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La MaMa E.T.C. and
the Polish Cultural Institute

Opole Puppet Theater

Thursday, September 16, 2004 - Sunday, September 19, 2004
Thur. - Sun. 8 PM
Sun. matinee 2:30 PM

La MaMa E.T.C.
74A East 4th Street, New York, NY
Tickets: $15; students and seniors $5 off, Tel: 212-475-7710

Poland's second-oldest puppet theater performs its adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's short story, "The Story of a Mother", directed by Krystian Kobylka, as part of the international La MaMa Puppet Series Festival (September 16 - October 4). This visual theater work from Opole crosses the barrier of spoken language with its brilliant use of pictures, fine art forms, music, acting, and puppetry.

Andersen's "The Story of a Mother" explores the boundaries between life and death, reality and spiritual vision. The hero of this story is Mother, whose child 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 child and save it from an unknown future with Death. The child 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, 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 art form, 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. Its productions continue to receive many awards, and it has toured in Germany, Finland, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Sweden, Denmark, and Spain, and has had numerous television appearances.

This production will be followed in La MaMas First Floor Theater by the second Polish production of the La MaMa Puppet Series Festival, the Wroclaw Puppet Theatre in "The Last Escape," based on the novels of Bruno Schultz and directed by Aleksander Maksymiak (September 30-October 3).

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, a place 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. The festival is supported by The Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater and utilizes all three of La MaMa's performance theaters.

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