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Photo by Lukasz Gawronski
Philadelphia Live Arts Festival,
with support from the Polish Cultural Institute,

Capitol Theatre, Wroclaw
by Witold Gombrowicz
directed by Michal Zadara

Thursday, September 10, 2009 - Sunday, September 13, 2009
Tue-Sat, 7:00 PM; Sat-Sun, 3:00 PM
Post show discussion, September 10

Philadelphia Live Arts Festival
The Wilma Theater
265 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA
Tickets: $15, $25, $35, Tel: 215.413.1318, online, or at Festival Box Office at The Hub: 626 N. 5th Street, tel. 215.413.1318

Performed in Polish with English supertitles

Well, the thing about revolutions is that we don't see them coming.

- Michal Zadara, director of Operetta

The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, with the support and on the initiative of the Polish Cultural Institute, presents Operetta, a major work by Polish literary giant Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969), re-envisioned by Michal Zadara, one of the most innovative Polish theater directors of his generation. Each production of Operetta is scored anew; and for this latest staging, Poland's multiple-award-winning jazz pianist Leszek Mozdzer composed an eclectic score that ranges from heart-wrenching ballads to punk rock.

The production's premiere at the Live Arts Festival will be preceded on Sunday, September 6, by a panel discussion, "The Theater of Witold Gombrowicz and of Michal Zadara," which will feature both Zadara and Rita Gombrowicz, the author's widow, literary executor and biographer.

In an interview in Time Out New York, Swarthmore College professor Allen Kuharski described Gombrowicz as "Poland's counterpart to Jean Genet, but with Joe Orton's sense of humor. Gombrowicz's most powerful political weapon is his humor." Village Voice critic Charles McNulty called Gombrowicz's works "unbeatable sources of absurdist adrenaline"; and Louis Begley, writing in the Washington Post, deemed the Polish writer an "eccentric genius." Operetta is Gombrowicz's final play; and it adopts the operetta form in order to present 20th century transitions to totalitarianism in a grotesque way. At the same time, the author expresses a tentative faith in the redemptive power of youth.

In Zadara's interpretation, music, fashion, dancing, and chaos - and a cast of 22 - dominate this wild fable of the 20th-century's elite running out of ideas. An operetta is the romantic comedy of opera; this Operetta explodes the form - and our expectations. As Joanna Derkaczew in Gazeta Wyborcza writes: "Zadara succeeds in showing us a macabre silly vision of society; one in which the elites are mediocre, but to throw them out means leaving society at the whim of populists, manipulators and sectarians."

The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe is now in its 13th year and has a well-earned reputation for presenting contemporary international dance and theater of the highest caliber. While it has hosted productions from all over the world, the Festival has maintained a special tie to Polish theater and dance; and in recent years it has presented two original works based on the writings of Witold Gombrowicz: Dada von Bzdülöw's dance performance Several Witty Observations in 2007 and Pig Iron Theatre's Hell Meets Henry Halfway in 2004, the latter based on Gombrowicz's 1939 novel Possessed. Both productions were presented in association with the Polish Cultural Institute in New York.

The presentation of Operetta is made possible due to support and initiative of the Polish Cultural Institute in New York. It was funded in part by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative. Generous support for Operetta was granted by the Trust For Mutual Understanding. Additional support comes from The William J.Cooper Foundation, Swarthmore College. Performances of Operetta are sponsored by the Doubletree Hotel.

More on the Panel Discussion

More on Leszek Mozdzer

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More about Witold Gombrowicz
More about Michal Zadara

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