Othello by Legnica Teatr Chopin Productions

"Director Jacek Glomb, head of the Modjeska Theatre in Legnica, Poland, is something of a hometown hero. Even though his friend Zygmunt Dyrkacz

10/27/06 - 10/29/06

Fri-Sat 8p; Sun 4p

"Director Jacek Glomb, head of the Modjeska Theatre in Legnica, Poland, is something of a hometown hero. Even though his friend Zygmunt Dyrkacz, the Polish proprietor of West Town's Chopin Theatre, assures us that most people in Poland don't even know where Glomb's home city is, the director's accomplishments there have put him on the world-theater map. Glomb, whose Polish-language touring production of Shakespeare's Othello stops at the Chopin for three shows this weekend, made his name by mounting daringly political works in abandoned factories and warehouses of a once-thriving industrial town, both illuminating the city's cultural rot under a new regime and breathing new life into its old architecture. His signature angry-young-man play Made in Poland, an indictment of Polish deterioration under the new free-market system starred a teenager with fuck you stamped on his forehead. Speaking with us through a translator from Los Angeles, Glomb explained that Othello is a pleasant break for him from the usual agenda-driven, hard-nosed tirades he's woven into plays like Hamlet and Coriolanus. "Othello is not about [politics]. It's about life, about different kinds of jealousy" Glomb says. Of course, his idea of a breezy, nonpolitical take is still set on a mutinous pirate ship (rather than Cyprus, the play's actual locale). Noted for bringing live, affordable theater to a city that has none (Young people get a discount, so it costs about the same as three beers Glomb says), his populist stagings have allowed the artist to master the trick that eludes most risk-taking culture makers: He gets funding from the same government he often lashes out against. "The Polish Ministry of Culture has been very good to us", Glomb says, noting that its grant money allowed for the company's three-city American tour. And yet when we inquire about how closely the government monitors his work, he chuckles. "The Polish government is watching themselves only, and not paying attention to anything that is below them". A longtime admirer of Glomb's career, Dyrkacz was anxious to book him at the Chopin. "He's not playing any games", Dyrkacz says. "He made [Modjeska] a main attraction in Poland by doing plays about the total tyranny in Krakow and Warsaw, and doing them in rundown factories". Although the Chopin is, by most definitions, a traditional theater, Glomb's heart will always be in decaying buildings. "The great thing about a rundown space is that it has history," he says, "and we get to bring it back to life". Christopher Piatt, TimeOut Chicago 10/26/06

