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volume 27, no.

Spring 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. AU subscription
requests and submissions should be addressed to Slavic and East European
Performance: Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The City University of New York
Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309.
Daniel Gerould
Margaret Araneo
Cady Smith George Panaghi
Marvin Carlson
Stuart Liebman
Edwin Wilson, Chair
Allen]. 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
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has appeared must be furnished to SEEP immediately upon publication.
Daniel Gerould
Frank Hentschker
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 2007. Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.
2 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Editorial Policy
From the Editor
Books Received
"In Search of Heroes:
New Drama Festival, Moscow, 2006"
Robyn Quick
"Polish Theatre 2006:
A Director's Report"
Kazimierz Braun
''Alexander Morfov:
Bulgarian Director on Russian Soil"
Mayia Pramatarova
"Spelmar;m Nakts 2006:
Searching for New Themes in Latvian Theatre"
Jeff Johnson
"Several Witty Observations
(a Ia Gombrowit:?) at La MaMa"
Thomas Edmund Starky
" R6zewicz's Card Index Scattered in Its U.S. Premiere:
Recycling, Discarding, and Adding the Fragments"
Mark F. Tattenbaum
"Wrodaw Puppet Theatre, The Last Escape"
Martha Kirszenbaum
"Vas sa Zheleznova at the Horizon Theatre Rep:
Miracle on a Small Stage"
Olga Muratova
"Evgetry Onegin at the Bolshoi Theatre:
A Purely Russian Affair"
Maria Ignatieva
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Manuscripts in the following categories are solicited: articles of no
more than 2,500 words, performance and filln reviews, and bibliographies.
Please bear in mind that all submissions must concern themselves with
contemporary materials on Slavic and East European theatre, drama, and
film; with new approaches to older materials in recently published works; or
with new performances of older plays. In other words, we welcome
submissions reviewing innovative performances of Gogol, but we cannot
use original articles discussing Gogol as a playwright.
Although we welcome translations of articles and reviews from
foreign publications, we do reguire copyright release statements. We will also
gladly publish announcements of special events and anything else that may
be of interest to our discipline. All submissions are refereed.
All submissions must be typed double-spaced and carefully
proofread. The Chicago Manual of Sryle should be followed. Transliterations
should follow the Library of Congress system. Articles should be submitted
on computer disk, as Word Documents for Windows and a hard copy of the
article should be included. Photographs are recommended for all reviews.
All articles should be sent to the attention of Slavic and East European
Performance, c/o Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The City University of New
York Graduate Center, 365 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309.
Submissions will be evaluated, and authors will be notified after
approximately four weeks.
You may obtain more information about Slavic and East European
Performance by visiting our website at http/ / metsc. E-mail
inquiries may be addressed to
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.
Volume 27, No. 2 of SEEP is devoted to a series of articles dealing
with current playwrights, productions, and cfuectors in Russia, Poland,
Bulgaria, and Latvia. In her coverage of the New Drama Festival 2006 in
Moscow, Robyn Quick highlights the resurgence of the playwright in the
theatre and charts new directions in Russian playwriting. Director, manager,
and author Kazimierz Braun, one of the leading creators of Polish theatre in
the postwar era, presents part one of a two-part series on his experiences and
impressions revisiting Polish theatre in 2006. Mayia Pramatarova surveys the
career of Bulgarian cfuector Alexander Morfov both in his native country and
also in Russia and pinpoints the ingredients for the enduring success of several
of his celebrated productions. Jeff Johnson reports on the latest developments
in Latvian theatre as seen at the Spelmat;tu Nakts 2006 festival of best
productions held in Riga. Thomas Starky analyzes the postmodern
interpretation of Gombrowicz's writings by the Dada von Bzdulow Theatre.
Mark Tattenbaum discusses Kazimierz Braun's U.S. premiere of Tadeusz
R6zewicz's Card Index Scattered. In her review of the Wrodaw Puppet Theatre's
Last Escape at La MaMa, Martha Kirszenbaum relates the stage adaptation to
the work of Bruno Schulz on which it is based. Olga Muratova finds much to
admire in a Manhattan production of Gorky's fust pre-revolutionary version
of Vassa Maria Ignatieva weighs the merits of a controversial new
production of Tchaikovsky's Evge'!Y Onegin at the Bolshoi in Moscow.
6 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
New York City
East Coast Artists and the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York
(RCINY) presented Waxing West by Saviana Stanescu, directed by Benjamin
Mosse, at La MaMa from April 11 to 22.
The Russian American Kids Circus performed onstage at the
Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on April 22.
The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg's Seagull, a new ballet by Boris
Eifman based on Chekhov's play, was presented at New York City Center from
April 13 to 29.
Czech Centre New York presented the Czech National Theatre's
production of The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Ivan
Rajmont, at Bohemian National Hall on April 21 and 22.
The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, in collaboration with the Polish
Cultural Institute and TR Warszawa, presented a reading of Dorota
Maslowska's A Couple of Poor, Polish-Speaking Romanians, directed by Stephen
Willems, translated by Benjamin Paloff, as part of the PEN World Voices
Festival at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York on
The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center presented a discussion with
Russian Playwright Vladimir Sorokin and Polish playwright Dorota
Maslowska as part of the PEN World Voices Festival at the Graduate Center
of the City University of New York on April 26.
Prospect Theatre Company presented Ophelia: Opera in Blue by Sergei
Dreznin, adapted from Shakespeare's Hamlet, directed by May Adrales, at the
Hudson Guild Theatre from May 5 to 8.
The Lark Play Development Center presented a staged reading of
Amelia Breathes Deepfy by Romanian playwright Alina Nelega Cadariu at the
Lark on May 10.
Ripe Time is presenting the world premiere of Betrothed by Rachel
Dickstein, based on The Dybbuk by Solomon Ansky, "The Betrothed" by
Chekhov, and "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar" by Jhumpa Lahiri, with music
by Vijay Iyer, at the Ohio Theatre from May 10 to 25.
The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center and the Polish Cultural Institute
will present ~ n Evening with Polish Playwright and Filmmaker Przemyslaw
Wojcieszek," featuring excerpts from Wojcieszek's plays read by the author and
a discussion with Linda Chapman of New York Theatre Workshop, at the
Graduate Center of the City University of New York on June 7.
U.S. Regional
Chopin Theatre's production of Slawomir .Mrozek's Tango (presented
January 6 to 29, 2007) received the 2007 Best Direction Award for its director,
Brandon Bruce. The honor, presented by the Orgie Theatre Awards
Committee, is an annual award for innovative and inspiring theatrical
productions in Chicago. (See SEEP vol. 26, no. 3.)
The Puppetmaster of LM.( by Gilles Segal, translated by Sara O'Connor,
directed by Jimmy McDermott, is being presented at the Writers' Theatre in
Chicago from March 27 to July 8.
Theatre Unlimited presented Chekhov's Uncle Vc11rya in North
Hollywood, California, from April 20 to May 12.
Food for Fish, Adam Szymkowicz's adaptation of Chekhov's Three
Sisters, updated to contemporary Manhattan, is being presented at Theatre of
Note in Los Angeles from April 28 to June 2.
8 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
The Almeida Theatre presented Dying_for It by Moira Buffmi, based
on Nikolai Erdman's Suicide, directed by Anna Mackmin, in London from
March 15 to April 28.
The AJexandrinsky Theatre presented the premiere of !vans, written
and directed by Andrey Moguchy, based on The Tale of How Ivan lvanovich
Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich and other works by Gogol, in St. Petersburg on
April l O, 11, and 12.
The Studio of Theatrical Art presented Gogol's Gamblers, directed by
Sergei Zhenovach, at the Meyerhold Center in Moscow on May 4, 8, 15, and
The Maly Drama Theatre presented Shakespeare's King Lear, directed
by Lev Dodin, in St. Petersburg on May 25 and 30.
The fourteenth annual Sibiu International Theatre Festival will take
place in Sibiu, Romania from May 24 to June 3, 2007. Highlights of the
program include:
Chekhov's Seagull, translated and adapted by Maria Dinescu, directed
by Andrei ~ e r b a n at Radu Stanca National Theatre in Sibiu.
Time for Love, Time for Death by Fritz Kater, directed by Radu
AJexandru Nica, at Radu Stanca National Theatre in Sibiu.
Long Friday by Andras Visky, directed by Gabor Tompa, produced by
the Hungarian State Theatre in Cluj, Romania.
Othello, based on Shakespeare, adapted and directed by Andriy
Zholdak, at Radu Stanca National Theatre in Sibiu.
Life with an Idiot, by Veniamin Erofeev, directed by Andriy Zholdak, at
Radu Stanca National Theatre in Sibiu.
The Trap Door Theatre (Chicago) will present three plays as part
of its Romanian tour:
Letters to the President by M.S. Garvey, directed by Beata Pilch, at the
Arad-Fun Underground Festival in Arad on May 18 and at Teatru 74
in Tirgu Mures on May 24.
Old Clown Wanted by Matei V i ~ n i e c directed by Greg Fortner, at the
Arad-Fun Underground Festival in Arad on May 19; Teatru 74 in
Tirgu Mures on May 25; the Sibiu International Theatre Festival in
Sibiu on June 2; and the National Theatre in Bucharest on June 5.
The Crazy Locomotive by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, directed by
Beata Pilch, at the Arad-Fun Underground Festival in Arad on May
20 and at Teatru 74 in Tirgu Mures on May 27.
The Harbourfront Centre's New World Stage International
Performance series will present Zaryzykuj Ws.z;1stko (Risk Everything), a
multimedia performance piece by Grzegorz Jarzyna based on the work of
Canadian playwright George F. Walker, at site-specific locations throughout
Toronto, Canada, from June 3 to 10.
EUROKAZ Festival and the Croatian National Theatre (Zagreb) will
present the international theatre project Tito: the Fourth Wt91, with dramaturgy
by Branko Brezovec, from June 27 to July 4. The project will consist of
productions documenting the life of Josip Broz Tito, providing a "revisionist
analysis of the key issues of the twentieth century." Productions will be co-
produced by Eurokaz (Zagreb), Teatar & TD (Zagreb), Slovensko Narodno
Gledalisce (Ljubljana), Festival EX PONTO (Ljubljana), Naroden Teatar
(Bitola), Kampnagel (Hamburg), and Laboratorio Nove (Florence). The
festival will premiere in June at Kampnagel and will then tour, featuring
symposia, exhibitions, films, and other activities. For updated schedules and
venue information, visit
10 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 2
The Fourteenth EX PONTO International Festival will take place in
September 2007 in Ljubljana (Slovenija). The theme of the festival will be
"Politics in Theatre and Theatre in Politics." For updated schedules and venue
information, please visit
New York City
Flower of Silence, a documentary portrait of a deaf-mute dancer,
directed by Magda Batorska, was screened at Anthology Film Archives on
March 21.
The Department of Film at MoMA presented Sophie Fiennes's The
Pervert's Guide to Cinema, a documentary in which Slovenian theorist Slavoj
Zizek is inserted into film clips to provide analysis of works by Alfred
Hitchcock, David Lynch, and the Marx Brothers, from April 18 to 23.
The sixth annual Tribeca Film Festival was held at various venues
from April 26 to May 5 and featured the following East European films:
Armin, directed by Ognjen Svilicic, May 2, 4, 5, and 6.
The Forry-First, directed by Grigori Chukhrai, April 28 and May 4.
A Guest of Lzje, directed by Tibor Szemz6, April 27, 28, 30, and
The Letter That Was Never Sent, directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, April 28
and May 4.
Miss Universe 1929, directed by Peter Forgacs, April 26, 28, 30,
and May 1 and 3.
Plt!Jing the Victim, directed by Kirill Serebrennikov, April 26, 27, 29,
and May 1, 4, and 5.
The Rifuge C i ~ directed by Wojciech Kasperski, with a post-screening
Q&A, April26, 28, 29, and May 1 and 5.
Taxidermia, directed by Gyorgy Pilfi in its U.S. premiere, May 1, 3,
4, and 6.
Memories about St:ryat Nova, directed by Sergei Paradjanov (newly
discovered scenes from the 1968 film), May 5 and 6.
The Polish Cultural Institute in New York and the Polish Film
Institute in Warsaw presented The Seeds, directed by Wojciech Kasperski, at
Galapagos Art Space on May 2.
The Hungarian Cultural Center honored three directors, Gyorgy
Pilfi, Peter Forgacs, and Tibor Szemz6, whose films were featured in the
Tribeca Film Festival, at a party at the Hungarian Cultural Center on May 4.
The Museum of Modern Art presented .A{y Nikifor, directed by
K.rzysztof Krauze, at Niuta Titus Theater 1 on May 4, 5, and 7.
The fifth annual Polish Film festival was held at various venues in
London from March 15 to 25 and featured the following films:
Jasminum, directed by Jan Jakub Kolski in its U.K. premiere, March 15.
How To Live, directed by Marcel, March 16.
What the Sun Saw, directed by Michal Rosa, March 17.
Facing Up, directed by Marek Stacharski with a post-screening Q&A,
March 18.
Don't Stop, directed by Jacek Chamot, March 20.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Retrieval, directed by Slawomir Fabicki, March 23.
Crossroads Cqfo, directed by Leszek Wosiewicz. March 24.
Copying Beethoven, directed by Agnieszka Holland, March 25.
The Portraitist, directed by Ireneusz Dobrowolski, was presented at
West London Synagogue in London, U.K., on April 22.
The Dubrovnik International Film Festival will take place in
Dubrovnik, Croatia, from May 30 to June 3. The festival program was
unavailable at the time of publishing. For updated information, visit
The University of Kent and the British Grotowski Project will
present the U.K. premiere of the digitally remastered film version of
Grotowski's The Constant Prince at the University of Kent, Canterbury, on June
11. The screening will also feature a discussion with the original creative team,
Maja Komorowska, Rena Mirecka, Zygmunt Molik, Mieczysbw Janowski, and
Stefania Gardecka, as well as an exhibition of production photos and
scenographic designs and drawings. For more information, visit the British
Grotowski Project's website at
New York City
Following a discussion at the Romanian Cultural Institute New York
(RCINY), artist Dan Perjovschi performed his installation ''What Happened
to Us," in which viewers were able to watch him draw on a large wall beginning
April 19. The piece is at MoMA through August 27.
U.S. and International
Corina Sutec interviewed visual artist Dan Perjovschi at the
Romanian Cultural Institute New York (RCINY) on April26.
The Baryshnikov Dance Foundation hosted an open lesson and
demonstration with Lev Dodin, Artistic Director of the Maly Theatre, and
students of the St. Petersburg Academy of Theatrical Arts (Maly Drama
Theatre Studio) at the Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) in New York on
May 3 to 5.
The Romanian Cultural Institute New York (RCINY) presented a
panel discussion in honor of the release of the international edition of
American Theatre magazine, featuring senior editor Randy Gener and Romanian
theatre directors Radu Afrirn and Gabor Tompa, at RCINY on May 14.
Representatives of the Lark Play Development Center (New York)
and the Odeon Theatre (Bucharest) will present a discussion of their ongoing
theatre exchange program at the Romanian Cultural Institute New York
(RICNY) on June 21.
