Category Archives: Season

DC PREMIERE of THEY DON’T PAY? WE WON”T PAY!

Celebrating Dario Fo's 90th Birthday with They Don't Pay? We Won't Pay! at Ambassador Theater in Washington DC from aticc on Vimeo.

 

In Partnership with Italian Cultural Institute 

Ambassador Theater Presents

The Washington DC Premiere of

THEY DON’T PAY? WE WON’T PAY!
By Dario Fo

Translated by Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilante

Produced by Hanna Bondarewska

Directed by Joe Martin and Danny Rovin

Featuring: Hanna Bondarewska, Moriah Whiteman, Darren Marquardt, Mitch Irzinski and Peter Orvetti

March 3 – March 26, 2016 

Wednesdays – Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Matinees Sundays at 3:00 pm

Mead Theatre Lab at FLASHPOINT
916 G Street NW, Washington DC

Previews (Open Dress Rehearsals) March 1, 2 at 7:30 pm; 

March 3 at 7:30 pm, VIP Opening & Reception follows

Press Night: Sat, March 5, 7:30 pm; Special Q&A after the show with the Special Guest, Italian Actor, longtime collaborator of Dario Fo, Mario Pirovano, director, Joe Martin, and actors

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ABOUT

Ambassador Theater is thrilled to celebrate 90th Birthday of Dario Fo, Italian satirist, playwright, director, actor and composer, and present a DC Premiere of They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!  

Desperate housewives take justice in their own hands in this Nobel prize winner's hilarious farce of civil disobedience. The empowering story in which direct democracy is the way to go when government fails to protect citizens' rights, was inspired by real life events of workers' uprising in 1974's Italy. Hugely popular and more relevant than ever, They don't pay? We won't pay! delivers a serious message in a ridiculous, absurdist fashion generating truckloads of laughter and delighting with its lovable and colorful characters.
Meet Antonia, who during a food riot takes supplies from a supermarket and hides them from her law abiding husband Giovanni behind a dress of her best friend Margherita. Follow the chaos, which ensues once Giovanni and his friend and Margherita's spouse Luigi are told about Margherita's miracle pregnancy and the police gets involved. Be prepared for this uproarious 'boulevard comedy' to keep you glued to your seat feeling entertained and inspired at the same time!

Though the piece has been called a “comedy of hunger,” it is also about the bigger financial farce that results if the victims of financial collapse—brought about by capitalism run-amok—are asked to pay for the disaster while the guilty parties are bailed out. This play by a master playwright and performer, is both physical comedy and a comedy of wit, sometimes in “boulevard” style. Fo has roots in Commedia dell’Arte, and the influence shows in this modern farce. In awarding him the Nobel Prize for Literature—there is no theatre category! —the Nobel committee remarked in 1997 that Dario Fo “emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden.” His plays have been translated into 30 languages and performed across the world, including in US, Argentina, Chile, England, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, and Yugoslavia.

ABOUT DARIO FO

DarioFoDario Fo has written over 70 plays, coauthoring some of them with his wife, the great comic actress Franca Rame.  Among his most popular plays are Morte accidentale di un anarchico (1974; Accidental Death of an Anarchist) and Non si paga, non si paga! (Originally titled in English We Can’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!). As a performer, Fo is best known for his solo tour de force Mistero Buffo (1973; “Comic Mystery”), which he toured world-wide, based on medieval mystery plays and jongleur performance pieces: in the spirit of the medieval jongleurs the shows changed with each audience, always remaining fresh and relevant. At age 90 he has published the novel, The Pope’s Daughter: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia.

 

CAST:
Antonia—Hanna Bondarewska
Giovanni–Darren Marquardt
Margherita—Moriah Whiteman
Luigi— Mitch Irzinski
Policeman/Federal Agent/Undertaker/Giovanni's Father—Peter Orvetti

PRODUCTION: 
Director-Joe Martin and Danny Rovin
Assistant Director – Xandra Weaver
Music/Sound – Noor Che'Ree
Set Designer – Rachael Knoblauch
Set/Artist Painter – Julia Tasheva
Ligthing Designer – E-hui Woo
Costume Designer – Sigridur Johannesdottir
Literary Director – Eliza Anna Falk
Stage Manager – Xandra Weaver
House Box Office Manager – Anders Hilton da Silva and Mari Davis

CAST & CREW

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LAST TWO WEEKS of SMARTPHONES – A Smashing Hit!

Ambassador Theater presents DC Premiere of
Smartphones, A Pocket-Size Farce by Emilio Williams​
Directed by Joe Banno​
with Ariana Almajan, Tekle Ghebremeschel​, Moriah Elizabeth Whiteman​, Shravan Amin​ and Hanna Bondarewska​
At FLASHPOINT, 916 G Street, NW, Washington DC
OCT 20 – NOV 15, 2015
THU – SAT at 8 PM
SAT & SUN at 2 PM

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Sex, Lies and Nomophobia in Emilio Williams’ Smartphones by Eliza Anna Falk

Smartphones, A Pocket-Size Farce – produced by Hanna Bondarewska and Ambassador Theater in partnership with the Embassy of Spain and Spain arts and Culture, directed by Helen Hayes awarded Joe Banno – opens at Flashpoint on October 22, 2015 TICKETS ONLINE

ElizaFalk_1038x576Doesn’t existence seem totally absurd at times and life too restrictive? Don’t we wish we were free of social norms and do as we like? Aren’t we our own worst enemies at times? Emilio Williams*, the author of Smartphones, asks the same questions yet as a dramatist has the opportunity to dream our dreams and nightmares on stage. In Smartphones, inspired by Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, the avant-garde playwright takes his privilege to the absurdist limit. Mixing the Absurd, Ridiculous and the Surreal with a layer of ‘digital madness’, he brings human shadows and insecurities to light, making us reflect on life and to laugh, nervously at times, in the process.  

