Go Deeper

A Brief History of Gombrowicz in Philadelphia (as told by Allen Kuharski)

Posted July 8th, 2009

After I talked to Allen Kuharski last week about producing plays by Witold Gombrowicz, he was so kind as to send me a quick rundown of the past decade of Gombrowicz performances in Philadelphia. If you remember any of this, it was pretty awesome. And if you don’t know, now you know.

1998: Students at Swarthmore College’s Department of Theater produce Ivona, Princess of Burgundia.

2000: The English-language version of Teatr Provisorium & Kompania Teatr of Lublin’s adaptation of the novel Ferdydurke (using Allen Kuharski’s translation) premieres at Swarthmore and, through University of the Arts, at the Arts Bank. The English-language version went on to have four tours of the U.S., twice visiting Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and stopping by Princeton, New Haven, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, and Bloomington, Indiana once each. It also toured the United Kingdom, and in most places, the group also performed shows in Polish. Between the Polish- and English-language versions of the show, the company has toured to over two-dozen countries, and the production was broadcast on Polish national television in January to mark the 10th anniversary of the Polish version. The English-language version won a Fringe First in Edinburgh in 2001, among many other festival awards.

2002: Theatre Exile mounts its critically-acclaimed production of Princess Ivona, directed by David Disbrow. Dramaturg: Allen Kuharski

2004: Pig Iron Theatre Company’s Hell Meets Henry Halfway an adaptation of Gombrowicz’s novel Possessed, premieres at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. Allen was the production dramaturge for this show and co-commissioned it on behalf of the International Gombrowicz Centennial Festival in Lublin in 2004. The production toured to Princeton, New York, Cambridge, MA, Charlotesville, VA, and Washington, DC, and overseas to Warsaw, Lublin, Kaunas (Lithuania), and L’viv (Ukraine). It won a Barrymore Award for best original score and an OBIE Award in New York (Special Citation) in 2005. The piece was revived in Philadelphia in 2006.

2007: Dada von Bzdulow Dance Theatre of Gdansk performs Several Witty Observations at the Live Arts Festival, a dance piece freely inspired by Gombrowicz’s Diary.

2009: Operetta at the Live Arts Festival.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Photo by Lukasz Gawronski