The Polish Cultural Institute in New York,
the Abrons Arts Center
Theatre of the Eighth Day (Poznan)
written and designed by the ensemble directed by Lech Raczak
part of Performing Revolution in Central and Eastern Europe
New York Premiere!
a brave and moving attempt to capture the meaning of the whole of the recent Polish experience in 70 minutes of densely packed images that are worked out in every small detail.
– Joyce Mc Millan, Arts Guardian, 1988
The fervour behind the brilliantly crafted stage pictures, the cast of four’s unselfconscious yet heightened use of bodies, faces, and voices, takes on a harrowing immediacy at such close quarters.
– Mary Brennan, Glasgow Herald, 1988
The legendary Theatre of the Eighth Day from Poland returns to the U.S. with the revival of their celebrated production Wormwood, with the original cast. First presented in Poland in 1985, it was famously banned at the time because of its open and frank depiction of life in Poland during Martial Law. Wormwood is brought to the U.S. by the Polish Cultural Institute on the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe.
Wormwood was the famous dissident group’s last production in communist Poland. It’s history is almost a parable for the absurd fate of culture under totalitarian regimes. The Polish Communist Party shut down the production, and the would-be audience was met by a police cordon at the scheduled premiere at the Adam Mickiewicz University theatre in Poznan. The ensemble outwitted local party officials and the police by organizing a secret premiere the following day at a different time in the same location.
After performances in churches and clubs of the independent culture circuit in many Polish cities, it was to be presented at the Edinburgh Festival in 1985, but the authorities granted passports to only half the group’s members. As a consequence, a new production, Auto Da Fé, was quickly devised. Based on Tadeusz Konwicki’s A Minor Apocalypse, a biting (and banned) satire on life in Poland at the end of the 1970s, the production won the Festival’s Fringe First Prize. Polish authorities denounced the award, claiming that the ensemble “did not exist.”
With story, text and design created collaboratively by members of the Theatre of the Eighth Day’s ensemble, Wormwood is directed by Lech Raczak and features music by Arnold Dabrowski. It is performed by Ewa Wojciak, Adam Borowski, Tadeusz Janiszewski, and Marcin Keszycki.
Performed in Polish with English supertitles.
Founded in 1964, the Theatre of the Eighth Day was one of the most uncompromising theater groups in Communist Poland and remains just as uncompromising today. It made its U.S. debut to critical acclaim at the MADE IN POLAND Festival in New York City in November 2008, with its 2007 avant-garde docudrama, The Files, based on actual secret police reports made between 1975 and 1983 on the Theatre’s actors. Tom Sellar, in a Village Voice review of The Files, wrote: … it’s a small miracle to sit face-to-face with actors who made history by risking everything to tell the truth – today, having won, they look a lot like truth’s living embodiment .
Presented in New York by the Polish Cultural Institute and the Abrons Arts Center as part of Performing Revolution in Central and Eastern Europe, a performing arts festival marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism in Europe, presented by The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in partnership with key New York City cultural organizations and academic institutions, Nov. 2009 – Mar. 2010. www.performingrevolution.org.
Generous support for Wormwood was granted by the Trust For Mutual Understanding, the Marshall of the Wielkopolska Region, and the President of the City of Poznan.