The Opole Puppet Theatre of Poland performs
"And I have Uncurtained the Night," based on Hans Christian
Andersen's short story, "The Story of a Mother" and directed
by Krystian Kobylka, as part of the La MaMa Puppet Series Festival September
16-19. This visual theater work crosses the barrier of spoken language
with its use of pictures, fine art forms, music, acting, and puppetry.
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.
Andersen's story explores the boundaries between life and death, reality
and spiritual vision. The hero of this story is Mother, whose Childe is
taken by Death, who appears as different figures on Mother's path to finding
her child. Mother makes several sacrifices to these figures in an effort
to find her Childe and save it from an unknown future with Death. The
Childe is the personification of the quest for Fate, as a dual destiny:
a blessing for the world, as well as a curse.
The Puppet Theater in Opole, founded by Alojzy Smolka and then called
the Polish Puppet Theater, debuted in 1937, when Opole was still in the
region belonging to Germany. From this time until the outbreak of World
War II, the theater presented six plays in 200 performances. The Nazi
invasion in September 1939 led to the arrest of many of the theater staff
to German prisons, including Smolka, who was imprisoned for ten years.
In April 1945, Smolka was released from prison and began working odd
jobs at the Opole Drama Theater. Still missing puppetry, he began an effort
to reactivate this artform, and in the 1948-49 season, he assumed the
position of artistic director of the Puppet Theater, a division of the
Opole Drama Theater. During this time, Smolka's work became widely recognized
and respected. He hired many prominent actors and crew members, and introduced
Polish audiences to work by Czech and Slovak writers. Smolka's dedication
to the maintenance of high quality work greatly increased the Puppet Theater's
popularity and loyalty among its audience. This tradition continues today
under the leadership of many other directors following Smolka.
Since 1993, the Puppet Theater has been an independent organization subsidized
by the city of Opole budget. Its productions continue to receive many
awards and has toured in Germany, Finland, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Sweden,
Denmark, and Spain, along with a number of television appearances.
This production will be followed in the First Floor Theater by the second
Polish production of the La MaMa Puppet Series Festival, Wroclaw Puppet
Theatre in "The Last Escape," based on the novels of Bruno Schultz
and directed by Aleksander Maksymiak (September 30-October 3).