Multimedia Play on the Life & Philosophy of Simone Weil Premiers in Jersey City
Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC) presents Prologue - a new multimedia, international production about the life and philosophy of Simone Weil - for a 10-show run, beginning September 13 at Merseles Studios in Jersey City.
A French philosopher, political activist and mystic, Simone Weil (1909 - 1943) was a uniquely pivotal 20th century figure. An influential scholar and writer, her life and work spanned the diverse worlds of Marxism, social activism and spirituality. She maintained an often volatile correspondence with Leon Trotsky, served in the Durruti Column, a contingent of "anarchists" that fought in the Spanish Civil War, then after writing extensively about politics and the oppression of the working class, she produced seminal studies on Mysticism before dying from tuberculosis on her way to join the French Resistance to fight Nazi occupation.
Her life and writings - most of which was published posthumously - remain widely popular among academic, intellectual and political circles throughout the world. Albert Camus described this groundbreaking activist and original thinker as "the only great spirit of our times."
Written and directed by Maria Litvan, an award-winning playwright acclaimed both here and in her native Spain, Prologue features an international cast & crew, breaks down gender preconceptions and explores issues of otherness, class and societal relationships through a unique play-within-a-play structure. Actually, Prologue has a play-preparation-within-a-play structure: As an actor gets Ready to Play Simone Weil, he begins a dialogue with her, reflecting on the mystical and artistic processes, and how connecting with the "the other" brings depth and meaning to our own life experiences.
The interaction between the character of Weil and the actor about to portray her is augmented by dance, video projections, animation and original music. The result is an immersive, nonlinear composition of moments - multimedia snapshots into the life and thought of Simone Weil .
By taking place in a theatre setting, Prologue subtly underscores the social and political themes uniting Weil's best known writing. "The craft of acting is learning is how to pay attention," said Litvan. "The life and work of Simone is about the art of being attentive. She always had the same approach with whatever she was writing, whether it was political or religious, which was a search for truth and the importance of knowing the other."
Why did she decide to cast a male actor as the actor preparing to play a woman? "I wanted to move beyond gender and talk about something more essential," she said. "When you read Simone, you realize that gender is not important."
Prologue was first workshopped in 2013 at the Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn, although at that time only the first half of the play had been written. In addition to becoming a mother, Litvan spent the ensuing years writing and revising the play. The development of the production opening on September 13th at Merseles Studios was completed under the JCTC Theatre Residency Program, enabling the full play to premier on the 75th anniversary of Weil's death.
"JCTC is committed to creating partnerships with international productions and bringing artists from around the world to Jersey City audiences," said Olga Levina, Artistic Director. "We are proud that the JCTC Theatre Residency Program was part of the development of Prologue. Simone Weil is an incredibly important world figure whose life and work raises issues about society and the human condition that are still relevant to the times we are living through now."
"JCTC's commitment to social and political thought through the arts, and its appreciation and support for experimental theater, makes them the perfect venue for a piece about Simone Weil," said Litvan. "Also, a few of us in the team are now Jersey City locals, and it is very exciting to be able to share our work with our neighbors!"