Emilio Williams is a dramatist who uses his medium like a magnifying glass, bringing into focus complex aspects of our psyche challenged by today’s fast-paced existence. Just like his influences – Beckett, Ludlam, Moliere and Buñuel, he is acutely aware of what is difficult, awkward and absurd in life and chooses to talk about it using humor, farce and parody. “Nothing is more radical than humor” says Williams, whose multi-dimensional plays combine laughter with existential themes and a pertinent social satire. Smartphones, his only play that takes part in one set, one room and in real time, is also a great example of Williams’ reaction against conventions of the Realistic Theater. 

“Your comedies tend to be silly but not stupid” said William’s friend once, and the author liked the comment. In case of Smartphones silly and serious go together. After all the play is a tribute to and a parody of the Theatre of the Absurd, as well as an example of William’s avoidance of literalness of theater realism. Also, true to the Theater of the Ridiculous Manifesto and its canon of ‘the free person’, Smartphones’ personas are free to act in a spontaneous and silly way whilst not compromising seriousness of the matter. “The free person, as distinct from an authoritarian phony or the civilized adult, is erotic, socially self-assertive, playful and imaginative” (Brecht: 117) and so are the play’s characters.

Chantal and Dagobert, Amelia and Barnaby are stuck together in their friend’s house waiting for his arrival. The couples, educated and socially assertive, reveal their true, outrageous colors as the play progresses. Their neurosis, lies and hidden desires come to the surface taking us by surprise and shocking with their boldness, yet feeling strangely familiar or attractive at the same time. How reassuring and cathartic is to see our own shadows and shameful secrets reflected in other people and our faults and obsessions appearing ‘normal’ and symptomatic of the times. After all, aren’t we, the civilized humans, soldiers in the universal battle to maintain balance between primal desires and social norms?

 Smartphones’ characters are in their 30s and 40s and have a lot in common with the Millennial Generation, displaying strong traits of entitlement and narcissism, and suffering from ‘nomophobia’ – short for “no-mobile-phone-phobia”.  Glued to their Smartphones and obsessed with digital communication they make an absurd yet very familiar sight. Seeing their addiction to the virtual world and disconnectedness from the real one, makes us react in the way Williams intended. The characters themselves have flashes of awareness uttering the author’s profound messages, such as when Barnaby says to his college friend Dagobert: "You see, always on Facebook, back and forward, but with each day that passes we know each other less" (Williams:42). 

Whilst the popular saying “we live in a crazy world” certainly rings true in Smartphones justifying the silliness and the laughter, the play’s serious undertones remind us how difficult and complex today’s existence can really be. Digital and other addictions, racism, unemployment, gender/sexual issues, are only some of the current challenges affecting our lives and our conscience. Smartphones is a play at its best, entertaining, current, reflecting on what it is to be human and what it is to be part of the 21st century society. What makes it particularly entertaining is its absurdist form and ‘ridiculous’ characters shocking us with their outrageous behaviors, which for many of us may not seem that outrageous after all.


Sources
Williams, Emilio. Smartphones.
Brecht, Stefan. Family of the f. p.: Notes on the Theatre of the Ridiculous 
Source: The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Autumn, 1968), pp. 117-141
Published by: The MIT Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1144443 .

About the author
Emilio Williams is an award winning playwright from Madrid, who moved to Chicago in 2011. His avant-garde, profound comedies, such as Your problems with Men, Medea got Some Issues, Tables and Beds, have been produced in Spain, France, Estonia, UK and USA. "Smartphones, a pocket-size farce" received its world premiere at Trap Door Theatre, Chicago on July 19th, 2012 and was directed by Emilio Williams.
 

“*****”Smartphones is one of the smartest, sharpest satires I’ve seen-DC Metro Theater Arts

Ambassador Theater Presents

SMARTPHONES

A Pocket Size Farce

By Emilio Williams

Produced by

Hanna Bondarewska

Directed by Helen Hayes Awarded Director

Joe Banno

October 20 – November 15, 2015

At Mead Theatre Lab at FLASHPOINT, 916 G Street, NW, Washington DC

PREVIEWS: Oct. 20, 21, 2015 at 8 PM

OPENING, October 22, 2015 at 8 PM

Shows: THU – SAT at 8:00PM; Matinees: SAT; SUN at 2:00 PM

TICKETS ONLINE

Smartphonesreviews

About Emilio Williams – Writer, Director, Teacher
EmilioWilliamsEmilio Williams’ plays have been produced in Spain, Argentina, France, Estonia, the United Kingdom and the United States (including productions and performances in Chicago, New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles).
His most recent comedy “Your Problem with Men” was produced by Teatro Luna in Chicago, and has traveled to New York City, Los Angeles and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
In 2012, his one woman show “Medea’s Got Some Issues” received “Best International Show” at United Solo Festival, Off Broadway, New York City.
That same year, his comedy “Smartphones – a pocket-size farce,” received its world premiere at Trap Door Theatre in Chicago. The book was published as part of the anthology New Plays from Spain by Siegel Center.