Jaroslaw Fret and Dr. Grzegorz Ziolkowski, will present Atelier:
Source Techniques and Sources of Techniques, a series of practical and
theory-based workshops at the Grotowski Institute in Wrodaw, Poland from
June 20 to July 20.
14 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Banks, Brian R. Muse & Messiah: The Life, Imagination & Legacy of Bruno Schulz
(1892-1942). InkerMen Press, 2006. 319 pages. Contains five chapters, "The Myth
of Reality," "Landscapes of a Vision," "Procession of Masks," "Life and Art,"
"From Literature to Tragedy," and "Reality and the Spectre," as well as Notes,
Bibliography, Chronology, Appendix, and 22 pages of illustrations.
Brandesky, Joe, ed. Czech Theatre Design in the Twentieth Century: Metaphor & Irony
Revisited. Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2007. 97 pages. Includes five
essays with illustrations: Joseph Brandesky, "Sources of the Czech Design
Legacy"; Vera Ptickovi, "Trends in Twentieth-Century Czech Theatre Design";
Dennis P. Christilles, "Czech Scenography in America"; Delbert Unruh,
"Modernism to Imagism"; and Marie Zdenkovi, "Authority, Playfulness,
Metaphor, and Irony"; as well as Helena Albertovi and Joseph Brandesky,
"Biographies of Designers," List of CD Images, Selected Bibliography, and a
CD-ROM containing 138 images of productions.
Senelick, Laurence. Historical Dictionary of Russian Theater. (Historical Dictionaries
of Literature and the Arts, No. 14). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2007. 528
pages. Includes Editor's Foreword, Preface by Jon Woronoff, Transliteration
Acronyms, Chronology, Introduction, Dictionary, Original Titles of Works Cited,
Bibliography, and twenty-three photographs.
The Theatre in Poland 1- 2, 2006. 71 pages. Contains the following essays: Krystian
Lupa, "Art and Power;" Wojciech Majcherek, "The Paradox of Political Theatre;"
and Tadeusz Kornas, "Romantics and Barbarians;" as well as articles on New
Productions, New Polish Plays, and Books on the Theatre. Includes many
photographs, some in color.
The Theatre in Poland, 3-4, 2006. 70 pages. Contains a number of essays on puppet
theatre including Liliana Bardijewska, "Teatr Lalka-Tradition and Modernity";
Katarzyna R:tczka, "Puppets Have Their Secrets"; and Magdalena Legendi,
"Virrual World"; as well as articles on New Productions, New Polish Plays, and
Books on the Theatre. Includes many photographs, some in color.
Robyn Quick
Throughout Moscow in September of 2006, bright green signs on
billboards in subway stations and strewn across major thoroughfares
announced the presence of the New Drama Festival-a ten-day celebration of
contemporary playwriting that began each morning in vigorous conversations
crowded into a small rehearsal room and ended late each evening with post-
production performances in a theatre cafe. The ubiquitous festival banners,
signs, and T-shirts not only paid respect to a previous generation of Russian
theatrical innovators, through the abstract image of a seagull, but also
proclaimed the festival's call to the future: "In Search of Heroes." The festival
hopes to encourage and inspire a new generation of heroes to lead Russian
theatre. Yet the precise nature and mission of those heroes is clearly a work-
in-process. In the morning discussion session, called "Heroes," moderator
Mikhail Ugarov, playwright, director, and also one of the festival's founders,
repeatedly invited each audience member to interpret this concept as he or she
saw fit. A similar diversity of opinions has surrounded the definition of new
drama itself since the festival's inception in 2002. Some have sought to classify
new drama by the generational concerns of its playwrights or by the
controversial themes or innovative dramaturgical techniques found in the
plays. Others have suggested that the very variety of styles and subjects seen
in new dramatic writing defines new drama because that diversity provides a
vitality that is badly needed in contemporary Russian theatre. The debate itself
seems to be an important part of the movement's search for new dramatic
writing that will capture the yearnings of a young generation of citizens at a
time of important transition in Russian society and theatre.
The festival designed to support and promote new drama clearly
hopes to embody some of this urgent, contemporary energy. Its English-
language website describes the event as "an acid-test which brilliantly shows a
nerve of a human who keeps up to the pace of modern life." Although
Ugarov and his colleagues Elena Gremina and Eduard Boyakov started the
festival just five years ago, they believe it has already helped change the
theatrical landscape in Moscow and make a space for new voices in theatre.
16 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 2
When the festival began, some young playwrights were already creating work
that blends frank discussions of contemporary social issues with bold
experiments in theatrical style, but few theatre artists and even fewer audience
members were familiar with this writing. Certainly, Moscow theatres were not
producing the plays. The last five years, however, have seen the emergence of
performance spaces like Teatr.doc and Praktika Theatre-small, hip, theatres
tucked into basements of residence buildings that appeal to younger, less
traditional audiences and produce new dramas. Recently more established
theatres have also started tapping into this trend. Just one year following the
New Drama Festival 2004 production of The Cultural LAyer by the Durnenkov
Brothers, the play was produced by the venerable Moscow Art Theatre.
Productions of new dramas have also helped encourage other young writers
to view the stage as a potential venue to express their visions of the world.
Playwright Yuri Klavdiev notes that seeing Ivan Vyrypaev's O>rygen in 2002
inspired him to start writing for the theatre. Since that time, his own plays have
become so closely associated with new drama that Klavdiev was featured as a
festival "hero" during a morning discussion session at this year's festival.
Proud as they are of the festival's achievements in promoting new
drama so far, festival organizers still see much work to be done. For director
Eduard Boyakov, the festival's mission in the present and future is
fundamentally linked to the unique challenges presented by this particular
moment in Russian theatre history. After three hundred years, he believes that
the "beautiful ship" of Russian theatre has sunk. Unlike their predecessors,
who always responded to the ideology of the society around them,
contemporary Russian theatre artists are operating in a complete vacuum of
ideology. As a result, he argues, the theatre has lost the ability to raise
important issues and to surprise people. Boyakov believes that much
contemporary theatre also fails to speak to audiences because it focuses on the
preservation of past theatrical performances and traditions rather than on
relating directly to audience members' experiences in the contemporary world.
Instead, he suggests that theatre artists respond to their legacy as the "children
of Stanislavsky and Chekhov" by finding a way to build a bridge between these
past geniuses and the geniuses of the future. It is those new geniuses, or
"heroes" who will supply the ideology and the inspiration for new theatre.
Boyakov hopes his festival can help create the conditions for such heroes to
The 2006 festival presented a varied program of activities to inspire
these future geniuses of new drama and encourage interest in contemporary
writing among audience members. The main program featured a series of full
productions of contemporary plays, presented each evening at Praktika
Theatre, Teatr.doc, and the Meyerhold Center. Festival Press Manager Maria
Kublanova explained that the plays chosen for the production program
offered either fresh treatment of contemporary issues or innovative theatrical
expression of enduring themes. Artistic Director Christina Matvienko selected
the twenty-two entries from out of over 250 applications submitted from
around the world. This year's festival had a stronger international component
than in previous years, with both productions and guests bringing additional
perspectives to the conversation about new drama. (The United States was
represented on stage by Richard Maxwell's Drummer !Panted and in the
audience by visitors from Philip Arnoult's Center for International Theatre
Development in Baltimore. Arnoult, who served on the festival jury in 2005,
has contributed to the festival's international presence by bringing guests from
theatres in the United States to all but the inaugural festival.)
Many of the productions themselves crossed cultural and artistic
boundaries and suggested the broader relevance of concerns and techniques
popular in new drama as well as the continued sprit of experimentation and
exploration that surrounds the movement. Russian new dramas by such
familiar festival playwrights as Vasily Sigarev and Ivan Vyrypaev received fresh
interpretations. Sigarev's Plasticine was staged using the Yakut language and the
theatrical style of the Humor and Satire Theatre of Yakutsk. Vyrypaev's
Dreams was presented by solo performer Agata Kuciilska, from the Polish
company Teatr Ad Spectatores, who operated a company of miniature
puppets isolated from each other in a small tabletop aquarium. Russian
companies who have found resonance in plays by Sarah Kane and Martin
McDonagh also brought their productions of plays by these authors to the
While the plays presented in the evening productions may have been
written at any time during the last decade, the afternoon portion of the
program featured readings of very recent new dramas that have not yet
received full productions. (These afternoon sessions were called "Attempts.")
Those scripts included plays from a recent festival in Liubimovka and new
British plays in Russian translation. Student videos and workshop
18 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Plasticine by Vasily Sigarev, the Humor and Satire Theatre of Yakutsk,
New Drama Festival, Moscow, 2006
performances also helped to provide a varied afternoon program of artistic
experiments that would further the festival's conversations about innovative
ideas in Russian theatre. These afternoon events were free to the public, as
were the morning discussions led by prominent artists with strong connections
to the new drama movement. The hero of each morning session was invited
to select a topic of his or her choosing. One particularly striking aspect of the
heroes sessions was that the leaders of one day's discussion became the
audience members of the next. Like much of the festival, this session was
designed to gather artists in the same room to share ideas, inspire one another,
and debate and define the field together. These talks and the resultant lively
debates with the audience helped to articulate some of the most pressing
issues facing the artists and the art form. Those same issues were then
explored .in theatrical form through the evening performances.
Production issues played a major role in the discussions swirling
around the New Drama Festival this year. Perhaps, not surprisingly, a major
thread of those discussions was the role of the playwright and the integrity of
the text in the production process. In the Russian theatre, where the director
has long served as the commanding officer, playwrights rarely attend
rehearsals. Directors are far more accustomed to adapting classic texts to their
own ideas than to dealing with the concerns and desires of contemporary
playwrights. But the festival's morning heroes sessions gave these playwrights
and their supporters a chance to voice their concerns about current practices
such as the liberties directors often take in altering the text of their plays. In
speaking with fellow playwrights Vyacheslav and Mikhail Durnenkov, Ugarov
suggested that new drama might be best served if directors would begin to
listen to their playwrights, even if they did not always follow the playwrights'
For their part, directors claim they don't understand new drama.
Certainly they have not been trained to direct it. In his heroes session, director
Andrey Moguchy defended his vision of the director as a translator who must
use techniques that have nothing to do with playwriting. He argued it would be
the "grave of the text" if directors did not consider production a separate
entity from the text and exercise their own judgment as to how that text might
be best realized on stage. Moguchy's session brought this debate to explosive
levels as the discussion moved to the presentation, the previous evening, of his
Non-Hamlet. In this performance, Moguchy freely cut and rearranged portions
20 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.3
of Vladimir Sorokin's play Dismorphomania. Some audience members familiar
with the text, including the playwright who was seeing the production for the
first time, believed that Moguchy's rewrites significantly altered the intent of
the original play. Moguchy countered with his opinion that he thoroughly
understood the play. His production, he argued, was his effort to bring that
understanding to the audience.
While Moguchy's controversial Non-Hamlet offered a specific focus
for conversations about the relationship between text and production, other
performances demonstrated themes common to new drama's concern with
the individual struggling to survive in a harsh contemporary world. In Sigarev's
Plasticine, a young teenager becomes increasingly alienated and hardened by a
world where he is verbally and physically abused at every turn. The broad
physical performance style and garish color palette of this production seemed
to emphasize the madness and absurdity of a world that consistently, and
somewhat inexplicably, treats him with violence and disdain.
In a similar vein, the Romanian play Macfybal? by Gianina
Carbunariu depicts a world in which relationships are habitually exploited for
personal gain. In this case, a young woman with big dreams is lured into the
erotic film industry where she is exploited and eventually destroyed. The
electronic pulse of the Teatrul Mic production's soundscape and graphic
images of its video score provided a particularly dark and frightening
incarnation of the festival's desire to present "a nerve of a human who keeps
up to the pace of modern life."
Frustrated desires also permeate Three Acts about Four Paintings,
Vyacheslav Durnenkov's study of a young heroin-addicted writer whose
search for personal and artistic fulfillment leads him through a serious of dark
and dangerous encounters. Although ostensibly set in the nineteenth-century,
the Praktika Theatre production drew parallels to our contemporary world
through video clips that take us from nineteenth century paintings to icons of
modern life.
Detractors of new drama find subjects such as drug addiction and
prostitution as well as the frank contemporary language many of the plays use
to be inappropriate and unappealing. But in her heroes session, scholar and
leader of the festival jury, Marina Davydova, defended the plays as
representing a new application of humanism in dramatic writing. Unlike the
classical humanist vision of characters as representing ideal human beings, she
argued the new approach expresses great compassion for suffering individuals
who are struggling to make some sense of life because they are born into a
terrible world.
Director Vladimir Pankov uses an underground street passageway to
provide both literal and metaphoric expression for this terrible world in his
Passage. The tunnel through which Muscovites traverse busy streets serves as
the setting for a series of encounters among prostitutes, drug addicts, and
homeless individuals. They fight, steal, and sometimes seek narcotic escape
from a harsh environment that is clearly intended to mirror the realities of
urban existence for many outside the theatre's doors. The concept of a
passageway from one place to the next also resonates in terms of this society's
transition between the structures and values of the Soviet Union and the
society yet to be constructed in their future. Despite the presence of police
officers and business leaders seeking to exert authority in Pankov's
subterranean world, the characters function without ethical or legal guidelines
to structure their experience. It is, in fact, the ideological vacuum that Boyakov
described as the condition of contemporary Russian life. The consistent
presence of an innocent child bearing silent witness to the unfolding events
emphasizes the importance of this transition-to a future generation whose
impressions about the world are being formed by actions in the present.
Festival productions and discussions related not only to these
recurrent themes in new drama but also to new theatrical forms
playwrights and directors might use to embody their ideas. In their desire
to make theatre relevant to a new generation of audience members, some
artists are not simply drawing their characters and situations from
contemporary life. Instead, they are finding ways to put the spectators
themselves on stage. In Democracy.doc, a theatrical event that might be
described as part game show, part structured improvisation, two
performers create a dialogue with the audience to discuss and debate the
meaning of democracy. Ultimately the conversation takes theatrical form
as one audience member's story is cast from among the audience and
rehearsed with the rest of the audience serving as director to shape the
New drama also gives people a voice through the popular technique
of verbatim, in which playwrights gather their dialogue directly from
conversations they have overheard in everyday life. In describing the
22 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Democracy. doc by Nina Belenitskaya and Ivan Ugarov, Teatr.doc,
New Drama Festival, Moscow, 2006
popularity of this technique in new dramas, Boyakov has suggested that
playwrights do not necessarily need to find words. They can develop plots, but
use the words of others. The workplace seems to be a popular place to collect
these words of others. Alexander Vartanov's Great Troughing, which appeared
at the festival in a production of the Teatr Ad Spectatores from Wrodaw,
Poland, tells the story of political battles and romantic entanglements
occurring in the backstage world of a television show. In a similar vein, Manager
depicts the inner workings of an office through verbatim language recorded by
members of the Teatr.doc company. Manager received the festival Jury's Award.
Another verbatim festival production, Elena Isayeva's Doc.tor; is based upon
interviews with a doctor who worked in rural Russia.