"When the 23 members of the Polish ensemble The Modjeska Theatre Company arrived in Chicago in October to stage their Othello, which ran Oct. 27-29, the Chopin Theatre's Zygmunt Dyrkacz was waiting at the airport. He'd rented a bus to bring all the cast and crew, and their equipment and luggage to Wicker Park where he'd arranged lodging five apartments all within walking distance of the theatre venue. He first drove the troupe to the theatre, so they could inspect the space and decide how they would develop the show to the Chopin's particular parameters. The troupe intended to reconstruct their set that transformed the stage into a large ship. Once the company signed off, Dyrkacz called in his carpenters to help realize the Modjeska vision in one day, so that they could start rehearsals the next night. Taking care of these kind of sprawling logistics is simply par for the course for Dyrkacz, who is currently corralling performers from eight different countries for I-Fest: Ideas in Motion, Best of European Solo Performances (www.i-fest.com). "Of course, it's hard" Dyrkacz said. "[But] we're kind of used to it. Our apartment is an office and hotel and restaurant and I think we do fine". Over the past 16 years, the Chopin Theatre's two stages at 1543 W. Division, have housed local presenters such as Collaboraction, The Hypocrites, Roadworks Productions and Teatro Vista. But the Chopin has also produced over 110 of its own productions, mostly from Poland and Eastern Europe. Although producing can be time consuming and expensive, it's an effort Dyrkacz is willing to expend to expose Chicago audiences to what's happening in global theatres. "I think that what interests me in the theatre is two different things" Dyrkacz said. "One is theatre as a great art [and also] I really believe in the theatre which is trying to change and I see that less and less in Chicago". The building of an international community or tribe, albeit a temporary one, around a theatrical production is also part of the appeal. "It's [the] most enjoyable part of our work"? Dyrkacz said. "Theatre is hard because nothing is left over", he said. "Does anybody remember any theatre owner/producer 20 years ago or 30 years ago". At least the people he has brought to Chicago should remember him and the Chopin. After all, they eat, sleep, tour and work together in a narrow radius of the Chopin and Dyrkacz for the duration of a show's run. It's even come to the point where he might offer a hotel room to a pianist and have the musician say he'd been hoping to sleep on the floor of Dyrkacz's apartment instead, so he could remain close to the rest of the company and be in the thick of things. But wait, you've been asking yourself, what does Othello have to do with ships? "There is no sense in telling a story, which everyone knows so well: How a black guy kills a white woman. That's why we chose a radical adaptation, but still it?s taken from the Shakespearian text from a trip to Cyprus and stories with which Othello fed Desdemona about strange countries far away", explained company artistic director Jacek Glomb in a translated e-mail. The adaptation, by Polish Shakespeare scholar Krzysztof Kopka, is set entirely aboard a Portuguese ship, Speranaza (Hope), at sea under the captaincy of the main hero, that familiar figure of Othello. Rumors abound that the captain has deliberately set sail into a storm and mutiny results, with Iago, Roderigo and Bianca all becoming victims of the hate and jealousy on board. "In such closed, isolated space, its participants are condemned to be with each other. They are accompanied by excitement, fear, drinking, then as a result the lack of discipline, fights. Their emotions are extremely intensified. A betrayal on a ship, which one cannot leave, is a different thing than a betrayal in real, everyday life, in which one can slam the door and leave. That's why we need the ship" Glomb wrote. The Shakespearean themes remain intact, however, as Modjeska continues to see the show essentially as a story of love and jealousy. In fact, it was these basic human feelings that drew Glomb to Othello in the first place. Modjeska had been known for its use of Shakespeare to speak to the socio-political situation in Poland (they staged Corolianus in 1998 and Hamlet in 2001) but Glomb became tired of talking about politics accompanying our life, "especially because this aspect of life in our country has become a hopeless and a complete joke. Othello was an escape from that. We talk about people and emotions which have been driving them forever. We talk about love, passion, jealousy, betrayal". Yet, even while this is not a typical show for Modjeska, Dyrkacz wanted to expose Chicago audiences to the company's work when the opportunity arose. He is enthusiastic about Glomb and his company's efforts to challenge the audience. "He is a rebel", Dyrkacz said. He points to the examples of Glomb protesting budget cuts by adorning the theatre building in Legnica with black flags and playing loud funeral music, or defying a prohibition against the company's using an abandoned-by-the-owner space, by marching up and cutting the locks on the chains surrounding the dilapidated building. "It hurts to have a theatre that will speak about what's going on" he said. "I wish there was something like this about reality in Chicago". How does Glomb characterize his rebellious mission? "You have to take on challenges. Theatre without facing challenges does not make sense. You have to accept the risk; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. You have to fight for your own identity, for your own artistic language. Theatre that sits quietly does not make sense. That's why it's important to make an effort in putting on big plays". The "big play" aspect is part of what appealed to Dyrkacz in the first place. The site-specific staging means the company is able to get the "maximum effect" he said. It is a hallmark of the company, Glomb said. "Our theatre is best known for crossing into different spaces. An old factory, a ruined movie theatre, a damaged theatre hall, ancient church, palace courtyard. We mark these spaces with our live presence, and by putting on plays there we bring them back to life, often salvaging them from annihilation. In this way, theatre crosses the borders of art and becomes a social thing. It stops being an elite form of entertainment and becomes a social dialogue". Yet creating a ship on stage at the Chopin for a troupe traveling with only one three meter long and 1.5 meter wide wooden box carrying ladders and sails did require added assistance. Dyrkacz even bought lamps and other nautical type accessories and rented musical instruments for the show. "We have to make this thing happen"? Dyrkacz observes, in his matter of fact fashion. Building the ship was a time when having 23 people around came in handy. Although it can be a headache housing, feeding, transporting and entertaining that large of a troupe, the company members were willing to get their hands dirty. "If it was a theatre from Warsaw it would be a very different story" Dyrkacz observed. At least the Modjeska company members didn't mind physical work and helping out. "They build the theatre themselves, and they have a great leader, and he motivates them" he said. "If I can compare them it would be probably to Redmoon. I don't know if they are in that phase right now but they were previously". Glomb compared the company's motto to that of the Three Musketeers: One for all and all for one. "It really is a big logistic enterprise" he said. "But we are a good team, a good crew. When it comes to the technical side, we're really very well prepared. In Poland, we travel all the time, so putting on a play in different spaces is familiar to us". Still it required new adaptations for the Chicago run and the two west coast runs before it. "Each play is different" Glomb said. "For example in Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara we had to shorten the ship by several meters; there wasn't enough room for the audience and American rules pertaining to the size of the stage are very strict. So we did it and made the stage lives of actors a little bit harder. But that's our duty: "We play for you". That's our slogan on our logo". The actors play a little more broadly also, since the show remains primarily a Polish-language production. The company, also added an English-language "travelogue" to be performed in the American show to tell what has already happened and what will happen. An English-language synopsis was added into the program as well to help audiences along. Dyrkacz traded tickets to the show in return for that translation. It was just one more of the myriad tasks that accompanied his desire to bring the international troupe to the Chopin. Really, that "all for one" mantra that Glomb espoused could also be attributed to Dyrkacz at the Chopin. Press releases from the theatre suggest the for-profit institution "operates under the business principles of efficiency, flexibility and self reliance". Doing a phone interview amidst work to arrange the logistics of the I-Fest artists' and guests arrival, Dyrkacz admitted, "We don't try to be communal but we are kind of communal" - Jenn Goddu, Performink Nov'2006

William Shakespeare

Jacek Glomb

Przemyslaw Bluszcz; Rafal Cieluch; Pawel Palcat; Bogdan Grzeszczak; Zuza Motorniuk; Tadeusz Ratuszniak; Pawel Wolak; Malgorzata Urbalska; Magda Skiba; Ewa Galusilska; Katarzyna Dworak; Justyna Pawlicka; Anita Podd?bniak; Lech Wolczyk

Adaptation - Krzysztof Kopka; Scenic Design - Malgorzata Bulanda; Light design - Leszek Bzdyl; music - Kormorany; Assistant director - Przemyslaw Bluszcz

Tags: Polish, Theater, New Europe, 2006