Saturday, November 22, 2014

CALL: Jan Kott Our Contemporary

Our Contemporary: Jan Kott

IN CELEBRATION of the centenary of Jan Kott's birth, an international conference is scheduled for February 19, 2015 at the Rose Theatre, Kingston-Upon Thames, London. "Jan Kott Our Contemporary: Contexts, Legacies, New Perspectives" borrows its title from Kott's influential work on the bard, Shakespeare Our Contemporary.

Conference organizers welcome inquiries from prospective speakers who will deliver twenty-minute papers on the role of Kott in Shakespeare and theatre studies, as well as his contribution to the intellectual life of the twentieth century. The conference is aimed at scholars, students, practitioners, reviewers, and the members of the general public for this free event. There will also be evening performances of Songs of Lear, which will be performed at the Battersea Arts Center, London. The acclaimed production was created by Song of the Goat Theatre, a Polish company.

Sweet Smell: Rose Theatre, Kingston-Upon-Thames

The organizing committee, which includes International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC-AICT) honorary president John Elsom, suggest a wide range of topics for discussion to include:
1. Jan Kott as academic critic. How has Shakespeare Our Contemporary shaped the development of Shakespeare criticism and theatre studies?  
2. Kott and the art of the essay. What made Kott’s essays influential; and do we still need them?
3. Kott and ancient Greek drama. How has the critic influenced classical studies? 
4. Kott and Existentialism. What was the importance of Kott’s work as a translator of Sartre?
5. Kott and the theatre of the absurd: the critic’s response to Beckett, Ionesco, and Gombrowicz.
6. Kott and global theatre. What was the importance of the critic’s interest in Kabuki and Noh?
7. Kott’s and the anthropology of theatre. What was the extent of Kott’s interaction with Jerzy Grotowski, Tadeusz Kantor, and Peter Brook?
8. Kott and Modernism. Can the critic be read as a Modernist writer?
9. Kott and religion. What were the critic’s views on Catholic doctrine on morality and sexuality, particularly in light of his writings on androgyny in Renaissance art and literature?
10. Kott’s politics. What were the critic’s reactions to Marxist and post-Marxist political theory, and to their impact on Polish theatre, international theatre, and theatre theory?
11. Kott and Jewish ethnicity. What is the significance of the Shoah on Polish and world theatre?
12. Kott, Polish emigration, and émigré culture. How do exiled artists and intellectuals like the critic shape the societies in which they work?
Abstracts of approximately 200 words accompanied by a 50-word bio should should be sent by December 5, 2014 to Aneta Mancewicz and Richard Wilson: Postal address: Aneta Mancewicz and Richard Wilson, Kingston University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Penrhyn Road, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Surrey KT1 2EE. Speakers will be notified of acceptance by December 8, 2014.

Tickets for Songs of Lear at the Battersea Arts Center, February 20 and 21, 2015, will be available at a special rate. Organizing committee: John Elsom (Kingston Shakespeare Seminar), Anna Godlewska (Polish Cultural Institute), Anna Gruszka (Polish Cultural Institute), Aneta Mancewicz (Kingston University), Aleksandra Sakowska (British Friends of the Gdansk Theatre Trust), Richard Wilson (Kingston University).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

WORLD CONGRESS: Beijing and Beyond

En avant: Global participants of the IATC-AICT World Congress in Beijing 
IT HAS BEEN a very busy 2014 for members of the International Committee. We continue to make additional opportunities for American Theatre Critics Association members to participate in international events. Beginning with the 2012 Warsaw World Congress, when ROBERT COHEN joined the delegation, seven different members of ATCA have represented the United States at IATC events.

