The Devils of Loudun

January 2 - January 19
Thursday - Sunday 7:30pm
"FOOL'S MASS" Sunday Afternoons at 2:30
The Annex Theatre

adapted, directed & designed by: Matt Mitler
music direction: Bob Strock
costumes: Karen Hatt
administrative director: Stephen Shelley
featuring: Yvonne Brecht, Carolina Franco, Fyndra Krauss, Johnny Melville, Matt Mitler, John Norman, Michael Richardson, Stephen Shelley, Rebecca Sokoll & Bob Strock


THE DEVILS OF LOUDUN is a multilayered chamber piece about mass possession, sin, and redemption, inspired by Aldous Huxley's historical treatise. The story centers on a group of 17th century Ursuline nuns who, inspired by their Prioress, Sister Jeanne des Anges, became officially "possessed" and were forced to undergo public exorcisms. Blame for the nuns' behavior was placed on the cavalier and charismatic priest, Urbain Grandier. Guilty of sins of the flesh but not of the devil, and burdened with enemies at the highest levels of French society, Grandier was imprisoned, tortured, and ultimately martyred. Eventually, Jeanne's visions of devils were replaced by an apparition of Saint Joseph, and she became "miraculously" marked with stigmata. She cultivated the career of a mystic and lived famed and respected for many years.

DEVILS, in development for five years, has grown from a strictly movement-based performance piece into a ritualized integration of text, music, and movement that makes for a compelling, visceral, and rewarding experience for actors and audience alike. The text has been compiled from a variety of sacred and classic sources, including Goethe, Milton, Luther, Calderon, Petrarch, Donne, the Nag Hammadi Library, Swami Vivekananda, and the Bible. The abundant vocal music comes from a wide range of Medieval and Renaissance sources, including Machaut, Codex Las Huelgas, Le Jeune, Attaignant, Victoria, Aquinas, and von Bingen. Elements of sacred movement and traditional dance, as well as techniques from mime, Commedia dell'Arte, and Meyerhold, have been integrated into the staging. The overall effect is to create layers of detail that will make each audience member's experience of the piece unique and unforgettable.

DZIECI (djyeh-chee) is an international experimental theatre ensemble, founded in 1997, dedicated to a search for the "sacred" through the medium of theatre. DZIECI aims to vigilantly uphold Stanislavski's maxim: "We must love not ourselves in art, but art in ourselves." Towards this aim, the ensemble balances its work on performance with work of service through creative and therapeutic interaction with patients in a variety of institutional settings. DZlECI believes that by helping others, a profound healing effect is generated that not only serves the patient, but strengthens the ensemble's work.

DZIECI Artistic Director Matt Mitler was originally trained in Humanistic Psychology, studying with R.D. Laing and Carl Rogers. His theatrical experience includes work with Jerzy Grotowski and the Polish Theatre Laboratory, and additional work with Richard Cieslak, Grotowski's lead actor. He has designed and directed more than 50 theatrical productions in the U.S. and Europe, and his work has been presented at major international festivals, including Festival Mondial du Theatre and The Theatre of Nations. His 1995 film "Cracking Up" garnered many awards, including Best Film at The Venice International Film Festival Critic's Week, and People's Choice at the New York Underground Film Festival. He is also profiled in "Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors" by Retta Blaney.

In addition, DZIECI will be offering performances of FOOL'S MASS on Sundays at 2:30pm. In this work, a group of medieval village idiots are forced to enact the mass on their own due to the sudden death of their beloved pastor, an extraordinary man who had given them shelter and taught them to sing. Though it sounds grim, the piece is full of buffoonery and comic audience participation. This, along with choral singing of sacred hymns and chants from the 8th through the 17th centuries, combine to create a work which travels from the ridiculous to the sublime. The piece has been performed seasonally at Grace Episcopal Church in Manhattan since 1998. Reverend Mario Martinez, Vicar Priest at the church has said, "All priests should experience this complex, delightful, and rich theatrical creation."

"DZIECI" is the Polish word for "Children".
DZIECI website

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