Łukasz Drewniak, Wojciech Majcherek, Agnieszka Lubomira-PiotrowskaCritical Time / Kairos. The impossible happens
Critical Time / Kairos. The impossible happens
It was supposed to be completely different, but it is what it is. Different.
Just seven months ago, we were planning the anniversary edition of the Festival under the motto Chiaroscuro of evil, predatory, dark, vibrating. With the best Polish productions of the season, a strong representation of foreign performances, and a nod to the Festival’s past. Today, at a time when state borders are de facto closed to the transfer of culture and theatre travels, when festival budgets have been drastically cut and viewers cannot fill the entire theatres, when we all learn anew and function safely in public space, trying to imagine the future becomes more important than a trip into the past. Theatre and its audience. Culture and its creators. Society and the art that speaks about it. Yes, the diagnosis of the state of inter-pandemic suspension, in which we all find ourselves against our will, may be attractive, but probably only temporarily: it loses its topicality too quickly, social mood pulsates from black despair and fear for what will happen – to a momentary euphoria due to returning to the appearance of normal life and demonstratively forgetting that the threat has not diminished at all. We feel that most of the performances prepared before the lockdown have lost their relevance – after all, they were prepared in the world as we know it, in which we lived reasonably well and in which we were concerned with completely different matters than those we are dealing with now. Therefore, we decided to shift the accent. Focus on what is local and support it. Construct a programme based on original productions juxtaposed with a debate about the impossible and what is happening.
A good festival always responds to changes in reality. A good festival has the courage to take the situation of change as a starting point for a new story, and the reception. That is why this edition of Lublin’s Theater Confrontations opens the door to the future.
We are shifting the programme’s focus to a series of low-budget productions representing theatre that is looking for a new form in the era of a pandemic and in a world deviating from some of the values we have believed so far.
Under the motto And what now? we offer four premiere post-pandemic performances about hope. Instead of expensive, large-scale productions, the response to the economic, attendance and identity crisis of Polish theatre should be small-scale and low-budget productions. They will be prepared by the authors invited to Lublin: Anna Gryszkówna, Marcin Liber, Maciej Gorczyński, Jan Hussakowski. Everyone will work on their performances under the same conditions and for the same time period. Instead of two months of analytical tests, several days of intense and intuitive work. The works of the artists invited to the project will share the same slogan HOPE. We do not impose texts, forms or messages on authors. We are interested in their personal response, association, idea. However, we would like them to work on literature, undertake the adaptation of works – prose, drama, poetry. And they were looking for a recipe and an answer in what has already been created. Let’s talk about the future with the help of the past. Let us look for suggestions on what will save us, if we are to survive at all – as uncompromising artists, sensitive viewers, conscious citizens. Ironically or seriously. What is hope anyway? How can theater give it a scenic expression? Does the viewer need it?
A four-day project by Eva Rysova, “Countdown”, prepared in the gallery space will try to show how perhaps / probably such a post-pandemic theater function in the future . It’s a theatre series, or maybe a work in progress. Each day will be a different form of the same show, a new acting and thematic constellation within the same formula. It is a tribute to the temporariness of theater, the uniqueness of the experience of one theatrical evening. Wednesday Thursday Friday…; three, two, one … Eva Rysová and her team will refer to the project Seven Strokes, which they made over the course of seven days during the TopOFFFestival in Tychy in April 2019. Seven Strokes was a spectacle that itself measured the time left to the characters until the end of their stage life. The performance changed and disappeared, it sought silence, emptiness and stillness. Death and the absence of heroes and emptiness in the space where the theater took place. Today, Eva Rysova confronts the experience of the previous project, starting work on Wyliczanka on the ashes of the dead, added to the end of the performance. Everything will start from the beginning, what has disappeared will come back, what has died will in some way come to life. So if the new project is a mirror for the previous one – it has to be said that Counting Up is a show that itself counts down the time left to the characters until their stage life begins. The spectacle that is created aims for the first full breath. Why is the newborn baby screaming? Because something is tearing his lungs out. He feels the pain of his first breath.
In Eva Rysova’s project, each episode will have its own autonomy, it will be an integral whole. Yes – you can only see one. The one in the beginning, the one in the middle, the last one. But it will be best to drop by a few times to see the process, to grasp the principle of germination, to see how the spectacle is created, how the word is born, how a man or an actor tears apart space.
