Stage Adaptation of FATELESSNESS Runs 4/9-13 at HERE
Kertész's novel is considered one of the outstanding works of the Holocaust literature and contemporary European literature in general. Hungarian-American actor Adam Boncz is the first person to have the rights to adapt the novel to the stage. This debut production will be presented by SceneHouse Productions and Gia Forakis & Company. It coincides with the 70th Anniversary of the Hungarian Holocaust and is supported in part by the Hungary Initiative Foundation. The evening will be a stylized performance interweaving music, images, and video from the story's era.
"Fatelessness" is the story of a 14-year-old Hungarian Jew named Köves Gyuri, who is sent to Buchenwald in the summer of 1944 and lies about his age, unknowingly saving his own life, and is subsequently transerred to Auschwitz and Zeitz. In the camps, he loses his childhood, finding starvation, selfishness, sickness and death. Through the empathy among the other prisoners, Gyuri strives to find happiness in the midst of hatred. Upon his return to Budapest a year later, he is left to ponder the impact of his experience alone and deal with his newly given identity.
What is truly unique about the story is seeing the Holocaust through the eyes of a young, naïve boy, a nonbelieving Jew, who is constantly trying to figure out and understand the absurd and crazy world he had been thrown into. It is a story of coping with our past, about facing new identity after tragedy, and the search for humanity in the absurdity of the world that surrounds us. It inspires audiences to reflect on their future by remembering their past. Writing in The New York Times in 2004, Ruth Franklin explained, "In 'Fatelessness,' the narrator, a teenage boy, describes life in the camps with an innocence that through its almost comedic lack of affect is poignant without ever being trite." True to the novel's tone, the play is free from any melodrama or sentimentalism.
Kertész was born into an assimilated Jewish family in Budapest in 1929 and deported to Auschwitz in 1944, then imprisoned in Buchenwald. He worked as a journalist after the war, and after the rise of Communism, as a writer and translator. His first novel, "Fatelessness" (1975), would seem to be semi-autobiographical but the author has described it as purely a work of fiction. Thirteen years in the writing, it was virtually ignored when it was first published, but won international acclaim after its second German translation more than 20 years later. Other writings by Kertész that have been translated into English include "Kaddish for a Child Not Born" (Kaddis a meg nem született gyermekért) and "Liquidation" (Felszámolás). In 2002, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature "for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history."
The production aims to be instructive in the face of newly growing anti-semetism in Hungary and associated scandals that surround the nation. The idea of retelling the book onstage originated with actor Adam Boncz, who considered the book a masterpiece and personally obtained permission from Kertész for a stage adaptation. He started working with renowned Hungarian-Romanian playwright Andras Visky (whose play "I Killed My Mother" was presented by La MaMa in 2012) on the material. Last April, he performed a staged reading of the play at TheaterLab.
Set Design is by Lauren Mills. Lighting design is by Sarah Abigail Hoke-Brady. Original music is by Hungarian composer Balint Varga. Consulting producer is Dorottya Mathe.
This production is part of SubletSeries@HERE, the HERE Arts Center's curated rental program, which provides artists with subsidized space and equipment, as well as technical support.
A film version of the novel "Fatelessness," titled "Fateless," was made in 2005, directed by Academy Award Nominee Lajos Koltai with music composed by Academy Award winner Ennio Morricone starring Daniel Craig. It was the most expensive Hungarian movie to date.
Adam Boncz (Performer) was born and raised in Hungary. At age 17, he became company member of Szeged National Theater in Hungary. His Hungarian credits included roles in "Richard III," Ferenc Molnar's "The Glass Slipper" and a leading role as Arthur Rimbaud in "Total Eclipse." Other Szeged National Theater credits include "Fiddler on the Roof" (Fyedka), "Lieutenant of Inishmore" (Joey) and "The Lower Depths" (Alyoska). By 2009, he had studied at LAMDA and graduated from the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute in New York. His New York theatre credits include "Moonchildren" (West End Theater), "Hypnotik" (Theater for the New City) and "Neither Heaven nor Earth" (Poliglot Theater, Off-Broadway). He has also worked with the International WOW Company ("Auto Da Fe" and "Reconstruction," directed by Josh Fox) and Hybrid Theater Works. He is a founding member of Gia Forakis & Company. His films include "Portraits in Dramatic Time" (Lincoln Center Fesitval), "The Butterfly Doors" and "Looking through Peepholes." Boncz is also an arts manager who has worked on projects for the Louvre Museum, Lincoln Center, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He is Artistic Director of SceneHouse Productions.
Gia Forakis (Director, co-creator) is known for productions that are a hybrid of experimental, movement-based theater, and traditional theatrical conventions. Her NY-area productions include "Song from the Uproar: The Lives & Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt," a multimedia opera by Missy Mazzoli (The Kitchen, NYC, Beth Morrison Productions), "The Seagull" (The National Asian American Theatre Company, TNC), "Love Person" by Aditi Brennan Kapil (National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, 2009 Pulitzer Prize nomination, Marin Theatre Company), "Blue Before Morning" by Kate McGovern (terraNOVA Collective, nominated for seven New York Innovative Theater Awards, including Outstanding Director), "I Want What You Have" by Saviana Stanescu (Women's Theatre Project, The World Financial Center), "The Rivals" by Richard B. Sheridan (Hudson Valley Shakespeare), "Acts of Mercy: Passion Play" by Michael John Garcés (Rattlestick), "Frag" by Michael John Garcés (HERE) and "Coathanger" by Mac Wellman (WOW-PAC, Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, CT). Forakis is a member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an alumna of the Women's Project Directing Lab, and an Affiliated Artist with New Georges. She created One-Thought-One-Action, a performance technique. Forakis received her B.F.A. from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts' acting program and M.F.A. in Directing from Yale School of Drama. www.giaforakis.com
Andras Visky (Dramaturg) is a playwright, poet dramaturg, university professor and the associate artistic director at Cluj-Napoca Hungarian Theatre, Romania. His plays have been staged in several countries including Romania, Hungary, France, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and the United States. He has worked as a visiting professor at Yale School of Drama, Moholy-nagy University of Art and design in Budapest, Josia University of Tokio, The University of California San Diogo, Calvin Collage, Northern Illinois University and the University of Michigan. As a dramaturg he worked with Gabor Tompa, Robert Woodruff, Karin Coonrod, Stephanie Sandberg. He is the author of twenty books of poetry, essays and performance studies. He has written numerous plays including "Júliet," "Alkoholics" and "I Killed My Mother." Mr. Visky has developed what he terms a "barrack dramaturgy." Having grown up in an Eastern European gulag, he returns again and again in his plays to what it means to be a prisoner and the problem of being set free. He received numerous awards includingthe József Attila Award (2009 ), Special Prize of the jury of the National Theatre Festival of Pécs (2007), ARTISJUS Award Salvatore Quasimodo Special Award (2004) and Soros Foundation Award (1995).
Photo by Celeste Muniz