Arthur Nauzyciel follows his dream of a theatre without borders, one that interrogates its own role and nature while questioning the memory of the world. His team includes people from all over the world, including Poland’s Mirosław Bałka, who created the video for the piece
Arthur Nauzyciel in Jan Karski: My Name Is Fiction
In his new piece about Jan Karski, director Arthur Nauzyciel follows his dream of a theatre without borders, interrogating its role and nature while questioning the collective memory. His international team includes Mirosław Bałka, the Polish artist who created the video for the piece
Arthur Nauzyciel is one of the renowned, intriguing theatre directors in France, who works in France and abroad. In staging Jan Karski: My name Is Fiction, the director seeks the primary goal of theatre, drawn from its very origins: to give a voice to those who no longer have one and break that imposed silence before the largest possible audience. Most direct witnesses of the Holocaust have died, and today the time has come to preserve their memory. Jan Karski: My Name Is Fiction premiered at the Création Festival d'Avignon 2011 programme, and the play has had four runs in Paris.
Jan Karski was a witness to one of history's outrages: the extermination of the Jewish population of the Warsaw Ghetto. Relating his testimonial to powerful leaders who might stop Germany's Holocaust machinery proved useless, in spite of a meeting with President Roosevelt and the popular publication in 1944 of his book, Story of a Secret State: My Report to the World. The forgotten hero had a second chance at being heard four decades later, when filmmaker Claude Lanzmann interviewed Karski for his essential film Shoah, where he told of the incredible journey that lead from German killing grounds in Poland to the office of the president of the U.S.
Nauzyciel's play is adapted from the novel by Yannick Haenel from 2009, nominated in France for the prestigious Goncourt Prize. Haenel, disconcerted by the story of Karski in 1943, fighting against general passivity among the Allies as the genocide of Europe's Jews continued, made the Pole the main character, in a book that became a popular as well as a critical success.
The novel is divided into three parts, opening with a segment transcribing the film interview by Lanzmann, followed by Karski's memoir, and closed by Haenel's fictionalised account after Karski's interview with Roosevelt, told in the present tense. This unusual construction struck Nauczyciel, who wanted to echo the form on stage, with the conviction that if "there are no limits to literature", there shall be no limits to theatre. Continuing the dream of Haenel, one would wish for the presence of a man saying "My name is Jan Karski, and I have something to say". The year would be 1942, and he would be heard, and responded to...
Giving Karski the space in which he could speak, even if through the vision of Haenel’s novel, means that his speech will be received and a meaning will be granted to his own suffering, his obsession, to the ghetto which he revisted so many times in dreams that haunted him. It also means giving a space to the 6 million voices that echoed in his mind throughout his life.
Artists participating in the Jan Karski project come from France, Belgium, Poland, Switzerland, Austria and the United States. They are Karski’s travelers, which reminds us of the fact that these events, and the story of Karski, are European and American at the same time. The process and the encounters, both fictional and real ones, making the creation of this performance possible, should become a matter in themselves. It is testimonial that has been documented and written about, in biographies and fiction from authors of various nations. This testimony has been written up by a Polish Catholic, and is now being directed by a Frenchman.
The director Nauzyciel comments:
Yannick Haenel sent me the Jan Karski book after seeing my performance entitled Ordet. He noticed in the play a maneouver similiar to the one he himself applied in the writing - to make art a form of reconciliation. (...)
I read this book a few days after the death of my uncle, Charles Nauzyciel, the brother of my father, who had been sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in the years 1942-1945. My deep relationship with him was built around this experience. As I was the first child to be born in my generation, he started to tell me about his experiences rather early. I was about 10 years old. He would speak in family surroundings, on a Sunday, together with other colleagues who had also been sent to Birkenau. Not in a official way, but just as it came to him, following the thread of his associations.
The merit of the book is that at times it manages to invoke in the reader a feeling similiar, of this incredible suffering as tamed, docile. The abrupt encounter with Haenel’s book gave me the chance of soothing this uneasiness that I had inside, a sense of responsibility, an imperative to testify for the witnesses: for my grandparents, uncles, cousins and friends.
The Polish premiere of Jan Karski. My name Is fiction takes place at Teatr Polski in Warsaw as part of the Goście w Polskim series. Performances are scheduled on the 30th of November and the 1st of December 2012.
Following the showings in Warsaw, the performance goes on a tournee, visiting three French stages:
8th-9th of January, 2013
Équinoxe, Scène nationale de Châteauroux
30th-31st of January, 2013
Le Quartz, Scène nationale de Brest
6th-7th of February, 2013
L’Estive, Scène nationale de Foix et de l’Ariège
Jan Karski: My Name Is Fiction
Based on the novel Jan Karski by Yannick Haenel
Adapted and directed by: Arthur Nauzyciel
Video: Mirosław Bałka
Music: Christian Fennesz
Set design: Riccardo Hernandez
Choreography: Damien Jalet
Sound: Xavier Jacquot
Costumes: José Lévy
Light direction: Scott Zielinski
Głos Marthe Keller
The performance is a production of the Centre Dramatique National Orléans/Loiret/Centre. The Polish stagings are co-produced by TR Warszawa, the French Embassy in Poland, the French Institute in Poland, and the Polish Institute in Paris, with the support of Orange, the City of Warsaw and the cooperation of Wydawnictwo Literackie publishing house.
Source: Institut Polonais a Paris, Teatr Polski