In our pre-pandemic thinking about the festival, we have planned a special day gathering in one space three parts of an intriguing Russian trilogy prepared by Janusz Opryński, the artistic director of Konfrontacja. Just a few months apart in the fall of 2019, he prepared performances based on the prose of Grossmann, Bulkhakov and Dostoyevsky. As if three acts of a great story unfolding through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Three glances at evil and three human responses to the terrible suspicion that he is responsible for it. The same audience would move from performance to performance, from one auditorium to another, trapped in theater and great literature. The performances would radiate on each other, the characters would look at each other in their own reflections found in other works, other roles of the same actors would stick to one. Today such amalgamation of the theater in one zone is not possible. It is impossible to close the viewer in fiction around the clock. We stayed with the project of three Russian acts of Opryński’s conversation with Russia and human suffering, but we will show them in different places and at intervals. They show not only a monographic review of the director’s latest productions, but also a thread summarizing the 25th editions of Confrontations, where Opryński’s performances always suggested the direction of the discussion. Here they sum up a certain stage of his journey through the theater. Janusz Opryński is currently preparing to work on the Magic Mountain, the first reading of the script of this spectacle needs a reflection point, the context of the latest performances. Demons were in Lublin at the beginning of this strange year, the premiere of Everything Flows took place during the previous edition of Confrontations, the third installment of the Russian trilogy is Opole Master and Margarita from the Teatr im. J. Kochanowski. And it will be an open-air show at the beginning of the festival. Moved from the theater hall to the open sky, with a changed context of reception, the performance will try to differently define the community of viewers, standing in the crowd, but as if separate, torn by fears and joy that you are somehow together again, although still in a defective way. The devil, who comes to Moscow in Bulgakov’s novel, comes to test the characters in their humanity, to show a world steeped in evil, another evil, somehow more noble and traditional, so different that it seems almost good against the background of everyday wickedness. Opryński’s production is about compassion and forgiveness, an act of grace by the artist towards a derailed world. And this is one of the few productions of the past, broken season, the meaning of which takes on a new meaning in the current situation. The devilish visit to Lublin definitely ends something in us, so that something else could begin.
This year’s Confrontations could not miss a strong representation of artists who live and work in Lublin on a daily basis. Łukasz Witt-Michałowski and Paweł Passini will present their premiere performances. These two names, although assigned to one institution, show two separate creative paths. Witt-Michałowski will show us his latest performance inspired by the figure of the Mexican theater director Ludwik Margules, born in Poland. It is an artistic attempt to confront a Mexican theater legend unknown in Poland. Paweł Passini and the playwright Artur Pałyga reach for Shakespeare and Wyspiański. Of course, as is the case with this tandem – they add a lot of each other. In their own way, they reflect on the place of man in the world situated at the interface between nature and culture. Somewhere in this space they find theater – an eternal shelter from the eternal problems arising from human (and inhuman) nature.
The critical time is also, or at least should be, a time of in-depth debate. For this purpose, we have organized a multi-stage event that will be fully online. In the “Forum” we have planned, outstanding humanists will talk with outstanding business leaders about the common fate of these two seemingly distant worlds. We were inspired by the ideas of Professor Jerzy Hausner, who paradoxically finds opportunities in the pandemic “critical time” to initiate a dialogue between creative communities and local government authorities and creative people and entrepreneurs.
Prof. Hausner drew attention to many new phenomena that appeared during the pandemic. He evoked the unusual concept of time – the Greek word kairos. This word was very important for the work of our, unfortunately now deceased friend, philosopher Cezary Wodziński – the author of an extraordinary volume of essays entitled “Kairos”. Wodziński pointed out that the word is extravagant in meanings: “the right moment”, “the right time”, “critical time”, “decisive moment”. Following Professor Hausner, we want to ask important questions at this “critical time”. Together, we will consider what cultural institutions should look like after the pandemic. Are the representatives of the world of culture and art able to offer business their imagination and intellectual capital? Can we afford a critical imagination, a self-critical look? We activated these thoughts in order to try to find a path to the future. As residents of Lublin, we believe in the professor’s reflection that the main strength of the city is the creative potential of its inhabitants.
We believe that in these difficult times for art, and especially for the art of theater, one should think differently about talking to the audience, composing the repertoire, looking for current topics. And even about the places and methods of presenting performances. Let’s take a risk.