Tuesday, October 1, 2013

HONORS: Mario Fratti Feted in Italy

Mario Fratti at La MaMa in 2002.
Photo: Jonathan Slaff
ATCA member and playwright Mario Fratti recently returned from Italy, where he received the prestigious Capri Award for Forbidden Diary (Diario Proibito), his only novel. Chronicling the horrors of the German invasion of Italy, the book's recent publication led to a much-deserved celebration. On September 26, Fratti was presented with the award before the Italian Parliament.

Forbidden Diary is a controversial work, written when the author was only 20 years old. It was finally published in September 2013 by Grause (Naples). The book tells of the difficult war years in 
Fratti's hometown of L'Aquila, the end of fascism and then the war, the rise of freedom and the first years of democracy. The novel is also a literary testimony of the contribution of L'Aquila to the liberation of Italy from fascism. The published work also includes Fratti's play Martyrs, about nine young freedom fighters who were captured and shot by the Germans in 1943.

The Abruzzi earthquake in 2009 shattered Fratti's medieval-walled hometown, including the apartment where the expatriate playwright maintained a residence. He was active in relief efforts for the town and treasures his remaining ties to it. Congratulations to our beloved friend and colleague on this important honor.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

APPRECIATION: Banu on Andrzej Zurowski

Georges Banu
Honorary President
In Memoriam: Andrzej Zurowski
By Georges Banu
Honorary President of the IATC
Translated by Michel Vaïs with Lissa Tyler Renaud

We are of the same generation, born in the same year: 2013 was supposed to be our year to have a private party together. I was expecting the publication of a book about him, being prepared for him by Anna Cetera in Warsaw, hoping that the illness would wait, that it would allow him some respite, that it would perhaps forget him. It did not. It did not accord Andrzej the additional time that would have done him so much good! I know that when the end is expected, every day—let alone every month, every year—is important. Today we, his friends, go on but, just as in war, some fall, others weaken, and all hope for another day. Like Andrzej! But he did not get one. Let us hope that this book devoted to him will be published soon, knowing how much he would have liked to hold it in his hands.

Andrzej was intensely active in the life of the International Association of Theatre Critics, and our organization benefited from his sense of duty, as well as from his joie de vivre. These were both indistinguishable and excessive. He was never a man of half-measures. All that he undertook—meetings, two congresses, especially the one in Gdansk—bore the hallmark of his personality. He was in no way indifferent, in no way a neutral person protecting himself. He was always present, diving deep into work or pleasure.

Reading his book on Shakespeare in the Romanian version, I recognized his freedom, his sense of humor, and equally his capacity for bringing culture closer to the human, to life, to perception. This is a book which the younger generations will always be happy to consult! I did not have access to his critical activity for linguistic reasons, but, when we shared our opinions, his were always clear, trenchant, neat—without being rigid. He knew what he liked and what he did not like. And he was never ready for a compromise! This explains the courage he often showed by leaving a room and, tall as he was, his departure never went unnoticed: the meaning of his exit was an uncompromising value judgment.

Andrzej Zurowski (1944-2013)
Photo: Adam Warżawa/Archivum

He managed to follow his path throughout the long night of the Polish state of siege, saving his integrity without, however, going along with the activists in his city of Gdansk. I saw him as a Brechtian character on a quest for survival, similar to Shen-Te in The Good Woman of Setzuan: How is it possible to live when everything prevents you from living? Many were those confronted, in the East, with this painful quartering. Andrzej confronted it and found his answer: at the heart of history, at the center of those fights.

Zurowski loved Shakespeare and the theatre, life and the stage, indistinct from one another, everywhere in the world. He did not separate them, he immersed himself in them with full and present confidence, every passing day. We were often together during meetings, and, with an indiscreet eye, I spied on his open notebook when I was bored. I was always puzzled to see Andrzej relentlessly crossing out all that was already accomplished, every day that had passed: he made a tabula rasa of the past by blackening it to the point that it became unreadable, indecipherable. He kept blank only the pages for the time to come, as if he never wished to return to his actual experience, only to move forward, free, towards some horizon of actions, passions, future dramas. As for me, ”captive lover” of the past, I envied him—but at the same time, this rage for oblivion worried me.

We were born in the same year and we became honorary leaders of IATC at the same time—a sign when the time comes to move to the margins—and today, I write these lines about him with the sadness inherent in any ending of a life. But he knew how to live!

Monday, January 7, 2013

MEMORIAM: Andrzej Zurowski Remembered

Polish theatre critic, Andrzej Zurowski, died January 5 at the age of 68 from complications related to a long battle with leukemia. Theatre critics from around the globe mourned his passing in e-mails circulated among leaders and members of the International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC).

