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Kosmopolitan Beckett (Beckett Seminar 2020)

The Beckett Research Group in Gdańsk was founded and is led by Professor UG Dr hab. Tomasz Wiśniewski. It is affiliated to the Department of Theatre Arts in the English and American Studies Institute at the University of Gdańsk. It brings together people in English, Romance, and Polish studies and artists from various centres in Poland. Its honorary patron is Professor S.E. Gontarski of Florida State University in the USA. BRGiG works together with Beckett scholars from Poland and the world (Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, the State University of Goiás in Brazil), and with translators and artists engaging in work related to Beckett. Indeed, the encounter of academic and creative worlds – searching for varied and not always complementary ways of seeing Beckett’s work – is the main axis of the activities of BRGiG. We organize regular Beckett seminars in the Three Cities area, and also theatre workshops/laboratories and discussions with poets, writers, film makers, and theatre workers. We also engage in publishing activities and support various artistic projects. In 2012, the collections of essays “Samuel Beckett. Tradycja-awangarda” (2012), and “Back to the Beckett Text” (2012) opened the Between.Pomiędzy series published by the University of Gdańsk Press. In 2017, the latest and eleventh volume in the series appeared, entitled “Beckett w XXI wieku. Rozpoznanie.” In 2016, from Maski publishers, the book “Przedstawienie Becketta” appeared, containing Polish translations of essays by S.E. Gontarski. Cooperation with the Sopot Dance Theatre has led to the production “Wszystko co widać. Ohio” and the film “All This This Here”. Professor Gontarski’s laboratory work is documented in the film “…but the clouds…” , which has been shown in Poland and the USA, during the Beckett Summer School at Trinity College Dublin, and at the Charles University in Prague. In 2010, the documentary film “Back to the Beckett Text” (Beckett na Plaży) appeared, and at the 2019 Between.Pomiędzy Festival, S.E. Gontarski’s film “Beckett on the Baltic” had its world premiere.

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“Waiting for god only knows” – short pieces by Debby Mulholland and Jon McKenna (film)

“Waiting for god only knows”

Nooh Theatre (28th April 2020)

Theatre is Kosmopolis - so this is a simple parody of the futility of searching for the 'definitive version' of a theatre piece. One might as well search for the Holy Grail. The futility of this search is why it is set in a derelict theatre and why the actor/s many 'definitive' but conflicting directions cannot be united within the existing rules of three dimensional space and perspective. It's as stupid as thinking that financiers and economist can run a finite planet with finite resources when they are ignorant of geology, biology, micro-biology, botany, physics, astrophysics, thermo-dynamics, epidemics, infection, disease, weather systems, ethology, sociology... and so on !?

Anyway the idea for this short piece was triggered by Stan Gontarski's excellent introduction to the book “Back to the Beckett Text”. In this Stan brings forward the question of is there 'a definitive version' of a play'? - in this case Godot; which has many different versions and it is in three different languages. It is a glaring fact that theatre is a collaboration of many people -actors, set designers, directors, casting directors, musicians, musical directors, wig makers, stage managers, assistant stage managers, program sellers, theatre critics, ushers, set makers, stage hands and changing audiences...it's not just the writer! Theatre is Kosmopolis.

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Back to the Beckett Text – a documentary film by Joanna Cichocka-Gula about the first Festival

reż. Joanna Cichocka-Gula

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“Beckett on the Baltic” – laboratory work by S.E. Gontarski (film)

Beckett on the Baltic: Love’s Labor’s Lost,

conceived, selected and arranged by S.E. Gontarski,

Directed by S.E. Gontarski

Starring: Jon McKenna

Cinematography: Artur Karwat, Szymon Uliasz

Sound by Magdalena Gubała

Edited by Szymon Uliasz

Laboratory Work at the Between.Pomiędzy Festival (May 2018)

Laboratory organizers: Tomasz Wiśniewski, Katarzyna Kręglewska

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…but the clouds… – laboratory work by S.E. Gontarski (film)