In 2010, his “dramedy” “Tables and Beds, an unromantic comedy“was selected among 80 plays from 12 countries as the winner of the 4th Premio el EspectáculoTeatral.
Emilio has degrees in journalism and in film and video. In the 1990’s, he worked for CNN in Atlanta and Washington. He worked for The Johns Hopkins University between 2001 and 2011.
In 2011, he moved permanently to Chicago, the city where his father was born.
He currently works for The University of Chicago developing the international business of its healthcare enterprise.

CAST:

Amelia — Ariana Almajan
Barnaby — Tekle Ghebremeschel
Dagobert — Shravan Amin
Chantal — Moriah Whiteman
Maid —   Hanna Bondarewska

PRODUCTION: 

Production Manager – Shawn Lyles

Music/Sound – Gabriel Dib

Set/Lights Designer – David Ghatan

Associate Ligthing Designer – E-hui Woo

Set/Lights/Crew – Rachael Knoblauch

Costume Designer – Lynly Saunders

Literary Director – Eliza Anna Falk

Stage Manager – Michelle Taylor

House Box Office Manager – Anders Hilton da Silva

 

 

CAST AND CREW

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2015/2016

UPCOMING


FROM ITALY
International Artists Series

Presents

Mario Pirovano in 

Johan Padan and the Discovery of America
Dario Fo
February 26 2016

March 1 – March 26, 2016
THEY WON’T PAY? WE WON’T PAY!
By a Nobel Prize Winner
Dario Fo

March 8, 2016
LITERARY CAFÉ at the Embassy of Israel
Women in Poetry and Music

FALL 2016
BALLADYNA
By Juliusz SÅ‚owacki

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‘Under Kafka’s Spell – Rozewicz and The Trap’ by Eliza Anna Falk

ElizaFalk_1038x576The Ambassador Theater is back with its biggest production to date, showcasing work of one of the greatest post-war poets and playwrights of the 20th century, Polish-born Tadeusz Rozewicz. Produced and directed by Hanna Bondarewska, The Trap takes us inside Kafka’s bizarre life, at the same time making us reflect on the alienation of a modern artist and fragility of life. The US premiere of The Trap coincides with the 1st anniversary of the author’s death, as well as the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, and as such is a timely and important opportunity to carry on Rozewicz’s artistic message about the tragic history of WWII. (The play opens on May 28 and plays through June 21, at XX Bldg., 814 20th Street NW, Washington DC. See www.aticc.org for more information.)

“After fifty years of composing poetry and plays I came to understand the futility of unravelling the Franz Kafka “mystery”. My only justification is that I worked and wrote as best I could”. “This is my farewell to Franz Kafka. I’m 69. The time of farewells is close” – Tadeusz Rozewicz (Rozewicz1: 8).

rozewicz

Spellbound by Kafka

The Trap published in 1982 was not only Rozewicz’s farewell to Kafka, but also a ‘crowning’ of his long fascination with the enigmatic writer. Rozewicz’s interest began in 1949 when he visited Franz’s hometown, Prague for the first time, returning in 1957. Yet despite the author’s continued ‘dialog’ with Kafka and few short sketches from the travels, he had not written a major work related to Franz until much later. His play inspired by Kafka and based on his short story A Hunger Artist (where caged showman starves for long periods for amusements of crowds), was written in 1979. In the piece titled The Hunger Artist Departs and regarded as a precursor to The Trap (Filipowicz: 164), Rozewicz created his own version of the ’hunger artist’ seen through the prism of Kafka. In the Post Scriptum to the play he wrote: “Franz Kafka himself (…) was one of the great authentic Hunger Artists” (Rozewicz1: 111,) an artist known to be obsessed with desire to create, and prepared to sacrifice earthly pleasures in the name of art. The same artist we see in The Trap.

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 Kafka’s genius aside, Rozewicz’s fascination also stemmed from what the two had in common. Both were preoccupied with examination of human soul and fate, and wrote from the heart not caring about the literary canons. Both shared a common and profound interest in the fundamental issues of human condition, and as artists dealt with and wrote about solitude, estrangement and the existential pressures. The disturbing and moving atmosphere of Kafka’s works and his way of perceiving reality resonated with Rozewicz’s post war angst, times, when in conflict with the cruel world, he was trying to cope with feelings of helplessness and despair. One can see why Kafka’s heroes -victims of fate trapped in a prison-like setting desperately looking for escape – struck a chord with Rozewicz. Not surprisingly Kafka’s symbols of ‘cage’ and ‘mole’ found their way into his poems, prose and plays (Drewnowski: 289) to demonstrate the alienation of an artist and cruelty of the world.

