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bio: jen

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Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know about Polish Theatre: The Panel

You’d think I would learn by now. You’d think I’d have gotten wiser and calmer with age and that I’ve become more zen. But nooooo. Every now and then, I go to a theatre panel and my blood starts to boil and I shout things and try to start riots.

Calm, deep breath, Jen.

Last night, at the central library downtown was a panel called Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Polish Theatre as part of the library’s Aloud Series and also in association with UCLA Live’s Theatre Festival (which always has awesome stuff). Being a big fan of both Stanislaw Witkiewicz and Witold Gombrowicz, I was excited to go.

Could I have more links in that paragraph?

The panel was moderated by David Sefton from UCLA Live, and the panelists were Tom Sellar (Theatre Magazine editor), Joanna Klass (of Arden 2, an organization which brings Polish Theatre to Los Angeles), Grzegorz Jarzyna (theatre director from Poland), and Richard Schechner (according to the pamphlet, a legendary theatre theorist). Schechner was coming to the panel via Skype, and his presence reminded me a lot of an episode of Oprah (Oprah loves the Skype). His image and voice were projected above the panel like God.

From early on, it was clear that the purpose of the panel was to promote the shows at UCLA, and I wanted to know what Jarzyna and his company (TR Warsawa) were all about. At the ripe old age of forty, he wore a Nike T-shirt under a motorcycle jacket and dark hip jeans and boots. His hair was a slight Mohawk and he looked slightly edgy but not in a geek way. For a long time, he didn’t say a word, but he did speak English, and talked very simply and specifically about his theatre, his use of space and actors.

The panel also spent a lot of time talking about the legendary director, Jerzy Grotowski. Apparently, this year is the 10 year anniversary of his death, so 2009 is the Year of Grotowski. How great that I find this out in November. I could’ve celebrated all year.

However, most of the panel was taken up by the Richard Schechner Show. Even though I appreciated his very vague first hand accounts of Grotowski, I disagreed with many of his legendary theories and found myself squirming in my seat and whispering, that’s so wrong, no it’s not, and what a load of horse doodle.

I should mention that most of the audience for the panel were the white hair theatre/culture crowd who are slowly dying out in this country. They were not really the rioting type. They liked their theatre pretty.

When Schechner railed against the use of video and technology in the theatre and Sefton (with his dry British wit) mentioned that Schechner was present through such technology, I could not keep silent any more. I cupped my mouth with hands and shouted CUT THE SKYPE!!!! as loud as I could. Most of the audience were not amused although I noticed my tiny act of subversion did get a smile from the Polish director.

Civility quickly returned to the panel in time for the question and answer portion. Still hyped up from Cut-the-Skype (which did not get cut), I could not form the words to ask a question. Twelve hours later, this morning, I knew the question I had wanted to ask and I had the words in proper order. I need to work on being subversive and smart at the same time.

Here’s my question to the Polish Theatre Panel:

With all this talk of directors, could we turn the discussion to talk about how Polish writers like Witkiewicz and Gombrowicz continue to influence the theatre today? And dude, who does your hair, it's awesome.

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