Doc. tor, perhaps one of the most artistically innovative productions
in the festival and the recipient of the Best Performance Award, combines
the use of verbatim with another new theatrical technique: soundrama. The
term was coined by director Pankov to describe his use of sound design as
a primary element of theatrical performance. In his heroes session, Pankov
Doc. tor by Elena Isaeva, Teatr.doc and Soundrama, New Drama Festival, Moscow, 2006



Doc. tor by Elena Isaeva, Teatr.doc and Soundrama, New Drama Festival, Moscow, 2006
Chernof?yl Prqyer by Svetlana Alexicvich, Lehtonen Production,
New Drama Festival, Moscow, 2006
Slavic and E ast European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
demonstrated how his company creates drama out of sound. Over a
baseline of audience humming, members of his Soundrama Studio added
voices and various types of musical instruments to create a musical dialogue.
His production of Passage made use of a similarly eclectic aural mix, with
recorded street sounds and classical and folk instruments interacting to depict
the literal experiences as well as the emotional reactions of characters. In
Doc.tor actors rapped, chanted, and provided percussion by snapping rubber
gloves to accompany stylized movement that depicted both the human
traumas encountered by the medical team and their efforts to express the
frustrations of their jobs. Just as Pankov combined electronically produced
sounds with live instruments in the aural performances of his production,
others at the festival mixed video with live performance. In Lehtonen
Production's Chernobyl Prqyer by Svetlana Alexievich, documentary footage of
the Chernobyl disaster provided a backdrop for the stories of victims. The
video, projected on large screens suspended in mid-air, helped evoke the
terrifying physical scale of the event, while intimate monologues provided
compelling individual instances of human suffering resulting from this tragic
event in Russian history. In Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis, presented by the
Fantastic Reality Theatre of Syktyvkar, video provided vivid images of fire and
destruction to help convey the protagonist's internal agony.
In their raw exploration of human struggles and social problems, new
dramas may seem to offer a bleak portrait of contemporary Russian life. But
these plays also offer the potential for individual citizens to be given serious
attention on stage. Their stories might be told in plays about neglected teens,
alienated intellectuals, or frustrated office workers. Their words, overheard in
parks or on the metro, might become dramatic dialogue. A world of
uncertainty and change is also a world of endless possibilities. Today's curious
new audience member might be tomorrow's celebrated playwright. Anyone
might be a hero.
* Special thanks to Philip Arnoult for inviting me to attend the New Drama
Festival as part of the group sponsored by The Center for International
Theatre Development's New Directions-New Voices: Russian/U.S. Theatre
Kazimierz Braun
In the spring and summer 2006, I directed again in my native Poland,
where I had worked as director, theatre manager, and academic for nearly
twenty-five years. My Polish career started with my debut as a director in
professional theatre in 1961 and lasted until 1984, when I was fired by the
Communist regime from my position of Artistic Director of the
Contemporary Theatre in Wrodaw and lost my job at Wrodaw University.
Eventually, I was forced to emigrate. I found many new colleagues, helpers,
and friends, and a new place in the United States. Since Poland regained its
independence in 1989, I return to Poland occasionally to direct, teach courses
or workshops at universities and schools of drama, participate in congresses
or symposia. I also publish in my native tongue. In America, I follow the latest
developments in Polish theatre.
I spent almost three months in Poland, from early May to late July
2006. During this time I directed and attended the theatre. I talked to many
theatre people and read reviews every day. I taught a workshop for directors,
participated in two international literary conferences, and made a number of
appearances at promotional meetings for my recently published Polish books.
This extended period in Poland gave me a fresh look at contemporary
Polish theatre both from the inside, that is, from the point of view of a
practicing artist, and from the outside, from the point of view of a spectator
and observer. After an apathetic hiatus in the 1990s, theatrical life in Poland is
again diverse and energetic. The public has returned to the theatres, including
opera, operetta, and musicals. In the following report, I will focus on my
contacts with the non-musical theatre.
I directed Roman Brandstaetter's Upadek kamiennego domu (Fall of a
Stone House) (1957) at the Solski Theatre in Tarn6w. The play belongs to the
European tradition of psychological and realistic drama started by Ibsen
enhanced by the symbolism found in Chekhov's plays. This complex realistic-
symbolic tradition was followed in Poland by Tadeusz Rittner in the 1910s and
by Jerzy Szaniawski from the 1920s until the 1940s.
The Fall of a Stone House is a play about human conscience and moral
28 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
values in times of crisis. It tells the story of a young composer, Marco, who
during the war (the action takes place in Rome, in 1943) committed a crime of
omission: out of fear and selfishness he refused to help an underground
fighter fleeing the Gestapo. This man was-probably-killed. Since then, the
composer has been hunted by his deed-as Orestes by the Furies. He tries to
find refuge in his mother's house, a remodeled ancient Roman temple that she
now runs as a "bed and breakfast."
In one of the guests Marco thinks he recognizes his victim, imagining
that the man survived and now returns to seek revenge. His mother tries to
defend her son. The end of the play leaves us in doubt: Was the stranger the
victim, or was this only Marco's imagination? Was Marco vindicated, or driven
by guilt, will he commit suicide? Marco departs in haste. The stranger
disappears. The mother is left alone in her stone house which is still intact, yet,
for her, now in ruins. Written by a Polish Jew, set in Italy, containing hidden
references to ancient Greek and Roman mythology and to Catholic morality,
the play has a universal meaning and appeal. It offered the actors the
opportunity to create profound and complex characters, while allowing me, as
director, to stage a visionary poetic scene of Marco's remembrance of his
confrontation with the underground fighter fleeing the Gestapo agents
pursuing him.
The author, Roman Brandstaetter (1906-1987), is one of the most
fascinating figures in twentieth-century Polish literature. He was a poet,
playwright, prose writer, and translator. A Jew, after his conversion to
Catholicism, he became an acclaimed religious writer. As such, he was
deliberately marginalized in Communist Poland. His life and work was
multifarious and intriguing. Recently he has been rediscovered and is
considered a guiding spirit of the ongoing Polish-Jewish dialogue.
Brandstaetter was born in Tarnow, Poland, in an orthodox Jewish
family. Early in life he was taught Hebrew and Yiddish and read and
memorized the Old Testament. As a young man, he became a Zionist activist
and a journalist at The Jewish Monthfy. At the beginning of World War II he
escaped to Palestine. There he deepened his knowledge of the Bible, Jewish
traditions, manners, and culture. He had premonitions of the Holocaust, and
when he learned that all his family had perished, he felt guilty that he survived;
his loss and suffering intensified his link to his Jewish heritage. The Jewish
thread was the most important element of Brandstaetter's spiritual, religious,
and literary experiences for the first forty years of his life.
The Polish thread of his life also appeared early. His home and his
synagogue in Tarnow were surrounded by Polish culture, history, manners, and
spirituality, especially in a city steeped in Polish medieval traditions and
strongly engaged in the Polish independence movement at the beginning of
the twentieth century. For the first twelve years of his life, under the partition
of Poland, Tarnow was governed by the Austrians. Brandstaetter learned
Polish very early; actually, as he recalls, his Polish primer was the Renaissance
Bible. He then went to Polish schools, where he studied Polish literature,
regarded as the treasury of national traditions.
This initiation into Polish culture led him to study Polish literature at
the Jagiellonian University in Cracow and to sta.rt writing poetry in Polish. As
a result of his constant immersion in Polish culture, Brandstaetter came into
contact with Catholicism. There were many steps leading him there: a cross
shown him by his nanny in a church, the cross in his classroom, the traditional
Corpus Christi procession on the city streets, and the whole cycle of Catholic
religious feasts celebrated by his Polish neighbors. This Catholic thread
strengthened during the war. While in Jerusalem, Brandstaetter discovered not
only footprints of Jewish kings and prophets, but of Jesus Christ as well. He
started to walk Christ's ways all over the Holy Land and to read the New
Testament. Eventually, just after the war, he converted to Catholicism and was
baptized in Rome in 1946. Then he began his career as a Catholic writer.
A fmal significant thread in Brandstaetter's life and work is the
European one. He built his European formation by learning European
languages: classical (Greek and Latin) and modern (German, French, English,
and Italian) and reading- he was a passionate reader-the whole corpus of
great European literature. He studied in Paris from 1929 to 1931, traveled to
Greece in 1935, and lived in Rome from 1946 to 1948. Later, he journeyed to
attend the openings of his plays all over Europe. Eventually, he absorbed and
made his own of all these different traditions and values: Jewish and Polish,
Judaic and Catholic, as well as pan-European.
Brandstaetter wrote some twenty dramas, including historical plays:
Return of the Prodigal Son (Rembrandt), The Theatre of Sr. Francis (St. Francis of
Assisi), The King and the Actor ( Wojciech Boguslawski, "father" of the Polish
National Theatre in the late eighteenth century), The Signs of Freedom (Adam
Mickiewicz), and Copernicus. He also wrote several contemporary psychological
30 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 2
plays: The Fall of a Stone House, The High Moon Drama, Death at the Artemis Shores,
and The Dqy of Wrath. He published many volumes of poetry, especially
religious. He translated The Four Gospels and The Acts of the Apostles and five
plays by Shakespeare. He also wrote a four-volume Jesus of Nazareth.
Working with Wojciech Markiewicz, the manager and artistic director
of Tarnow's Solski Theatre, I was able to secure an excellent cast for
Brandstaetter's play. Teresa Budzisz-Krzyzanowska, a great star of the Polish
stage, played the leading role of the Mother in The Fall of a Stone House. I
realized a dream in being able to work for two months with this "great lady of
Polish theatre."2
Teresa Budzisz-Krzyzanowska has had a brilliant stage and screen
career, first in Cracow, then in Warsaw. She performed many memorable leads
in Polish poetic classical plays, especially in Stanislaw Wyspiariski's Wedding
(Rachel) and November's Night (Joanna); her portrait of Mary in Long Dqy's
Journry Into Night by Eugene O'Neil was considered a masterpiece of
psychological, nervous, realistic acting with a touch of madness; as Nurse
Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Dale Wasserman (based on Ken
Kesey) she was cruel, cold, and decisive. In her role of Mother in The Fall of a
Stone House she used the wide range of her means of expression-from
delicate, discrete, sweet, and loving care for her son, to the strong and vigorous
defense of him when he was in peril, and to the desperate, heart-breaking
begging for his safety. Herself a professor of acting at the National School of
Drama in Warsaw, she helped me considerably in directing the younger
members of the cast. Working with her was for me both a great professional
and human experience.
Teresa Budzisz-Krzyzanowska was accompanied by a talented and
mature ensemble: Krzysztof Radkowski, a young star also invited from
Warsaw, and the Tarnow's Solski Theatre company, including Marek
and Piotr A beautiful stage design representing the ancient Roman
temple remodeled as a modern villa was masterly designed by Tadeusz
Smolicki, who also designed the costumes.
The "first opening" of The Fall of a Stone House took place in Tarnow
on June 17, 2006, and the "second opening" on the stage of the Teatr Stary in
Cracow on June 19. This "double opening" was organized because both
Tarnow and Cracow wanted to give the production a special status and
meaning. Actually, both cities connected the opening with the centenary of the
Director Kazimierz Braun and his assistant Agnieszka Popowska during
rehearsal of The Fall of a Stone House, Solski Theatre, Tarnow, 2006
author's birth and the seventieth birthday of the director, as well as his
anniversary of forty-five years of theatre work. After each of the
performances in both cities a ceremony was held on the stage, including
speeches and readings of congratulatory letters; one of them was a personal
letter from the President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski.
The production was fUmed and will be broadcast on Polish Public
Television. Additionally, a documentary film on my work on the
Brandstaetter's play was shot under the direction of Krzysztof Miklaszewski.
The structure of theatre life in Poland has not changed much, if at all,
since the fall of Communism. The Solski Theatre in Tarnow, where I directed,
is typical of Polish institutional theatre. Its structure, legal status, methods of
operating, and social outreach have remained basically intact for the last fifty
years. It has its own building with a proscenium stage and auditorium with
approximately four hundred seats. It has its permanent professional acting
company of about twenty, and, if necessary, it casts actors from the outside
32 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Teresa Budzisz-Krzyzanowska, The Fall of a Stone House,
directed by Kazimierz Braun, Solski Theatre, Tarnow, 2006
(both from other theatres companies and freelancers); it also has two
permanent stage managers. The designers, choreographers, and composers are
invited/hired for each production. The theatre has its permanent
administrative and technical staff, each of about ten specialists, including light
and sound operators. There are well-equipped shops of carpentry, ironwork,
prop-building, along with warehouses and collections of costumes and props.
The theatre is subsidized by the city of Tarnow to the amount of about half
of its yearly budget, which covers salaries of the permanent employees. The
remaining money must be raised by tickets sales and other means. Its financial
situation precarious, the theatre must constantly apply for various grants.
Theatres such as the Solski Theatre in Tarnow are still the most
typical features of theatrical life in Poland. These theatres might be compared
to the network of "regional theatres" in America and Great Britain, or the
network of city theatres in Germany and elsewhere. The Polish network is
composed of about sixty drama theatres; about twenty operas, operettas, and
music stages; and about twenty puppet theatres. All of them are partially
subsidized by the taxpayers, that is, by cities or regional administrations. These
subsidies were cut approximately in half since the political change in Poland in
Besides theatres subsidized locally, there are three national theatres
that are directly funded and controlled by the Ministry of Culture. These three
are the Narodowy in Warsaw, the Stary in Cracow, and the Wielki (the opera
and ballet theatre) in Warsaw. Their financial situations are considerally better
than all other subsidized stages.
A network of professional theatres for children and youth is a
particular facet of Polish theatre life. Traditionally they are called "puppet
theatres," but they offer productions with both puppets and live actors, and, in
addition to shows for young audiences, they also prepare productions for
adults. As with straight/dramatic, as well as the music theatres, they are
separate institutions, owning their buildings and having permanent companies
of actors, technicians, and administrators. Actors/puppeteers working in these
theatres are trained by two special departments of puppetry at the schools of
drama in Wrodaw and Bialystok (a branch of the National School of Drama
in Warsaw). In addition to stage acting these departments offer classes in
various puppetry techniques as well as building puppets.
Group visits of school students to theatres are a habitual method of
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
introducing young people to participation in the cultural life of Poland. Many
"regular" theatres-not only puppet theatres-prepare special productions
for young audiences of various ages. The shows range from fairy tales to
classical dramas and adaptations of classical epics or novels. For example, I
saw a production of Homer's Otfyssf!Y at Teatr Polski in Warsaw based on the
beautiful translation of Jan Parandowski, adapted and directed by Jaroslaw
Kilian, with a large cast of about thirty actors. Several hundred school students
packed the auditorium.
A network of alternative, experimental, or avant-garde theatres is
large and constantly grows. They might be compared to "off-off Broadway"
in the United States or "fringe" in Great Britain. They produce mostly original
works, often based on collective creation. They play in all sorts of non-theatre
venues. Their actors are professionals, semi-professionals, and amateurs. The
best and the best-known of them is the Gardzienice Association led by
Wlodzimierz Staniewski.
Also private theatres are emerging here and there, as the Warsaw stage
of the great star Krystyna Janda. Theiy do not have yet their specific niche in
the whole structure of theatre, and they are struggling to build their audiences.