Victims and Sons

Although the writers were born in different centuries (Kafka in 1883, Rozewicz in 1921), both became innocent victims of their environment and experienced deep psychological traumas. Rozewicz lived through World War II (WWII) and later, living in “free” Poland, suffered under the Stalinist regime. A witness to atrocities of war and the Holocaust, he was never able to free himself from the horrific visions of war crimes. His poetry, prose and plays strongly reflect the impact those experiences had on his and his generation’s psyche, outlook and vision of the future: “I am twenty-four led to slaughter I survived. (…) The way of killing men and beasts is the same I’ve seen it: truckfuls of chopped up men who will not be saved” – he wrote in 1945 in his poem The Survivor. In another poem, Beyond Words, he said: “What are you doing emerged from darkness – Why don’t you want to live in full light – Within me war opens up an eyelid of a million shattered faces – Blood smeared what are you piecing together what is your burden – I am piecing together words – I carry my time (…)” (Rozewicz2).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

   Kafka’s drama had much more personal roots. Shy and neurotic, trapped between an overprotective, weak mother, and a critical, domineering father, he became an emotional cripple, forever doubting himself and his manhood. The conflict with his father was so deeply embedded in his psyche that neither becoming an adult nor securing a job as an insurance official helped him to break the toxic bond or heal the relationship. Torn between a desire to devote himself to writing, and the pressure to marry, settle down and emulate his father, he was unable to find peace and contentment – either as a man or an artist. So strong were his fears, self-doubt and feelings of guilt, so weak his health that he broke off engagements, never married, and ordered his entire writings to be destroyed after his passing.

   Family was of the utmost importance to the artists.  Rozewicz was as devoted to his loving, caring mother (who came from a Jewish family converted to Catholicism) as was Franz. His father, although of kind disposition, just like Franz’s, was not interested in his son’s literary ambitions.  In Mother Departs, a family memoir, Tadeusz writes: “’I am a poet’, you search for synonyms to help you come out to the world (…) Of course, Mother knows. But to say something like that to my father was unthinkable…So I never did tell my Father (…) he’d be so remote (…)” (Rozewicz3). Artistic vocation was a source of guilt for both – Kafka felt guilty of not meeting his father’s expectations, Rozewicz of being a poet. Both witnessed loss of their siblings. Two of Kafka’s younger brothers died by the time he was six, whereas Rozewicz’s elder brother, like him a member of the Polish Home Army, was tortured and killed by Gestapo.

Revolutionaries

Kafka and Rozewicz’s contributions to literature are highly innovative and unique. Since posthumous publication of Kafka’s major novels, his original style of writing has been hailed as revolutionary in the way it affected language and expression (Deleuze and Guattari: 16). Kafka himself indicated in his diaries and theoretical notes that he was inventing a new type of literature (14). Despite a general consensus that Kafka created “a new literary continent” by wiping out “old topography of mind and thought” (16), his prose has been placed into a variety of literary schools and keeps being examined and interpreted. Yet irrespective of numerous analysis and attempts to label the style of his unusual writings, it has been impossible to define Kafka’s ‘literature’ and its impact with one term, other than with the word “Kafkaesque”. Used to describe situations and concepts reminiscent of his work, the term is a true testament to uniqueness and originality of Franz Kafka’s artistic creation which keeps baffling readers and critics.

   Rozewicz, an experimenter and innovator, is known for revolutionizing 20th century poetry after the tragedy of WWII. Deeply hurt, shocked and ‘mimed’ by the war crimes, the author rejected the traditional poetic language as unsuitable to express the post-war reality, and created ‘anti-poetry’ characterized by stark, direct language and simple form (Rozewicz2: 337). Concurrently, inspired by ‘theatre of the absurd’ and Kafka’s concept of ‘inner drama’, the poet experimented with theatrical forms in search of his own style, which he later described as ‘realistic-poetic’. (Braun: 37). The result was an ‘interior, open theatre’, in which the stream of consciousness replaced action and became a formless (yet poetic) record of human experience (Braun: 24). The ‘open’ theatre, where plays lack traditional structure with beginning, middle and end, may also have been inspired by Kafka, known for starting to write in the middle rather than from the beginning and leaving works unfinished, including his only play, where  “the action slowly dies away and eventually comes to a halt” (Rozewicz4: 111). 

Traps within The Trap

One of the main themes of Kafka’s writings is an archetypal situation when an innocent  human being is attributed a fault, ostracised and trapped in a hopeless predicament, yet keeps maintaining his innocence and seeks atonement. The world Kafka created in his works was largely a reflection of his own trappings and desperate attempts to escape them. Although The Trap was never intended as biographical, being based on Kafka’s diaries and correspondence (mainly Letters to Father) it dramatizes important images from the artist’s life, especially those illustrating his most challenging struggles and fears. In the play we see glimpses of his childhood; complex relationship with father; his failed attempts to marry; relations with friends and family; failing health, to name the most important.

