The Fatherkillers—a Debate with Five Polish Women Theatre Directors in Paris, France
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The Adam Mickiewicz Institute (Poland), Alternatives théâtrales: La revue du théâtre contemporain (Belgium), and Galerie Hus (France) presented The Fatherkillers—a debate with five Polish women theatre directors. Friday 16 December 2016.
In connection with the Krystian Lupa Portrait at this year's Festival d’Automne in Paris, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute presents the work of five female “fatherkillers.” The term, taken from a book by Piotr Gruszczyński about the generation of stage directors who “killed their fathers” and came into their own in the late 20th century, is now being applied to female stage directors and/or dramaturgs who have made their mark on Polish theatre. Following in the footsteps, but never overshadowed by “fathers” such as Krystian Lupa or Krzysztof Warlikowski, they have created a unique artistic idiom of their own.
Debate: The Fatherkillers
Friday, December 16 at 7:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. PST (Los Angeles) / 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. EST (New York) / 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. GMT (London) / 16:30-18:30 CET (Paris/Warsaw) / 17:30-19:30 EET (Bucharest)
Debate followed by a screening of photos.
With Polish theatre directors Anna Karasińska, Magda Szpecht, Anna Smolar, Katarzyna Kalwat, Weronika Szczawińska
Introduction: Joanna Klass, Theatre and Dance Programs, Adam Mickiewicz Institute
Debate moderated by: Piotr Gruszczyński, dramaturg Nowy Teatr, and Sylvie Martin-Lahmani, co-director of Alternatives théâtrales
Translation: Agnieszka Zgieb
Joanna Klass, Institut Adam Mickiewicz:
During any retrospective dedicated to a great artist it is always worth asking: What now? Whose turn is it next? Can we discern the direction in which the world is inexorably heading? Since we might prefer, like Borges, to perceive the world as a garden with many bifurcating paths, we will be presenting just one of the possible paths leading through the tangle of the theatre scene today, or, actually, five singular, quite unique paths. As we are, once again, living in times when History outpaces the imagination, strong words seem to be in order. That is why I have not hesitated to call this evening "Patricides"—in reference to Piotr Gruszczyński's seminal book about the generation of Polish stage directors who came into their own around the 1990s. In deference to Mickiewicz's Forefathers' Eve and to Macbeth, I am hereby summoning Witches in the hope that they can answer the question posed by the Patron of our Institute, the great Polish poet who lived and worked here in Paris: “Darkness, stillness all around. What happens now? What happens now?”
Piotr Gruszczynski, Dramaturg, Nowy Teatr:
Theatre has been around for centuries, but only because it feeds on continual protean change. A generation-based approach has been criticized on many occasions, so there is no point in it, and yet there is. In Poland, artists born late enough to know communism only from family anecdotes and textbooks have today come on stage. This is even less important than the fact that they consider capitalism not a dreamed-of paradise, but an existing condition, a system to be criticized or, better yet, undermined. Moreover, Europe’s unrelenting economic crisis and, lately, an expanding crisis of democracy, slowly turning the latter into a dictatorship of the majority, make it necessary not only to rethink the content, but also the form of artistic productions. Art develops as a continuum—a dialectic, a polemic, or a break with the old.
I don’t know why it is only in recent years that the voice of women has become clearly audible in Polish theatre. They were always there, but never so numerous and strong! Now they have turned the switch of discourse. They have committed patricide or simply shed their fathers’ curse like true Shakespearean heroines. Each in her own way. They are certainly worth visiting.
About the directors:
Statement: Art as a space where we have more freedom than anywhere else.
Bio: Born in 1990. Theatre artist, author of installations, and theatre productions. Currently a student at the State Drama School in Kraków, she graduated in Journalism (creative writing) from the University of Wrocław. Director of dolphin_who_loved_me, which won the Jury’s Prize at the 100° Festival in Berlin and was also staged in Marseilles, Hannover, Warsaw, and Bucharest. Resident of the NEDRAma Festival in Sophia. She has put on The Possibility of an Island (TR Warszawa, 2015), Schubert: A Romantic Composition for 12 Performers and a String Quartet (Dramatic Theatre, Wałbrzych, 2016) and the object-installation Internal Monologue: How to Achieve Zen by Practicing the Forest (National Old Theatre, Kraków, 2016). Her most recent work, the performative installation Why I’m Not Writing You, based on Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, premiered on 16 November 2016 at the Juliusz Osterwa Theatre in Lublin.
Statement: Designing productions around a topic is an important part of my theatre, combining installations, video, open rehearsals, concerts, and experiments. The aim of diversifying means of expression and forms within one project is to uncover controversy so that the viewer can get as close as possible to a given subject.
I explore the real-life stories of people. I recently directed Holzwege at the TR Warszawa, a play about the work of Tomasz Sikorski, recognised as a precursor of minimalism and sonorism in European music, as well as Reykjavik ‘74 at the Horzyc Theatre in Toruń—a project about a group of young people who confess to a crime they haven’t committed. I always start with facts, a documentary material full of contradictions and mutually exclusive claims. During rehearsals, together with the dramaturg Marta Sokołowska and the actors, we become members of an experimental investigative team and conduct a kind of investigation. Then, during the performance itself, in front of the audience, we try to reconstruct the events based on the evidence gathered; we also try to reconstruct the characters. An indispensable element in the whole process are fictitious scenes created by us, showing the characters’ dreams or fantasies for example, which were not part of the actual events but allow us to get closer to the real moments. The process of reconstruction is not about discovering the truth of the events, but about searching for it. Like other art forms, theatre—because of its artificiality and fiction—gives us the best means of accessing the truth, although on the surface it takes us away from it. I am particularly fascinated by the spectral, virtual nature of our truths, by history as a simulacrum, and by the creation of phantasms.