The TV Theatre has been a particular, special, and original
component of theatre life in Poland for years. It was broad casted on the Public
Television (that is, state television) every Monday at 8:00 PM-Mondays were
always black in theatres so actors could appear on TV (at first they performed
live, only later were the shows recorded), and on that day, audiences could not
see other shows. It originated in the late 1950s, and regularly presented a new
production every week. It became a widely watched program with very high
ratings. It provided high quality productions of both classical and
contemporary plays with an excellent cast of the best Polish actors, first of all
from Warsaw, but also from other major theatre centers, such as Cracow or
Wroclaw. I worked for the Monday TV Theatre for many years, and it was
there that I was able to cast such great stars as Irena Eichler6wna, Aleksandra
S l ~ s k a Gustaw Holoubek, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, and Igor Przegrodzki.
The Monday TV Theatre declined rapidly during the period of
martial law in the early 1980s, when it was boycotted by artists (actors,
directors, and writers) within the widespread boycott of the mass media-a
powerful means of protest against the Communist Party-Military Junta. Trying
to break the boycott, the Junta's controlled Public Television started to fJ..lm
weak and indeed bad productions in some provincial theatres where the
boycott was easier to suppress. The Junta also aired old productions with star
casts without the permission of the actors or the directors of these shows, and
without stating when such productions were ftlmed. These tactics destroyed
the Monday TV Theatre by damaging its credibility, lowering the quality of
productions, and turning it into a propaganda tool; the public knew that
anything shown on the TV during those days was not only totally censored but
had to be supportive of the Junta.
In the 1990s, after the political change and shift from a centrally
controlled economy to the free market system, Public Television gradually
became more and more commercialized and additionally met fierce
competition from the independent and fully commercial channels, as well as
foreign channels that were sprouting all over the airways. As a result, Monday
TV Theatre was relegated to later hours with fewer new productions, lost a
large part of its audience, and ceased to be a weekly event. lt still exists but
does not play as significant a role as before and no longer attracts the best
actors or directors.
Theatre festivals, both domestic and international, have been
important aspects of theatrical life in Poland since the 1960s. These European
festivals, consisting of meetings, encounters, confrontations of many theatres
in one city lasting from a few days to a few weeks, differ from American
festivals, where one company may perform several Shakespeare plays over two
months in a single outdoor venue. Theatre festivals in Poland were first
organized in Toruri, Kalisz, and Wrodaw; gradually their numbers have
At present, different festivals take place almost the whole year round
in many cities and even small towns. There is an annual festival of classic
Polish plays in Opole. A festival of Polish contemporary plays, called
"R@Port," is now held in Gdynia, continuing the thirty-five-year-old tradition
of the Wrodaw festival and including both live theatre productions on stage
and Monday TV Theatre performances on screen. A festival of comedy takes
place annually in Tarnow. Radom offers a festival devoted to Witold
Gombrowicz. There are "Cabaret Encounters" in Warsaw, as well as annual
theatre festivals in Kalisz, L6di, Rzesz6w, Ciechan6w ("Dionysus Festival'')
and many more in other places. Festivals of puppet theatres are held in
Bialystok, Bielsko-Biala, and Opole. The Festival of Mime (one-person shows
36 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
and productions) in Warsaw has a six year history.
International theatres festivals are held every year in Warsaw (Warsaw
Theatre Encounters); these Encounters now present the best productions
from the many different theatre festivals. At the Tenth International
Shakespeare Festival in Gdansk, Midsummer's Night's Dream by the Yohangza
Theater of South Korea was awarded the first prize; Jacek of Legnica
received the prize for best director for his Othello. Wrodaw now has its
Dialogue Festival, which features productions from Western Europe, while
Toruri organizes a Contact Festival, which traditionally invites many
productions from the Baltic states.
But even more intense is the "festival-mania" of alternative theatres.
They organize both domestic and international festivals. Most respected and
setting the highest artistic level is the annual Malta Festival in Poznari under the
experienced direction of Michal Merczyriski, who invites the best
experimental and avant-garde theatre as well as dance companies from all over
the world. Cracow and Jelenia G6ra each organize an International Festival of
Street Theatres; now L6d:i also has an annual street theatre festival. Alternative
theatres from Poland and from abroad also meet in Lublin, Szczecin,
Bialystok, Lomza, among other places. Usually, these festivals are
accompanied by scholarly conferences, fine arts exhibitions, and discussions
between artists and spectators lasting for hours.
Since the early 1960s, international festivals and exchanges, visits of
Polish theatres abroad and visits of foreign theatres to Poland have constituted
a strong tradition and provided a window on the world for Polish artists and
audiences. These international exchanges remain an important and vibrant
element of Polish theatrical life.
Crucial to the worldwide fame of Polish theatre were the visits of
Jerzy Grotowski, J6zef Szajna, Tadeusz Kantor, Wlodzirnierz Staniewski,
and Leszek with their companies to the United States and to
festivals in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Avignon, Nancy, Dublin, Belgrade, and
many other cities. The international tours of my Contemporary Theatre of
Wrodaw built its reputation and put us in touch with the theatrical life of
Germany, Ireland, Spain, and Greece. Conversely, visits by Bertolt Brecht,
Peter Brook, Jean-Louis Barrault, Jean Vilar, the Bread and Puppet Theatre,
the Performance Group, and the Living Theatre expanded the horizons of
Polish artists and audiences.
Polish theatre artists, especially directors, continue to work
frequently abroad. For example, Anna Augustynowicz, the long time artistic
director of the Contemporary Theatre in Szczecin, recently directed a
production in Badtheatret in Copenhagen of Jeppe from the Hill by Ludvig
Holberg (the "father" of Norwegian and Danish literature) with a cast
composed of actors from Denmark, Sweden, and Poland. The production,
scheduled to travel internationally, was first shown in Szczecin. The French
director, Jacques Lassale, recently directed a production of Moliere's Tartuf!e
at the National Theatre in Warsaw. Companies composed of actors from
various countries are typical for a newly unified Europe, and many of these
multinational companies are based in Poland. For example, the Association
of Artistic Promotion in Bialystok is led by Dagmara Sowa and Pawel
Chomczyk, who are both actors and puppeteers. Their company, which
includes Poles as well as actors from Germany and the Czech Republic,
travels extensively throughout Europe.
Krotka historia teatru amerykmiskiego (Poznari: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu
im. Adama Mickiewicza, 2005); Dzien swiadectwa (Poznari: Wydawnictwo Sw. Wojciecha,
2005); Stjuki o Polakach (Lublin: Norbertinum, 2006); Horyzon!J teatru. Szkice o tworczofci
Kazimierza Brauna (Toruli: A. Marszalek 2004); and Horyzonty teatru II Droga Kazimierza
Brauna (Toruri: A. Marszalek 2006).
2 Students of theatre history will recognize Teresa Budzisz-Krzyzanowska as the
actress on the cover of Brockett and Findlay's Century of Innovation (1991 ed.) in the role
of Hamlet in Andrzej Wajda's 1989 production at Teatr Stary in Cracow.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Mayia Pramatarova
Alexander Morfov is a director whose work is successfully clivided
between Bulgarian and Russian stages. Morfov's theatre is contemporary from
head to toe; yet modernity is not its focus. Rather, its reverse perspective
expands views of the past. His theatre reveals the world as universal chaos, in
which harmony is achievable only momentarily and can be destroyed simply by
realization of life's finiteness. Carnivalization is a method inherent in most of
his productions, which are almost Rabelaisian in nature.
Born in Yambol in 1960, Morfov started as a stagehand in 1983 at the
Drama Theatre in Silven. At that time he dreamed of his own productions,
already imagining them as sculptors see shapes in stone. He made the right
decision by going to Sofia to study at the Academy for Theatre and Film Arts.
His teacher was the great master of the Bulgarian theatre, Yulia Ognianova.
Having graduated from the Moscow Theatre Academy, she joined a group of
young directors who began a revolution in the Bulgarian theatre at the end of
the 1950s. The truth alone seemed important to them. After being fired, and
spending many years without a regular job, she managed to start teaching
puppetry at the Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia. Paradoxically,
puppetry provided her and her pupils the perfect refuge from the communist
ideological constraints of the time. Ognianova's students concentrated on the
grotesgue side of reality. Here Morfov learned that all means are good, but
that every idea should be checked on the stage. At this time Morfov clid not
confine himself to the traditional dramaturgical texts. Yulia Ognianova gave
her unconditional support for his brave and often imperfect stage exercises.
He developed the ability to use any literary text as a raison-d'etre for the artistic
worlds he would create.
Prior to completing his education, in 1990 Morfov debuted on the
professional repertory stage with Political Cabaret, which consisted of actors'
improvisations, contemporary songs, and satirical variations on social and
political themes, and had Assen Avramov as its composer. The production
took place at the Smolyan Theatre in the Rodopi Mountains, the mythological
birthplace of Orpheus and the original terrain of the cult of Dionysus. The
chance to work at such a geographically and politically offbeat site made this
assignment a perfect move for a person with an unorthodox education and an
alternative outlook. At this point theatre people in Bulgaria, as well as in the
other Soviet block countries, realized that the further they were from the
center of the political administration, the more freedom they had in their
creative pursuits.
In 1994 Cervantes's Don Quixote was Morfov's first production at the
Ivan Vazov National Theatre. He expressed his essential idea in the following
In a town whose name I don't even want to remember there lived an
old man who was retired and spent all his time reading Don Quixote de
Ia Mancha. He read the book from cover to cover, from top to bottom,
and from left to right. . . . His imagination became filled with
everything he found in the pages: fights and battles, duels, wounds,
and words of love, and all the various incredible, fantastic characters.
And since he slept so little and read so much, his brain dried up so
that he finally had the weirdest idea that had ever haunted a crazy
man .... he suddenly decided that he himself was ... Don Quixote
de la Mancha- the knight! And then he slowly got up and
approached the mirror. The reflection was far beyond anything he
had expected. A knight was staring back from the mirror-a man of
a strong build, with a meager face and a helmet on his head; his
body was lean and long, clad in armor; he had a slightly crooked
nose and huge black pendant mustache and an enormous sword
clenched in his hand. The old man was so excited at the sight that
his heart started suddenly to pound in his chest and drops of
perspiration covered his forehead. He staggered back to his bed,
intending to rest for a while. But then he suddenly stopped,
mustered up his strength, clenched the sword even harder, and
walked solemnly back to the mirror ... . But nobody was in it
anymore. The knight was gone, and so was the man himself; there
wasn't any mirror either, absolutely nothing! The old man was
standing in the window, wondering what had happened. Nothing
really. Simply somebody had stopped for a while at his window-
the knight Don Quixote de la ManchaP
Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 27, No. 2
Morfov's production of Don Quixote was the starting point of an important
period in post-communist Bulgarian theatre. While remaining an academic
institution with great traditions, in the 1990s the National Theatre became the
birthplace of the most courageous experiments. This renaissance brought to
the theatre a completely different audience, which was attracted by unusual
combinations of the intellectual and the physical, the plebeian and the
aristocratic, creating a constant semiotic exchange. This eclectic theatre may
have lacked taste, but it certainly compensated for this flaw by being
representative of the breath and vitality of Bulgarian society. This was a high
point and a rarely achieved moment of equilibrium.
Morfov's production of Lower Depths in 1997 established him as one
of the major figures of the Bulgarian stage. In his collage of Gorky's play,
Daniil Kharms's miniatures, and Zen Buddhist riddles, Morfov mixed
traditional psychological theatre with improvisation and absurdism, working
with designer Vyacheslav Parapanov. Composer Kiril Donchev provided live
music for this story about the hopes and aspirations of the Bulgarian people
for a new life. Morfov's work tempered comedy with serious questions about
politics and human destiny. Realism, metaphysics, and fairy tales are played off
one against the other. He recycled aspects of his staging of Don Quixote but
achieved new existential depths, showing each character connected to the
whole world, and yet remaining utterly alone. He assembled a group of actors
capable of participating actively in the director's creative process. The
rehearsals were acts of concentration and relaxation, generating the stage text
here and now. Allowing air for improvisation during the performances, Morfov
encouraged his actors to engage in a creative process that would bring about
radical changes throughout the lifetime of the entire production.
After the fall of communism in 1990, the social and political changes
in Bulgaria were chaotic. The fears of the present and future, uncertainty, and
loneliness grew because the accounts with the past had not yet been settled. It
seemed as if the only way the wrongs of the past could be overcome was by
mutual forgiveness. Possessed by this theme, Morfov staged Shakespeare's
Tempest at three different theatres- the Sofia, the National Theatre of
Bulgaria, and the Kornissarzhevskaya in Russia, which at the end of the 1990s
was moribund and seeking creative leadership. With his love of the transitional
and uncertain, Morfov welcomed the challenge.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
The Tempest, directed by Alexander Morfov,
National Theatre of Bulgaria, 1992
Morfov's version of Shakespeare's play, first shown in 1992, seemed
to be a return to basics for the Komissarzhevskaya Theatre: a demonstration
of the power of the imagination to create a wonderful illusion of life. With
stage design by Emil Kapeliush, the director presented the supernatural events
as the dreams about love of a charming young Miranda and a noble prince.
True to his poetics, Morfov turned the story inside out at every point.
The production was playful and full of tricks in each aspect of the mis-en-scene.
The actors enjoyed unheard of freedom on stage, which effortlessly became
transformed into an island, a cave, a dense jungle, and a ship. The show was
staged like a jam session, in which the actors were given opportunities to drive
the themes one step further. In this production, Morfov continued his fusion
of the theatrical practices of Meyerhold and of his rival Evreinov. that were
nearly forgotten during the socialist period. The Tempest marked Morfov's
transition from focusing his attention on minute vibrations of real political
and societal life to pure detached art and philosophical context.
Moliere's Don Juan in 2004 was an act of compensation for Morfov's
refusal to become involved in real life, since it was a cross between a well-
known myth and postmodern commentary on it, charged with
autobiographical allusion. The production was very personal and full of
vitality and passion. Not simply a classic play according to the rules of
Renaissance comedy, Don Juan became more brutal and exaggerated with its
many grotesque and tragic facets.
Deliberately reconstructing the Don Juan myth, Morfov incorporated
motifs from Mozart's librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, from Tirso de Molina, and
from Christian Dietrich Grabbe (Don Juan and Faust). Built on a vertical
common story, the performance reaches Faustian heights by the end. Played
by the famous actor, Alexander Bargman, Don Juan is transformed from a
hedonist, debauchee, and fencer into an ascetic, whose desire to find the
alchemical secret of life is reminiscent of the Faustian spirit. This movement
is marked by the scenography, which during the performance goes from
concrete, tactile familiarity to metaphorical abstraction. The costumes change
from bright and colorful to dark and monochromatic. Morfov's Don Juan
strives for repentance, but he is not quite ready for submission and self-denial,
choosing rather to perish at the hands of the Commander. Although the
performance starts with Don Juan literally being pieced together by his
servants, it concludes with Don Juan's achieving the autonomy of a genuine
44 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
human being, as though his whole life had consisted of Lacan's "mirror stage."