  Franz’s predicaments constitute examples of traps and fears familiar to other artists and many of us. Biology, psyche, family and culture are common sources of barriers on the way to fulfilment.  The constraints of his body constituted a serious obstacle for spiritual Franz, as illustrated in the dialog between him and his sister Ottla. “Ottla – It’s all because you shut yourself up, you slam the door on the world, you lock it out and you build a trap, a burrow, with tremendous effort and the sweat of your brow; and you fall into it ill and tormented. All you have to do is open the door. Life begins outside, you take your first step, then the next, and away you fly!” To which Franz’s responds: “I am a trap, my body is a trap that caught me after birth (…) I do sometimes think of escaping, maybe I’ll free myself at last” (Rozewicz1: 42).

   Max Brod, Franz’s best friend and literary executor, wrote in his memoires about Kafka that his friend had always been torn between longing for solitude and being part of a group (Brod: 128). It appears that Franz’s shyness and aversion to physical world held a stronger grip as it often forced him to rely on family and Max to communicate with the outside world.  “Why is it that whenever you have to face life you make use of other people? Apart from writing and dying you’ve always wanted to do things by proxy (…).There you are, rat, burrowing rat! Again you want to hide but you must answer the question“. Says Max in The Trap. ”This isn’t a question, this is a noose”, replies Franz. (Rozewicz1:37).                                                                                                                                                     

   As if the above hurdles and conflict with the father were not enough, Kafka’s social milieu presented him with a further complication – a trap of culture.  Born into German speaking Jewish family in Czech speaking Prague, and educated in German, he developed an identity which was as fragmented as his personal world. Although undoubtedly enriched by multi-cultural environment, he was nevertheless deprived of the stability of mono-cultural upbringing and disturbed by his diverse background, as indicated in his diary: “Enclosed in my own four walls, I found myself as an immigrant imprisoned in a foreign country (…) I saw my family as strange aliens whose foreign customs, rites, and very language defied comprehension” (Preece: 15-31).

Kafka’s Prophecy and the Trap of History

What would have been the fate of Franz Kafka had his life not been taken by illness in 1924 at the age of 40?  In all likelihood, like his sisters, he would have perished in a Nazi concentration camp. It seems that the destiny of his family and fellow Jews was already being determined when he was still alive and the anti-Semitic sentiments were on the rise amongst Czech and German nationalists (Pavel, p.47).  Kafka has been seen as a prophet who had not only sensed his own passing but also the forthcoming tragedy of the Holocaust (Drewnowski: 294). His picture of prison-like world full of danger and pain inflicted by fellow humans, where the innocent victims go to impossible lengths to survive, came to life soon after his death. Kudos to Rozewicz for his ingenious idea of The Trap, which completes Kafka’s prophecy and fulfils his vision of the world (Braun: 55).

   The Trap, Rozewicz’s last piece written for the theatre, is an important and highly original play, with complex layers of meaning and a crucial message for its audiences. In it, Rozewicz lets us inside Kafka’s personal fears, anxieties and struggles, imparting knowledge about the writer’s complex existence as a man and a writer. On a higher level, he builds a generic portrait of a modern artist alienated and trapped by an archetypal struggle between art/spirit and life/matter, and shows us the fragility of artistic creation and human existence.

   The Trap’s originality stems from a number of sources. Firstly, from Rozewicz’s unique vision of Kafka seen through the image he had built over the period of fifty years, and the prism of his own war-time experiences. Secondly, from the freedom offered by the ‘openness’ of his theatre, which allowed him to ‘travel ’ beyond the 19th century Prague and place Kafka and his family in the ultimate nightmare and trap of the 20th century-the Holocaust. By doing so, he is able to continue sharing his painful, war-time past, and remind audiences, that the memory of ‘hell on earth’ should never be forgotten and must be kept alive as a warning to future generations.

The Trap is a serious play, yet not without potential for comedy. The Director, Hanna Bondarewska, builds on the absurdity of some of Franz’s phobic behaviours and discovers many moments of laughter. Let’s not forget about Kafka’s wit and sense of humor and the fact that his personal world was not devoid of hope and respect for life, as his Diaries indicate: “Let the heavy rain fall on you, let it cleanse you, join the stream that wants to take you; but persevere, keep standing straight and wait until the sun comes out and fills you up”. Does Rozewicz offers us hope in the play? I sincerely hope to see Kafka’s 'ray of sunshine' in The Trap before leaving the theater.

The Trap Opens May 28, 2015 at 8 pm  at XX Bldg, 814 20th Street, NW, Washington DC

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Primary Sources

Rozewicz, Tadeusz. The Trap. Translated by Adam Czerniawski. Harwood Academic Publishers, Amsterdam, 1997.

Rozewicz, Tadeusz. Selected Poems. Wydawnictwo Literackie, Krakow 1995.

Rozewicz, Tadeusz. Mother Departs. Translated by Barbara Bogoczek, storkpress.co.uk.

Rozewicz, Tadeusz. Mariage Blanc and The Hunger Artist Departs. Translated by Adam Czerniawski . Marion Boyars, London, New York, 1983.

Secondary Sources

Braun, Kazimierz.  MojTeatr Rozewicza. Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Rzeszowskiego, Rzeszow 2013.

