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Apr 14, 2011 8:00 PM - May 1, 2011

Mr. M

THEATER. Theater for the New City presents World Premiere of Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre in "MR. M"

April 14 to May 1, 2011

Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue (at East 10th Street) Presented by Theater for the New City, Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM; Sundays at 3:00 PM $10.  Box office (212) 254-1109; www.theaterforthenewcity.net 

May 5 (Thurs) at 8:00 PM, May 7 (Sat) at 9:00 PM, May 8 (Sun) at 5:00 PM JCC in Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Avenue (between 75th & 76th Streets) Presented by JCC in Manhattan in association with GOH Productions.
$15 members; $20 non-members
Box office 646.505.5708, www.jccarts.org

This play contains Holocaust themes.  It is recommended for audiences age 10 to 110.  

 With "Mr. M," Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre will perform the first American stage adaptation of "Mr. Theodore Mundstock," a story of the triumph of the human spirit by Ladislav Fuks, a postwar Czech writer of psychological fiction who achieved instant fame with that book, his debut novel.  The drama, written and directed by Vit Horejs, is the latest in the company's "zivacek" plays, in which the cast is visible to the audience whether performing with or without puppets.  ("Zivacek," which literally means "living," is the Czech expression for visible actors who act with puppets.)

The story is set in 1942 Prague, Germans occupy the country, and Jews await the dreaded summons to the concentration camps.  Mr. M is an ordinary man trying to prepare for an unimaginable fate.  Each day his panic mounts, goading him to the brink of insanity.  To calm himself, he resolves to prepare carefully, simulating the camp environment in his tiny apartment, learning to sleep on a wooden board, hardening his mind against insults and strengthening his muscles against hard labor.  The preparations bring on a sudden calm and with pride, almost joy in anticipation, he dedicates himself to helping his friends who might share the same fate.  Where there is humor in the play, it's "Terezin humor," an expression connotating the dark humor that Czech Jews adopted in their cabaret at Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Author Ladislav Fuks came of age during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and ultimately wrote about it in his stories and novels. "Mr. Theodore Mundstock" ("Pan Theodor Mundstock"), initially published in 1963, was his first novel and made him famous almost overnight. The American version, translated by Iris Urwin and issued by Orion Press in 1968, introduced English speaking readers to a novel as rich and eccentric as anything by Fuks' fellow countryman, Franz Kafka.

The novel is being interpreted for the stage by Vit Horejs, Artistic Director of Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre, who has been haunted by the story since his 1970s student days in Prague.

The production emphasizes object theater over puppetry.  Mr. M's furniture moves around him, the room morphs into a concentration camp in his dreams and reality turns inside out as he visits his friends in "reality" and they visit him in his "imagination."  There is one directly manipulated puppet, Mr. M's shadow or alter ego.  There is also a short marionette scene featuring Czech toy marionettes. (One is an antique and the rest were built from 1930s molds by Milos Kasal.  The antique was actually a toy of Horejs's mother.)  Yiddish songs will be performed live by Adrienne Cooper.  

The performers, all company members of Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre, are Deborah Beshaw, Michelle Beshaw, Vit Horejs, Theresa Linnihan, Steven Ryan and Ronny Wasserstrom (who plays the title character).  Set and costume design and the puppet of Mr. M's shadow are by Michelle Beshaw.  Lighting design is by Federico Restrepo.  

Vit Horejs, an emigre from Prague, founded Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre in 1990, utilizing century-old Czech puppets which he found at Jan Hus Church on East 74th Street. His trademark is using puppets of many sizes, from six-inch toy marionettes to twelve-foot rod puppets which double as scenery. CAMT is dedicated to preserving and presenting traditional and not-so-traditional puppetry. Horejs is well known for innovative re-interpretations of classics.  At La MaMa E.T.C., the company has performed "The Life and Times of Lee Harvey Oswald" (2004), "Don Juan or the Wages of Debauchery" (2003), "The Prose of the Transsiberian and of the Little Joan of France" (2001), "Johannes Dokchtor Faust" (2000), "The Little Rivermaid Rusalka" (1999), "Golem" (1997, which was featured in the 1998 Henson International Puppetry Festival), and "Once There Was a Village" (2007), an ethno-opera with puppets, found objects and music by Frank London.

"Johannes Dokchtor Faust" was featured in CAMT's first season (1990) and was re-staged in 1994 as part of NADA's Obie Award-winning "Faust Festival" in Soho. It was revived at La MaMa (in 2000) and at Manhattan's Bohemian Hall (in 2007). Other NYC productions include "A Christmas Carol--OY! Hanukkah--Merry Kwanzaa," "Kacha and the Devil," "The White Doe - Or The Piteous Trybulations of the Sufferyng Countess Jenovefa," "Snehurka, The Snow Maiden" and "Twelve Iron Sandals." CAMT's signature piece, "Hamlet," debuted at the Vineyard Theater in 1995, was performed at outdoor venues in NY, and toured to the 2004 Prague Summer Shakespeare Festival at Prague Castle.  In 2007, "Hamlet" was revived on Jane’s Carousel in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

CAMT's "The Bass Saxophone," a WWII fantasy with music based on a story by Josef Skvorecky, played 11 weeks at the Grand Army Plaza Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch in Brooklyn during the fall of 2005 and the spring of 2006.  

Theater for the New City presented the troupe in "The Very Sad Story of Ethel & Julius, Lovers and Spyes..." in December, 2008.  Anita Gates wrote in the New York Times, "Vit Horejs has written and directed a first-rate, thoroughly original production and made it look effortless. The cast gives charged, cohesive performances, and the staging is expert."  That production was followed in the spring by "The Historye of Queen Esther, of King Ahasverus & of the Haughty Haman" at The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater of the West Side Y.  In November, 2009 at La MaMa, the company performed a much-celebrated Czech marionette version of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night (or What You Will)" on three tea trays.  The New York Times (Anita Gates) described the company's work "improbably fabulous" and the production as "sublime."  Curtain Up (Deirdre Donovan) wrote, "This is an event to be enjoyed for its rich artfulness.... Vit Horejs directs with an elfin touch that casts a magical aura over the entire evening's proceedings."  

The troupe's most recent world premiere was presented by Theater for the New City last Spring.  "Revolution!?," performed with AGENTURA DELL’ARTE (from Prague), was a theater spectacle that examined revolutions throughout the history of mankind as a backdrop for the extraordinary peaceful 1989 Velvet Revolution in former Czechoslovakia.  The troupe is excited to return to Crystal Field's theater, a venue which embraces new work and enables performances in innovative styles, like "Mr. M," to reach receptive audiences at affordable prices.

CAMT has also appeared at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center, the Smithsonian Institution, The World Trade Center, the Antonin Dvorak Festival in Spillville, Iowa, the Heart of the Beast in Minneapolis, the Lowell Folk Arts Festival in Massachusetts and in international festivals in Poland, Turkey, Pakistan, and the Czech Republic.

Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre is a program of GOH Productions, a NYC based arts services organization. This event has been made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.  Additional support comes from  the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association, Materials for the Arts and private donors


Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, NYC


From: Apr 14, 2011 8:00 PM
To: May 1, 2011


Organized by heater for the New City

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