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The Polish Cultural Institute
presents



MADE IN POLAND: A FESTIVAL OF NEW POLISH PLAYS
at 59E59 Theaters


MADE IN POLAND, a festival of acclaimed new Polish plays, all written after the year 2000 and having their U.S. premieres, is presented by the Polish Cultural Institute in New York at 59E59 Theaters from October 22 through November 30. Performed by both American and Polish artists, it is the most comprehensive introduction to contemporary Polish playwriting ever presented in the United States, both as to themes addressed and the diversity of talent represented. The festival also offers a chance to see Polish dramaturgy through American eyes, since, in addition to a landmark Polish production performed in English, The Files (October 22 - November 9, 2008), which made waves when it premiered in 2007, there will be an American production of the Polish hit, MADE IN POLAND (October 29 - November 30, 2008), and an American-Polish collaboration on two one-act plays, Sandbox and The First Time (November 13 - 30, 2008).

The democratic opposition in Communist Poland had many roots, but one of them was the closing, by order of the Soviet ambassador, of a revival of Adam Mickiewicz's classic 19th-century poetic drama Forefathers with anti-Russian overtones, performed at the National Theatre in Warsaw, which sparked the 1968 student protests against censorship. Another was the related development from the early 1970s of a state-subsidized but only cautiously tolerated student theater movement, deriving in many ways from Jerzy Grotowski's "Poor Theatre", that was able, by playing a complex game with the censor's office, to become a limited but influential forum for dissent within the system.

Many of the best-known theater artists later became activists in the Solidarity movement and many were interned with the 1981 imposition of Martial Law. The most uncompromising of them lost their jobs and some companies had to leave the country. One such group makes its American debut at the MADE IN POLAND Festival - Poznan's venerable Theatre of the Eighth Day, founded in 1964. Its 2007 avant-garde docudrama, The Files, directed by the ensemble, is based on actual Secret Police reports on the Theatre's actors written during the period from 1975 to 1983 (reports that by definition also covered the actors' contacts, friendships, and meetings), juxtaposed with the actors' private letters at the time the reports were written, as well as parts of old performances to which the reports referred.

With the collapse of Communism in 1989, Polish theater suddenly lost its privileged position as a place where, albeit through a complex system of symbols and allusions, people could speak and hear the truth. Now truth, apparently at least, was out there on the street and no one expected theater to have a political mission. State subsidies shriveled, and with the introduction of a market economy, no tradition of private patronage, and free speech apparently no longer an issue, many theaters felt compelled to provide light entertainment, with much recourse to imported farces. Great expectations for a new theater went unfulfilled. But the transition to democracy also brought with it unemployment, inflation, and homelessness. Free speech meant a heightened awareness of domestic violence, exploitation of women, homophobia, political corruption, and social alienation. In the late 1990s serious new voices began to offer a new kind of theatrical discourse, introducing heroes to the stage who were grappling with contemporary dilemmas. (Two of these emerging directors, Krzysztof Warlikowski and Grzegorz Jarzyna, were recently presented by the Polish Cultural Institute in sold-out runs at BAM and St. Ann's Warehouse).

Poverty, intolerance, media manipulation, clericalism, historical revisionism, the fa├žade of democracy - all of these subjects have come to the fore in Polish theater. Przemyslaw Wojcieszek (b. 1974) addresses such issues in his play MADE IN POLAND, hailed by critics as the best of the 2004-05 season, and performed at the Festival by the OBIE Award winning The Play Company. It is an exuberant, funny, and fierce play about a rebellious young man furiously searching for how to live in the new, post-communist Poland. Along the way he turns in vain for guidance from his priest and his ex-communist teacher, gets entangled with gangsters, and meets a girl. Jackson Gay (Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow, Scarcity) directs the American premiere of this popular hit by one of Poland's foremost young theatre artists.

Finally, some Polish playwrights, there being no pressure to serve either a party line or the needs of a dissident movement, abandon political issues in favor of an examination of interpersonal relationships, feelings, and social stereotyping. Two one-act plays by Michal Walczak (b.1980), Sandbox and The First Time, will be presented together as one two-act play at the Festival by the OBIE-winning Immigrants' Theatre Project in a collaboration between the acclaimed Polish director Piotr Kruszczynski (Sandbox) and the the Artistic Director of the ITP, Marcy Arlin (The First Time). Walczak says of his plays "that they are based primarily on a ferocious, tragicomic, rough-and-tumble between the sexes, with all the cruelty and humor of mutual misunderstanding between the contemporary SHE and HE". Both plays are comedies imbued with that particular brand of cynicism and absurdism of Eastern European theater, updated for a newly global society. Sandbox is about the inability of a man and a woman to articulate emotions, except through the childish language of globally mass-marketed brand names and advertising. It has been staged in 11 theatres throughout Europe and been translated into German, English, Hungarian, Czech and Italian. In The First Time, He and She try to initiate a sexual relationship, but are thwarted at each step by the weather, family, hunger, and the punctured illusions of a post-communist society.
November 2019
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