Directed by S.E. Gontarski (Florida State University)

Cinematography: Magdalena Gubała, Szymon Uliasz, Piotr Michalski

Sound & Music: Marcin Lenarczyk

Edited by: Szymon Uliasz

Starring: Jon McKenna and Lil Warren

Special acknowledgements to Antoni Libera for providing a Polish translation of “…but the clouds…”

Laboratory organizers: Tomasz Wiśniewski, Katarzyna Kręglewska

The film documents laboratory workshop on Samuel Beckett’s “…but the clouds…” conducted by S.E. Gontarski at the 7th Between.Pomiędzy Festival in May 2017.

S. E. Gontarski is Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University, where he edited the Journal of Beckett Studies from 1989-2008. His recent books are: (with C. J. Ackerley) The Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett: A Reader’s Guide to His Works, Life, and Thought (2006) and (ed. with Anthony Uhlmann) Beckett after Beckett (2006). More recently, he has edited (with Paul Ardoin and Laci Mattison) Understanding Bergson, Understanding Modernism (Bloomsbury, 2013), which book has launched and served as a model for his book series with Bloomsbury called “Understanding Philosophy/Understanding Modernism”); his Understanding Deleuze, Understanding Modernism (also co-edited with Paul Ardoin and Laci Mattison) appeared as part of that series in 2014.

His critical, bilingual edition of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire was published as Un tram che si chiama desiderio / A Streetcar Named Desire in the series Canone teatrale europeo/Canon of European Drama from Editioni ETS in Pisa, 2012, for which series he is currently completing (with Laura Peja) a bilingual, critical edition of Endgame ; a second edition of his On Beckett: Essays and Criticism has been published by Anthem Press in 2013.

He has also edited The Beckett Critical Reader: Archives, Theories, and Translations (2012) and The Edinburgh Companion to Samuel Beckett and the Arts (2014), both from Edinburgh University Press; his monograph, Creative Involution: Bergson Beckett, Deleuze has appeared in 2015 to launch his book series “Other Becketts” with Edinburgh University Press, from which his Beckett Matters: Essays on Beckett’s Late Modernism appeared in fall 2016.

His Przedstawienie Becketta: Eseje o Becketcie (edited by Tomasz Wiśniewski and Miłosz Wojtyna) appeared from the University of Gdańsk and Maski Press in 2016.

His most recent books are: Beckett’s “Happy Day”: A Manuscript Study appeared from Ohio State University Press in 2017 and his Revisioning Beckett: Samuel Beckett’s Decadent Turn appeared from Bloomsbury Academic in 2018.

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A message from Professor Nadia Kamel (Professor of French Literature, Minya University, Egypt)

Why was Beckett’s theatre categorised as the theatre of the absurd when it describes reality and expresses human fragility and unconsciousness, laying bare the vanity of the world and its incoherence? Beckett’s theatre is a theatre ahead of its time as it describes our current situation when a small, invisible virus unsettles human lives, incapacitates the wealthiest, most powerful countries and the most arrogant people. It reveals our weakness: the human being is no longer a powerful creature, enjoying happiness and youth; he is solitary and sick (confined) just as Beckett’s characters and like them, he experiences the endless desire to be with “the other” with whom he could exchange a few words because the other is, in a way, his last resort. He is all alone, lost in a hostile and cold universe, and similar to Beckett’s characters who hold onto words, which become their only rescue. Isolated (confined) they remember their past, their loves and their misery with nostalgia. They judge themselves, confess their faults and wait for death which comes slowly, deviously. “Je suis ce cours de sable qui glisse entre le galet et la dune” (Beckett , poèmes , 1968).

Winnie’s gradual sinking in the sand (Happy Days) is a poetic translation of the onset of death; don’t the characters which crouch in their rubbish bins (Endgame) or in their urns (Play) resemble the sick enclosed in hospitals, deprived of their families, suddenly becoming the people better avoided?!

