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Ivona, The Princess of Burgundia was written in 1938 by the renowned Polish novelist, playwright, and thinker, Witold Gombrowicz, now hailed as the "grandfather" of the Theater of the Absurd established later by Beckett and Ionesco. Princess Ivona is an unpredictable fairytale that revolves around the tragicomic courtship of the sickly and all but mute commoner Ivona by the fashionable Prince Philip, the restless and rebellious heir apparent to a self-obsessed, conservative court. Ivona's quietly intrusive presence disrupts the court so profoundly that each member, including the Prince, resolves to plot her death. Gombrowicz's first and most famous play is considered a modern European classic, and has been produced in over thirty countries since the1960s, including two stagings by Ingmar Bergman (in Germany and Sweden) and one by the Comedie Francaise in Paris. But it has only recently been professionally produced in English in the UK, US, and Canada.

Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969) is recognized by international theatre artists and scholars as one of the 20th century's greatest playwrights. Milan Kundera has called Witold Gombrowicz "one of the great novelists of our century". In his History of Polish Literature, Czeslaw Milosz describes how Gombrowicz abandoned a budding legal career when "some crazy short stories" were published in 1933. "No less crazy were his novel Ferdydurke (1938) and his play Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy (1938). If we have employed the word 'crazy', it is because Gombrowicz exhilarated the public with his buffoonery. In fact, he proceeded by a game of constant provocation, cornering the reader into an admission of unpalatable truths. Of a philosophical mind, but completely free from any respect for the sort of philosophy taught in universities, he had no reverence whatsoever for literature. He derided it as a snobbish ritual, and if he practiced it, he attempted to get rid of all its accepted rules."

With biting humor Gombrowicz attacked the restrictions of social convention, his work often rankling the establishment with irreverent, dissident views, homoerotic subtext, and scatological humor. Under the Communists, much of his work -- novels, plays, and diaries written mostly during self-imposed exile in Argentina from 1939 and later in France -- could not be published in Poland for decades, nor his plays performed until the mid-1970s. But his work has been translated into more than 30 languages, and over the past 10 years, long after his death in 1969, Gombrowicz's work has enjoyed newfound popularity internationally. Most recently an internationally acclaimed adaptation by the Polish theater company Teatr Provizorium & KompaniaTeatr of his novel, Ferdydurke, based on a new award-winning English translation, was a winner at the 2001 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and a big hit at New York's La MaMa E.T.C.

Aaron Rhyne is a freelance director who recently directed Brooke Berman's Playing House at HERE Arts Center, and Bent at Columbia University in July, 2004. He is currently working with Caden Manson's Big Art Group on their European tour of The House of No More, which premiered last year in New York at PS 122. He is also currently assisting director Anthony Page on the upcoming Broadway revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf. Other credits include Glued to Grammy (also at HERE), In the Swing (NY Fringe Festival), "Sucker Punch" as part of The Fantasy Plays (NY Fringe Festival), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The House of Blue Leaves (The Splinter Group). He worked with Dawn Akemi Saito and Jonathan Rosenberg on Blood Cherries at Dance Theatre Workshop and at New World Theatre Festival, and has been a frequent guest director with Fordham University's playwriting program, his alma mater.

Cast:

Ivona - Maria Teresa Creasy

King Ignatius - Gerry Lehane

Queen Margaret - Helene Galek

Prince Phillip - Joe Mihalchick

Lord Chamberlain - Jimmy King

Isobel - Anna Podolak

Simon - Chris Tramantana

Cyprian - Luke Robertson

Ivona's Aunt 1 - Maria McConville

Ivona's Aunt 2 - Carrie McCrossen

Innocent - Ian Mcwethy

Dignitaries and Courtiers - Chris Tramantana, Luke Robertson, Ian Mcwethy, Maria McConville, Emily Hagberg, Carrie McCrossen

Beggar - Emily Hagberg

Ladies of the court - Maria McConville, Emily Hagberg, Carrie McCrossen
November 2019
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