My most recent projects are coming to life in cooperation with Marta Sokołowska, scriptwriter, dramaturg, and co-author of my productions. Based on actors’ improvisations but also a pre-written text, we create material that the actors perform into being before the audience’s very eyes. In this world, the actors represent different levels of signification, as characters, but also because they draw on their personal experience, sensitivity, and talent. My productions might give an impression of performance, of open rehearsal, although they are strictly planned dramatic and stage structures with the actor in the middle.
Bio: Graduate of the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw (Directing) and of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (Psychology). Recipient of a French government bursary. Assistant to Krystian Lupa from 2009 to 2011. Her latest project Holzwege, about the work of Tomasz Sikorski, is currently playing in Warsaw. The project was awarded in this year’s state competition for the Staging of a Contemporary Polish Play. She has worked for TR Warszawa, the Polish and New theatres in Poznań, and the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków.
Statement: I try to make my productions "have an impact" rather than "tell a story." To make them into events that play themselves out in the here and now. I break down the "viewer–play–actor" narrative so that people can really see and interact with one another.
When I do a production, I plan what’s going to happen for each of those taking part; the audience; and how to achieve this. I don’t think too much about the topic—the topic is merely one of my devices, a "cover" for the mechanism I am setting in motion. I am interested in using art as a means of getting people to let go. In my productions, I try to keep the viewer in a state of ambivalence, amusement, and alarm, continually fooling their intellect. By setting up unobvious situations, I try to make viewers slide into the absurd and experience freedom from being controlled by the intellect, rock-solid concepts, binding narratives, and meanings. I think that loosening up the notions of what we consider real and obvious is the most powerful tool to change the world.
Bio: Born in 1978. Graduate of the Film School in Łódź (Directing). She also studied philosophy at the University of Łódź and the Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź. Her fictional and documentary short films were shown at dozens of festivals around the world and garnered several prizes. Her 2015 production Ewelina Cries at TR Warszawa was hailed one of the best productions of the season and received several theatre awards. Her Second Performance at the Polish Theatre in Poznań was also praised by critics. In November 2016 she put on Birthday as part of the Komuna Warszawa Microtheatre series.
Statement: I create theatre because I’ve always had a problem with talking to people. In theatre, I look for the moments when something is revealed, when acting ceases to be acting. My last productions are documentary. I am interested in what happens when an actor starts their work from encountering a live person, when the performance becomes rooted in the real, the things that motivate us here and now as a collective. I see the cast as a microcosm of the collective. Recently, I have been proposing that the actors become co-authors of the script. I am interested in their opinions on a given matter, their sensitivity, and choice of words. Together we look for tools and a personal language that can draw others into a dialogue.
Bio: Polish-French theatre director, translator. Graduate of Literary Studies at the Université de Paris-Sorbonne, she also completed acting school at the Sudden Théâtre. In 2001, she founded the ensemble La compagnie Gochka with which she put on productions until 2004.
In Poland, she has directed Paul Claudel’s L'Échange, Albert Camus’s The Stranger, Jean Giraudoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot; she worked at the New Theatre in Warsaw on several occasions, including on a staging of Joël Pommerat’s Pinocchio.
Her latest production, The Worst Man in the World, based on Małgorzata Halber’s book, premiered on 26 November in Kalisz. In 2016, she received a director’s award for her production The Dybbuk within the framework of the Ministry of Culture competition for the Staging of a Contemporary Polish Play. Her production Jewish Actors received the Grand Prix at the Kontrapunkt festival in Szczecin in 2016, and the main award for the cast at the Kalisz theatre festival. She has worked as an assistant to Krystian Lupa, Jacques Lassalle, and Andrzej Seweryn. In film, she has worked with Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik.
Author of the French translation of Grażyna Jagielska’s book Miłość z kamienia (Amour de pierre / Love of Stone).
Statement: The female artist has to recognise the moment and the situation she is part of; recognise the balance of forces in which she is entangled. A theatre director should first and foremost be concerned about a powerful message and the well-being of her cast and crew - because there is no contradiction between individualism and community—in theatre, they should propel one another. The artists from the Artists’ Union of the Paris Commune were right to say that creativity is joint “action towards personal renewal, giving birth to shared luxury, future splendours, and a Universal Republic.”
Bio: Director, dramaturg, cultural scholar. Graduate of the Interdepartmental Individual Studies in the Humanities programme at the University of Warsaw. She studied theatre directing at the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw and holds a PhD in the Humanities. Artistic Director of the Bogusławski Theatre in Kalisz.
She works in theatres all over Poland and in association with art galleries. She creates performances, texts, and installations in cooperation with Agnieszka Jakimiak, Krzysztof Kaliski, and Piotr Wawer Jr. Nominated for a Polityka passport in 2014.
She has directed: Jackie. Death and the Maiden, Jaracz Theatre in Olsztyn, 2008; How to Be Loved, the Baltic Dramatic Theatre in Koszalin, 2011; RE//MIX Zamkow, Komuna Warszawa, 2012; The Golf Genius, the National Old Theatre in Kraków, 2014; Area of Study: Literature for Girls from Poznań’s Jeżyce District, CK Zamek in Poznań, Komuna Warszawa, 2014; The Wars I Haven’t Lived Through, the Polish Theatre in Bydgoszcz, 2015; Pornography of Late Polishhood, Galeria Labirynt in Lublin, 2015; K. or Memories of the City, Bogusławski Theatre in Kalisz 2016.
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