Notes from Poland IV.

Krakow staggers the imagination. I stepped off the bus from Auschwitz, torn and much shaken, into a bright city of brick domes and steeples growing like flowering hedges across the skyline. I bought an icon for my mother at the Cloth Hall in the Rynek Glowny, next to a staggeringly eclectic and lovely basilica dedicated to St. Mary. These eastern churches, so redolent of the vast steppes to the east and the soaring piety to the west, make Gothic architecture look stale and Orthodox Russian look cheap by comparison. Shortly afterward I rejoined my cast and ate a meal at one of the few remaining communist-style cafeterias, a holdover from the days when every town had only one state-run restaurant and people sat down at whatever empty place was available. I have never eaten so many pirogis in my life, as during this Polish trip.

We then split up to do some last minute shopping again, and some of us walked to the Basilica of St. Francis, with its beautiful Art Nouveau interior and its famous stained glass windowof God creating the Waters, with the verse title, 'Let it Be.' I was also surprised to see the Shroud of Turin there. I don't imagine that happens everyday. Walking along, checking out a lovely church, when suddenly the shroud Christ was supposedly wrapped up in pops up at your elbow. But see, that's the sort of thing that happens in countries which don't rely on aWal-Mart mentality for cultural sustenance.

The whole interior and the renovated windows were designed and executed by Stanislaw Wyspianksi, now one of my most favorite artists of all time--he paints, he sculpts, he directs, he designs sets and interiors and whole buildings, he draws searing self portraits and powerful theatre posters, he stood on the cusp of ArtNouveau and Art Deco, singlehandedly resurrecting stained glass in the religious mode and introducing it to its secular mode (his Apollo Window done for theKrakow Medical Society is stunning), and then he suddenly dies from syphilis. I visited the Polish National Museum dedicated to his works, housed in his former home, and I had what was arguably the most spiritually satisfying experience of my whole trip. Drop whatever you're doing today and go to Powell's or the Library to find some of his stuff. Do it now. You can play with your Cabbage Patch Dolls later.

That evening was perhaps our worst performance of the tour. Time is our ravenously relentless enemy here, and the technical runs necessary prior to performing in new venues continually sap almost as much energy as a full performance, leaving us doubly and cumulatively more and more exhausted with each passing day. Thus the mundane frustrations of technical and physical obstacles, which in a normal theatre setting are only of a routine nature, in a touring setting present a constantly challenging pressure which saps precious energy and creative gumption. After a certain period of time, you don't know how to bloody fix the fire sequence anymore. You can't figure out where you're supposed to be, on the 5th different staging in as many days and as many cities. You can't remember where you packed your set tools, or your props, or your costumes, because you've just spent the last hour missing warmups while messing around with the stupid fire things and now the audience is waiting and you're not even in costume yet. These are the reasons why Providence saw fit to ordain Stage Managers in aid of our humble, imperfect works. Without Stage Managers, I tend to lose stuff and get new scars on my person, which is exactly what happened in Krakow. And I'm not even getting into the language-cultural issues, which are plenty indeed.
But all that said, the Krakow performance had a lot going for it. I didn't get another nosebleed during the bear death, the way I did back in Szamocin and Gdansk. (In retrospect, I think the gauze over my face obstructed my breathing, leading to the nosebleeds.) We got some kickass publicity posters that look so cool, I stole some. Many people liked it, and hell, how often do you get to say 'I played abear, a stone spirit, a demon and Elijah the Prophet in a thousand-year-old city'?

Our next two performances were personally the most gratifying for me, and our closing night in particular was quite stunning for us all, in so many ways. This is my last night in Berlin, and in Europe, soI must beg your pardon and finish these serial posts as I return to Stumptown, which I so miss. My best to everyone, look for more soon, keep on keeping on--

ich bein ein jelly donut,

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