About This Issue
Dialog-Wrocław International Theatre Festival 2021
REPORTERS: ROB MELROSE & PAIGE ROGER
In 2007, Paige Rogers and I were running our theatre in San Francisco, The Cutting Ball Theater, when The Center for International Theatre Development director, Philip Arnoult, invited us to come to the Dialog Festival in Wroclaw. I was to be directing Pen at the Guthrie at the same time and was unable to go, but Paige went and both of our lives were forever changed and Wroclaw and Dialog planted themselves in our hearts. Paige came back with reports of seeing plays by Krysztof Warlikowski, Nikolaj Kolada, and Grzegorz Jarzna. I would have to wait until another festival in Wroclaw in 2009, The World as a Place of Truth by the International Grotowski Festival to be exposed to the wonders of Wroclaw and then fortunately was back for the 2013 Dialog Festival and then again in 2016 for the European Cultural Capital Theatre Program.
Paige has been back many more times than I have, studying at the Grotowski Institute, then bringing her production of Antigone to be workshopped at the Grotowski Institute for two weeks before its premiere at Cutting Ball. Now Paige is an artist in residence at the Grotowski Institute and is living in Wroclaw for the year.
For me Wroclaw (besides being one of the most beautiful cities in the world) is where I have seen all my theatrical heroes: Peter Brook, Robert Wilson, Christoph Marthaler, Krysztof Warlikowski, Grzegorz Jarzna, Krystian Lupa, Tadashi Suzuki, and Eugenio Barba. What’s more, I’ve not only seen their work, but have also seen them in conversation with their fellow artists and the audience as well as in the Festival Club late at night after the show. What I love most about the Dialog Festival in particular is not only the excellent curation of the Festival by Krystyna Meissner and Olga Nowakowska but the rich conversations around the artistic work – quite literally the dialogue.
Something the Dialog festival gets right is the tenor of the talkback. In the US, we work tirelessly to get beyond “how did you learn all those lines” or “what I liked about the show was this” and “what I didn’t like the show was that.” At the Dialog Festival, the artists gather with the audience the day after the performance and the discussion uses the show as a jumping off point for the philosophical, moral, aesthetic, and political issues that the production brings up. It is not a session for either praising or blaming the work, but rather an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion with a group of artists who have been thinking very hard about a lot of the issues that concern us most today. I never miss a discussion because I find them as enriching as the shows themselves.
What follows are my personal reactions to the shows I saw (as well as two from Paige that will be noted below). They are not reviews but rather responses to the work as well as some background since I’ve had the pleasure of seeing multiple pieces by most of the directors at this year’s festival.
The Good News
While not spoken about in the literature about this year’s festival, many of us Dialog fans have known for quite some time that the festival was in serious danger of having its funding cut and that this year was likely to be the festival’s last. The overwhelmingly terrific news is that on the final day, the mayor of Wroclaw announced that the festival would continue to receive funding and would be a part of Wroclaw for many years to come. Paige and I celebrated heartily since this festival has come to mean so much to us both over the years and serves as an important touchstone every two years of the best that theater has to offer.
Rob Melrose & Paige Rogers
Rob Melrose is the Artistic Director of the Alley Theatre where he has directed productions of The Winter’s Tale, 1984, and Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. He was formerly the Artistic Director and co-founder of the Cutting Ball Theater. He has directed at The Public Theater (Pericles, Prince of Tyre), The Guthrie Theater (Frankenstein, Happy Days, Freud’s Last Session, Pen, Julius Caesar - with the Acting Company); The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Troilus and Cressida – in association with the Public Theater); Magic Theatre (An Accident, world premiere); The Old Globe (Much Ado About Nothing); PlayMakers Rep (Happy Days); Black Box Theatre (The Creature, world premiere, BATCC Award for direction); as well as Actors’ Collective; The Gamm Theatre; and Crowded Fire, among others. His directing credits at Cutting Ball include Timon of Athens, A Dreamplay, Ondine (world premiere), Mount Misery (world premiere), Strindberg Cycle, The Chamber Plays in Rep, Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night (world premiere), Pelleas & Melisande, the Bay Area Premiere of Will Eno’s Lady Grey (in ever lower light), The Tempest, The Bald Soprano, Victims of Duty, Bone to Pick & Diadem (world premiere), Endgame, Krapp’s Last Tape, The Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, Hamletmachine, As You Like It, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World among others. He has taught at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, USF, the University of Rhode Island, and Marin Academy. He has a BA in English and Theater from Princeton University and an MFA in directing from the Yale School of Drama. Rob directed Strindberg’s Svarta Handsken (The Black Glove) in Stockholm, Sweden at Strindberg’s Intimate Theater. This was the first time the play was performed on the stage for which it was written, 110 years after it was composed. He has translated Woyzeck, Ubu Roi, Pelleas & Melisande, The Bald Soprano, The Chairs, No Exit, Communique n o10, Where and When We Died, and The Blind. His translations of Woyzeck, Ubu Roi, and Pelleas & Melisande have been published by EXIT Press. He has written a number of plays including: Helen of Troy, The Flat Earth, Divorsosaurus, When Human Voices Wake Us, Asylum, and Serpentyne and has written a rock musical adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s Ozma of Oz with the San Francisco electro-rock group Z.O.N.K.
Paige Rogers co-founded San Francisco's Cutting Ball Theater in 1999 where her work was initially featured an actor and later as a director. She served as Artistic Director for three years where she created a very successful educational program, specifically catering to children in the theater's marginalized neighborhood. In 2015, Paige brought the cast of her production of Antigone to Poland's Grotowski Institute for a two week workshop. She is currently a fellow at the Grotowski Institute and a Masters student at the University of Wrocław in Poland.
Paige Rogers & Rob Melrose
The Trust for Mutual Understanding
The Trust for Mutual Understanding, a long-time supporter of CITD, is a unique and important player in Russia and Eastern Europe. Set up as a trust by a single anonymous donor in 1984, the focus was “to support direct person-to-person contact between American and Soviet professionals working in the field of art and environment.” A second gift was made in 1991, continuing the dual focus of art and environment, and opening up to Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe; the Baltic States; Central Asia; Mongolia; and Russia. They are now celebrating their 30th year continuing this essential work.
THE CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL THEATRE DEVELOPMENT
Philip Arnoult, founder & director
ROB MELROSE & PAIGE ROGERS
Carol Baish & Brandice Thompson