I was so focused on the family history part of the trip, that I did absolutely no preparation for seeing theater, despite the fact that the part of the world we were traveling through produced Tadeusz Kantor, Jerzy Grotowski, Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill, Heiner Mueller, and other luminaries of my particular night sky. The big MALTA theater festival was going on in Poznan.
The fact that it was the European Cup almost had something to do with it, admittedly. Look, the Euro only happens every 4 years: nice contradiction between how its relative infrequency trumps seeing a play for me, especially while I’m in Europe. While at the same time, my frustration with plays in America comes from their utter infrequency. But then again, isn’t every performance irrefutably unrepeatable–what the form of theater has to offer more than anything else is its liveness, so how can a play ever be thought to be repetitive, frequent?
Actually, while in Berlin (off nights between the quarter- and semi-finals), I attempted to see Sarah Kane’s Cleansed (or, in German, Gesaubert). Now, Sarah Kane’s plays are extremely violent, dirty, energetic, often considered unstageable. And the play, on a TUESDAY NIGHT was SOLD OUT at one of the biggest theaters in Berlin.
Clearly, I’m living on the wrong continent.
Some related site-seeing:
Went to a theater history museum in Krakow. The exhibit featured mostly old playbills, actors’ photos. A little old lady followed me around the museum, turning on lights as I entered the rooms and turning them off as I left. The costumes moved me terribly: kingly robes sewn from felt, what looked like potato stamp patterns creating the illusion of brocade in the fabric, the plastic seed pearls. My family includes the people throughout history who have made storytelling and onstage illusion their business.
Also, of course, paid my respects to Brecht’s grave in Berlin. Simple stone with just his name inscribed, his plot shared with Helena Weigel (couldn’t not think about the story of his funeral, how off the three widows–his mistress, his dramaturge, and his wife, Ms. Weigel; the wife was laughing while the other two wept–now that he was dead, he finally, irrevocably, belonged to her).
People leave him pens, which seemed to me beside the point. He’s dead. He doesn’t need pens. So I took one. I’m the one making work right now. Also took a pass on seeing his office, “left exactly the way it was when he died.”
But from the pamphlet, an excerpt from his poem, “The Doubter”:
I, he said to us
Am the doubter. I am doubtful whether
The work was well done that devoured your days.
Whether what you said would still have value for anyone if it were less well said.
Whether you said it well but perhaps
Were not convinced of the truth of what you said.
Whether it is not ambiguous; each possible misunderstanding
Is your respondibility. Or it can be unambiguous
And take the contradictions out of things: is it too unambiguous?
If so, what you say is useless. Your thing has no life in it.
Are you truly in the stream of happening? Do you accept
All that develops? Are you developing? Who are you? To whom
Do you speak? Who finds what you say useful? And, by the way:
Is it sobering? Can it be read in the morning?
Is it also linked to what is already there? Are the sentences that were
Spoken before you made use of, or at least refuted? Is everything verifiable?
By experience? By which one? But above all
Always above all else: how does one act
If one believes what you say? Above all: how does one act?