Brod, Max. Franz Kafka. Czytelnik, Warszawa 1982. Translated from German by Tadeusz Zabludowski. German title Franz Kafka. Eine Biographie.

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari Felix. Kafka. Toward a Minor Literature. Translation by Dana Polan. Theory and History of Literature, Vol 30, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, London.

Drewnowski, Tadeusz. Walka o Oddech. O pisarstwie Tadeusza Rozewicza. Wydawnictwo Artystyczne i Filmowe, Warszawa 1990.

Filipowicz, Halina. A Laboratory of Impure Forms. Plays of Tadeusz Rozewicz. Freenwood Publishing Group, Westport, CT, 1991.

Pavel, Ernst. Franz Kafka. Koszmar Rozumu. Translated from English by Irena Stapor. Twoj Styl, Warszawa 2003. English title The Nightmare of Reason. A Life of Franz Kafka.

Preece, Julian. The Cambridge Companion to Kafka. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2001.

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HELP ARTISTS TO HELP YOU! – A Message from Prof. Kaz Braun about The Trap

HELP ARTISTS TO HELP YOU! from aticc on Vimeo.

PLEASE HELP US REACH OUR GOAL!

All Donations are tax deductable! The Ambassador Theater International Cultural Center is tax-exempt nonprofit organization qualified to receive tax-deductibleContributions under Section 501 (c) 3 of the Internal Revenue Code Tax ID: 26-1904229

You may donate online or send a check to Ambassador Theater, 916 G Street, NW, Washington DC 20001ATICC_donate-button-for-justgive-org

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Ambassador Theater IS Getting Ready for the US Premiere of

The Trap

…anxieties and nightmares of Franz Kafka…

By Tadeusz Różewicz

Translated by Adam Czerniawski

Music By Jerzy Satanowski

Directed By Hanna Bondarewska

Video Direction and Production by Shawn W. Lyles

Graphic Animation by Lukasz Pinkowski

FOR MORE INFO ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND THE PLAY ONLINE

PLEASE HELP US TO BRING THIS IMPORTANT PLAY TO DC!

LAST YEAR WE RAISED $20,000

This Year

WE NEED TO RAISE $40,000!  

 

The Open Theatre of Tadeusz Różewicz

The Open Theatre of Tadeusz Różewicz

By Daniel Gerould

  Although he has not written anything new for the theatre since The Trap (Pulapka, 1981), Tadeusz Różewicz remains the      most provocative and original Polish playwright of the post-war period. His probing of the boundaries traditionally assigned to  theatre has put him in the forefront of artistic innovators along with Kantor and Grotowski. Outstanding directors have sought to realize his work in production, despite inherent tensions between the author's radically experimental propositions and the nature of theatre itself.

With his first performed play, The Card Index ( Kartoteka, 1960), Różewicz (already a major poet) introduced a new theatrical language of fragmented structure and imagistic montage, which, at first, seemed disorienting but eventually came to be accepted as a quintessential expression of post-war sensibility. For the generation of Poles who came of age in 1939, the experience of wholesale death and destruction during the war and occupation had rendered obsolete notions of beauty, high ideals, and noble words. A new aesthetic, Różewicz felt, had to take Auschwitz as its basic premise.  Literature as it had existed until then was simply a lie. Repudiating ideologies, moral judgments and intellectual speculations as empty abstractions, the author of The Trap clung to the bare facts of human life as the only truths and the only values.

Of Polish playwrights since 1945, Różewicz has been the most restless experimenter with form. In a number of his works for the stage he undertakes an ontological analysis of theatre that questions the very assumptions that make performance possible. Recognizing that reality will not submit to the artistic conceptions of the past, the Polish poet strives to go beyond the limits of the genre. In rejecting hierarchical notions of high and low, foreground and background, beginning, middle and end, Różewicz essays a kind of drama that starts at point zero with an undifferentiated aleatory mass of sights and sounds and persists as pure duration.

Różewicz has repeatedly voiced the "desire to write a play that would be both truly realistic and at the same time poetic."  By rendering poetry realistic and realism poetic, the playwright has achieved his goal in many of his dramas. His work is realistic in the sense of being totally immersed  in existence  in  all  its  corporeality; the ordinary, the banal  and the bodily are the playwright's raw materials  which he refuses to imbue with any transcendental meaning. But Różewicz is an unorthodox "realism" unencumbered by illusionistic conventions. Externals, such as plot and cause­ and-effect sequentiality, are eliminated in favor of an interior drama that reveals life as it is experienced in the depths of stillness.

To paint a picture of everyday life in which nothing out of the ordinary hap­pens, the author of The Trap favors the simplest means: emptiness among events, silence between words, waiting. Action, the most basic element of drama in the traditionalist view, is considered by Różewicz to be the antithesis of realism and thus the negation of true theatre. "My plays have no endings," the Polish poet has declared. Rather than the temporal unfolding of a plot, he strives for the simple duration of a given situation. His aim is the creation of an "open theatre" without fixed perimeters where scenes can be re-ordered or added at will. Różewicz’s method of composition is a poetic counterpoint and collage of images producing a polyphonic form capable of accommodating a rich mixture of styles ranging from the colloquial and salacious to elegant parody and pastiche of fin-de-siècle fashions and literary traditions.