It was impossible to meet Zurowski and not be impressed with his global knowledge--in every sense--of theatre. He was at home discussing the relative merits of Shakespeare production no matter the setting, no matter the language of the performance. His many enthusiasms were well known within the Polish theatre community as well as among those who cared about the art form throughout the world.

IATC President Yun-Cheol Kim noted that Zurowski's death is a "greal loss to the Polish theatre community" but also to the international community. Zurowski served as an International Vice President of IATC who was instrumental in keeping Polish theatre and Polish theatre criticism engaged with ongoing global discourse. He was afforded the high honor of the title "Honorary Vice President" of IATC for his outstanding service to the profession and to the art form. Among many other honors, he was saluted in 2010 by the Minister of Culture in Armenia and awarded a medal for his service to Armenian theatre at a private ceremony in Yerevan. Sceretary General Michel Vaïs was among those to remark that Zurowski "served in so many ways for a long time. He always had new projects to propose."

Zurowski's Polish colleague Tomasz Milkowski, who organized the 2012 Warsaw Congress for IATC, celebrated the late critic as a man full of energy, wit, and wisdom. Iran's Katayoun Hosseinzadeh Salmasi said "words cannot express the heartache" felt internationally by this loss. Don Rubin of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association wrote that Zurowski was a "man of vision as well as of action. He made important things happen in the worlds of scholarship and criticism." Lawrence DeVine, an emeritus member of the American Theatre Critics Association and continuing International Committee member, wrote "he was my oldest friend in IATC. We met in Tel Aviv in 1981" and had many wonderful times "around the world in the years since."

Zurowski's prolific career included 23 published books, ten of which were focused on the work of Shakespeare. He also lectured in the Theatre Department of the Polish Studies Institute at Pomeranian University. His most recent research centered on Helena Modjeska, which took him to the United States where he had planned to visit in the near future.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Critical Stages: Publishes Volume Seven

Yun-Cheol Kim, president of the International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC), announces the latest edition of Critical Stages has been posted. For this seventh volume of critical perspective from around the world, editor Patrice Pavis focused the Special Topic section on performance theory, which offers work regarding the nature of spectatorship from such scholars as Pavis, Matthew Reason, Peter M. Boenisch, Christopher Balme, Rachel Fensham, Hans-Thies Lehmann.

The Performance Review section, edited by Matti Linnavuori, features seventeen reviews from across the globe including a fascinating piece by Mihail Baykov on a Swedish production of Strindberg's Miss Julie presented in Bulgaria last summer. Baykov's discourse on Anna Pettersson's self-directed performance is appropriately titled "Beyond the Cliches of Miss Julie" and features a few arresting images of Pettersson's multimedia exploration in which "all characters merge—not only those of Julie, Jean and Christine, but also that of Anna Pettersson herself, who comments on the other roles."

The Essay section, edited by Maria Helena Serôdio, continues its mission of enhancing critical discourse by providing essays and reviews by five established authors, who are encouraged to move freely from essay to review, and from review to essay, often with relevant references to cultural theory. The Critics on Criticism section presents essays by critics Mark Brown and Andrea TompaSections highlighting InterviewsBook Reviews, and Conference Papers are also filled with insight on international performance and performers.

TURKEY: Letter From Theatre Critics

Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, center, joins artists protesting a move by Istanbul's mayor to take over decision-making in the Istanbul theatres in April 2012. (AP Photo)
The following letter was forwarded to AICT-IATC Secretary General Michel Vaïs by Hasan Anamur of the Turkish section of the International Association of Theatre Critics:

The Executive Committee of the Turkish section of the IATC wishes to inform you of the critical situation facing the theatre and artistic communities in Turkey since the 2000 rise to power of a political party that is trying to create conditions aimed at controlling all kinds of theatrical creations, to close down all state theatres, as well as municipal theatres in order to establish what they refer to as “a conservative art” of which no one knows the real meaning. Oppression from this party on the life of theatre has become more and more stifling. We ask that the following press release be shared with all the sections of the IATC.
Best regards,
Hasan Anamur
Turkish Section, IATC

The Turkish Section of the IATC wishes to announce that Turkey is presently undergoing measures taken by the political party in power against artistic events in general, and theatrical activities in particular.

Just to give some examples, we can mention the situation of the Atatürk Cultural Center in Istanbul, which has venues for opera, ballet, concerts and theatre, as well as a gallery for exhibitions. It is closed since June 2008, first under the pretext that it was being restored, then demolished for a reconstruction. But nothing was done to date and the city of Istanbul, among the three cities elected to be a World Cultural Center in 2010 by UNESCO, was deprived of it for all that time. The restoration was recently questioned, and there are still no signs that it will begin.

