Aneta Pawlak. Volksbühne Was Berlin
Aneta Pawlak describes the various stages in the change of directors at the Volksbühne in Berlin. She quotes statements by artists who have worked at the theater (including Frank Castorf and Bert Neumann), the present director (Chrisa Dercona), and municipal bureaucrats. She outlines the theater’s profile change, brought about by the new program concept, by which Volksbühne is to meld theater, performance art, music, and visual art. The author points out the danger in Dercon’s concept, which overrides the political and local dimension this theater has had to date, replacing it with capitalist and consumer methods of building a relationship with the client.
Karolina Prykowska-Michalak. Who Does the Theater Belong to? Changes in Berlin’s Theater
Karolina Prykowska-Michalak analyzes the repertoire and program changes at three Berlin theaters – Volksbühne, Berliner Ensemble, and Staatsoper Unter den Linden – resulting from three changes in directors. The author outlines how German theaters function, stressing the organizational idiosyncrasies of Berlin’s theaters. Presenting the organizational, legal, and systemic entanglements of each stage and their historical context, the author describes the impact of the municipal governors’ cultural policy on how the theaters operate.
Thomas Irmer. An Exploded Sarcophagus
Thomas Irmer reviewsFrank Castorf’s Faust (Volksbühne in Berlin, premiere: 3.03.2017). The author points out the non-canonical interpretation of Goethe’s drama, how Castorf plays with the chronology of various parts and scenes. He also notes the intertextuality of the performance, by which Castorf introduces various levels of meaning, sharpening the political messages, chiefly when it comes to the French colonial invasion of Algeria and the political maneuvers of Berlin’s bureaucrats to change the director at the Volksbühne.
The Volksbühne Rule, Goethe’s Faust, and a True Story: Frank Castorf in conversation with Thomas Irmer
Thomas Irmer speaks with Frank Castorf about Faust(Volksbühne in Berlin, premiere: 3.03.2017). Castorf mentions his fascination for Goethe and explains his dramaturgical strategies for the performance. The story of the staging leads to political and historical topics: the history of colonialism (primarily France’s conquest of Algeria in the first half of the nineteenth century) and the significance of Volksbühne for Berlin. The director recalls the socio-political backdrop at the turn of the 1980s and 90s, when he assumed direction of the Volksbühne, and ponders what East Germany meant to him in its relationship to West Germany.
Katarzyna Osińska. Theater in Russia – One Hundred Years after the Revolution
Katarzyna Osińska sketches a sweeping look at contemporary Russian theater. She writes about the Eternal Russia project prepared at Berlin’s Hebbel am Ufer by Marina Davidova and Vera Martinov, presenting the history of the nation from the empire to the present day, and a range of other plays: Fields, Volkostrelov by Xenia Pyertrukhina and Dmitri Volkostrelov; Marat Gatzalov’s Breathing produced at the Theater of Nations; and Refugee Conversations, based on Bertolt Brecht’s text, by Konstantin Uchityel and Vladimir Kuznyetzov. Osińska makes reference to Teatru.doc and Russian Case during the Golden Mask, and mentions the controversial arrest of director Kiril Serebrennikov.
Marta Kufel. Christ Returns to Poland
Marta Kufel examines the process whereby meaning is created in the dramatization of the return of Christ in a work of art, and the socio-political implications it has. She takes the example of Apocalypsis cum figuris. Jerzy Grotowski’s play is put in the context of the critical sermon by Primate Stefan Wyszyński of 1976, and read counter to the interpretative tradition of the category of infidelity as expressing social tensions and the desire to replace an oppressive reality with the fantasy of a better world.
Zuzanna Berendt. “Have We Regained Freedom?” The Church and Tadeusz Różewicz’s Mariage Blanc
The point of departure in Zuzanna Berendt’s article is the critical reception of the play Mariage Blanc, directed by Weronika Szczawińska at the Stefan Żeromski Theater in Kielce in 2010. Alluding to the words of Primate Stefan Wyszyński’s sermon of 1976, condemning Mariage Blanc, the author investigates the critical potential of the drama in terms of the Catholic Church’s understanding of categories like freedom, family, and gender. Berendt focuses on Różewicz’s image of the family and the interpretation of the drama’s main female protagonist.
