In the lead-up to the 2010 Time-Based Art Festival, Artistic Director Cathy Edwards will be posting about some of the artists, projects, and ideas that inspire her in this year’s program. Week four of our preview coverage focuses on the emotionally raw and raucous In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, directed for TBA:10 by Poland’s Radek Rychcik.
Stefan Zeromski Theatre, In the Solitude of Cotton Fields. Photo: Maciek Zorawiecki.
In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, written by the French playwright Bernard-Marie Koltès, serves as powerful and raw material for the young Polish director Radoslaw Rychcik’s imaginative and physical sensibility. This smart, visceral production of Poland’s Stefan Zeromski Theatre is part club happening, part punk concert, part poetic meditation. Anchoring this densely kinetic experience are the bravura performances of two stand-out actors: Tomas Nosinski and Wojciech Niemczyk. When I saw the production in Krakow, Poland, last winter, I left the theater exulting in the energy and the all-out commitment of these performers: enigmatic young frontmen who can dance, act, sing, and convincingly bare their souls to one another and to the audience. Staged with live music by the Krakow post-punk band Natural Born Chillers, this is a provocative, brilliantly conceived performance.
Koltès, the French writer of Cotton Fields, was born in 1948 and died in 1989 at the age of 41. According to dramaturge Amy Boratko,
he, “rejected every label that was attached to him, and he sought out places where he would be the outsider or the other…. His aesthetic taste and style defied boundaries; he loved to fuse popular culture with the fine arts.”
Throughout the 1980s, including during the period when he wrote Cotton Fields (1986) Koltès was battling AIDS. Boratko notes that he resisted identification as a gay or political theater artist, and kept his personal life extremely private, not wanting to be defined by it. In the Solitude of Cotton Fields is a powerful example of Koltès’ writing at its most distilled, stripped of the identifiable corporate oppressors of earlier works, and revolving more purely around the capitalist transaction of buying and selling, the power dynamics inherent in negotiation, and the existential crises of need, fear and desire.
Rychcik, the director of this staging, is a very hot property on the Polish theatrical scene, which is currently experiencing a renaissance of artistry and visibility. Theater in Poland is characterized by being very director-driven, and elder statesmen such as directors Kristian Lupa and Grzegorz Jarzyna have showcased their unique visions and theatrical interpretations in large-scale productions at Lincoln Center Festival, Saint Ann’s Warehouse, UCLA Live!, and theaters and festivals across Europe. As a member of the younger generation in Poland, Rychcik served as an assistant to Lupa on his Factory 2 production and brings a unique vision of his own to the stage: a highly stylized aesthetic characterized by a keen sense of physicality and interest in combat, an almost palpable sense of danger, and an understanding of human vulnerability. All of these characteristics perfectly suit the cycle of desire and rejection that Koltès explores in the text of Cotton Fields. In fact, the text of Cotton Fields is extremely poetic, dense, and dreamy in nature, lending itself perfectly to the Rychcik’s interpretation of the text as a concert-driven song-cycle or poetry slam.
Join us at TBA to welcome this fantastic young creative team to the United States and to Portland; it will be the U.S. premiere of the production, which will go on to Los Angeles, Seattle, and Vancouver in the coming months. For more information, and tickets to the production, visit PICA.ORG.
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