BRAD HATHAWAY was invited to represent ATCA in India, for an established critics' seminar. Hathaway, long of the Washington, D.C., area and now a resident in the San Francisco Bay Area, made a case for critical advocacy regarding the interests of the larger theater community amid the ongoing struggle over intellectual property issues in the digital age. Hathaway reports:
The India Section of IATC convened a Critics' Symposium as part of the Sixth International Theatre Festival of Kerala in Thrissur, India from January 30 to February 1. Moderated by the section's founder, Deepa Punjani of Mumbai, the symposium examined what it means to be a critic in the 21st century. Presentations from Indian critics included Punjani's "The Transforming Force of Theatre Criticism in the Age of Digital and Satellite Technology," observations on three examples of theater arts as a tool for social change by Ajay Joshi of Pune, Vikram Phukan of Mumbai's "Getting Theatre the Coverage It Deserves: Beyond Press Releases and Hype" and two presentations by Kerala-based critics, Renu Ramnath and CS Venkiteswaran. Participants from around the world included Romania's Alice Georgescu, who spoke on "Critics in Transition: With Special Reference to the Work of Two Romanian Directors," Poland's Konrad Szczebiot who discussed "Polish Theatre of Form – Between Puppetry and Visual Art," and Sweden's Margareta Sörenson, recently elected IATC-AICT President at the Beijing World Congress, who discussed the stages of transition in the arts.
PATRICK DYER, a new member from Chicago, attended a Young Critics Seminar in Debrecen, Hungary, and WENDY ROSENFIELD attended the spring 2014 International Executive Committee in Caen, France, as the delegate for the committee chair. (While in France, Rosenfield saw JEAN LAMBERT-WILD's production of Waiting for Godot, which you may read about here.) Delegating is a practice that the current chair has employed regularly for the past two years: JAY HANDELMAN attended the spring 2013 International Executive Committee in Jönköping, Sweden, that May. Of his attendance at the Performing Arts Biennial (Biennalen Scenkonst), Handelman wrote for the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota:
Attending one of these festivals as an American accustomed to a certain style of performance is like walking into a different world, as I've discovered over the years at other festivals in Rotterdam and Warsaw.
Theaters around the world have their own way of creating performances that is nothing like what the vast majority of Americans think of as theater. [. . .] What is exciting for an outsider is seeing how collaborators try to break down the traditional walls that separate performers from audiences, and how stories or ideas are shared.
The most "traditional" piece I saw was From Sammy with Love, a two-man tribute to the life and career of Sammy Davis Jr., and to his eight-year marriage to Swedish beauty May Britt. In America, it might easily become a standard biographical look at the singer, but it becomes a pointed and entertaining story that deals with racism faced by Davis, Britt and the two talented Swedish song-and-dance stars — Karl Dyall and Rennie Mirro — who recall his dynamic style.
Hey, Babe: Karl Dyall, left, and Rennie Mirro, frame a photo of
Sammy Davis, Jr., in From Sammy with Love, at the Performing Arts
Biennial in Jönköping, Sweden. PHOTO: Biennelan Scenkonst
[. . .]
At each performance and with each post-show conversation, I wondered what it would be like if theaters across the United States could send productions to a central location every couple of years, not for prizes and awards, but to celebrate our own national culture, and see what’s happening elsewhere.

There are lots of obstacles, beginning with money, because it's costly to send shows and sets to other cities, or to resurrect appropriate plays a year or two after they were first presented. How would theater companies be chosen, and where would it be held? Lots of questions to be answered, but everything has to start with an idea.
Quiet Americans? Jay Handelman, Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, and Jonathan
Abarbanel just before the General Assembly of the Beijing World Congress
JONATHAN ABARBANEL, JAY HANDELMAN and JEFFREY ERIC JENKINS attended the 2014 IATC-AICT World Congress in Beijing, China. Jenkins attended as a member of the IATC-AICT Executive Committee, and Abarbanel and Handelman served that the official delegates from the American section of IATC-AICT. Abarbanel spoke on the impact of social media in criticism from his experienced perch as a multitasking theatre critic in Chicago. The goodwill built by the presence of the three in meetings and other events of the congress led to the re-election of the American section with an overwhelming number of votes. Ninety percent of the international ballots cast included the United States as one of the ten members of the Executive Committee. Only Serbia, which bid to host the 2016 World Congress in Belgrade, received as many votes. Also elected was the first African nation, Nigeria, and India, also a first for that country. Jenkins was elected Vice President of IATC-AICT, he is the first ATCA member to serve as an officer of IATC-AICT.

SAVAS PATSALIDIS, of Greece, has been selected as the new editor-in-chief of Critical Stages, the international web journal founded by IATC-AICT that is now in its tenth volume. The American section received much gratitude during the World Congress for financial support ($5,000) of the journal, which was provided through the Department of Theatre at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. DON RUBIN of Canada has joined the editorial team as managing editor. He will work with Patsalidis and executive editor Jenkins on strengthening the journal's business model. The journal welcomes visitors to the open-access website: Members are encouraged to consider suggesting possible submissions.

The Assembly of the World Congress voted to request additional, much-needed support from individual national sections. The suggested base-amount is $100. Larger sections are encouraged to give what they can on an annual basis.

STAY TUNED: News will be shared here and via the ATCA e-blast as soon as IATC-AICT has firm plans for 2015 seminars. More than a half dozen were proposed during the Assembly, but these proposals have not been fully developed. When the seminar directors make an announcement, the ATCA chair will issue an e-blast to the entire membership. Do not delay when these opportunities arise, we have had ATCA members denied when seminars fill quickly.

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.