Ewa Guderian-Czaplińska. Open Sky
This article reflects upon how the Catholic religion functions in Marian Pankowski’s dramas. The author present the writer’s complicated relationship to religion and the dogmas of faith, juxtaposing Pankowski’s debut drama, A Bivouac under the Open Sky, with T. S. Eliot’s first work from the Ariel Poems series. Both works paraphrase the story of the birth of Jesus, clearly foregrounding the story of the Three Kings and, paradoxically, linking the moments of birth and death. The most important theme joining the works, according to the author, is doubt, which she sees as expressing the writers’ approach to the dogma of faith.
Małgorzata Sugiera.Effects and Affects in Mockumentary Reports on Space Missions
Małgorzata Sugiera surveys a selection of films on space travel from the perspective of film strategies that use documentary conventions: the mockumentary and found footage. Describing how dramaturgy is constructed in selected productions (A Virtual Journey to the Planet Darwin 4, A Report from Europe, Apollo 18, and Dark Side of the Moon) she points out the extra-textual (real world) level, which is key to perception, allowing the viewer to make independent and critical reflections. Sugiera forwards the thesis that an analysis of documentary strategies used in the selected films opposes the conviction that we are living in the epoch of information; she prefers the phrase “the epoch of digital media” which change our perception and how we select facts, and affect our ability to form a critical opinion on the objectivity of scientific reports.
Mateusz Borowski. Facts and Affects: Horror in the Era of (Intelligent) Machines
Mateusz Borowski describes found footage and mockumentary strategies used to build the dramaturgy in horrors (e.g. The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula).He describes mockumentary strategies in building narratives and ponders their affective potential. He points out that documentary techniques “have reinvigorated the convention of horror cinema, providing new ways of evoking a sense of reality and effectively building suspense.” Borowski situates his investigations against a backdrop of new media and technology developments and the recent triumphs of populism and “post-truth” discourse as strategies in election campaigns.
Julia Kluzowicz. Seeing What Others Don’t See – Notes from Stefan Kaegi’s Rehearsals
The author covers The Roof, directed by Stefan Kaegi, part of the Ciudades Paralelas Festival in Warsaw (27.05-03.06.2011). Kluzowicz reports on how the director worked with the main protagonist, an amateur actress, focusing on the process of creating a script based on her biography, and how she communicated with Kaegi. The author mentions the special objects used in The Roof that facilitate the protagonist’s existence in the home and city space. Describing the course of the rehearsals, she points out the social dimension of the play – the audience learns the true story of blind Karolina, her everyday life and perception of the world.
On Empathy in the Public Sphere: Krystyna Duniec in conversation with Mark Beylin, Łukasz Chotkowski, Jolanta Janiczak, Joanna Pawluśkiewicz, Anna Smolar, and Igor Stokfiszewski
The participants in this conversation consider ways of releasing empathy in a contemporary society filled with aggression, violence, and hate speech. They focus on the role of art in building empathetic strategies, using the example of plays such as: Dybbuk by Anna Smolar, The Curse by Oliver Frljić, and the Big Dogs Don’t Bark educational project. They also call attention to the stereotypes and thought cliches deeply ingrained in society, which are always painful to uproot.
Paweł Schreiber. Solidarity
Paweł Schreiber writes about two premieres concluding the 2016/2017 at Polski Theater in Bydgoszcz: Solidarity: Reconstruction (dir. Paweł Wodziński, premiere: 23.06.2017) and Workplace (dir. Bartosz Frąckowiak, premiere: 24.06.2017). Schreiber notes that in Solidarity: Reconstruction the utopian model of the self-governing theater proposed by Frąckowiak and Wodziński is examined, though with the change of director at the beginning of the season, it cannot be carried out. He sees Workplace as the perfect example of social theater, and appreciates the spare form and the topical theme: workplace relations as determined by the principles of the free market.
Maryla Zielińska. Ms God, the Snake, and Freedom
Maryla Zielińska covers the play The Bible, Genesis 1-11: The Book of Free People, directed by Michał Zadara (Nowy Theater in Warsaw, Centrala, premiere: 1.09.2017). The critic notes that the audience was invited to help create the world on stage with the actors, who tried to evoke a sense of equality, freedom, and community. She sees this arranged interaction with the audience as a form of non-oppressive, playful education. She stresses the didactic side of these tactics, aiming to break down worn schemata in perceiving religion, for example by casting twelve-year-old Julia as God, reading the Bible the wrong way round, and calling viewers’ attention to how the Bible can be interpreted in multiple ways.