As for the town council of Istanbul, without any notice, at the end of the 2011–12 theatre season, it imposed a new regulation to the Istanbul Municipal Theatre—which is 98 years old—and cancelled all the rights of the artistic director to transfer them to bureaucrats of the town hall who are incompetent in this field. This decision and its application have caused strong protests and large popular and artistic demonstrations in Istanbul and throughout Turkey.

Recently, the town hall of Beyoglu (Pera) in Istanbul, following the Istanbul town hall and with the same excuse of restoration, has closed down the Karaca (Karadja) Theatre, founded in 1955, just before the opening of the 2012–13 season, without even informing the dozen of companies which were sharing this hall.

Lately, the Ministry of National Education has forbidden the renting of theatre venues in schools to professional theatre companies.

This is the situation in Turkey. We can only add that political power is transient, while theatre is eternal.

HUNGARY: Arts Crisis Continues

This video may be "read" in English
through YouTube's caption function.

Colleagues in Hungary tell a story of funding cuts to independent companies in Hungary due to budgetary maneuvers and bureaucratic delays. At this point, the FESZ Secretariat says, it appears there will be no funding in 2012, which has led to the suspension of work by companies such as Pintér Béla Company, Krétakör, and Sputnyik under the direction of Viktor Bodó. FESZ is an acronym for an independent theatre association. A video released on YouTube by the FESZ Secretariat recounts the difficulties of companies and the impact on individual artists. Spoken in Hungarian, the video has captions available through YouTube's caption service.

Readers of this site may recall postings from 2010 that addressed the ongoing crisis in Hungarian theatre. The press release from FESZ is reprinted below, in shortened form. Szilvia Nagy may be contacted for more information at fesz2012@gmail.com.


The Hungarian independent performers’ scene has been facing serious hardships every year as subsidies received from the state have been erratic or delayed.

Organizations still waiting for subsidies for 2012 had to face the fact that cuts announced by the Hungarian Department of Economics on October 5 also endanger their regular yearly support.
On November 8, the official government website announced that there would be further cuts from the already adjudged (and already decreased) operational subsidies.

Up to this date, the companies concerned still have not received any official declaration on the rate of these cuts. A short announcement let independent performers know that this rate would be even higher than the one mentioned on the government’s website: instead of by one third, support will be cut by 36.51 percent.
By now, most of the independent companies are on the verge of not being to function any further: according to FESZ’s (Association of Independent Theatres) survey, almost half (45 percent) of the organizations waiting for support have no reserves. If subsidies are not awarded by the end of the year, the proportion of independent companies without reserves will grow to 90 percent. One third (32%) of the companies have already had to take out loans in order to be able to carry on with their operations.

The Hungarian government’s unlawful course of action, through the delays and cuts in funding, one-sidedly impairs the freedom of artistic expression and also violates citizens’ constitutional right to self-education, access to culture, and the possibility to choose from a palette of different cultural products and experiences.

In our grave situation, we ask for the solidarity of the international public. Publish and broadcast it through your media, let your audiences know, that post-Soviet Hungary’s most lively and progressive artists, who have therefore also been the most ardent supporters of a democratic value system, are forced to discontinue their operations from January 2013.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Critical Stages: Sixth Edition Online

Yun-Cheol Kim, president of the International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC), writes that the latest edition of Critical Stages is online and ready to stimulate discussion of numerous issues in theater criticism today.

"In particular," Kim writes, "the Special Topic section is abundant with moving articles on how the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami disaster has affected the theater scene in Japan. We all know how calmly and courageously the Japanese people have been as they have dealt with this natural disaster."

Kim goes on to note that the Special Topic articles remind us of the commitment of "our Japanese colleagues, critics and practitioners," who have shouldered many burdens as Japanese society has begun to rebuild.

Critical Stages also focuses on Kapila Vatsyayan, the respected Indian scholar and artist who received the Thalia Prize in Warsaw. In recognizing Vatsyayan, the international association has selected a woman and a non-Western honoree for the first time. Vatsyayan's acceptance speech, originally delivered on recorded video at the Warsaw Congress in March, Kim writes, "elegantly justified IATC’s decision" to honor her with the Thalia, which is given to those who have "significantly influenced our critical thinking with their writing."

In addition to the Special Topic essays and reportage on the Thalia Prize, the sixth edition of Critical Stages also features interviews with prominent directors, actors, and playwrights from Bulgaria, France, Italy, Romania, and the United States. The performance review section includes nine pieces on contemporary theater in Azerbaijan, the Baltic countries, Canada, France, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Korea, and Romania. Also included are two intercultural essays by French authors on Korean and Japanese performances. Three recent books are reviewed in this edition, including a French perspective on Mark Brown’s survey of interviews with Howard Barker across three decades.