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At the same time, his more below traditional repertory ranges from Shakespeare to Witkiewicz and Sarah Kane, and he more or less relishes the notoriety sometimes brought by his contemporary gestures in treasured textslike the eruption of Magnetism's effete parlor games into a disco frenzy of lust. "I'm the Polish guy they call to explode something," he jokes.
Because Walker sets his drama "on the outskirts of a large city," Jarzyna decided to mount Risk Everything as part of a series called "10 in Warsaw," in which young student actors were paired with directors and dramaturgs and given three weeks and "no money" to create projects around the capital city. Jarzyna first staged the site-specific production at Warsaw Central, the main train station, which he calls "the trashiest place in Warsawdirty, stinky, full of criminals and 14- and 15-year-olds buying drugs in the toilet." He and his youthful cast have relished the chance to shape the play's transient characters and themes of desperation in response to new performance locations, which have included bars and a casino on the German-Polish border.
Though he is not certain whether a project created with students makes an ideal New York debut, Jarzyna's eyes gleam when he talks about tailoring his mise-en-scène to St. Ann's Warehouse. "I love this area of Brooklyn because I was born in Silesia, an industrial area of Poland, and it reminds me of that feeling, that style of beautiful old factories." He plans to use the St. Ann's space as a garage, with a glass wall upstage opening onto the street. "We will use the street," he says gleefully, "reach out to it from the theater." In this context, the director says, Walker's loosely defined characters might become "a Polish family that came to New York when somebody frightened them." Whatever changes he makes to the piece, he reflects, "in Brooklyn I think we will find some nice ideas."
(photo courtesy of Goethe-Institut New York)
Ostermeier, born in 1968, acquired a reputation as a provocative director of edgy contemporary plays while running the Baracke second stage at the Deutsches Theater in the late '90s. There he offered his Berlin audience national premieres of works by Mark Ravenhill and other young writers. Since 1999 he has run the Schaubühne, a center for politically engaged "director's theater" since Luc Bondy and Peter Stein's heydays in the 1970s. In a controversial arrangement, Ostermeier shares the company with choreographer Sasha Waltz, combining dance and dramatic repertory institutions under one roof. In his current post he has directed new work by Sarah Kane, Marius von Mayenburg, and Biljana Srblanovicplaywrights exploring particularly violent psychologiesin addition to classics.
True to Schaubühne legacy, Ostermeier's quest for contemporary relevance often finds expression in social terms. Though he gives Nora a sleek, glossy modern setting, he sees Ibsen's heroine as an emblem of women's continuing oppression in a world of fixed bourgeois values; his Nora is driven to more desperate measures than the 19th-century Ibsen could even have imagined. Ostermeier's rescripting of her final deeds, he says, fulfills the shock Ibsen's first audiences experienced at her rebellion. Faced with this collision of play and production, New York audiences will have to decide what's new and what's old.