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

as adapted by The Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf from the translation by Daniel Gerould and C. S. Durer
by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz

Thursday, March 27, 2003 - Sunday, April 13, 2003
Opening: Thur., March 27 at 10PM
Performances: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 10PM and Sundays at 5:30PM

La MaMa E.T.C.
74A East 4th Street, New York, NY
Tickets: $15.00 - students & seniors $5 off! Tel: 212.475.7710, or at

The Theatre of a Two-headed Calf's La MaMa debut in the spring of 2002, "Tumor Brainiowicz", was an inventive and highly successful reworking of a rarely-performed work by Poland's great early avant-garde writer, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. The production was promptly given a second run by popular demand.

This year, returning to La MaMa with support from the Polish Cultural Institute, the Two-Headed Calf continues its explorations of Witkiewicz's vast, unruly, and vital body of work, presenting his 1924 masterpiece, "The Mother". The play is an exploration of the demented but eerily familiar relationship of a mother and her son. Its theatrical trajectory is pure Witkacy, beginning in the drawing-room world of Strindberg and Ibsen and gradually unraveling into a dimensionless void which signals the new reality of the 20th century.

Under the direction of Brooke O'Harra (recipient of this year's TCG/NEA Director's Fellowship), the cast will interact with video and puppets, as well as each other. The title character is played by four-time Obie Winner Tina Shepard; the son, Leon, is played by Jim Fletcher, a regular in the plays of Richard Maxwell. The production employs startling new video techniques created by Bilal Khan for this production. Throughout the play, a videographer is on stage manipulating multiple images. It's not your usual "video in a play," since virtually nothing is pre-recorded. A rich, carnivalesque, and complex score by Brendan Connelly will be performed live on stage

The Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf, founded by director O'Harra and composer Connelly, was named after "The Metaphysics of a Two-Headed Calf," a lesser-known play by S.I. Witkiewicz, whose best known is "The Water Hen".

The son of a Polish painter and a painter in his own right, "Witkacy" wrote over 30 plays between 1918 and his suicide in 1939. About a third of these are still unpublished. Yet Witkiewicz, who was practically ignored in his time and left no direct disciples, bestrides the avant-garde like a colossus, mysteriously arousing more excitement in young playwrights than practically any other 20th century writer, even O'Neill.

His influence is perhaps magnified by the enthusiasm of European scholars, but his standing as progenitor of the avant-garde is unquestioned.

Witkiewicz is known for his outrageously extravagant scenes influenced by all kinds of cults and philosophical speculations. In "Tumor Brainiowicz," the overriding spirit is mathematics and the life of Polish mathematician Georg Cantor. In "The Mother," it is the long shadow of Ibsen and Strindberg.

Translator Daniel Gerould is one of the world's preeminent scholars on eastern European theater. He is Lucille Lortel Distinguished Professor of Theatre and Comparative Literature at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has translated the plays of S.I. Witkiewicz and written books and articles about twentieth-century avant-garde theatre. He is the author of "Guillotine: Its Legend and Lore," "Theatre/Theory/Theatre," and editor of Slavic and Eastern European Performance and of the Polish and Eastern European Theatre Archives. His play, "Candaules, Commissioner," was presented Off-Broadway and in Europe. C.S. Durer collaborated with Gerould on the adaptation, which appeared in the first English-language collection of plays by Witkiewicz and was published in 1968. Durer was at the time a graduate student at Berkeley and a Polish expatriate who had participated as a teenager in the Warsaw Uprising against the Germans in 1944. He went on to an academic career in the U.S.

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