Questioning the separation of theory from practice, Różewicz has produced a new kind of script that is half treatise and polemic with his predecessors, in which extended stage directions serve as a commentary to interrupt the action and disintegrate the dramatic form. The lengthy stage directions are also arguments with all future directors with whom the play­wright may conceivably collaborate. His concept of "open theatre" involves the creation of works that can be completed only in the theatre when director, designer and performers confront the text-and one another.

For Różewicz, the struggle between a play and its realization on stage is the crowning moment of the whole theatrical process.  "What I like best in the theatre are the rehearsals," the playwright avows. "When the director fights with everything and everyone. The drama of the battle over the shape of the 'performance'." The texts that Różewicz produces are designed to heighten the conflict by resisting the efforts of theatre artists to dominate the author. "I've written my plays," the author explains, "so as to make difficulties for the directors who stage them, not to make their lives easy."

Różewicz has been fascinated with Kafka ever since he first visited Prague during the Stalin years when the Czech author was forbidden reading. Along with Chekhov and Beckett, Kafka serves as a model for Różewicz’s concept of inner drama and directly inspired two of the author's last dramas. The Hunger Artist, a highly personal adaptation of Kafka's tale, explores the creative process and the relation of artist to society.

Loosely based on the writer's diaries and letters, The Trap is an enigmatic work that "sets traps" for literal-minded critics, directors and audiences. Not one of the Czech author's literary works is ever mentioned (except the generic "Letter to His Father"), nor does the name Kafka once appear.  This is hardly the usual life of an artist in which titles and names are constantly dropped. We may ask: is The Trap a biographical play about Kafka? Różewicz himself denies that this is the case, insisting that his task as poet, after absorbing masses of facts about the Czech writer, was to depart as far as possible from the documentary material so that his own drama could come into being.

In fact, the Polish author is more concerned with Kafka's inmost fears than with the realia of his life, and except for a few fragments from the letters, Różewicz leaves his sources discreetly uncited. The Trap dramatizes anxieties and nightmares of the artist Franz as he himself experiences them in relation to his father, his family, his friend, and his fiancée. And despite his attempts to escape the many threats of confinement-existential, societal and historical-assailing him from all sides, the traps are too cunning for Franz. At first sight the highly fluid structures of time and space that Różewicz has created for The Trap make the play seem formless and meandering. The play, however, actually has a firm skeleton of recurring phrases, images and motifs. It is only superficially an "amorphous" play, Różewicz argues,"less like the crown of a tree than the underground roots intertwined and growing in all directions.  And therefore the length-in a temporal sense-of a scene on the stage does not always correspond to the length of the duration of that 'scene' or to the space that it occupies in the text."

The playwright uses Tableau XII, "At the Barber's", to illustrate the drama's temporal indeterminacy and elasticity. "The hidden magnitude of that scene is many times greater than what is shown taking place on the stage.  It is a scene that comprises the past and the future lurking in the present. … The roots are still hidden in the soil, in the darkness, of the future." The scene takes place in 1914 as war is declared on Serbia, and at the same time the Barber's assistant Vic abuses the Jewish Gentleman like a Nazi thug some twenty years later.

Structured as a series of tableaux, The Trap is a family photo album through which we can move backwards and forwards. The central image embodying all the play's dangers, the "trap" is as much biology as history. It is lurking everywhere-as the body in which Franz is imprisoned and as the camp (Auschwitz) to which his sisters will be sent. The "trap" is simultaneously present at all times, in all scenes, extending beyond Franz to the world at large. Throughout the play the Nazis are waiting behind the scenes-represented by the Black Wall. At the denouement of The Trap, what has until this point been the tragedy of a family, and of an individual victimized by the family, becomes the tragedy of the Jews. As the actors playing Kafka and his family take their bows, the Executioner-Guards come out from behind the Black Wall that opens at the back of the stage and brutally push the performers off to the trains leaving for the death camps. As the wall closes, only desperate fingers and palms of hands can be seen.

For Jerzy Jarocki, a frequent Różewicz collaborator who directed The Trap in 1992, the drama grows out of the confrontation between Kafka's apocalyptic forebodings and Różewicz’s own experiences of the war and the Holocaust. Significantly, it is not the sensitive Franz, but his blunt pragmatic Father who scents the coming of the Executioners and forecasts the Holocaust. Franz is too obsessed with the inner concentration camp of creativity to which his art has condemned him to have direct knowledge of the approaching Nazis. Whenever the Executioner-Guards appear, he is in a state of dreaming. Literature, which is Franz's fate, proves perilous to his life.

Built on a poetics of heterogeneity, The Trap consists of realistic dialogue, long multi-layered conversations, remembrances, quotations, descriptions, visions, dreams and events taking place outside Franz's consciousness as well as scenes occurring in his presence but not perceived by him. Recurrence and transformation are devices that bind the diverse layers into a whole. Felice's teeth, ready to devour the artist, become the gold crowns of the corpses at the extermination camp Majdanek. The huge wardrobe that for Franz seems a tombstone appears to his Father as a means of salvation in which the family can hide from its persecutors. Father and son pairs occur in different modalities. Despite (or perhaps because of) the writer's instructions to bum his works, Max becomes Franz's "wardrobe" that will preserve his "children" from destruction. Franz's supposed son by Grete is a monster (as he has been for his Father), the revenge of nature on the artist for giving himself exclusively to the creative imagination.

