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Double Edge Theatre, the acclaimed ensemble led by founder/ Artistic Director Stacy Klein, now celebrating its 25th Anniversary, makes its return to New York’s La MaMa Annex with a World Premiere performance inspired by Bruno Schulz. Double Edge Theatre is widely renowned for long-term collaborations, classic literature adaptations, and original theater performances. Throughout its history, this unparalleled organization has demonstrated the deeply felt tribute to past artists combined with new “explosive” possibilities drawn from an original training methodology and approach to long-term devised ensemble work.
Republic of Dreams takes from the magic realism writings and imaginings of WWII-era Polish-Jewish artist Bruno Schulz (1892-1942), as well as adapts his lush, magical and sometimes erotic drawings to the stage. Using the theatre’s signature style of physicality, imagery, puppetry, live instrumental and choral music, Double Edge deeply explores Schulz’ powerful prose and life, as well as his banal death at the hands of a jealous Nazi, to create an unforgettable journey through the human experience in the modern world. On the choice to work on a lesser-know figure from WWII, Artistic Director Klein said, “his work was written at a time of great danger, at the advent of fascism as well as a spiritually corrupt time when materialism was especially dominant. And yet, Schulz’ work was a transformative literature…It was about the power of dreams. As he said himself in one of his essays, ‘No dreams, however absurd or senseless are wasted in this universe.’”
Double Edge initiated the research on Republic of Dreams in 2005, including expeditions to Poland, and later on, a much lauded open rehearsal at CUNY Graduate Center in New York. Collaborators yielded an original score, unique production design, painted canvases, masks and puppets. Jacek Ostaszewski, who composed and arranged the original live and recorded score for Dreams, is a renowned Polish composer, and instrumentalist of such films as Blue, Red, and The Double Life of Veronique. His choral and instrumental pieces are performed live inside the action of the performance. Mira Zelechower-Aleksiun is a celebrated Polish-Jewish visual artist, whose own tale of survival from the Holocaust uniquely informs her rich design-manifestation of Schulz’ image driven world. Award-winning Mexican-Jewish author Ilan Stavans (Spanglish, The Disappearance), dramaturg and collaborator on Republic of Dreams holds Schulz as an artist of great import. “His death,” says Stavans, “might have turned him into yet another victim of totalitarianism, but it’s clear he didn’t see himself as a victim. He was a magician.
Photo: Robert Tobey
The initial phases of Dreams have garnered praise and stirred excitement, starting after the rehearsal in New York. Daniel Gerould, Distinguished Professor of Theatre and Literature at CUNY University lauded, “…their inventive and innovative use of the traditions of the Polish theatre…their brilliant theatrical realizations of Schulz’s poetic and metaphoric prose…The result is a revelation.” According to Rolando Perez of Hunter College, “Gorgeously directed by Stacy Klein itcaptures the beauty of Schulz’s originality: his myths and mystical images. The action, the ways the actors move on stage, as folds upon folds of fabric, turn the beautiful elusiveness of a Schulzian night into an unforgettable experience. Without any reservations, I recommend the work of Double Edge Theatre to anyone who loves great theatre.”
Though Schulz is a lesser known artist and writer, there are substantial writings on his work in print and on-line. His books are still in print as are biographies and his published letters. The renowned short story writer Isaac Beshivis Singer wrote of Bruno Schulz: “Schulz cannot be easily classified. He can be called a surrealist, a symbolist, an expressionist, a modernist…. He wrote sometimes like Kafka, sometimes like Proust, and at times he succeeded in reaching depths that neither of them reached…”