Archive for Kantor

Underground

Posted in Poland with tags , , on December 8, 2010 by Louise Steinman

What I love about attending an international festival like Boska Komedia here in Krakow is the way one slip-slides into intense social encounters (slip-sliding is on my mind as I navigate the slick cobblestones in Old Town each morning) Last night i exited a Polish play that had no English translation and, at the coat check, met another Boska Komedia attendee who’d done the same. We decided on the spot to have dinner together and walked over to Klezmer Hois in Kazimierz for supper and thus I found myself in a faux-Jewish restaurant sharing fragrant ginger/orange chicken and kasha and a carafe of good red wine with Iulia, a delightful Rumanian theater critic from Bucharest wearing bright green boots. We were later joined by Alan, an insightful theater critic from Brooklyn (with an insatiable curiosity about Polish theater and Polish history) and Felix, an affable theater director from Dusseldorf who was very happy to be digging into some Hungarian goulash after several days of non-stop theater-viewing and not-enough calorie intake for this freezing weather. Julia from Bucharest told me about her intense fear of cold from her childhood days under Ceausescu when there was not enough heat and hardly any light. Her father helped jury-rig woodstoves for their block of apartments, procured illicitly from old flats that Ceausescu was demolishing in the city center.

This morning I had a guided tour of underground Krakow (the new archeological museum under the medieval Cloth Hall) from a young Israeli theater director of Yemeni descent who’s lived in Krakow for 10 years. Avishai (Awiszaj Hadari) fell in love with the work of theater artistTadeusz Kantor while at art school in Tel Aviv, and decamped for Poland. The great film director Andrzej Wajda (also the subject of a hilarious spoof called “There was once Andrzej Andrzej Andrzej and Andrzej” just performed here the other night) wrote a letter in support of Avishai’s application for Polish citizenship. (No one in the government was quite sure how to react to such a request… so an exception was made thanks to Avishai’s contributions to Polish culture.) Today was the day that Avishai actually received his Polish passport, so we decamped to Gulliver cafe to celebrate.

(a few years ago I’d considered applying for a Polish passport as two of my grandparents were Polish, but as it turns out– Poland didn’t exist when they emigrated in 1906, and there was no possibility or much sense in applying for a passport as a citizen of Czarist Russia…

and to confuse you, here is a photo of my grandmother Rebecca when she travelled with her two children from Zhitomir to the States in the early 20’s…)

Rebecca Steinman's passport (with son Norman and daughter Ruth), 1921

Avishai’s installation in the underground museum is a theatrical display (enhanced by extraordinary animatronics and robotics) that tells of the founding of Cracow. The narrator is a white crow, voiced by one of filmmaker Kieslowski’s most famous actors, Jerzy Trela. Unfortunately for us, the sound was not working this morning due to a computer glitch in the museum’s mega-computer, situated at an even deeper level beneath the stone fortifications and weighing scales of Cracow– new technology trumps the transmission of ancient history.

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