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La MaMa Presents the US Debut of THIS IS WHY WE LIVE

La MaMa Presents the US Debut of THIS IS WHY WE LIVE

"This Is Why We Live" by Open Heart Surgery Theatre, a Lecoq-bred performance troupe from Toronto, brings the poetry of Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska to the stage using movement, poetry-theatre and live music. La MaMa will present the US premiere of this work, running September 19 to 29 in its Downstairs Theatre, 66 East 4th Street.

In a performance of physical theater and clown with original musical score by cellist Dobrochna Zubek, two actors and a musician journey through the ironic and astonishing poetry of one of the greatest voices of the 20th century. Szymborska's poetry is performed in English, French and Polish and projected English surtitles are provided for the Polish and French language texts. Director is Coleen Shirin MacPherson, Artistic Director of the troupe.

Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012) was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and initial surprising recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. Her body of work was only 325 pieces - four to five poems annually-and demonstrated the possibility of putting so much lightness and seriousness, so much tact and sensitivity, simplicity of imagery and complexity of philosophical contemplation in so few words. Irony and self-­-irony, wit, humor, playfulness are the hallmarks of her poetry and personality. She was known for sending cards with quirky collages (instead of letters) or organizing lotteries in which one could win small, delightfully kitschy prizes, "thinking up games and riddles," as she put it, and for her amusing limericks. The fact that she called her Nobel Prize "a Stockholm tragedy," says much about her. It is this playfulness and wit that is celebrated in This Is Why We Live.

Szymborska's poems explore humanity's relationship with nature and the irony of existence, existentially questioning our place within the universe. In her view, no matter how horrific the world may be, we can still stand in awe and remember what came before us. Director Coleen Shirin MacPherson hopes the play will: "draw audiences into an intimate conversation, igniting a sense of wonder".

"This Is Why We Live" was devised by its all-female ensemble using improvisation and movement-based theatre techniques inspired from their time at École Jacques Lecoq, a school which awakens students to the dynamics of movement as a way into original theater creation. The creative challenge was to find the movement within Szymborska's poetry and to transpose this to the stage without losing the poems' emotional integrity and intimacy. The original poems and the translations were explored through improvisation and the poet's collages were hung in the rehearsal room. The play emerged from this exploration.

Szymborska's Swedish translator, Anders Bodegård, once said: "When I met Wislawa Szymborska in Kraków, I thought to myself that one should dance with this woman. Now when I have translated a selection of her poems I realize that I was doing nothing else but dancing. Her poems have this characteristic quality of dances, that is they allow the swirling dancer to maintain the balance."

"This Is Why We Live" was originally 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.

Open Heart Surgery Theatre is an all-women company led by Parsi-Irish Canadian theater maker Coleen Shirin MacPherson. It was founded in 2014 and is based in Toronto and London, UK. Its work has been presented in Poland, France, UK, USA and Egypt. Its performers are a mixture of Butoh and Lecoq-trained theatre makers whose interests lie in intercultural work. Its interdisciplinary approach employs multiple languages, live music, media and dance. Its website is:

"This Is Why We Live" is created by Open Heart Surgery Theatre and directed by Coleen MacPherson. It is performed by Elodie Monteau (France), Alaine Hutton (Canada) and Dobrochna Zubek (Poland/Canada) to music by Zubek. Musical development are by Tatiana Judycka and Dobrochna Zubek. Set and costume design are by Helen Yung. Lighting design is by Rebecca Picherak. French translation is by Piotr Kaminski. English translation is by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak. Dramaturgy and translation support is by Viktor Lukawski.

The piece was originally created as a co-production with Théatre de L'Enfumeraie in France and supported with a residency in London, UK at Old Vic New Voices.

Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

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