After a successful St. Petersburg debut, Morfov was invited to the
Moscow Theatre Etcetera to stage his own versions of several plays in a very
short period of time. Although Morfov knew it would be hard to excite
Moscow audiences, his production of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi had spectators
laughing uproariously. It had great improvisational energy. The popular
Russian actor Alexander Kalyagin played the title role in commedia dell'arte
style. Short red cropped pants and an obscene lexicon constituted a radical
shift for Kalyagin, who in 1982 at the Moscow Art Theatre had created an
iconic image of Lenin in Mikhail Shatrov's Thus We Will Win. Made in the
collaboration with designer Emil Kapeliush, Ubu Roi was a performance
developed according to the pure laws of black comedy. At the center of this
production was a dictator shown as a whining infant, who had not yet reached
the "mirror stage" and, therefore, was unable to realize himself as a unified
Morfov's latest Russian venue is Lenkom, the Moscow cult stage,
where he directed Eclipse, based on Ken Kesey's novel, One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's Nest. This work was unusual both for Morfov and the troupe. Lenkom
is a well-oiled machine of Broadway dimensions with productions that usually
run for years. Eclipse was a real challenge on two counts. First, the public's view
of the work was already defined by Milos Forman's film One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's JVestwith]ack Nicholson. Second, it required extraordinary efforts on
the director's part to turn the star cast from Lenkom into an ensemble.
As his collaborator, Morfov had the legendary scenographer David
Borovsky (1934-2006) who created a modern yet metaphorical hospital
space, which could have been located anywhere in the world. The hospital
was an enclosed space in which is set an existential drama about people
lacking self-esteem. In this static world, the only person aware of the
existence of freedom is McMurphy, played by famous actor Alexander
Abdulov. By his innate vitality, McMurphy opposes the tyrannical logic of
the asylum and leads a rebellion against Nurse Ratched, played by the well-
known Russian actress Elena Shanina. Morfov stages this as an opposition
between the live, irrational, and spontaneous, on the one side, and the dead,
rational, and dogmatic, on the other. With its cinematographic language this
performance differs from most of Morfov's earlier works and reveals other
sides of his talent. It received high praise in Russia and was nominated for
46 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
the Golden Mask in 2007.
Based on plays by Mrozek, Beckett, and Ionesco, Morfov's Enchanted
Night--a postmodern collage par excellence-has been running in Bulgaria since
its premiere in 1993. Its opening night was at the Gabrovo Theatre. For many
years the same actors presented the production at the National Theatre, and
then it moved to the Salza i Smiah Theatre in Sofia. The story of two tramps
who decide to end their unhappy lives has been shown at many festivals
throughout Europe. In Enchanted Night, nobody is waiting for Godot because
Godot is a symbol of hopelessness, and in Morfov's production there is no
room for either Godot or hopelessness. The usual perspectives of theatre have
been disregarded, as well as all the rules of dramaturgical structure. Only the
basic elements of drama remain, and they have been visually magnified and
rendered grotesque and funny. The final minutes of the night pass, and
suddenly the life that the two tramps dream of becomes visible.
Morfov's works have a long life in the theatre and appeal to very
diverse audiences. It would be no overstatement to say that this universality is
due to Morfov's ability to create a world that is whole out of shattered pieces
of glass.
1 Archive of the Museum of the National Theatre of Bulgaria, Sofia, Bulgaria.
48 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
S P L ~ U NAKTS 2006:
Jeff Johnson
Spelmaqu Nakts ("actors' nights")
is a yearly awards ceremony
for achievements in Latvian theatre during the last season. I t is celebrated on
November 23, the birthday of the famous Latvian theatre director Eduards
SmiM;is. The jury of theatre critics and professionals nominates the
performances and artists in different categories, such as best performance of
the year, best director, best actor, best actress. The ceremony is organized by
the Latvian Theatre Union (LTU). In 2003, LTU started a new initiative, a
Showcase of the Best Latvian Performances, which takes place a few days
before the Ceremony of Awards in Riga. In collaboration with the New
Theatre Institute of Latvia, LTU invites foreign guests to visit during the
Showcase, held this year November 19-23 in Riga. The Ceremony of Awards,
as well as the conference about the Latvian theatre with the participation of
foreign theatre critics, was held on November 23.
The past season in Latvian theatre was remarkable for the strong
appearance of the younger generation of theatre directors. Besides the
internationally well-known Alvis Hermanis, the program included Dz. Dz.
Dzilindzers, Garis Smits, Regnars Vaivars, and Elina Cerpa. This year the
category of the Innovation of the Year was introduced, including the
international co-production Show Your Face, directed by Matjaz Pograjc and
produced by (Latvia) and Betontanc (Slovenia). The program also
featured two classical productions by Felikss Deics and Olgerts Kroders of an
older generation of Latvian theatre directors.
The main program featured Dzilindzers's Caligufa (Camus), staged
during the season at the Daile Theatre but during the Showcase shown as a
video screening at the Gallery because a NATO conference pre-empted use of
the original venue (the Daile); Kroders's The Idiot (Dostoevsky) at the Valmiera
Drama Theatre; Smits's Knives in Hens (Harrover) at the Daile; Deics's Innocent
as Charged (Ostrovsky) at Valmiera Drama Theatre; Hermanis's lee (Sorokin)
presented by the New Riga Theatre and staged at the House of Art Workers;
Cerpa's The Tenderness (Borges) at the New Riga Theatre; Pograjc's Show Your
Face ( and Betontanc), a video screening at the Gallery; a premiere by
the young playwright Ansels Kaugers, Aris is Silent, Alice is Silent, directed by
Lauris Gundars of Theatre TT, staged at Club Depo; Vaivars's A Clockwork
Orange (Burgess) at the Latvian National Theatre; and The Story of Daniel Rqy,
an innovative, non-traditional puppet performance by, in which all
characters are performed by knapsacks.
The search for new themes in Latvian theatre was evident again this
year at Spelmat;m Nakts, and more often than not, this thirst for relevancy leads
writers and directors to the reservoir of formalism. Maybe because after
independence theatre in the Baltics experienced a crisis of relevancy, many of
the young generation of writers and directors are still trying to determine
what, now, are the new themes, the relevant themes, that only theatre as a
medium can properly explore. This questioning of the very nature of theatre
has led younger writers and directors to an acute focus on formalism,
including an aesthetic assault on perceived normative values by which theatre
has been measured in the past.
This radical perspectivism, challenging established ethical, social,
psychological, and philosophical truths, is perhaps best illustrated by the
writers' and directors' means of appropriation-devising new methods of
gathering the "stuff" of theatre and reassessing what, exactly, constitutes a
theatrical performance. It seems these days that a director cannot stage a
production without acknowledging and displaying the fact that the
performance is, after all, a performance.
Throughout the Baltics, younger artists stress the formal, and if a
young director works within the tradition of strict "realism," she is often
applauded by the popular press and the general public but is dismissed as a
talented stage manager by her more progressive peers. This disrnissiveness is
unfortunate, sometimes, because the idea that a play needs to be acknowledged
as a staged event seems tautological. Nevertheless, to find and exploit the
cracks in the chiasmatic confluence between fiction and fact is an exercise that
can be curative, didactic, aesthetically astute, and lots of fun.
To simplify this explanation of how new directors stress formal
qualities in theatre, consider three categories: form, the way the action is
framed; space, the actual site as opposed to the imaginative place; and mode,
dramatic or ironic (although these categories are not necessarily mutually
exclusive). To further reduce this explication, for the sake of argument, it is
probably instructive to consider these categorical distinctions by first
50 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 27, No. 2
contrasting directors who share a common background and generational
influences but whose work could not be more diametrically opposed:
Hermanis and Dzilindzers. Characteristically, Dzilindzers has said that he and
Hermanis are after the same thing, but they work in opposite directions,
suggesting that Hermanis approaches the work with an idea already in mind,
whereas, Dzilindzers, shapes the piece spontaneously as he goes through the
rehearsal process.2
First, form. In a play like lee, Hermanis tries to dispense with theatre
as a limiting space-the worst case for him being the Italian Box or
proscenium stage. He wants to erase the distance bet:v.reen the actor and the
audience, preferring to impress his "truth" directly into the heart of the
viewer-much like the hammers in the play. Dzilindiers, on the other hand, in
a piece like Cafigufa, revels in the trappings: the effects, the demarcation
bet:v.reen actors and audience, the whole vaudeville wink-and-a-nod celebration
of artifice.
Second, and naturally interrelated, space: Hermanis collapses the
separation bet:v.reen viewer and event by exploiting non-theatrical locations
and actively works to subvert the idea of the performance being staged, even
when it occurs in a theatre building. He strips the space of effects, working
closer to the idea of tableau than narrative. Dzilindzers reinforces the
separation, constantly reminding the audience that they are witnessing a
crafted performance of which they are not a part: the actors have their roles,
the audience has its, and the are inviolably separated.
Finally, as for mode, Hermanis in Ice is dead serious, his milieu tragic,
his vision straightforward. Irony in this piece-as in Latvian Stories-would
undercut his belief in his characters, his faith in their humanity. For
Dzilindzers, irony is a given, the built-in ideological lens through which he
views an absurd world, and only an ironic treatment of the tragic dimensions
of existence will, ironically, allow him to take his work seriously.
To return to this idea of loss of relevance, or the search for themes
in recent Latvian theatre, one trend in Latvian theatre (as throughout the
Baltics) is for directors to look to literary texts for their subjects-not as
models or for inspiration but actually for stories to set in motion on stage. In
the movie industry they have a saying: bad books make good movies and good
books make bad movies. The meaning is obvious: big selling movies are plot-
driven, and plot, after all, is the cheapest form of aesthetic pleasure; great
52 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Alvis Hermanis, Spelmru;m Nakts, 2006
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
novels are great because of the style of the writing and the psychological
depth of the characters. This old adage may well apply to theatre, as it is
certainly legitimate to ask why anyone would want to stage The Idiot and reduce
the intense subjectivity of the novel to speeches and posturing, or A Clockwork
Orange and spoil the rich language and ironic perspective of its narrator to a
series of exercises for actors.
However, Kroders's production of The Idiot and Vaivars's adaptation
of A Clockwork Orange are certainly more than posturing and exercises. Both
represent the directors searching for new truths in old texts. Still, there is no
denying that their work represents, first, an interpretation, and, second, a
dramatic manipulation of staging and acting to actualize that interpretation. In
this process, a phenomenon occurs: the more the directors stick to the original
text, the more their work appears merely interpretive and not originally
visionary. Though his set and directing style was interesting, Kroders'
production was fundamentally text based, like an illustration of the novel-a
good vehicle for the actors as well as an excuse for Kroders to create a visual
world for the audience. Compare, for instance, how the Lithuanian director
Jonas Vaitkus handles Dostoevsky's The Devils. He works strategically away
from the text, and the performance renders the essence of the work, distilled
through the director's eye, instead of a literal, if illustrated re-telling from page
to stage.3
Vaivars falls into the same trap with A Clockwork Orange. The play was
most successful as he worked away from the text, into physicality and his use
of visually dramatic effects-as in the rape scene, which was vicious and
funny, and the scene with the spinning record and the actor's improvisation,
playing the door as a musical instrument with sexual overtones and drug-
induced euphoria. But these moments were fl eeting during the entire
performance because, too often, Vaivars returned to the text; even when he
didn't literally recite the exact text, he relied not on the visual language but on
the oral language, as in the second act, which most resembled the original.
Many Lithuanian directors-and I hesitate to say this, given the rivalry among
the Baltic states- as well as the Estonians Tiit Ojasoo and Mart Koldits insist
that literary sources should merely be suggestions, and that the actual texts
should be abandoned-for some of the extremists, even texts written as plays
should be dismissed in favor of the director's vision.
The simultaneous need to appropriate themes from existing literary
models and hesitancy to abandon the literal text may testify to the directors not
trusting their instincts, but there is another, more intrinsic reason for this
perceived diffidence. A visual, more metaphorical theatre tends to diminish the
role the actor as "actor" plays in the performance. So, to counter this trend,
directors like Kroders, Vaivars, and Hermanis are working with the actor
foremost in mind.
The focus on the actor is also evident in Gatis Smits's Knives in Hens
and indicates yet another direction in this search for themes. The director in
this case takes an ordinary situation-disillusionment in marriage-and
attempts to elevate it, using a poetic minimalism and highly metaphorical
language. Smits is shrewd enough to choose a universal, and therefore
exportable, theme but because the piece is so text-based- the visual poetry
subordinated by the late-Pinteresque language-the play teeters, threatening to
collapse under is own weight. As a typical Latvian actor's play, it risks
becoming generic, what the Estonian critic Andres Laasik identifies as
"nomadic," not grounded in any specific cultural context. The play, with its
compressed intensity, seems precious and fragile. The form isn't necessarily an
extension of its content; its use of space, while thankfully not overtly meta-
theatrical, never really explores all it suggests; the limitations of theatre; and its
mode, so relentlessly earnest and somber, ironically, tends to reverse the
director's intended effect.
The notion of adaptation as a means for finding relevant themes was
also in the case of Elina Cerpa, who picked a short story from Borges, a writer
whose work hardly lends itself to being staged. But maybe that is the key to
the success of The Tenderness. Choosing Borges is counterintuitive and that
frees the director from the literal, allowing her to dispense with the text in
favor of the physical and visual- the essence of theatre. Aside from the rather
bizarre central thesis- that meat is not only murder but that carnivores are
particularly brutal and misogynistic: the director manages to use the set to
reduce both human motives and the elements of theatre down to a
rudimentary level that allows the action of the play to mirror its theme. One
of the most intriguing elements in the performance involves the director's use
of clay. Two brothers vying for the affection of a young woman work in a kind
of abattoir, but the elements of the meat plant are composed entirely of
modeling clay. The floor of the stage is layered in it- like a boggy sandbox, a
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 2
simple representation of the primordial sludge of physicality as well as the
violence inherent in the sex play between the brothers and the woman.
Modeled heads of cows line the shelves behind them; globs of clay lie about
the stage and on the table. The ambient mud represents both the environment
in which the characters live, but also their occupation, as they frolic in the
primeval "goo" of existence, kneading and chopping and flaying chunks of
the stuff with their primitive utensils: in one scene, a transparent sheet is hung
between the audience and the stage, and in a provocative bit of shadow play
the men split chunks of clay with sledge hammers, mimicking men in a
slaughter house chopping away at carcasses, scattering bits of "meat" and
"blood." The effect is vicious, unsettling, and crude.
It's clear that the younger Latvian directors are taking chances,
moving away for the strictures of oral language and using the stage to present,
via action and visual spectacle, that which through another medium would not
be possible. Even Hermanis, in his most anti-theatre mood, is at his best when
he trades the narrative story line for vision, performing his cardiogram rope
tricks, his baptismal baths, his contortionist freeze frames, his evangelic orgies
while at the same time remaining faithful to the power of theatre, in images
and action, in spectacle and magic.