The entire drama is punctuated by the presence of Franz's Animula, or little soul, a childhood double, who, Różewicz tells us in one of his permissive stage directions, may appear at any point throughout the performance . The playwright has written several such appearances into the text, as, for ex­ample, in Tableau Ill where Animula watches Franz's dream of his Father's enactment of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, and in Tableau XV where the "little soul" is a silent witness to the deportations through the Black Wall. Never does Animula identify with any of the characters or actions, remaining on stage alone after everyone has gone and leaving the theatre with the last spectator. If the Executioner-Guards take us ahead into a historical future, Animula always brings us back to a timeless past of childhood and its open­ eyed perceptions of adult horrors-noncommittal, non-judgmental, non­ comprehending.

Różewicz is only one of many late twentieth-century playwrights who have found in the Czech author's life and work inspiration for their own dramas, but The Trap may well be the most penetrating treatment of Kafka's psychic dilemma. It is curious to note to what extent Różewicz's intensely personal, Polish viewpoint anticipates that of the British writer Alan Bennett, who analyzes Kafka's predicament in almost identical terms, al­though his own plays on the subject are radically dissimilar.

In his "Author's Note" of 1987 to Two Kafka Plays (Kafka's Dick and The Insurance Man), Bennett views Kafka as a prey to traps both biological and historical. "Death took no chances with Kafka and laid three traps for his life," Bennett writes. "Parched and voiceless from TB of the larynx, he was forty, the victim, as he himself said, of a conspiracy by his own body.  But had his lungs not ganged up on him there was a second trap, twenty years down  the line when the agents of death would have shunted him, as they did his three sisters, into the gas chambers. That fate, though it was not to be his, is evident in his last photograph. It is a face that prefigures the concentration camp."

The third trap that might have caught Kafka (but never did) is the consequence of Bennett's playful imagining that the Czech writer first avoids TB and then escapes the Nazis by fleeing to America in 1938, only to die of asbestos poisoning which he had contracted in 1917 while managing his brother-in-law's factory. Although Bennett uses the same "trap" metaphor as Różewicz, it is unlikely that the British playwright could have known the Polish drama. And whereas Bennett has written "exterior" drama of a satirical nature about the reception, perception and consumption of Kafka as a cultural artifact in present-day Britain, Różewicz has placed Franz's ambiguous inner drama as son and artist in the context of the tragic historical catastrophe that engulfed his family, his culture, and his civilization.

The ultimate "trap" for Różewicz is Kafka himself, who, the Polish playwright avers, is a "black hole" in the European literary firmament capable of swallowing whatever is attracted to it. In The Trap Franz maintains that "Silence contains everything and is more important and vaster than speech and sound." For Różewicz , theatre has great possibilities; there is nothing it can­ not encompass. But speaking about silence has become such an impossible task that it has kept him from writing for the stage since 1981.

In 1991-ten years after the play was first published- Różewicz added a prologue to The Trap in the form of a poem, "Interrupted Conversation", which is an interior monologue by Franz during the last months or days of his life in a sanatorium near Vienna. Unable to speak, the dying writer communicates with the outside world on scraps of paper. His thoughts are dis­connected but return persistently to his obsessions: the various women in his life, his complexes, problems with his Father, reflections on war and death. According to the poet, the prologue offers a summation of the play, with stress on its twin themes of suffering and silence. It is Różewicz’s farewell to Kafka.

The Trap

 Ambassador Theater presents the US Premiere of

THE TRAP

…Anxieties and nightmares of Franz Kafka…

By Tadeusz Różewicz

Translated by Adam Czerniawski

May 28 – June 21, 2015

XX Bldg. of the George Washington University

814 20 Street, NW, Washington DC

TICKETS ONLINE

                                               

 

 

 

Seeking Santa

Ambassador Theater Presents the World Premiere of

SEEKING SANTA

A Saint Nicholas Comedy Play

By Jeannette Jaquish

Directed By Hanna Bondarewska

Music Director Petko Kolev

With

 Jacqui Farkas, Elf Hazel  

Hanna Bondarewska, Elf Toffee

 Marlowe Vilchez, Elf Zinger, Mayor, Dictator and Santa

Petko Kolev, Voice and Guitar

Puppets By Julia Tasheva 

Set and Props Design By Anna Klamczynska

SYNOPSIS
Santa is missing and St. Nicholas Day is tomorrow! Elves are panicking. They find a clue and follow it to one place after another, each time encountering characters who tell the elves their problems. The Elves figure out what they really need to solve their problems
themselves. When they get back to the workshop Santa is there with a final gift solution.

A FUN TRAVELING SHOW!

Photos

OPENING DECEMBER 6, 2014

TO ORDER CONTACT AMBASSADOR THEATER at artisticdirector@aticc.org or call (703) 475-4036

 

 

Rage – Trailer

Rage – Trailer, US Premiere from aticc on Vimeo.

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