The Last Escape

Wroclaw Puppet Theatre

Performance Schedule:
September 30 - October 3, 2004
First Floor Theater
Thursday – Sunday 8:00pm
Sunday matinee 2:30pm
Tickets $15.00


Wroclaw Puppet 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 theaters.

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.

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