1. See SEEP vol. 26, no. 1 (Winter 2006). Note in that article Spelmar;m Nakts was
erroneously translated as "celebration nights." This translation as "actors' nights" is
2. Interview with the author, November 2005.
3 The practice of directors effectively discarding the text for the wholesale reworking
of the original theme is, of course, not unusual. In the Baltics, some notable examples
include the Estonian directors Tilt Ojasso's]11lia and Mart Koldits's 1984; in Lithuania,
most recently, Gintaras Varnas's Wasted Land and Hedda Cabler; and here in Latvia,
obviously Hermanis's treatment of Ice.
Thomas Edmund Starky
The Dada von Bzdulow Theatre from Gdansk made its U.S. debut at
La MaMa in New York City from November 16 to 26, 2006 with a
dance-theatre performance based loosely upon motifs from the work of the
Polish modernist writer and dramatist Witold Gombrowicz. The ethos behind
the performance was to rethink through the medium of dance Gombrowicz's
central problematics of identity construction through the gaze of the other,
polymorphic eroticism, and subjugation to form in the context of a digital age.
The theatre's project may be interpreted as an attempt to reclaim the author's
subversive critique of form in a contemporary framework, in which societal
power is no longer necessarily linked to a subjectifying centralized gaze that
fits the individual with a stultifying form from the outside, but rather takes free
floating self-modulatory forms that divide the individual from within,
producing what Gilles Deleuze-writing at the onset of the "society of
control"--called a "dividual."
The undulatory movements of the dancers-
choreographers Leszek Bzdyl, Katarzyna Chmielewska, and Rafal Dziemidok
avoided cliched references to inherently theatrical moments in Gombrowicz's
work-such as the famous dual of grimaces between i ~ t u s and Syfon in
Ferdydurke-in favor of a minimalist series of "witty observations" on the
effects of identity theft, late-capitalist surfing, and deconstruction of binaries,
even where the latter are only the Boolean logic of computer programmers.
A pre-show featuring Bzdyl-assuming various curious postures,
some of which recalled yoga asanas, others, such as laying facedown in a
garbage can, were more a gesture of respect to Dada or perhaps to Magritte
than to Gombrowicz- took place in a vestibule adjacent to the theatre space
and began the subversion of the hierarchies of inside and outside that
continued throughout the performance. The challenge to the theatrical space
as a site of enclosure parallels a movement away from the sites of confinement
germane to the disciplinary societies analyzed by Michel Foucault-whether of
prison, school, factory, hospital, or barracks-to a control society for which
the metaphor is the prisoner who wears a tracking device that effects his
punishment to stay at home between certain hours, or the contemporary
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 2
Katarzyna Chmielewska in Several Witry Observations (a Ia Gombrowici),
Dada von BzdUlow Theatre, 2006
Rafal Dziemidok and Leszek Bzdyl in Several Observations (a Ia
Dada von Bzdiilow Theatre, 2006




corporate worker in an office tower whose space can be modulated to allow
for his "dividual" tastes- a choice of art reproductions and furniture from a
predetermined array to supplement his modulating income and yearly
bonuses. Bzdyl's restless movements before the performance recalled this sort
of contemporary prisoner-worker hybrid who is free enough to be able to stick
his head in the wastepaper basket while killing time in his customized
corporate office space before his drive back to suburbia where he can assume
the role played by the homebound prisoner with the ankle tracking device.
The dancers moved in and out of modulating forms-to the
accompaniment of the excellent original music mixing free jazz and electronic
sounds composed for the performance by Mikolaj Trzaska-such as the shape
of the human marionette assumed by Dziemidok, which as much echoed the
domination by form in Gombrowicz's writings as it referred to the "dividual's"
coerced "motivation" to market him or herself in the control society of late
capitalism. Bzdyl assumed a crucified Jesus Christ pose while uttering in
soliloquy against a background of dead silence the performance's sole spoken
line "Panie . .. Panie . .. Panie i Panowie, c'est moi!' (Lord .. . Lord ... Ladies and
Gentlemen, it's me!) before erupting into a wild dance sequence. Chmielewska
enacted a transmutation from an elegant dancer in a flowing red gown to live
blow-up doll-amidst the spare but suggestive scenography of large sheer
inflated mattresses against a white background designed by Maciej Chojnacki,
illuminated by the lighting design of Michal Kolodziej, which imbued the
transparent scenery with richly affective hues-after both her red dress and
identity were stolen by Bzdyl. The latter reclaimed the garment alternately as
a bachelor's robe and towel, much in the way someone in possession of
another's credit card number takes on an infmitely divisible "dividual" with
coded material tied to passwords. If the domination of one person by another
through form in Gombrowicz is analogical, the performance here suggested
the digital appropriation of codes and commodified genetic material as a new
horizon of controlling another's form.
The performance allowed one to extend Gombrowicz's critique of
form to contemporary forms of free-floating control, and could thus
function as a palimpsest over the Polish dramatist's writing, a potential
directly expressed by the actors handing out a piece of paper containing the
following digital age palimpsest that in its turn recalled an earlier
Gombrowiczian palimpsest in Fertjydurke, expressing the degree to which
Rafai Dziemidok and Leszek Bzdyl in Several Witry Observations (a Ia Gombrowiq),
Dada von Bzdiilow Theatre, 2006



the "a la" in the title inscribes it self within a play of connections to
connections to connections:
000111 000 1111 01011011101 0110110110 11100 11 111 0101 10 0 11 1010110
0011010100001111001011100 11011011011 110110110001 0110110111 110 011011
11101011110101100001011000011111001011011011000011 the calf 1010010 11
101101100 101011101 1111 00000 000 00000 000
Whether or not the calf of a female or a female calf suffices to
deconstruct the binary Boolean logic is open to question at a time when
anatomically oriented Google searches are run by Internet fetishists, which
may or may not be then funneled into the data banks of marketers who
calibrate the sieve of control ever tighter around consumer tastes. But what
this palimpsest leaves legible, alongside the "dividual" logic of codes, is the
remainder of an earlier Gombrowiczian palimpsest that translated in
Fert!Jdurke a turgid romantic poem as:
Calves, calves, calves
Calves, calves, calves, calves,
Calves, calves, calves, calves, calves -
calf, calf, calf
calves, calves, calves.
I read this gesture as the poetics of the theatrical and dance performance put
forward by Dada von Bzdi.ilow, which is the attempt to reframe a modernist
problematic in the digital age, done at the same time very romantically, as a
palimpsest allows one to read what has been erased underneath the more
recent writing. One has to read them together without allowing the earlier to
be entirely effaced, because even as one is now subject to mechanisms of
control, like a series of palimpsests these can function together with earlier
disciplinary forms of surveillance, whether tied to the gaze of security cameras
or scrutiny of one's not-so-private Internet interactions or phone records, as
in the United States under the auspices of the Patriot Act. The dance stylistics
of Leszek Bzdyl, K.atarzyna Chmielewska, and Rafal Dziemidok allowed one
to ponder mutating forms of domination, whether those of our or of
Gombrowicz's time.
1 Gilles Deleuze, "Postscript on Control Societies" in N egotiations (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1995), 177.
64 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Mark F. Tattenbaum
Running from October 25 to 29, 2006 Tadeusz R6zewicz's Card
Index Scattered (Kartoteka rOifZUCona) received its U.S. and English-language
premiere at the State University of New York at Buffalo. It was directed by
Kazirnierz Braun, who prepared the English-language adaptation.
All R6zewicz's works ask the same question: Is art possible after
such cataclysmic events of the twentieth century? Love and hate, darkness
and light, beauty and ugliness-these are the fragments of life that the poet
examines in The Card Index Scattered. In 1998, he published a volume of
poetry entitled Alwqys Fragment. Rerycling. (Zawsze Fragment. Rerycling) In this
collection, R6zewicz revamps and "recycles" the materials of his previous
works and combines them with new fragments and emotions. This re-
examination, or reusing of fragments of the past, extends beyond
R6zewicz's poetry into his playwriting. His "poetic realism" presents a world
in which events, plots, and characters are expressed by a language that is
realistic, and yet their composition is poetic and goes far beyond realism to
the lofty realm of poetry, dreams, and mysterious visions.
In The Card Index Scattered the character Hero, speaking of the twists
and turns that his life has taken, proudly proclaims, "I have traveled a long
way to reach myself." R6zewicz's original play, titled simply The Card Index
(Kartoteka), traveled an equally long way to reach its incarnation as The Card
Index Scattered.
The original Card Index was published and produced at the Teatr
Dramatyczny in Warsaw, Poland, in 1960. This original text of the work by
R6zewicz is below referred to as text 1.
In 1972, R6zewicz published Unpublished Scenes of "Card Index." The
world premiere, combining the original play with these newly published
scenes, was performed at Teatr Osterwy in Lublin, Poland, on February 13,
1972, directed by Kazimierz Braun. This new recycled text is referred to as
text 2.
Card Index Scattere"' directed and adapted by Kazimierz Braun,
State University of New York at Buffalo, 2006
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
In 1991 the author revisited his previous work and returned to the
complete texts of both the original (text 1) and the second collection of
scenes (text 2). R6zewicz omitted some fragments of the two previous works
while adding new material. He titled this new play The Card Index Scattered
(text 3). In 1991, The Card Index Scattered (text 3) was first produced in a
workshop under R6zewicz's direction and published a year later.
The English text used for the Buffalo production, The Card Index
Scattered (text 4), includes selected scenes from text 1 and text 2 but is primarily
based on The Card Index Scattered (text 3). Braun's adaptation and translation is
designed to be performed by American university students for American
audiences with cultural modifications that further a wider understanding of
Throughout the life of the Card Index in its different manifestations
and metamorphoses, there have been many variants of scenes, examples of
which I include in an appendix to this article. Such transformations are typical
of R6zewicz's approach to theatre and to Braun's way of working with
R6zewicz's texts. For both artists, theatre is above all a collaborative art.
R6zewicz's style of poetic realism and the director's vision posed
challenges and discoveries for the design of the production. R6zewicz's stage
directions specify the placement of Hero's bed and night stand in the middle
of a street with the spectators on either side. In this way, the spectators are
placed as though on the sidewalk. The production was staged in a black box
theatre with the street starting downstage at the level of the lighting grid. It
descended to the stage, divided the acting space diagonally, and continued up
the opposite wall of the theatre toward the upstage section of the lighting grid.
The directorial vision incorporated the look and feel of a close-up
shot in a motion picture. Intense lighting and the appearance of
Actors/Lighting Technicians using industrial flashlights captured the
audience's attention. In an early fragment, Hero is lying on his bed with his
arm extended upwards. He states, "This is my hand, my living hand." Lights
focused the audience's attention on Hero's hand, isolating the image from the
mise-en-scene. The technique is employed again with a fragment involving the
ensemble traversing the street. Hero watches the coming and going of the
ensemble before him until he encounters the apparition of his parents. His
parents are illuminated by the technicians. The audience's focus is shifted from
the totality of the mise en scene to Hero's parents. The attention is further
Kazimierz Braun (director) and Matt Gellin (Hero) during rehearsal of
Card Index Scattered, State University of New York at Buffalo, 2006
directed by Hero's first line following this fragment: "It seemed to me that my
dead father was passing by." The device is used again in another fragment in
which Hero passes an examination. Following his success, Hero begins his
own examination of the teacher. He extends his hand and asks the Teacher
"What is this?" The Actors/Lighting Technicians then appear and illuminate
the Hero's hand. Again, the audience's focus is shifted, and the fragment draws
to a close.
The sound designer with the guidance and assistance of the director
and assistant director selected music and sound effects that evoked emotion
and memory in the audience, deepening the intensity of particular fragments.
In several fragments Hero, reflecting on his life, would listen to a bedside radio.
In two instances Hero listened to one of Cavaradossi's arias from Puccini's
Tosca. A fragment that involved a Vietnamese student was reinforced with the
addition of a musical interlude of Vietnamese folk music. A fragment about a
68 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 27, No.2
Congressional debate was accompanied by the politically laden American song
" Hail to the Chief."
The directorial vision included audience participation. At various
points in the work, the fourth wall was broken by characters addressing the
audience directly. At the close of the piece, the entire cast entered the
spectators' area to deliver directly, in small groups, the epilogue.
Much of the historical material and many of the references included
by the author occurred at a time and place remote and distant for
contemporary American university students. Extensive dramaturgical research
conducted by the director, the assistant director, and the dramaturg was
supplied to the entire cast. References and historical events that unfolded in
the drama were explained to the actors to enable them to present historically
accurate performances.
The sold-out performances of this production attest to the director's
success, as well as to the achievements of the cast and crew, in bringing The
Card Index Scattered to life again. It also points to the timeless relevance of
R6zewicz's art and the director's interpretation of this new, fragmented, and
emotionally charged text.
Childhood Friend Fragment: This scene existed in text 2 and appeared in the
1972 performance featuring the character of a Boy Scout. This fragment was
deleted from text 3 and text 4.
Waiter Fragment: This scene was not a part of text 1 but was added to text 2
and appears in text 3 and text 4.
The Fat Woman Fragment: This scene appeared in text 1 and 2 but was deleted
from text 3. This fragment was included in text 4 and the character was
renamed The Former Star.
First Journalist Fragment: This scene was added in text 2 and was continued in
text 3 and text 4.
German Girl Fragment: This scene began in text 1 and also appeared in text 2
and text 3. In text 4 the German Girl became the Vietnamese Student to
provide a touchstone for American audiences.
The Soldier Fragment: This scene originally contained a character called the
Peasant who was a member of the Polish underground Home Army. This
character is found in text 2 and text 3. In text 4 the peasant in the Home Army
is transformed into a United States soldier from the Vietnam war. This
character transformation was made to open an association for American
The Parliament Fragment: This scene first appeared in text 3 as the Polish
Parliament. In text 4 it was replaced by the U.S. Congress.
The Chorus of Elders Fragment: This scene was present in the earlier variants
(text 1, text 2, and text 3). In the 2006 production (text 4) it was replaced with
a Chorus of Students that assumed a role of greater proportions than the
original Chorus.
Hero Number Two Fragment: In a later variant (text 3) R6zewicz included
Hero Number Two, a Hero of advanced years. Understanding that this
production was to be performed by university students, the decision was made
to eliminate this character in the 2006 production (text 4).
Hero Death Fragment: The present variant (text 4) contains a scene that was
found in the three earlier variants. The stage directions are a scant few lines
that direct the attendants to examine Hero and apparently find him dead. In
the 2006 production this fragment was realized with piano music setting mood
and tempo for choreography that resembled American silent movie comedy.
70 Slavic and East European Peiformance Vol. 27, No.2
Martha Kirszenbaum
If we consider theatre as an artifact, puppet theatre cannot be
understood as an imitation of the human reality but as a tool for cognition;
therefore puppet theatre appears as the purest type of theatre. Aleksander
Maksymiak, the artistic director of the Wrodaw Puppet Theatre and the
director of The Last Escape (performed at La MaMa's Puppet Series Festival
from September 30 to October 3, 2006) described puppet theatre in such
words during a talk at the Theatre Department of Barnard College on
November 17 .t
Staging the Polish-Jewish author Bruno Schulz's writings in a live
actor-puppet theatre performance, The Last Escape, Maksymiak subtly reveals
the different levels of imagination and reality present in Schulz's work and
questions the relationship between the puppet-the outside, the surface, the
matter-and the human being-the inside, the soul.