Iwona Kurz. Decay
Iwona Kurz writes on the play Collapsing, directed by Árpád Schilling (Powszechny Theater in Warsaw, premiere: 30.06.2017). The author analyzes the play by the Hungarian director as, on the one hand, a diagnosis of contemporary Polish reality, and on the other, as a theatrical production with complex origins, and one that uses meta-theatrical strategies. She takes a critical stance against the vision of the family and society depicted in Collapsing, showing the simplified opposition between liberals and conservatives and the hasty diagnoses, which lack solid political foundations. In sum, Kurz juxtaposes the play with recent productions by Powszechny Theater that “get involved.”
Marcelina Obarska. You’re Strange. I Like You
Marcelina Obarska reviews two plays by Anna Karasińska: Fantasy(TR Warsaw, premiere: 9.04.2017) and All Invented(National Stary Theater in Krakow, premiere: 23.06.2017). Obarska shows that in the heart of both plays is the issue of “imagination, illusion, and imitation in theater.” Recalling Karasińska’s theater debut – Ewelina’s Crying (2015) – she demonstrates that the director consistently builds and develops her theater strategy and aesthetic. According to Obarska, the key attributes of Karasińska’s theater are: the oddity, marvel, and potential of the imagination, and the focus on the moment of creation, which becomes the main theme of the performance.
Katarzyna Lemańska. And What Drives You?
Katarzyna Lemańska reviews the play If Pina Hadn’t Smoked, She Would Have Lived, directed by Cezary Tomaszewski (Dramatyczny Theater in Wałbrzych, premiere: 12.05.2017). The author outlines the structure of the play, based on a montage technique, and introduces many themes derived from the figure of German choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch. The play joins the themes of death and loss with an anecdotal treatment of episodes from the life of Bausch and the Tanztheater Wuppertal ensemble. It also has a theatrical dimension, when, for instance, the theater actors transform into dancers.
Katarzyna Dobrowolska. Being Oversensitive, Saving the Oversensitive?
Katarzyna Dobrowolska reviews Miss Nobody, directed by Paweł Passini (Wrocław Współczesny Theater, premiere: 20.05.2017). The author focuses on depicting the ties between the psychological state of the main protagonist, teenage Marysia, and the artistic strategies in the play. In the oneiric structure of the play, Dobrowolska finds reflections on the theme of oversensitivity as both valuable and dangerous, and describes the tension the director builds between the adult and teenage protagonists.
Katarzyna Niedurny. When to Keep Silent?
Katarzyna Niedurny reviews a play by Agata Dudy-Gracz, You’ll Be Happy, or: A Piece on the Last Wedding in the Village of Kamyk (Nowy Theater in Poznań, premiere: 25.03.2017). The author describes the performance, inspired by a short story by Wiesław Łuka. The director shifts the action from 1976 to the 1990s, but more important to her than the political events are the mechanisms and principles that govern life in a small, hermetic society. The author points out the interesting tactic of situating the action in three time frames, which works as a “commentary on the life of the depicted society.”
Zbigniew Mich. David Hockney – Set Designer
Zbigniew Mich outlines the work of David Hockney, focusing on the set designs he has created. The author traces Hockney’s first interest in the theater back to a fascination for curtains and mirrors, which made their way into his painting. Mich describes the artist’s approach to the theater and his concept of set design. He takes a look at Hockney’s first designs for Ubu Roi and the operas of Igor Stravinsky, and depicts how he worked with directors, the process of creating sets for opera stagings, the artist’s acquaintance with Andy Warhol, and his ties with other artists who had a major influence on his work.
Marcin Bogucki. Horror on a Revolving Stage
A review of an opera directed by Mariusz Treliński, The Dead City (Wielki Theater – National Opera in Warsaw, premiere: 10.06.2017). In the set design, costumes, and protagonists’ psychologies, Marcin Bogucki sees allusions to the films of Alfred Hitchcock, and in the style of the sets, the evident influence of David Lynch. The author recalls episodes from the life of the composer, Erich Korngold, and the historical context of the work, stressing the work’s potential that untapped in this production. He sees the director’s vision as consistent, but repetitious in terms of his previous productions.
