Apr 27, 2019

Coffeehouse Chronicles #153: Witkacy

Curated by Michal Gamily and Tomek Smolarski
Moderated by Frank Hentschker

a black arrow pointing downward

Krystyna Lipinska-Illakowicz, Jadwiga Kosicka-Gerould, Natalia Korczakowska, Eri Nox

Live Performances Directed by:
Natalia Korczakowska (Narcotics: Peyote) with composer Chris Kallmyer, Zenon Kruszelnicki (The Shoemakers) with Wendy Buchanan, Anna Podolak, Stefan Crnogorac, Lewis Merrylees and Jonathan Farrington, Daniel Irizarry (The Madman and the Nun) with Desmar Guevara, David Freyre, Ishani Das and Christopher cancel-pomades, Eri Nox with performances by George Olesky & Reya Sehgal (They)

Stage Managed by Jialin He

Why am I precisely this being and not some other?
In this place in infinite space and at this instant in infinite time?
In precisely this group of beings, on this planet? And why do I exist?
I could just as well not exist. Why does anything exist?
– Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz

Coffeehouse Chronicle #153 will focus on the work of turn-of-the-century Polish avant-garde playwright Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s (1885 –1939), known as “Witkacy,” who may well have been Europe’s most radical novelist, dramatist, painter, and philosopher in an era when artists competed fiercely to break away from all that had come before. Writing in Polish and banned in Communist Poland, while he may not have attained the international attention of the Surrealists, Dadaists, or other Absurdists, his work remains a striking example of modernism.

Witkacy wrote over 30 plays between 1918 and his suicide in 1939. Despite his productivity, he was practically ignored in his time and left behind no direct disciples, yet has gone on to mysteriously stir up more excitement among young playwrights than practically any other 20th-century writer, even Eugene O’Neill. His influence is perhaps magnified by the enthusiasm of European scholars, but his status as progenitor of the Avant Garde is undeniable. His plays were rediscovered in the 1950s and 1960s and hailed as precursors of the European theatrical movement known as the Theater of the Absurd. Witkiewicz is known for his outrageously extravagant scenes influenced by all kinds of occultisms and philosophical speculations.

The afternoon will also include a celebration of GC CUNY’s Segal Theatre Center’s most ambitious publishing project so far: four volumes of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s Collected Plays. The anthology represents the very first complete edition of his 23 extant plays in English translation, including The Madman and the Nun, The Crazy Locomotive, The Water Hen, The Shoemaker, They, The Pragmatists, Tumor Brainiowicz, Gyubal Wahazar, The Anonymous Work, The Cuttlefish, The Beelzebub Sonata, and others.

Polish Cultural Institute New York

This edition of Coffeehouse Chronicles will be FREE of charge to audiences thanks to the generous support of  The Polish Cultural Institute.

Frank Hentschker (Executive Director, The Segal Center) holds a Ph.D. in theatre from the now legendary Institute for Applied Theatre Studies in Giessen, Germany, came to the Graduate Center in 2001 as program director for the Graduate Center’s Martin E. Segal Theatre Center and was appointed to the central doctoral faculty in theatre in 2009. Among the vital events and series he founded at the Segal Center are the World Theatre Performance series, the annual fall PRELUDE Festival, and the PEN World Voices Playwrights Series. Before coming to The Graduate Center, Hentschker founded and directed DISCURS, the largest European student theater festival existing today; he acted as Hamlet in Heiner Müller’s Hamletmaschine, directed by Heiner Müller; created a performance with Joseph Beuys; performed in the Robert Wilson play The Forest (music by David Byrne) and worked for Robert Wilson. Next to programming Segal Theatre Center events Frank teaches Theatre History at Columbia University and is currently working on a book about Robert Wilson’s play texts.

