Archive for Odyssey

The Odyssey

Posted in Poland with tags , , on December 4, 2010 by Louise Steinman

I brought the perfect traveling companion with me to Krakow… “The Glatstein Chronicles” by Jacob Glatstein. Written when Glatstein (one of the foremost Yiddish poets of his day) was summoned home from New York to Lublin, Poland, to the bedside of his sick mother. He traveled on a trans-Atlantic steamer, writing “the ship seemed to be carrying me back to my childhood, as though we were sailing back in time.” It’s a journey in reverse, the immigrant returning to the Old Country.

My seat companion on Lufthansa from LA to Munich was a pale young man with dark hair who told me he was very tired, and would i wake him up when dinner was served? Later I learned he was traveling to Sofia, Bulgaria, to the bedside of his sick mother. A journey of return.

Now, after one full day in Krakow, sliding across the Rynek on slick cobblestones, snow-flocked plane trees on the Planty, warm welcome from fellow Boska Komedia attendees from Warsaw, Moscow, Paris, Bogota, San Francisco, Tel Aviv, Dusseldorf and more. Tonight saw a fantastic production based on Homer’s “The Odyssey,” by a 27 year-old Krakovian theater star (Kryzysztof Garbazewski)_ which incorporated the best use of Jim Morrison’s epic song “The End” (Father, I want to KILLLLL YOU”) since I heard the Doors live at Beverly Hills High School in 1968. I was so moved, and so many of the themes of dread, journey, return, survival– that are on my mind– were given such a resonant treatment in this story of Telemachus, the son, whose father is the absent hero. (“let us speak of Odysseus’ absence.”) Telemachus was played by a wiry young actor who was the wild young son personified, horrified, vilified, and ultimately, vindicated. Penelope was played by three women of three different generations, and a beautiful silver-haired actress delivered the final monologue about her long vigil, her husband’s return. And in the final scene, Odysseus poses the basic question all storytellers must ask of those who journey out into the unknown, “Tell me, how was it?” We want to know what you endured, how you survived. That’s the question I asked Berek Ofman, who was hidden under the floorboards of a widow’s farmhouse in Radomsko, the question I asked Ester Wilhelm, who was three when the war started (her father’s mistress in Czestochowa pretended Ester was her own daughter). And Max Blitz, my friend’s father, survived because he stowed away on the back of a wagon headed towards the Russian border.

This play snapped me back from the brink of jet lag crash. But it’s finally happening, to bed to bed, to return to return.

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