Bakathir by Dalia Basiouny, and a general introduction by Marvin Carlson.
An awareness of the rich tradition of modem Arabic theatre has only recently begun to be felt by the
Western theatre community, and we hope that this collection will contribute to that awareness.
USA $20.00 plus shipping $3.00 USA, $6.00 International
Please make payments in U.S. Dollars payable to:
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
Mail checks or money orders to:
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Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
The CUNY Graduate Center
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New York, NY 10016-4309
Visit our web-site at: web.gc.cuny.edu/mestc/
Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212-817-1868
MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
Witkiewicz: Seven Plays
Translated and Edited
by Daniel Gerould
This volume contains seven of
Witkiewicz's most important
plays: The Pragmatists, Tumor
Brainiowicz, Gyubal Wahazar,
The Anonymous Work, The
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 masterpeices of the dramatists of the
absurd- Beckett, Jones co, Genet, Arrabal-of the late nineteen forties and the
nineteen flfiies. It is high time that this major playwright should become better
known in the English-speaking world.
Martin Esslin
USA $20.00 PLUS SHIPPING $3.00 USA, $6.00 International
Please make payments in U.S. Dollars payable to:
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
Mail checks or money orders to:
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Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
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MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
THE HEIRS OF
MOLIERE
FOUR FRENCH COMEDIES OF THE
17tH AND 18tH CENTURIES
@ R e g ~ The.Al.ent-Minded Lover
@ De.toucJ....: The Conceited Count
@ Lo. O...uaMe: Thel'aslllonohle P,..,uchce
@ Lo.lJ"' The fnead ol the Lo.ws
TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY
MARVIN CARJ.SON
The Heirs of
Moliere
Translated and Edited by:
Marvin Carlson
This volume contains four
representative French comedies of
the period from the death of Moliere
to the French Revolution: Regnard' s
The Absent-Minded Lover,
Destouches's The Conceited Count,
La Chaussee's The Fashionable
Prejudice, and Laya's The Friend of
the Laws.
Translated in a poetic form that
seeks to capture the wit and spirit of
the originals, these four plays
suggest something of the range of
the Moliere inheritance, from
comedy of character through the
highly popular sentimental comedy
of the mid eighteenth century, to
comedy that employs the Moliere
tradition for more contemporary
political ends.
In addition to their humor, these comedies provide fascinating social documents that
show changing ideas about such perennial social concerns as class, gender, and
politics through the turbulent century that ended in the revolutions that gave birth to
the modern era.
USA $20.00 plus shipping $3.00 USA, $6.00 International
Please make payments in U.S. Dollars payable to:
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
Mail checks or money orders to:
Circulation Manager
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
The CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth A venue
New York, NY 10016-4309
Visit our web-site at: web.gc.cuny.edu/ mestc!
Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212-817-1868
MARTIN E. SEGAL THEATRE CENTER PUBLICATIONS
TR" L T U EDI D aY
DA G RO ;) MA IN CAR so
Pixerecourt:
Four Melodramas
Translated and Edited by:
Daniel Gerould
&
Marvin Carlson
This volume contains four of
Pixerecourt's most important
melodramas: The Ruins of Babylon,
or Jafar and Zaida, The Dog of
Montatgis, or The Forest of Bondy,
Christopher Columbus, or The
Discovery of the New World, and
Alice, or The Scottish Gravediggers,
as well as Charles Nodier's
"Introduction" to the 1843 Collected
Edition of Pixerecourt's plays and
the two theoretical essays by the
playwright, "Melodrama," and
"Final Reflections on Melodrama."
"Pixerecourt furnished the Theatre of Marvels with its most stunning effects, and
brought the classic situations of fairground comedy up-to-date. He determined the
structure of a popular theatre which was to last through the 19th century ...
Pixerecourt determined that scenery, music, dance, lighting and the very movements
of his actors should no longer be left to chance but made integral parts of his play."
Hannah Winter, The Theatre of Marvels
USA $20.00 plus shipping $3.00 USA, $6.00 International
Please make payments in U.S. Dollars payable to:
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
Mail checks or money orders to:
Circulation Manager
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
The CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309
Visit our web-site at: web.gc.cuny.edu/mestcl
Contact: mestc@gc.cuny.edu or 212-817-1868