Polish Cultural Institute                                            Press contact: Agata Grenda

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The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival,

with support from the Polish Cultural Institute in New York,


Capitol Theatre, Wroclaw


by Witold Gombrowicz

directed by Michal Zadara

SEPTEMBER 10-13, 2009

Post show discussion, September 10

A fashion-conscious count pines for a young beauty and wants to dress her. The young beauty just wants to go around naked. A rival suitor proclaims his love. There’s a duel! There’s a ball! A Marxist revolution staged by pickpockets! A camel falling from the sky!

New York, August 17, 2009 – The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, with the support and on the initiative of the Polish Cultural Institute in New York, presents Operetta, a major work by Polish literary giant Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969), re-envisioned by Michal Zadara, one of the most innovative Polish theater directors of his generation. Each production of Operetta is scored anew; and for this latest staging Poland's multiple-award-winning jazz pianistLeszek Mozdzer composed an eclectic score that ranges from heart-wrenching ballads to punk rock. Performed in Polish with English supertitles.

The Live Arts Festival premiere will be preceded on Sunday, September 6, by a panel discussion, "The Theater of Witold Gombrowicz and of Michal Zadara," which along with Zadara will feature Thomas Sellar, critic and editor ofTheater, Yale School of Drama, and a special guest − Rita Gombrowicz, the author's widow, literary executor, and the author of two key biographical works, Gombrowicz en Argentine and Gombrowicz en Europe. Allen Kuharski, Chair of the Department of Theater at Swarthmore College, will moderate.

In an interview in Time Out New York, Prof. Kuharski described Gombrowicz as "Poland's counterpart to Jean Genet, but with Joe Orton's sense of humor. Gombrowicz's most powerful political weapon is his humor." Village Voicecritic Charles McNulty called Gombrowicz's works "unbeatable sources of absurdist adrenaline"; and Louis Begley, writing in the Washington Post, deemed the Polish writer an "eccentric genius." In Operetta, his final play, Gombrowicz adopts the operetta form in order to present 20th century transitions to totalitarianism in a grotesque way. At the same time, the author expresses a tentative faith in the redemptive power of youth.

In Zadara's interpretation, music, fashion, dancing, and chaos − and a cast of 22 − dominate this wild fable of the 20th-century's elite running out of ideas. An operetta is the romantic comedy of opera; this Operetta explodes the form − and our expectations. As Joanna Derkaczew in Gazeta Wyborcza writes: "Zadara succeeds in showing us a macabre silly vision of society; one in which the elites are mediocre, but to throw them out means leaving society at the whim of populists, manipulators and sectarians."

WHAT:       The Theater of Witold Gombrowicz and of Michal Zadara – panel discussion with special appearance of Rita Gombrowicz

WHEN:       Sunday, September 6, 1:00 PM

WHERE:     The University of the Arts, Arts Bank; 601 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA

TRANSPORTATION: directions available at www.uarts.edu

ADMISSION: free, tel. 215.413.1318


WHEN:       Thu., September 10 – Sun., September 13, 2009; Tue-Sat, 7:00 PM; Sat-Sun, 3:00 PM

                  Post show discussion, September 10. Performed in Polish with English supertitles.

WHERE:     The Wilma Theater265 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA

TRANSPORTATION: www.wilmatheater.org

ADMISSION: $15, $25, $35; tel: 215.413.1318, www.livearts-fringe.org or at Festival Box Office at The Hub: 626 N. 5th Street, tel. 215.413.1318

WITOLD GOMBROWICZ (1904-1969) is recognized as one of the 20th century's greatest writers. Most of his work was written during self-imposed exile in Argentina and France and could not be published or performed in Communist Poland for decades. His works rankled the establishment with their biting, irreverent humor, dissident views, and homoerotic innuendo. From the viewpoint of philosophy, Gombrowicz is intriguing as a thinker whose concepts anticipate ideas popular during the second half of the twentieth century, from existentialism to Lacanian psychoanalysis to deconstruction.

Gombrowicz’s works have been translated into more than 30 languages and staged in over 30 countries. His first and most famous play, IvonaPrincess of Burgundia, was staged by Ingmar Bergman for Sweden's National Theatre; and The Marriage was produced at the Comédie Française in Paris. The past decade has seen a flurry of interest in Gombrowicz, with publications of previously untranslated works, like Bacacay, and new translations of novels that first appeared in English in the 1960s, like Pornografia, which Grove Press will release in November 2009 Gombrowicz’s prose works have inspired numerous adaptations for the stage, including Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre’s 2006 dance piece Several Witty Observations and Teatr Prowizorium and Kompania Teatr’s 2002 adaptation of the novel Ferdydurke. Philadelphia’s Pig Iron Theater Company received an Obie in 2004 for its play Hell Meets Henry Halfway, which is based on Gombrowicz’s novel The Possessed.

MICHAL ZADARA (b. 1976, Warsaw) is one of the most important Polish theater directors of his generation. He grew up mainly in Austria and West Germany, where he attended English-language schools, and studied atSwarthmore College in the U.S., where he majored in Theater Studies and minored in Political Science, receiving his B.A. cum laude in 1999. After living in New York for a year, Zadara returned to Poland to work with set designer Malgorzata Szczesniak at Warsaw's Rozmaitosci Theatre (now known as TR Warszawa). In 2001 he began studying directing at the State Theatre Academy in Krakow with renowned director Krystian Lupa and the acclaimed actor and Academy professor Jan Peszek.

Since 2004, Zadara has directed productions at the National Theatre in Warsaw, the National Stary Theatre in Krakow, and other prestigious theaters in Gdansk, Wroclaw, Szczecin and abroad (Berlin, Tel Aviv). Known for his bold interpretations of canonical Polish authors, he has also adapted and/or staged works by Duerrenmatt, Eliot, and Heiner Mueller, among others. In 2007 the weekly magazine Polityka awarded Zadara the prestigious Passport Award for theater, citing his "impressive creative output" and his capacity to "restore faith in theater as a space for artistic freedom." In 2008 he was the featured artist at the biannual Warsaw Theater Meetings Festival, a showcase of the best productions of the year in Poland. The festival program included seven productions by Zadara. In January 2010, Zadara will debut at Warsaw's National Opera, directing Greek composer Iannis Xenakis's rarely staged Oresteia.

The Polish Cultural Institute in New York, established in 2000, is a diplomatic mission dedicated to nurturing and promoting cultural ties between the United States and Poland, both through American exposure to Poland’s cultural achievements, and through exposure of Polish artists and scholars to American trends, institutions, and professional counterparts.

The Institute initiates, organizes, promotes, and produces a broad range of cultural events in theater, music, film, literature, and the fine arts. It has collaborated with such cultural institutions as Lincoln Center Festival (Kalkwerk in 2009); BAM (Krum by TR Warszawa in BAM’s 2007 Next Wave Festival, which received a Village Voice Obie Award); Art at St. Ann’s (TR Warszawa’s Macbeth, 2008); Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, CUNY Graduate Center; La MaMa E.T.C.; Film Society of Lincoln Center; The Museum of Modern Art; Jewish Museum; PEN World Voices Festival; Poetry Society of America; Yale University; and many more. PCI co-produced the off-Broadway run of Irena’s Vow, with Tovah Feldshuh, which ran on Broadway in 2009.