Peter Brook And Marie-Helene Estienne's WHY? Announced At Polonsky Shakespeare Center

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Today a consortium of New York City cultural, educational, and media institutions announce Peter Brook/NY (Karen Brooks Hopkins, Executive Producer), a citywide recognition of Brook's work and his collaborations with Marie-Hélène Estienne from 1953 to the present. In addition to the U.S. Premiere of Brook and Estienne's Why? which Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) presents September 21 - October 6 at Polonsky Shakespeare Center, Peter Brook/NY features programing from BAM, The Center for Fiction, Columbia University, French Institute Alliance Française's Crossing the Line Festival, Hunter College, The Juilliard School, TFANA, and WNET.

A booklet produced by BAM Hamm Archives-featuring historic photographs, a timeline of Brook's productions and New York presence, an essay by writer Violaine Huisman, and information about Peter Brook/NY events-will be available to all attendees and online at and

Karen Brooks Hopkins, Executive Producer of Peter Brook/NY, says, "As a graduate student in the late '70s, I had the privilege of seeing my first production directed by Peter Brook. The impact was profound. Simply put, Brook is perhaps the greatest theatre maker of our time. His work is creative, empathic, and powerful. I am so proud that BAM, where I worked for 36 years, and Theatre for a New Audience, became his artistic homes in New York. It's especially thrilling to join forces with Jeffrey Horowitz, the TFANA team, and all of the exceptional partners for Peter Brook/NY, an ambitious citywide recognition of the extensive career of this legendary artist, made possible by generous donors who share our reverence for one of the world's master storytellers."

Why? is the latest result of a prolific and acclaimed four-decade collaboration between Brook and Estienne. It is the sixth work staged by Brook or Brook and Estienne to be presented by TFANA including The Prisoner, The Valley of the Astonishment, Samuel Beckett's Fragments, Love is My Sin, based on Shakespeare's Sonnets, and The Grand Inquisitor, based on Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.

Jeffrey Horowitz, Founding Artistic Director of Theatre for a New Audience, says, "It's truly exciting to begin TFANA's 40th Season with Why? and to be part of Peter Brook/NY partnering with Karen Brooks Hopkins, TFANA's neighbors BAM and Center for Fiction, and other extraordinary New York cultural and educational institutions. The art of Peter Brook and his collaborations with Marie-Hélène Estienne-no matter what form-are about our humanity. This is inspiring and always contemporary. Today, when freedom of expression and freedom of imagination are threatened, the stories in Why? have a powerful resonance."

Why? takes us on a journey and asks why do artists practice theatre? What is theatre for? What is it about? The production highlights the stories of Zinaida Raikh, the eminent Russian actor who was married to Vsevolod Meyerhold, one of the most innovative directors the theatre has known. Both were brutally executed by Stalin who condemned their art as anti-Soviet.

Why? features Hayley Carmichael (TFANA: C.I.T.C./Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord's The Prisoner and Fragments; The Young Vic's Sweet Nothings), Kathryn Hunter (TFANA: The Emperor, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Young Vic's Kafka's Monkey, C.I.T.C./Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord's The Valley of Astonishment), Marcello Magni (TFANA: Marcel + The Art of Laughter, C.I.T.C./Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord's Fragments and The Valley of Astonishment), and Laurie Blundell (pianist). The creative team includes Philippe Vialatte (Lighting) and Franck Krawczyk (Music).

When it premiered in Paris at C.I.T.C./Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Libération hailed Why? as a "masterful demonstration" of Brook's career-long pursuit of a theatrical form "clear of all artifice," with three actors on a near-bare stage, "achieving a simplicity that seems like an incomparable feat." L'Echo wrote that the work "approaches the essence of theatre, in at once showing us its beauty and its inner-workings," and L'Humanité said Why?, "carried by three tremendous actors-Hayley Carmichael, Kathryn Hunter, and Marcello Magni-is a poetic and political act of breathtaking power and simplicity.

Support for the production of Why? is provided by the Trust for Mutual Understanding, the French Institute/Alliance Française, and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States.

Why? is presented as part of the by the French Institute Alliance Française's (FIAF) Crossing the Line Festival.

"Why theatre? What is it for? What is it about? Why? takes the audience on a journey that is both dramatic and joyful. Why? allows us to discover that we are not alone in asking these questions and that many great theatre practitioners have been inspired to explore these questions. 'Theatre is a very dangerous weapon.' These words were written in the 1920s by one of the most creative and innovative directors the theatre has known: Vsevold Meyerhold. Meyerhold saw the menacing dangers that the theatre, and art in general, were facing in 1930s Russia; he saw the writing on the wall. This did not deter him in his work as he held on to the hope that the revolution could win." -Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne, Paris 2019

Why? received its world premiere at C.I.C.T/Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, France on June 19, 2019. The project was co-commissioned by C.I.C.T./Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord; Theatre for a New Audience; Grotowski Institute in Wroclaw, National Performing Arts Center; Taiwan R.O.C. - National Taichung Theater; Centro Dramatico Nacional, Madrid; Teatro Dimitri, Verscio; Théâtre Firmin Gérmier, La Piscine.

Written and Directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne
Featuring Hayley Carmichael, Kathryn Hunter and Marcello Magni
Presented by Theatre for a New Audience
September 21-October 6, 2019 (opening September 26)
Polonsky Shakespeare Center (262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn)
Tickets, starting at $20, at, 866.811.4111, and the Polonsky Shakespeare Center box office

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