Bruno Schulz was an avant-garde writer in the interwar years, who
mixes surrealistic humor with realistic details, giving his work a sense of
everyday life deformed. He is probably best known for his collections of short
fiction, Cinnamon Shops (Sklepy ynamonowe) published in 1934, also called in
English The Street of Crocodiles, and the main short story Sanatorium Under the
Hourglass (Sanatorium Pod Kiepsydra) published in 1937, both of which are used
by Maksymiak for the staging of The Last Escape. Indeed, his adaptation
combines excerpts from The Pensioner, Tractate of Mannequins, Storm, The Night of
Great Season, and others.
Describing a Polish-Jewish world that no longer exists, Bruno
Schulz's work is characterized by the presence of a character-narrator unified
by a shadowy "I." The narrator tells his experiences in a provincial Polish town
where everything is transformed, glorified, and changed into dreams by his
imagination. Schulz was fascinated by matter, dead or alive, and because of
their fluidity, the incredible properties of matter were for Schulz a miracle
every instant; the forms of matter develop and give birth to other forms, then
disappear and change again.2
Schulz's writing has the power of enveloping the simplest thing in a
veil of metaphor, turning the merchants in his father's shop, the maid Adela,
The Last Escape, Wrodaw Puppet Theatre,
La MaMa's Puppet Series Festival, 2006
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
and the mythological figures of his father into heroes of a parable about life.
In this way, the Jewish world of interwar Poland is distorted by Schulz's
concave and convex personal mirrors.
The Last Escape mixes human actors with puppets, in a non-linear
story made up of small puzzle pieces, just as Schulz's short fiction is. A
pensioner named J6zef, trapped in his room, tries to break through his own
loneliness and despair by recalling his past and conjuring up a new world
where time exists on many levels. Escaping from his isolation, J6zef discovers
a corner of his room where the normal laws of time and space do not apply,
but where his mythical childhood memories and fantastical dreams reign.
Maksymiak recreates this intimate atmosphere with minimalist lightning, very
few subtides, and illustrates his staging with Kurt Weill influenced songs in
Polish and Austro-Hungarian songs in German, reminding the audience of
Schulz's childhood in a divided Poland.
In one of his essays Tadeusz Kantor, the great influence on Polish
puppet theatre in general and the Wrodaw Puppet Theatre in particular,
maintains that the only fundamental human tragedy is the tragedy of time.
Throughout the performance, the stories written by Schulz and brought to life
by Maksymiak are haunted by the idea that time stands still; we remain stuck
in another dimension or in another era. J6zef's father, incarnated by a puppet
and lying in a sanatorium itself under the sign of time, incarnates the
relativism of time. In The Last Escape, once he has entered his dead-yet-still-
alive father's room, J6zef asks: "How can you sleep? It is daytime .... "This
reversal of day and night, in which both are negated, emphasizes the human
tragedy involved. But it also echoes the duality on which puppet theatre is
" Puppet Theatre is a duality," writes director Maksymiak in the
program accompanying the performance, "since it consists of two autonomic
elements: the human world and the world of vivacious material (animation)."
The relationship between a human being and a puppet creates a "stratified
structure of mutual meanings, pressures and references, the balance between
puppets and humans." According to Maksymiak, the filaments linking these
two worlds come together to create the specific universe that is able to build
up the dialogue in Schulz's literature. For the director, puppet theatre is neither
a narrative theatre nor an entertainment imitating reality, but a poetic theatre
in the guise of visual metaphor.
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
The Last Escape, Wrodaw Puppet Theatre, La MaMa's Puppet Series Festival, 2006
In Poland, puppet theatre occupies a special place in the history of
theatre. The Nativity puppet show, or szopka, is an indigenous Polish form of
puppet theatre. Indeed, from the early eighteenth century, ftxed creches were
animated with marionettes and puppets illustrating scenes from the Nativity,
creating a small puppet theatre world inside the creche itself.3
Furthermore, since all the characters are fixed, as J6zef, his father, his
mother, and so on, we can compare this narrative structure to the szopka
tradition. For example, the large black veils falling on stage and dividing the
space of The Last Escape were often used in Polish Nativity puppet plays,
especially those created by Zielotry Balonik (The Green Balloon), the first
pre-World War I cabaret to include puppet theatre. Later in the twentieth
century authors such as Stanislaw used puppet theatre in Wesele
(The WeddiniJ. Furthermore, masks and inanimate forms had an important role
in's work, creating complex scenic imagery, close to Maksymiak's
aesthetics, by means of wooden objects, cardboard drawings and, of course,
But if, as stated before, the puppet itself appears as a tool for
cognition about us, the human beings, how can the puppets in The Last Escape
stand not for a substitute but a reflection of the human being closed in one
moment of time?
In the "Tractate of Mannequins" from The Street of the Crocodiles,
Schulz specifies that "The Puppets' roles are to be short, lapidary; their
characters without future plans. Often we take the effort of setting them alive
for this one gesture, one moment."
In accord with this statement,
Maksymiak reveals how puppets are masks behind which the human hides,
creating a united form with matter. Indeed, in certain moments we go out of
ourselves, we dream of the lost world of our childhood, and then the puppet
expresses this state of being. In The Last Escape, the father and the mother,
who both belong to J6zef's memories, are represented by puppets and
animated by real actors on stage. In this way Maksyrniak challenges the
relationship between human being and puppet, by portraying the natural
alienation incarnated in the dualism of life and death. The following question
occurs: do we humans create reality, or are we, as Plato maintained,
condemned to fulfill what is determined for us?
The Wrodaw Puppet Theatre's adaptation of Sanatorium Under the Sign
of the Hourglass stresses the relationship between puppet and live character.
76 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
When the hero J6zef visits his father in the sanatorium, the frightening doctor
tells him: ' 'You father died in your reality, but he is still alive here, because we
kept him alive." This relationship is based on the question of manipulation:
who is the human standing next to the puppet and manipulating it? Who is
the hero, the puppet or the human being? The puppet is dead matter raised to
the level of living matter, at which point it acquires the same rights as the
human being with emotions and feelings.
In this sense Maksymiak's puppets are obvious heirs of Samuel
Beckett's figures, such as, for example, Mouth, the character in Beckett's Not I
(1972), a woman reduced to a mouth. In Beckett's play, the main character is
always looking back because he feels something standing behind him. And the
puppet could be this "thing." Puppets are either an expression of mediation
between actors and spectators, or else a real presence on stage. The audience
can witness both situations during The Last Escape, as little by little we forget
who is the real actor and who is the real puppet, and, suddenly, during the
performance the puppets disappear and the live actors remain, imitating the
action and replicating the situation of the puppets.
But instead of being limited to a two-level stage, where reality is
played by real actors and the dream or memories by puppets, stage design
presents a third dimension, which serves as the crux of the performance. At a
certain moment in The Last Escape, we realize that not only is reality incarnated
by J6zef, and the dream by the sanatorium where he meets his father, but also
the dream of the dream is represented by a puppet representing the mother,
placed upstage behind a transparent curtain. In this same dream of the dream,
J6zef imagines a shop, where his father becomes a greedy shopkeeper singing
along with his employees, ''You need to sell! You need to bargain!"
Finally, here the influence of Tadeusz Kantor, a model for
Aleksander Maksymiak, seems fundamental. Beyond the subject matter itself,
the form of The Last Escape is clearly marked by Kantor's theatre. For example,
the actors wear schoolchildren's desks hung around their necks, an image
recalling Kantor's Umaria KJasa (The Dead Class, 1960). The maid Adela sweeps
the floor with broad circular movements of her broom, as does the
charwoman in Kantor's Dead Class. Also, Maksymiak's puppets in The Last
Escape remind the audience of Kantor's imagery in Wielopole Wielopole.
The Last Escape puts a warm, intimate picture within an old wooden
frame to portray Bruno Schulz's lost world. The original stories and their
adaptations are certainly complementary, expressing Schulz's metaphors by
means of matter in the form of a puppet. Its achievement is to articulate how
Schulz deals with memory and the subconscious. Last summer at the Avignon
Festival, the Hungarian choreographer Josef Nadj, deeply influenced by
Bruno Schulz and by puppet theatre, presented a fascinating performance-
directly inspired by the Polish writer's universe-that was full of shadows and
based on the different levels of cognition, memory, and imagination.
Incidentally, Josef Nadj's performance was entitled The Last Landscape.
1 thought in Polish and European puppetty," lecture given by Aleksander
Maksyrniak at the Theater Departtnent of Barnard College, New York City on
November 17, 2006.
2 Czes!aw Milosz, A History of Polish literature (New York: Macmillian, 1969).
3 Harold B. Segel, Finocchio's Progary, Puppets, Marionettes, Automatons and Robots in
Modernism andAvant-Garde Drama (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).
4 Tadeusz Kantor, A journey Through Other Spaces, Esstrys and Manifestos 1944-1990, edited
by Michal Kobialka (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).
78 Slavic and East European Performance VoL 27, No.2
Olga Muratova
Maxim Gorky's life and work can conveniently be divided into
"before" and "after" the Revolution. Born in 1868, eight years after
Chekhov, Gorky grew up nurtured on Alexander Ostrovsky's theatrical
practice of realism. At the turn of the century, the modernist tendencies
and themes characteristic of the Silver Age in Russian literature left their
mark on Gorky's philosophical and literary work, although he for the most
part rejected as decadent the Symbolists and their legacy.
The Gorky of the "before" period shared Chekhov concerns: the
death of old Russia and the birth of something new but as yet undefined.
Chekhov, however, recorded these changes in the upper classes and
intelligentsia, whereas Gorky observed the middle and lower strata of
society, including those at the margins. This phase of Gorky's work came to
an abrupt end in 1917 with the Bolshevik Revolution. In the "after" period
that followed, Gorky was officially proclaimed by the Communist Party to
be the preeminent revolutionary writer. Gorky spent the "before" period
primarily in Russia and the "after" mostly in exile in Italy until he returned
to the U.S.S.R. in 1929. The pre- 1917 Gorky explored human nature freely,
and hi s plays were bursting with vitality; the post-1917 playwright
conformed more closely to the ideological demands of the party, making
most of his later plays markedly inferior and boring.
It was still in the "before" period that Gorky wrote the first version
of Vassa Zheleznova, a play about the destructive power of human greed-a
theme that Ostrovsky had developed in a series of merchant dramas half a
century earlier. The original 1910 version of Gorky's family drama Vassa
Zheleznova draws a blood-chilling picture of people's willing enslavement to
money. Vassa, whose last name in Russian means "made of iron," is a strong
woman who almost single-handedly runs a huge family business
manufacturing bricks and tiles. She is matriarch of a large family that
consists of her husband (dying in Act I and dead in Act III); three grown
children (all married and one with children of her own); her brother-in-law;
a poor distant female relative who helps around the house; and a maid.
Poster for Vassa at the Horizon Theatre Rep, 2006
Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No. 2
Yassa's manager Mikhail, who assists her with the business and is the father-
in-law to her younger son Pavel, also lives in her house. Intent on keeping
the reins of her business in her own hands, Vassa forges her husband's will,
making herself the sole beneficiary and disinheriting all her children. She
plots to poison her brother-in-law, who also has a share in the business, and
even forces her younger son Pavel into a monastery, all the while claiming
that she is committing those crimes and sins for the sake of her family.
Gorky reveals, however, that Yassa is engaged in a brutal survival-
of-the-fittest struggle that recognizes no blood ties. Only those who can
serve her purposes are allowed to remain part of her clan; weaklings are
discarded. Her husband Zakhar is useless to her once he is terminally ill,
and she prays to God for his speedy death. Her two sons, Semyon and Pavel,
are weak and deserve no share of the business-Semyon is tied to his wife
Natalya's apron strings, and Pavel is a born cripple. Prokhor, her good-for-
nothing brother-in-law whose two passions are women and pigeons, does
not qualify as an heir either. By the end of the play, having dismissed most
of her relatives as useless drones, Yassa chooses as the only two worthy
successors in the business her eldest daughter Anna and her daughter-in-law
Liudmila, whose husband-her own son-she has ruthlessly sent to a
In the spring of 1935, the Moscow Art Theatre II, a studio of
MKhAT created in 1912 by Stanislavsky and Sulerzhitsky, started rehearsing
Gorky's Vassa Zheleznova. The director, Alexander Cheban, requested
changes from Gorky to make the play more contemporary. Responding at
once, Gorky asked to have the rehearsals stopped because he was rewriting
the entire play. The 1935 version Vassa radically modifies the themes and
philosophical underpinnings of the original play by adding the character of
Rachel, Yassa's daughter-in-law, who is a revolutionary living in exile. Rachel
becomes a symbol of the new future, and Yassa dies at the end of the play,
proving that all her efforts at amassing capital and sacrificing her own flesh
and blood to secure it are nothing but the agony of an old regime
condemned to death by a new world.
Gorky insisted that the second Vassa Zheleznova was the definitive
version and that the first one, which had won a Griboyedov Prize in 1911,
was to be discarded. And it was. In the Soviet era, the original Vassa was
staged professionally only once, in 1978 when Anatoly Yassiliev directed it
82 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Vtma ZheleifZOVa, directed by Christopher Carter Sanderson, Horizon Theatre Rep, 2006
at the Stanislavsky Moscow Drama Theatre. Meanwhile, the later Vassa
continued its triumphant march through the professional theatres of
Moscow, Leningrad, and other major Soviet cities, as well as abroad. This is
the version that most Russians are familiar with, since it appeared in all the
editions of Gorky's plays (whereas the first version could only be found in
complete editions of his works). In 1983 it was even made into a film (with
Gleb Panftlov as director and Inna Churikova as Vassa) that was vastly
popular in Russia.
Rafael De Mussa, artistic director of New York's Horizon Theatre
Rep, who plays Prokhor in the production, has a lasting passion and deep
respect for Russian theatre. His credits include Mikhail Bulgakov's Moliere,
or Cabal of Hypocrites and, as a work in progress, another of Gorky's early
plays, Enemies. It was De Mussa who brought the first version of Vassa
Zheleznova, in a 1988 translation by Tania Alexander and Tim Suter, to
Christopher Carter Sanderson, who went on to direct it at Horizon Rep. De
Mussa got the acting ensemble to fall in love with this little known and
rarely performed play and persuaded the cast and production staff of the
need for painstaking research into the period and its material culture.
The result was a Vassa Zheleznova, running from October 5 to 29,
2006, that was nothing short of a miracle. The detailed and historically
accurate scenery included kerosene lamps, Russian Orthodox icons,
stationary, china, and golden-framed paintings reminiscent of the period.
The heavy green drapes that covered the back wall from top to bottom and
the mahogany furniture looked as if they were taken from a house of a well-
to-do Russian petit bourgeois circa 1900. The costumes, designed by
Melissa Daghini, appeared authentic and were plentiful; every female
character except for the maid (Laura Malone) and Dunya, Vassa's poor
relative Gacqueline Margolis), had at least two outfits. Joyce Liao, the
lighting designer, worked wonders, keeping all the actors' faces-sometimes
eight at once-well-lit at all times. Trained at the Beijing Opera of China,
Liao considers it important to keep the actors' faces, as part of the mise-en-
scene, in the spotlight at all times whether or not they are speaking.