Jialin He (Stage Manager) is an NYC-based stage and production manager. She hails from Beijing, China and is excited to work on the Coffeehouse Chronicles series. Off-Broadway: By the Way, Meet Vera Stark and Curse of the Starving Class (Signature Theatre). Regional and other credits: John Eaton Concert (Symphony Space); After Midnight and Million Dollar Quartet(Broadway at Norwegian Cruise Line); World Beat (Regent Seven Seas Navigator); 2017 Lincoln Center Festival; Amahl and the Night Visitors (Resonance Works Pittsburgh)

Daniel Irizarry: is the artist director of One-Eighth Theater. As director and actor he is Known for: ‘The Maids’ by José Rivera (The New York Times Critics pick),  ‘UBU’ (Time Out NY Critics pick), ‘The Madman and The Nun’ performed in Turkey (Bilkent) and Poland (Gardzienice), and NYC (Pregones Theatre), ‘An Italian Straw Hat’ (Essen, Germany), ‘Mouthgasm Chapter 1’ (Turkey and Cyprus), ‘Momorato’ (Tokyo, Japan), ‘Fragments’ (Vilnius, Lithuania), and Chekhov’s one-act series (Seoul, South Korea).  Recently performed in Piazzola’s iconic opera ‘Maria de Buenos Aires’ produced by Bare Opera at Blue Building Gallery, NYC. Currently he is directing and performing in Numbness: Chapter 2′ as part of the Archive Residency at The New Ohio Theatre here in NYC- April 26th till May 18th. Directed ‘Black a Water’ which toured to Ciego de Ávila, Cuba International theatre Festival. Currently, he teaches acting at Lehman College’s theater and dance program. He holds an MFA from Columbia University. danielirizarry.org

Krystyna Lipinska Illakowicz teaches Polish language, theatre, and film at Yale University. Her work focuses on Polish theatre and cultural exchanges between Polish and American cultures. She has published articles and book chapters on Gombrowicz, Schulz, Grotowski, and others in New Perspectives on Polish Culture: Private Encounters, Public Affairs, The Polish Review, Didaskalia Theatre Magazine, among others. She frequently contributes to the journalSlavic and Eastern European Performance.

Jadwiga Kosicka was born and educated in Poland. She has translated numerous works from Polish which have appeared in many scholarly journals such as Theatre Quarterly, Theatre Three, Formations, The Polish Review, yale/theatre, New York Review of Books, Performing Arts Journal, SEEP (formerly called Soviet and East European Performance), among others. She has also translated and edited To Steal a March on God by Hanna Krall and A Dream by Felicja Kruszewska published by Routledge Harwood’s Polish and East European Theatre Archive; and Jan Kott’s autobiography, Still Alive (Yale University Press); and Zygmunt Hübner’s Theater and Politics (Northwestern University Press), among others. With her late husband, Daniel Gerould—a professor of theatre at the Graduate Center CUNY (www.danielgerouldarchives.org)—she has done a number of translations of works by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, and also co-authored A Life of Solitude, a biographical study of Stanisława Przybyszewska, among others.

Natalia Korczakowska studied theatre directing at the Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw. Korczakowska has been directing in Poland since 2006, including „Electra – The Anatomy Lesson” for Cyprian Norwid Theatre in Jelenia Góra, stage-adaptation of Stanisław Lem’s novel „Solaris” for TR Warsaw, the G.E Lessing play „Nathan The Sage” for National Theatre in Warsaw, and Adam Mickiewicz’s “Forefathers part III” for Dramatic Theatre in Białystok. At STUDIO Theatregallery she has directed „Berlin Alexanderplatz” by Alfred Döblin and „Demons” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Korczakowska’s opera productions includes W. Rihm’s „Jakob Lenz” and S. Moniuszko’s „Halka” conducted by Marc Minkowski for the Polish National Opera in Warsaw. She collaborated with the prestigious Ensemble Modern orchestra on H. W. Henze’s „El Cimarrón” at the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg. She directed „Lost Highway” by Elfride Jelinek and Olga Neuwirth for New Horizons International Film Festival in Wrocław. In 2018 Korczakowska directed Witkacy’s The Metaphysics of a Two-Headed Calf at CalArts. In April 2016, Korczakowska became the artistic director of the Studio Theater in Warsaw and changed its name – as a tribute to the avant-garde tradition of the place in the spirit of Józef Szajna and Jerzy Grzegorzewski – to STUDIO theatergallery. STUDIO theatregallery is one of the most important experimental theatre spaces in Poland.