Jolanta Łada-Zielke. A Masterful Game of Associations
A review of Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg directed by Barrie Kosky (Richard Wagner Festspiele, premiere: 25.07.2017). Łada-Zielke highlights the issues in Wagner’s plot, adding the questions raised by the Australian director concerning the destructive power of stereotypes. She shows how Kosky plays with the form of the opera, identifying the fictitious protagonists with the family and friends of the composer, who becomes the play’s central figure. The author notes a few misfired ideas, and uses the negative audience response to indicate the literalness of the artist’s strategies.
Lukáš Jiřička. Olga Neuwirth – Summoning Audio Monsters
Lukáš Jiřička describes the work of Olga Neuwirth, an electro-acoustic composer. He notes the artist’s original style and language, which tends toward improvisation, abandoning sounds that are easy on the listener’s ears. Her Kloing! And Hommage à Klaus Nomi are linked to the post-spectacular theater movement, which presupposes a critical stance against representation. He sees Neuwirth as reflecting upon the figure of the author and the tension between the composer and the performer.
Pamela Bosak. In Conflict
Pamela Bosak sums up the fifth edition of the KRoki International Contemporary Dance Festival in Krakow (12-21.05.2017). She analyzes four performances: Guilherme Bothelo’s Antes, Adi Weinberg’s Living/leaving, Electrodomestis Constanza Macras’ Electrodomestis, and Arkadi Zaides’ Dorky Park and Archive. The description and interpretation of various scenes help the author juxtapose the themes the artists raise with the slogan of this year’s edition of the festival: “In Conflict?”. Bosak believes that curator Jadwiga Majewska’s program let viewers explore the problems in societies threatened by political conflicts, such as those inhabited by the artists invited to Krakow.
Agnieszka Sosnowska. Opening the Borders of Art
Agnieszka Sosnowska writes on the Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels (5-27.05.2017). The author states that an important aspect of the festival is the location of the various events in different, somewhat peculiar parts of Brussels, One example is the Time Has Fallen Asleep in the Afternoon Sunshine project by Norwegian performer and choreographer Mette Edvardsen. Sosnowska also writes about the festival premiere, the play Gerhard Richter, une pièce pour le théâtre by Mårten Spångberg, an experimental choreographer. Spångberg works with dancers at the twilight of their careers, examining the relationships between dance, physical agility, and the professional dancer.
Natalia Jakubowa. The Festival in Avignon – More Than Sagas
The author describes the 71st edition of the International Theater Festival in Avignon (6-26.07.2017), focusing on a few plays: Olivier Py’s Parisians, Frank Castorf’s Collusion of Hypocrites, Katie Mitchell’s Chambermaids, Simon Stone’s Ibsen Huis, François Cervantes’ Clair, Anton, and Them, and Le Birgit Ensemble’s Memories of Sarajevo and In The Ruins of Athens. The author defines the festival audience, analyzing the strategies of engaging perception and ways the actors interacted with the viewers. She stresses that there was no shortage of “little stories” in the main program, in accordance with the festival concept.
Tomasz Kowalski. A Festival of Important Questions
Tomasz Kowalski writes about Poznań’s Malta Festival (16-25.06.2017). A key context in his coverage of the plays, installations, and participatory activities is the censorship of the Polish Minister of Culture, who stripped the festival of its grant because Oliver Frljić served as a curator of this year’s edition. The author describes the plays that were part of the Balkan Platform: Turbofolk directed by Frljić (Croatian National Theater in Rijeka) and The Republic of Slovenia (Mask Institute and Slovensko mladinsko gledališče in Ljubljana) and the 350 Janez Janša Bottles installation. Kowalski devotes part of his text to participatory projects outside the main stream of the festival.
Katarzyna Waligóra. Desiring Icons
Katarzyna Waligóra reviews Agata Łuksza’s book Glamor, Femininity, the Spectacle: The Actress as an Object of Desire (Zbigniew Raszewski Theater Institute, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Warsaw 2016). The author takes a critical view of the many themes and examples tackled in the book, which sidestep such issues as cultural, social, or historical context. Nonetheless, Waligóra stresses the value of Łuksza’s book, and that the author “manages to show glamor and process of glamorization and deglamorization as analytical categories that are important and necessary in theater study.”