New Yorkers are lucky to have on their doorstep one of the best theatre groups around nowadays. Dzieci which means ‘children’ in Polish, perform plays of immens dynamic and excitement.
Directed by Matt Mitler who also performs multi-talented group perform stirring theater pieces from the heart without an eye on the box-office or the Hollywood career. Matt, a veteran actor of Growtoski and G.I.Gurdjieff influences keeps the both the writing and the direction tight to his vision, a total theater which reaches way beyond the norm.
After years of dedicated work around New York City and the State, finally the group is beginning to experience the reputation which is well overdue. Had this group been based in Europe it could have easily been funded by various cultural bodies not to mention the numerous festivals which decorate the European calendar every year. Independent theatre in the United States has never really had the same support as in Europe.
Actors in general are famous for their egos, hairstyles and a keen eye on their future for that necessary break to fame. Matt was part of that scene for some time in the 80s but soon decided his real essence and talent was for that theater which he loved so much – that of his creation. All participants in Dzieci have to perform in social service too – in hospitals or asylums. Somehow Matt Mitler manages to inspire a loyal nucleus of New York based performers who prefer the thrill and danger of his intense approach to the easier and lazier routes which most actors will follow. Dzieci means ‘kids’ but these actors are in the super league.
The group features a repertoire of works whose rehearsal time is usually long, as preparation is often done between other performances or projects. This brings great depth to the material, since the subject matter is generally ambitious and open to many an interpretation.
Huxley’s Devils of Loudon for example is not for those who necessarily want a fun night out. The piece is solemn, dark and brilliantly captures the troubled and manipulated reality behind the 17 century cloisters of Loudon. People often cry in the audience and all are certainly in a shock when they leave the building.
The Feast of Fools is another religious play which is featured before at the time of Nativity. Performances are presented in actual churches across New York. But here the style is pure buffoon and the piece verges on blasphemy and ridicule but still with a deep respect for faith. It therefore crosses some very interesting borders: various inmates of the priest’s hospice welcome the audience/congregation for the evening mass but all is undone as the priest suddenly dies in his chambers leaving his patients-followers to enact the mass. The play pivots around the characters whose failings to perform the sacred rituals verge on farce but somehow the play still retains a respectful spirituality in the humour with fine acapella singing and genuine sense of love, both for life and audience.
The most exciting piece I have seen however was the performance of Makbet. The play MacBeth by Shakespeare but a play within a play. I have not seen quite the like of this daring and uniqueness of this piece, where each actor has to learn not only his/her part of Macbeth but the entire play. Each night becomes a unrepeatable communal experience as the actors improvise who plays what. (Here the essence of Growtowski training showing where the audience also is bonded and becomes part of the ritual). This is no mean feat as the rhythm and pace of the play needs energy, dedication and continual concentration (no nipping off to have a whiskey in the green room like I have seen backstage in London’s National Theater for example). For an actor to be so committed to his performance is by no means normal. These actors are performing skills of intense group awareness and understanding that is extraordinary and rare.
As Dzieci say about the piece:-
Shakespeare’s ageless tale of greed, guilt, omens and foul deeds comes alive through the unflinching performance of a handful of actors who take turns spontaneously trading off parts at the drop of a hat ( literally!) In this wildly ritualistic Macbeth, Dzieci explores and explodes the very essence of theatre and storytelling.
Everyone should see this piece and it should be brought to Europe. Any takers I wonder?
What Dzieci does is empower the every aspect of the theater with its dynamic. It lifts an audience into a communion of experience as the actors surrender their beings for the sake of that every moment. That moment brings communion and actor and audience are often fused as one.
I worked with Dzieci myself in 2002. An experience which still lives on in me. Now blogging through life I can look back and urge those in New York who missed out so far on the adventure that Dzieci can give them. Don’t miss MAKBET now in New York – 1- 18 October.
And don’t miss the video below to get your Kalatu blogging experience underway too!
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