Theatre from Poland performs "The Last Escape," based on the novels
of Bruno Schultz, and directed by Aleksander Maksymiak, from September 30 to
October 3 as part of La MaMa's Puppet Series Festival.
With the La MaMa
Puppet Series Festival, the formative East Village theater once again takes
its place as a leading US entry point for artists from around the world,
and where the international influence on New York artists is most on display.
This festival features US premieres of multicultural works from India, Poland,
Bali, Japan and the Czech Republic in addition to two that, while crafted
in New York, are brimming with international art forms. One production is
a significant revival. The series culminates October 7 to 10 with "Motel," the puppet play
of "America Hurrah," Jean-Claude van Itallie's trilogy, which was
originally presented by La MaMa in 1965 and is now widely regarded as the watershed
Off-Broadway play of the Sixties. The festival is supported by The Henson International
Festival of Puppet Theater and utilizes all three of La MaMa's performance
Bruno Schulz, a
Polish writer and artist of the 1930s and 1940s who is often neglected by the
general public, wrote dark literature centered on numerous realities and
interpretations. His most famous collection of stories, "The Street of Crocodiles"
(1933, tr. 1963), fuses the realistic and the dreamlike in recollections of
his own upbringing in the Jewish quarter of Drohobycz. Although his output was
not copious, it is the quality of his writing that has attracted the likes of
Philip Roth and John Updike. Isaac Bashevis Singer described Schulz as "a
highly artistic paradox, a literary riddle who… deserves the attention
of lovers and critics of literature," while John McDonald describes "a
sense of hidden madness, and threads of unspoken desires" in Schultz'
work. Before turning to literature, Schulz was successful as an artist and
his works are considered significant to this day. 1992 was named The Year of
Bruno Schulz by UNESCO, commemorating the 100th anniversary of his birth, and
the 50th anniversary of his death at the hands of a Nazi officer in the Jewish
ghetto of Drohobycz. In 2001, representatives of Yad Vashem - the Holocaust
Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority - secretly removed parts of newly
discovered Shulz mural from Drohobycz to Israel. A useful historical biography
of Schultz can be found at: www.culture.pl/en/culture/artykuly/os_schulz_bruno.
This stage production aims
to encapsulate the essence of Schultz' work. Men, in Schultz's many-themed,
multi-layered prose works, seem to embody mental faculty. The play's main
character is based on Józef - a pensioner and protagonist of "The Last Escape."
He tries to break through his own loneliness and boredom to escape his room.
He finds that there is a place where time belongs to no one, and he recalls
pictures and events from the past. By stimulating his imagination, he finds
his parents and his childhood, that is, a new space in which to exist. Emphasis
is placed on the "one and only human tragedy - the tragedy of time."
Józef never dies a definite death; rather, he retreats into another space,
into other regions of existence. Polish author Krzysztof Stala wrote, "this
imaginary being is stratified on various levels, it is crushed into numerous
realities. Between those divisions happens permanent communication, the changes
of meanings, accumulation of pressures."
The Wroclaw Puppet Theater
began in 1946 in Wroclaw. Its repertoire was aimed toward children and youth
and it gave frequent performances in the towns and villages of Lower Silesia,
the region in which Wroclaw is situated.
The organization developed
three areas of performance which continue to be presented today: a "prep
school" stage for children up to 6 years old; a Main Stage geared toward
school children; and a Small Stage, which started in 1968. The Small Stage
is the place of artistic research and experimentation. Its works are new interpretation
of classic and contemporary literature, based on texts by Goethe, Shakespeare,
Beckett, Rozewicz, Witkiewicz, Schulz, Kafka, Brecht and many others.
Today, the Wroclaw Puppet
Theater is well-known for its wide range of activities, and has toured throughout
the world, performing across Europe, Japan, and the Americas. The famous
performances of its Small Stage constitute an important chapter in the history
of Polish theater. It currently has in its repertoire over a dozen original
plays for children. It also organizes and cooperates on other artistic initiatives,
such as Dziecieca Akademia Artystyczna (Children Artistic Academy) and other
special programs for children to broaden their artistic talents. The group
also organizes a number of international festivals such as: International
Puppet Theater Meetings
"Lalka, Loutka, Babka, Bab"; One's Actor's Theater Meetings and International
Puppet Artists Debuts Festival.