Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz
Stage reading of the play
Leon Węgorzewski | Rafał Zawierucha
Zofia Plejtus | Natalia Sikora
„The main character of the drama we are making is Janina Węgorzewska, and so it happens, that we have an excellent opera singer, actress Alicja Węgorzewska. There is something tempting in this coincidence for both sides – both the producer and the artist.” – says Jakub Przebindowski, director and author of the adaptation of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s play “The Mother”.
Why have you decided to make Witkacy’s “The Mother” right now?
The first reason of my decision is the 135th anniversary of the birthday of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz – on this occasion we want to recall the figure and artistic output of this amazing artist, who expressed himself on many levels. In his work, visual arts existed alongside literature, theatre and philosophy. As a critic, in his works he defined the concepts related to the avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s, he described the phenomena, that were entirely newfound at that time. Witkacy’s versatility and his influence on the culture undoubtedly deserve a reminder.
The second reason for making “The Mother” is the unusual coincidence, which Jan Bończa-Szabłowski pointed out to me, the spiritus movens of the entire event – the play’s main character is Janina Węgorzewska, and so it happens that we have an excellent opera singer, actress Alicja Węgorzewska. There is something tempting in this coincidence for both sides – both the producer and the artist.
Which elements, that we know from Witkacy’s works may be found in this performance?
We are preparing a performative reading of the play, not a spectacle, but something more like a stage event. While creating this staging, I was inspired by the works of Witkacy – his painting and photography. There will be used some images referring to his photographic self-portraits, including the famous “Multiple Self-portrait”, as well as video-art relating to the works of the artist from his iconic Portrait Company. We used not so much the language, that this versatile artist used, but the narrative method characteristic of his work. We will also refer to the manner of cinema of the 1920s, German expressionism and post-war Italian neorealism.
The reading of Witkiewicz’s “The Mother” will also serve as a pretext for telling a story about the very place, where the event will be held, i.e. the stage of the Artistic Pool- the video projections will include corridors, back rooms, dressing rooms, foyer, empty stage, empty audience, so all of the places that viewers usually do not see.
Why is the image so crucial in this staging?
Because we are talking about a multimedia artist – Witkacy, apart from the fact that he wrote, painted oil paintings, drew with pastels, used watercolors, crayons, and was also involved in photography. The set design created by Witold Stefaniak goes beyond the framework of the drama. I wanted it to refer to ready-made art, as well as to the artists of the Nice school of the 1960s and 1970s, which in my opinion would fit Witkiewicz’s dramas. I hope, that the audience will feel to some extent like in an art gallery – the actors will be part of a theatrical installation created “here and now”.
What contemporary problems you may find in this play?
Losing the values, that once constituted a solid foundation, and now belong to the definition of socially forgotten – it was a close topic to Witkacy, and although he wrote about it almost a hundred years ago, it still seems very actual. This dispersion of concepts reserved to intelligentsia, but also to artists, is strongly presented in “The Mother”. After all, the world of art does not exist in isolation – people who create, for example, theatre must confront the present and find itself in it.
Besides, the universal theme is the very relationship between mother and son, a relationship that is always interesting to describe and full of complications. Certainly, in our reading, we will examine this relationship – track strange dependencies, which we do not always have influence on, because they are often conditioned by biology and cultural patterns.
The roles of the mother and the son will be portrayed by a remarkable duo: Alicja Węgorzewska and Rafał Zawierucha.
This is the first time I work with these actors. They are very open to artistic adventure, in the best sense of the word, as well as the whole group that I managed to invite to cooperation. Next to them we will see Krystyna Tkacz, Natalia Sikora, Martyna Kliszewska, and in video-art records: Kayah, Marek Siudym, Bogdan Kalus, Rafał Maserak. Each of them works with great dedication, and I would even risk to say – with hunger. We are dealing with a literary text, that already had impressive stagings in the history of Polish theatre, such as the excellent staging with Ewa Lassek in the lead role, directed by Jerzy Jarocki, with sets by Krystyna Zachwatowicz. And although our theatrical performance oscillates around an experiment, we are aware of its legacy and we are doing something completely afresh.
Are you looking forward to this event?
Yes, definitely, we have been working on this project for quite a long time – the first shooting of the video-art screening took place in June, and then the pandemic thwarted our plans. Our creative process is already underway for some time now, thus I am looking forward to this evening, when we will all be able to read “The Mother” together and jointly experience this literary text with the audience.
Interview: Marta Strzelecka