But the outstanding element of the production was the cast. The
actors, while presenting with admirable verisimilitude the tragedy of one
particular Russian family a hundred years ago, were able at the same time to
convince a contemporary audience that the story was our own too. As De
84 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Mussa explained, "The world goes around in circles, history repeats itself,
and what was true for Russia back then is true for the world we live in right
now. The world is yet again in turmoil, and there are a lot of lessons to be
extracted from Gorky's play."l
The characters were easily recognizable types, but never became
stereotypes. Susan Romanoff portrayed Vassa as a rigid, unyielding despot,
a lady with an iron fist who effectively manages to manipulate everyone
around her. She is a successful businesswoman, a capitalist shark ready to
step on heads and necks to protect her investment, a hypocrite hiding her
only interest-money-behind a facade of family values. Her daughter
Anna (Laura Marks) is turning into her mother quickly, learning to lie her
way through life and to adjust to all circumstances with only her own
personal benefit in mind. When her husband becomes too sick to produce
healthy offspring, she finds another man to father her children, without
giving the matter any further thought.
Liudmila Qennifer Rubins) is equally shameless; she feels no
remorse for getting pregnant out of wedlock and takes Prokhor's advice on
how to terminate her pregnancy, the price of which-becoming her uncle's
sex slave-she readily accepts. No secret is made of her marriage to Pavel
Qacob H. Knoll) as a cover-up for her promiscuity. Vassa takes Liudmila's
side rather than her son's because she feels solidarity with other strong
women. Vassa's older son Semyon (Bristol Pomeroy) has no ambitions and
docilely does what his wife Natalia (Celia Finkelstein) tells him to do; both
arc dismissed as losers by Vassa.
Vassa exploits those she can manipulate; once they are no longer
useful, she eliminates them. She uses Dunya to spy and eavesdrop on her
household; she uses her manager Mikhail (Ed Banas) as an obedient
accomplice in her dirty deeds. Lipa, her maid, is blackmailed by Vassa into
doing whatever her mistress wants until her horrible secret (the murder of
the baby that she had with Semyon) becomes known. Then Lipa is
dismissed and hangs herself. Once Prokhor, Vassa's brother-in-law, declares
that he wants to take his share out of the business, he becomes openly
dangerous to Vassa, and she protects her enterprise by having him
Rafael De Mussa believes that Gorky's characters are not simply
and exclusively Russian, and not primarily figures from the past. The
parallels drawn between then and now, between there and here, make the
Horizon Theatre Rep's Vema Zheleznova an amazing production, a true
miracle of today's theatre.
1 Rafael de Mus sa in his interview with the author after the performance on October
19, 2006.
86 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Maria Ignatieva
Galina Vishnevskaya, the legendary Russian singer and Mstislav
Rostropovich's widow, was so enraged by the Bolshoi Theatre's new version of
Tchaikovsky's Evgeny Onegin that she refused to hold her eightieth birthday
gala there. She considered this particular modernization barbaric and called the
director and the members of the cast "hooligans." Vishnevskaya considered
the 2006 interpretation an act of vandalism, but, paradoxically, by making such
a fuss became a great promoter of the opera. Her fury, bluntly expressed in the
press, was so towering that spectators by the hundreds started to storm the
box office of the Bolshoi Theatre.
In recent years, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and the Mariinsky
Theatre in St. Petersburg under Valery Gergiev's management have sought to
modernize opera by hiring the most daring directors of the time. Gergiev
invited, among others, the former enfant terrible of Russian theatre, Vladimir
Mirzoev, to direct a radical re-interpretation of Wagner's Giitterdammerung. By
asking Dmitri Tcherniakov to direct Onegin, the Bolshoi Theatre hopes to
revitalize the great art of opera. Why Tcherniakov? He graduated from the
Russian State Theatre Academy in 1993. Although only thirty-six, he has
already directed and designed operas all around Russia and all over the world
and has already received two Golden Mask Awards and the International
Stanislavsky Prize.
Calling the opera Lyrical Scenes from Onegin, the Bolshoi Theatre gives
the director a certain freedom of interpretation. Traditionally, cultured
spectators never use the expression "to see an opera," but always say, "to hear
an opera." This opera can be both heard and seen. Tcherniakov's Onegin is
elegantly designed--one might even call it chic. Instead of the traditional
changes of scenery (oh, those opera benches, bushes, and pseudo-marble
columns!), Tcherniakov places the entire action in one large dining room of
what must be a well-to-do country estate, the architecture of which is in early
nineteenth-century neo-classical style. The tall doors and narrow French
windows, a big, oval, cherry table, with chairs for at least fifty guests, the waxed
floor, and the chandeliers represent the magnificent aristocratic lifestyle of the
Larins (who, in fact, were very modest landlords). The changing seasons-the
light of the summer mornings followed by sunny days, the silver moon and
cold darkness of the winter nights-seen through the windows masterfully
create an unforgettable atmosphere in which the story is enveloped. This room
speaks for itself, and its enchanted life is romantically self-sufficient, though
detached from the people. Only once before have I witnessed a similar
atmospheric effect, in Warsaw, in Andrzej Wajda's production of Miss Julie in
All the action takes place in this single setting: the pageant put on by
locals, reading and writing of letters, dances, and confessions. The stage is so
large that the different corners can signify various locations both in the Larins'
home and outside.
Tcherniakov revised the libretto of Onegin and the novel itself. The
crowd plays a greater role in the story and in the characters' daily life. The main
characters are almost never alone; their minutes of solitude are constantly
interrupted, both in the country in the first act, and also in the second act,
when the room is transformed into a high society salon with an even bigger
table, around which the guests are seated with their backs to the audience. The
beautiful candelabras almost exactly mirroring those in the theatre, the scene
is picturesque and meaningful. But is it convenient for the singers to sing
sitting down? The effect on their voices is sometimes not very favorable.
The greatest change in the libretto involved Vladimir Lensky. In
Tcherniakov's production, instead of the traditional duel, Lensky is
accidentally killed by Onegin, who, in fact, tries to prevent a mishap, as the
drunken Lensky plays with a hunting rifle. Pushkin's stress on the accidental
nature of Lensky's death is here. Although the thought is interesting and
deserving of consideration, the fight scene is not clear or well staged. No
wonder the members of the audience asked each other, "What happened?
Who was killed?" Another distracting detail in the duel (or, rather brawl) scene
was Lensky's costume as a muzhik: country leather coat and felt boots, and a
fur hat (costume design by Maria Danilova). As the young and romantic
Lensky, Australian singer, Andrew Goodwin, who came to St.Petersburg to
study and graduated with a bachelor's degree from the St. Petersburg
conservatory, will, I have no doubt, become world-famous in the near future.
His performance made the audience weep. It is not only the beauty of his
voice; in Lensky's well-known aria ''Where, where did you go, the golden days
88 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
of my spring?" the actor's soul cried out, anticipating with forebodings his
forthcoming death.
Both the orchestra and the conductor (Alexander Vedernikov)
performed excellently, although all of Onegin's arias were overpowered by the
orchestra. It was impossible to understand Onegin's lyrics throughout the
entire opera. Sometimes it was even hard to hear the singer, Vladislav
Sulimsky. As usual, the Bolshoi Theatre opera company are better singers than
actors. Certainly, Tcherniakov is aware of this lack, but some of his directorial
attempts to correct it seem heavy-handed and obvious. For example, he has
Tatiana jump on the table, where she demonstrates her great anxiety caused by
sudden passion for Onegin. The actress (Yekaterina Shcherbachenko),
endowed with a beautiful voice and great dramatic ability, twists her arms and
body about the table in exaggerated gestures. Because Tcherniakov does not
credit his audience with sufficient intelligence to understand his ideas, he
resorts to exaggerations. The same can be said of some of the stage effects
that he used. If there is a storm, it has to be an apocalyptic storm that uproots
trees and smashes windows; if there is a masquerade, it must proclaim the
crass vulgarity of the provincial crowd. The gathering of the nobility at Prince
Gremin's reception was demonstratively upper class. Alexander Naumenko
gave an excellent performance as Tatiana's husband Gremin; his deep "honey-
toned" bass, as Russians say, deeply moved the spectators.
Nearly fifteen years ago Dmitri Tcherniakov bravely entered the
opera world, and some of his fans might call his career triumphant. Daring,
courageous, risky, inventive, and other such epithets are appropriate, no doubt.
As for this particular version of Onegin, it does not give the spectators an
overall harmonious impression. It does not create a total spectacle where
music, singing, acting, design, and directing fruitfully merge in an aesthetically
perfect artistic creation.
However, Tcherniakov made significant personal discoveries in the
show, and theatregoers were rewarded for their interest in the opera and for
their expenditure of money on expensive tickets. (Bolshoi tickets are almost as
expensive as in the United States.) One of these rewards was the discovery of
an incredible Australian tenor, Andrew Goodwin. There, singing and acting
did merge, and the character was both acted and sung beautifully.
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 Poznari, the School of Drama in Cracow, New York University, University
of California Santa Cruz, and Swarthmore College. Presently he is professor
of theatre at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has published
more then 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).
MARIA IGNATIEVA is Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre
at Ohio State University at Lima. She has over fifty publications on
contemporary Russian theatre and the history of Russian theatre. Before
coming to the United States, she taught at the Moscow Art Theatre School
Studio; since 1998, she has led seminars and presented papers in Australia,
Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Poland. A
Stanislavsky specialist, she recently completed her book Stanislavsk;y and
JEFF JOHNSON teaches at Brevard Community College in Melbourne,
Florida. His latest book is The New Theatre of the Baltics: From Soviet to Western
Influence in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Other books include William lnge and the
Subversion of Gender and Pervert in the Pulpit: Moraliry in the Works of David Lynch.
He is a regular contributor to SEEP.
MARTHA KIRSZENBAUM is a curatorial intern at the Department of
Media of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. She is currently a
visiting graduate student and a research scholar at the Graduate School of Arts
and Sciences and the East-Central European Center of Columbia University.
Born in France to Polish parents, her academic fields of interest are East-
Central European cultural studies in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly
performance and visual arts.
90 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
OLGA MURATOVA teaches Russian Studies at John Jay College of Criminal
Justice, City University of New York. She is currently working on her
doctorate in the Ph.D. Program in Comparative Literature, at the Graduate
Center, City University of New York. She is a regular contributor to SEEP.
MAYIA PRAMATAROVA is American Correspondent for LIK magazine
(Sofia, Bulgaria) and The Stage (Moscow). She teaches dramaturgy at the New
Bulgarian University (Sofia) and has worked as an advisor at the Bulgarian
Cultural Instirute (Moscow) and as a dramarurg at the National Theatre
(Sofia). She is the founder of the art almanac Etcetera and has authored, edited,
and translated several books on Bulgarian and Russian theatre. She earned her
Ph.D. from the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts (GITIS).
ROBYN QUICK is Associate Professor and coordinator of the Theatre
Studies track in the Theatre Arts Department at Towson University, where she
teaches courses in theatre history and dramaturgy. She holds a Ph.D. in theatre
from the University of Michigan and has published in several journals,
including American Theatre.
THOMAS EDMUND STARK.Y teaches Polish and works as a research
assistant at Columbia University, where he is a Ph.D. candidate at The Center
for Comparative Literature and Society (CCLS). His research interests include
the relations between contemporar y theory, modern and postmodern
literature, and architecture.
MARl< F. TATTENBAUM is an award-winning artist working as a director,
actor, dramaturg, producer, playwright, and poet. Current activities include
participation at the Tenth International Theatre School Workshops, ITI-
UNESCO Chair, Sinaia, Romania, and research on We're Sqying Goodbye to Them
AIL An Investigation of the Crash of the B-24 Bomber "Honkq Tonk Gal" Near
Ploesti, Romania, August 1, 1943. He holds an M.F.A. and is a Ph.D. candidate in
American Studies at the University at Buffalo, specializing in theatre and film.
Photo Credits
Humor and Satire Theatre of Yakutsk
Democra(:J. doc
Teatr.doc and Soundrama
Cherno@J/ Prqyer
Lehtonen Production
The Fall o( a Stone House
The Solski Theatre
The Lower Depths
The National Theatre of Bulgaria
The Tempest
The National Theatre of Bulgaria
Don Juan
The National Theatre of Bulgaria
Enchanted Night
The National Theatre of Bulgaria
Katarzyna Chmielewska
Piotr Woloszyk
Rafal Dziemidok and Leszek Bzdyl
Iwona & Jaroslaw Cieslikowscy
92 Slavic and East European Performance Vol. 27, No.2
Leszek Bzdyl
Iwona & Jaroslaw Cieslikowscy
Card Index Scattered
State University of New York at Buffalo
The Last EscatJe
Wroclaw Puppet Theatre
Vassa Zhele:;;,nova
Horizon Theatre Rep
*In the Winter 2007 issue of SEEP, all photos from ''A Night of Free
Theater" should have been credited to Evelyn Garcia.
Bllll(JGJ,nl\ PJ Cn( 41 .; IL I')tf'S I'\ [M.jt .. H <'' "''
A"io Co"'nn ., UL'\t llll4"Bl A'u l'r5tl-lli:Mo\'t l
A Bibliography
Meghan Duffy
Senior Editor
Daniel Gerould
Initiated 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 conci se
bibliography, focusing exclusively on
drama, theatre, and performance, and
includes only published works written
in English or appearing in English
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:
Circulation Manager
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
The CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309
Visit our web-site at:
Contact: or 212-817-1868
The Arab Oedipus:
Four Plays
Marvin Carlson
Marvin Carlson
Dalia Basiouny
William Maynard Hutchins
Pierre Cachia
Desmond O'Grady
Adrner 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 Al-Hakim's King Oedipus, Ali
Ahmad Bakathir's The Tragedy of Oedipus, Ali
Salim's The Comedy of Oedipus, and Walid
L---------------1 lkhlasi's Oedipus.
The volume also includes Al-Hakim's preface to his Oedipus, on the subject of Arabic tragedy, a
preface on translating Bakatbir by Dalia Basiouny, and a general introduction by Marvin Carlson.
An awareness of the rich tradition of modern 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:
Circulation Manager
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
The CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309
Visit our web-site at:
Contact: or 212-817-1868
Witkiewicz: Seven Plays
Translated and Edited
by Daniel Gerould
This volume contains seven of
Witkiewicz's most important
plays: The Pragmatists, Tumor
Brainiowicz, 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 fifties. 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:
Circulation Manager
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
The CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309
Visit our web-site at: mestc/
Contact: or 212-817-1868
@ The.Ah-t--Mmdedl.over
@ D..ctoud-TheCo..ceited Cow.t
@ L.Ciu.....e..Thefa.slrlonohlePrejuclioe
@ L.'l"' Thel'rleadol thor...-
The Heirs of
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 modem 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 Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309
Visit our web-site at:
Contact: or 212-817-1868
Four Melodramas
Translated and Edited by:
Daniel Gerould
Marvin Carlson 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 wh.ich 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 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:
Contact: or 212-817-1868