Teatr ZAR at MCA in Chicago

Teatr ZAR from piece "Gospels of Childhood The Triptych" (part 3). Photo: Irena Lipinska

Teatr ZAR’s  The Gospels of Childhood Triptych (Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, March 29-April 1, tickets $28) is about sound— ‘zar,’ meaning either bell, or a song of lament. Its work delves deeply into the ancient vocal traditions of the Caucuses: pre-christian songs with words so old no one understands them any more. Back when casting a spell just meant having some strong words in the right tone.

The group comes straight out of the Grotowski Institute, where it is resident company. It developed as a project over the course of four years, as Grotowski apprentices took yearly research trips out to the Caucasus to  learn and collaborate with the communities in the mountains of Georgia, where these songs are still used in funeral traditions. Every year at the Prague Quadrennial, the Polish pavilion has some flavor  of Grotowski, and ZAR is evidence of Polish work that is still steeped in his influence. “The Gospels exemplifies a trend in contemporary Polish theatre, described as ‘theatre out of the spirit of music.’,” writes MCA.

The Gospels of Childhood Triptych will bring the audience onto the MCA stage for two of its three acts– the second act will take place on MCA’s second-floor atrium. Each of the acts draws upon a melange of ancient singing traditions– from Chechen, Bulgarian, Geogian, Greek and beyond– to tell a series of ancient stories about ancient human experiences: youth, death, pain. The story sources range from the apocryphal gospels to a Polish romantic poet. Culturebot will be there on Thursday, curious to witness the movement that accompanies this sound: dance, ritual, experiment. We’ll let you know what flickers in the candlelight.

“Zar sung during Gospels of Childhood performance is, in fact, one endless cry of humanity; a column of breath for us, as well as for past and future generations,” writes MCA. The event is co-produced by MCA Stage and the Goodman Theatre.


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