Zenon Kruszelnicki (Director) teaches acting and directs at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and directs annually at SUNY Purchase. A lifetime member of The Actors Studio, the International Federation of Actors (FIA), Stage Directors and Choreographers (SDC), Screen Actors Guild (SAG/AFTRA) and Actors Equity in Poland (ZASP), Zenon earned an M.F.A in Theater Directing from the Actors Studio Drama School at The New School University and an M.F.A. in Acting and Puppetry from The National Academy of Drama in Poland.  Zenon was the Liberace Scholar awarded by the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts and received The Candle of Understanding Award in the Production of Talking Books from The Jewish Braille Institute of America.  Recently, he taught a workshop at the London’s Studio National Theatre for emerging directors, presenting The Graphical Method of Text Analysis and Making the Graphical Production Project of The Cherry Orchard, and taught acting workshops at London’s Central School of Speech & Drama. Zenon has served as a dialect coach for Willem Dafoe and collaborated with the Wooster Group on a new production entitled Poor Theater.  He co-produced a documentary about Andrzej Zulawski’s 1982 cult classic Possession starring Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani.

PJ Marshall began his career with guest roles on television, appearing on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Oz, and Law & Order: L.A. Marshall soon added movies to his resume, appearing in a variety of films, Catch .44, starring Forest Whitaker, to Maggie, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Free State Of Jones with Mathew McConaughey .  Recent television credits include the plantation overseer Bill Meekes on WGN’s Underground., Detective Jack Colquitt on American Horror Story, Detective Frank Lyga in USA’s Unsolved and Agent Ken Robbins in the new season of Mindhunter. Prior to becoming an actor, Marshall was a martial artist, and competitive surfer. He studied acting at the Wynn Handman Studio in New York City.

Eri Nox is an opera and play maker, performance artist, and chef. Most recently their dance-along techno opera, A Waste Land (based on the TS Eliot) premiered at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe followed by a 2018 run at Cloud City in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In August they will premiere a new opera composed by Noah Chevan at The Public Theater, I Die Tho, as part of the Bring a Pint of Your Own Blood and a Weasel Festival, and past works have been presented and developed in New York at LaMama, Primary Stages, Dixon Place, Theater Breaking Through Barriers, and 13th St. Rep, among others.  Eri’s short film, I’m Not the One You’re After Henry, shot in Paris and based on the November 13th Attacks, was an official selection of the 2019 New York International Theater Film Festival and other shorts have been produced commercially by WIRED Magazine and Business Lunch Productions. Eri is the artistic director of Playmachine, a technology focused theater lab in residence at Cloud City and the recipient of the 2018 Himan Brown Award for a New Play from Brooklyn College. Eri is originally from Silicon Valley, teaches at Brooklyn College, cooks for the Dining with the Diva’s summer drag dinner-theater series at Cherry’s on the Bay in Fire Island, and lives in Brooklyn with their husband. BA: Eugene Lang The New School; MFA: Brooklyn College.

Tomek Smolarski​​: ​cultural manager, theater and film producer. For the last 18 years produced and presented many theatrical and dance performances, film screenings and interdisciplinary projects in places such as Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Museum of Modern Art, Yale University, Columbia University, Museum of the Moving Image, Anthology Film Archives, La MaMa Theater, Joe’s Pub and many others. ​ For over ten years he has been the curator of film and performing arts at the ​ Polish Cultural Institute in New York. He also founded Kulture+ Productions, responsible for development of cultural events and creating opportunities for inspiring exchanges and dialogues between artists in the US and Europe.

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