Poland, theater

return to mleczarnia

Wee’reeee baaaack! Writing in this cafe is like writing in the Great Coffeehouse Time Vortex; I am simultaneously present at Groundworks (both the Cahuenga and the downtown locations), MoonBeans and the first floor of Meyer Library at Stanford, Carma’s and One World in Baltimore, and Ashland’s Key of C.

I have a new resolution for this blog; 100 words a day. I have been writing a lot of articles lately, and trying to get them posted or published in other news venues. This means that the feature of SOS relating to immediate reflections on the experience has suffered. But if I give myself permission to keep it shortish, then I’ll still do it.

So, I’m writing in Mleczarnia, in Wroclaw, eating a heart-shaped gingerbread cookie and staring at an unlit candle. Where to begin…

The Fulbright orientation ended on Saturday morning. During the orientation, I was very performatively engaged, more so than I expected to be–I saw a performance of Prokofiev’s R&J ballet at the Wroclaw opera house, the Pina Bausch 3D film, and two avant-garde puppet theater performances (one about Marlena Dietrich, one based on Racine’s Phedre) by my friend A. Articles in progress on all this except Prokofiev.

In addition to this, we had Polish language study in the morning, lectures on Polish culture and history in the afternoon, tours of Wroclaw and environs on the weekends, and socializing in the evenings. I made many new friends. The Fulbrighters are, as you would expect, a very cool and diverse group. We are now far-flung, from Lodz to Gdansk to Lublin to Szczecin–our trains dispersed this weekend–but I am looking forward to visiting all of them.

After that orientation, I took a train to Legnica, a smaller town in the southwestern Poland region known as Lower Silesia (a region that includes Wroclaw, and that has changed political affiliations many times through history). While there, I saw four performances and a concert as part of the Festiwal Teatru Nie-Zlego (lit. “festival of theater that’s not bad”). What I saw of the festival was characterized by work that has some interest in movement, dance, and music as well as text–but I only saw 2 of the 4 days. Many of the plays incorporated surrealistic elements and humor. I heard audiences laugh more in this festival than I have in any previous Polish theater experience. Articles, yes, in progress.

I saw one of my favorite Polish theaters, Teatr Cinema from Michalowice, who I’ve loved for two years but before this had only seen on video. They performed “Nie mówię tu o miłości” from their repertoire. The title means “We do not speak of love here.” I also saw three new companies (new to me, that is)–Teatr Witkaczego z Zakopanego’s “Bal w operze”–a Lithuanian puppet theater company, Teatr Lėlė z Wilna’s “Pozytywka (Muzikinė Dėżutė)”–and a collaboration by Teatr Dada von Bzdülöw & SzaZa z Gdańska called “Caffe Latte.” On the last night, there was a concert by Warsaw Village Band. Articles in progress, etc., etc. Unfortunately, I did not get to see the performance by the organizing theater, Teatr Modrzejewskiej w Legnicy, but I’m hoping to return for that later this year. Articles…

During the Legnica festival, I had a volunteer guide around town–a college student and Legnica native, K. She and her friends–self-proclaimed “theater freaks”–gave me a sort of Legnica 101. In return, I told them about Julie Taymor and Spider-Man, as well as “Shrek, The Musical.” I think they got the short end of the stick. I really enjoyed connecting with the students. Two of K’s friends are about to begin drama school in Wroclaw, and I’m hoping to stay in touch with this group of people as they conduct their training. I want to also get a perspective on Polish theater as it is taught at the universities. More articles.

In Legnica, I was also able to conduct interviews with three theater people in the town–directors, festival organizers, community organizers, artists–and am working on compiling those.

Night train back to Wroclaw yesterday after Warsaw Village Band, staring out the window and thinking about the large violinesque object with drone strings that the musicians from WVB found in a well, broken, and restored. “Violin” is a really hard word for non-Polish-speakers to say–“skrzypce.” There is a Polish comedy routine in which the comic makes fun of all the different ways to mispronounce it. He ends up saying things like “trzy pizzy” (three pizzas). I learned about this from my super-cool student friends in Legnica. They were incredibly informative. I wish I always had college students to tell me what’s going on.

Today, back in Wroclaw, I had a three-hour-long-interview with a scholar for another article in progress. Different subject. I also bumped into another Fulbrighter, a Wroclawian, in the Empik bookstore. Nice to run into people accidentally. Makes the whole country feel a bit smaller. Starting to have a network of friends.

I will return to Warsaw tomorrow, where I will see chór kobiet’s second piece, “Magnificat,” in the evening.

It’s good to be getting started. I know I’ve been in Poland since July 20, but having my first post-orientation days–and having them be so full of theaters and interviews–is a good feeling. I was here before, but now I’m here here. And there. And everywhere.