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This Is Why We Live

Thursday, September 19, 2019 - Sunday, September 29, 2019





US Premiere

Created by Open Heart Surgery Theatre

Directed by Coleen MacPherson




La Mama Theater

Downstairs | 66 East 4th Street (Basement Level)

Thursday to Saturday at 8PM; Sunday at 5pm

Tickets: $25 , $20 Student/Senior Tickets [+$1 Facility Fee]

Run Time: 70 Minutes (No Intermission)






The Polish Cultural Institute is pleased to invite you to the US debut of "This Is Why We Live" by Toronto's Open Heart Surgery Theatre. It's a Lecoq-based performance in which the poetry of Wislawa Szymborska, the Polish Nobel Prize-winner, is rendered in physical theater.


"This Is Why We Live" is a work of movement, poetry-theatre and live music. Using physical theater, clowning, and an original score by cellist Dobrochna Zubek, two actors and a musician journey through the ironic and astonishing poetry of one of the great voices of the 20th century. Szymborska’s poems are performed in English, French and Polish. Projected English surtitles are provided for the Polish and French language texts. The work is directed by Coleen Shirin MacPherson, Artistic Director of Open Heart Surgery Theatre, and has previously been performed in Paris, Toronto and Ontario.


Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012) was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. Her body of work was only 325 poem—four or five poems annually—and demonstrated the wonder of putting so much lightness and seriousness, tact and sensitivity, simplicity of imagery and complexity of philosophical contemplation into so few words. Irony and self-irony, wit, humor and playfulness are the hallmarks of her poetry and her personality. She sent cards with quirky collages (instead of letters), organized lotteries with small, delightfully kitschy prizes, and wrote amusing limericks. The fact that she called her Nobel Prize “a Stockholm tragedy” says much about her self-deprecatory humor. Her playfulness and wit are celebrated in this performance piece.


"This Is Why We Live" was devised by its all-female ensemble using improvisation and the movement-based theater techniques of École Jacques Lecoq, a Paris-based school that specializes in applying movement dynamics to theater creation. The creative challenge was to find movement within Szymborska's poetry and to transpose it to the stage without losing the poems' emotional integrity and intimacy. Original poems and translations by Szymborska were investigated through improvisation, and her collages were hung in the rehearsal room. The play emerged from these explorations.


The piece was originally a co-production with Théatre de L’Enfumeraie in France and supported with a residency in London, UK at Old Vic New Voices. It was performed at Plateau 31, Paris in 2016 and went on to The Theatre Centre in Toronto and the Hamilton Conservatory for the Performing Arts in Ontario. It was part of Off-Milosz Festival in June 2018 and was performed in Krakow and Katowice.


You may be interested to note two accompanying events: a reading of Wislawa Szymborska's poetry at WORD Bookstore, 126 Franklin St., Greenpoint Brooklyn on Sept. 12 and a talkback following the Sept. 22 performance at La MaMa. Both will be moderated by Polish poet-in-exile and Slavic scholar Anna Frajlich-Zajac.




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