They are there: immobile, stretched on their beds, connected to ventilators. Beckett’s theatre translates the anxiety of man, it prompts him to awaken from his torpor and push him towards a being aware of its condition, something which we all need at the moment. In its intended incoherence, Beckett’s theatre presents a magnified image of the incoherence of the world and the state it is right now.

In French:

Pourquoi a - t-on qualifié le théâtre de Beckett d’absurde, alors qu'il décrit la réalité et exprime la fragilité et l'inconscience de l'être humain en exposant à ses yeux la vanité du monde et son incohérence. Le théâtre de Beckett, est un théâtre qui, (si j'ose dire) devance son temps pour décrire notre époque où le petit virus, imperceptible, ébranle les destinées humaines, affaiblit les pays les plus puissants et les plus riches et les personnes les plus arrogantes ; il dénonce notre faiblesse : l'être humain n'est plus la créature robuste qui éclate de bonheur et de jeunesse, il est l'être solitaire et malade ( confiné ) comme les personnages de Beckett , il éprouve , comme eux , un désir incessant de la présence de “l'autre“ avec qui il peut échanger quelques mots , car l'autre est , en quelque sorte sa dernière planche de salut . Il est là tout seul, perdu dans un univers hostile et froid, de même, les personnages de Beckett se raccrochent aux mots qui demeurent leur unique secours. Isolés (confinés) ils se souviennent avec nostalgie de leur passé, de leurs amours, de leur détresse. Il se jugent, avouent leurs fautes et attendent la mort qui s'approche lentement et sournoisement d’eux. “Je suis ce cours de sable qui glisse entre le galet et la dune“ (Beckett, poèmes, 1968).

L'enlisement progressif de Winnie (oh les beaux jours) dans le sable est, si je puis dire, la traduction poétique et plastique de l'approche de la mort ; les personnages qui croupissent dans des poubelles (Fin de partie), ou dans des jarres (Comédie) ne rappellent-ils pas les malades cloîtrés dans les hôpitaux, privés de leurs familles, devenus subitement des personnes qu'on évite ?!

Ils sont là, immobiles, étendus sur leurs lits accrochés à des appareils respiratoires.

Le théâtre de Beckett traduit l'angoisse de l'homme et stimule sa pensée pour l'éveiller de sa torpeur et le pousser à être conscient de sa condition, chose dont nous avons tous besoin actuellement.

Dans son incohérence voulue, le théâtre de Beckett présente une image grossie de l'incohérence du monde et de son état actuel.

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A Topic for Today: Eleutheria – Antoni Libera in discussion with Tomasz Wiśniewski

Antoni Libera is a Polish writer, translator, literary critic, and theatre director. He graduated from Warsaw University and received his Ph. D. from the Polish Academy of Sciences. He is a member of the Pen Club, the Polish Writers Association (Stowarzyszenie Pisarzy Polskich), and the American Samuel Beckett Society. Libera is best known for his translations and productions of Samuel Beckett's plays. He has translated all Beckett's dramatic works into Polish, as well as some of his other works. He has also directed many of Beckett's plays in Poland, Great Britain, Ireland, and the U.S. Many famous Polish actors have appeared in those plays, including Tadeusz Łomnicki, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Maja Komorowska, Adam Ferency, Zbigniew Zamachowski, and Andrzej Seweryn, along with British actors like Barry McGovern and David Warrilow. His other translations include Shakespeare “Macbeth“, Sophocles “Antigon“ and “Oedipus the King“, Oscar Wilde “Salome“, Friedrich Hölderlin, Constantine Cavafy, and others. He has translated a number of opera librettos as well, such as “Death in Venice“ by Benjamin Britten, “Black mask“, and “Ubu King“ by Krzysztof Penderecki. He wrote a libretto to the balet “Chopin“.

[Source: https://www.antoni-libera.pl/node/137]

Antoni Libera