In Russian or English, Arlekin Players hope audiences feel the weight of ‘The Stone’
Within the walls of a house in Dresden, Germany, the ghosts of a troubled past echo across the decades. Arlekin Players Theatre artistic director Igor Golyak says German playwright Marius von Mayenburg’s play “The Stone” captures the struggle individuals experience as they try to reconcile disturbing moments in their past and find a way to move forward.
Arlekin Players will present “The Stone” in Russian with audio translation in English, May 17-June 9 at the company’s theater, Studio 368 in Needham. The production will return in an English translation Sept. 13-22, part of the company’s new effort to reach a broader theater audience.
“I was fascinated by the way the memory of hardships seeps into our genes,” says Golyak. “What happened with the Nazis has been imprinted on the German DNA, and individuals struggle with it, whether they know exactly how complicit their family members were, or not.”
“The Stone” follows three generations of Germans who live in one home at different times. The play opens in 1935, when a young couple — a veterinarian and his wife — purchase the house from a Jewish family. The veterinarian’s family leaves after the war for reasons that remain mysterious; it is illegally occupied in the 1970s and ’80s; and then the veterinarian’s adult daughter and her teenage daughter reclaim the home in the 1990s. As secrets are uncovered and narratives rewritten, the action of the play shifts back and forth in time from the 1930s through today.
“Three generations of women struggle with complicity with Nazi atrocities,” says Golyak. “The youngest girl is only 15, and although she is not responsible for the actions of earlier generations, she has to deal with the consequences.”
Golyak has been a fan of Mayenburg’s plays, which have never been produced in the United States.
“His plays address issues younger generations are confronting,” Golyak says, “and he does it in a way that is very theatrical and emotional.”
Although “The Stone” specifically addresses the efforts of Germans to come to terms with their past, Golyak says that experience is shared by many. Golyak himself emigrated from Russia and says he and his contemporaries are dealing with the legacy of the Soviet Union, even though he was only a child when it was dissolved.
Arlekin Players won an Elliot Norton Award last year for Golyak’s imaginative production of “Dead Man’s Diary,” which was compelling and clear even though it was performed in Russian with English audio translation. To meet audience expectations and the demands of Mayenburg’s play, Golyak turned to award-winning director and designer David R. Gammons and lighting designer Jeff Adelberg.
“We needed to combine the realism of a house with the metaphor of memory and time,” says Golyak. “There is a door in the floor, and access to the dirt below, but David and Jeff understood how important it was to use light and shadow and the parameters of the stage to create the tension in the room.”
Golyak eschews the traditional proscenium stage, partly because Arlekin’s second-floor theater in Needham doesn’t accommodate one, but many of the European productions he sees play with the space they are in as a way to engage the audience in the action.
“Theater is a living, breathing art,” he says. “We want to make sure audiences are excited and energized, as well as entertained.”
Boston Theater Marathon comes of age
The 21st annual Boston Theater Marathon takes place Sunday in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, when 50 10-minute plays by 52 playwrights will be presented, starting at 10 a.m. and continuing for the next 10 hours.
“I am always impressed with the breadth of subjects and the range of new voices,” says marathon producer Kate Snodgrass. “The playwrights respond to issues in the zeitgeist, wildly funny satires and serious stories of gun violence, racial disparities, and politics.”
The process that leads to the marathon starts when nearly 300 submissions are read and scored by volunteers without knowing the names of the playwrights. The scores are then compiled, and Snodgrass and her team at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre take another pass to whittle the group to 50 plays. Snodgrass does invite a few celebrity playwrights to contribute work, including American Repertory Theater founder Robert Brustein (“Trumpiad”), award-winning playwright Jack Neary (“The Duel”), and Ronan Noone (“The Lesson”), but the rest are anonymous until the scripts are selected.
“Every year, production schedules may preclude one theater or another from participating,” says Snodgrass, “so we are always reaching out to new theater companies who have a chance to connect to the larger community and local playwrights.”
When the marathon first launched, the idea was to introduce theater companies to promising playwrights in an effort to encourage more productions featuring local writers.
“Twenty full productions have emerged from partnerships forged at the marathon,” says Snodgrass. “Of course, we’d like it to be more, but I am increasingly encouraged by the number of young directors theater companies are tapping to direct these 10-minute plays and have great hope for what will come next.”
Proceeds from ticket sales support the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund, which provides financial support to theaters and theater artists in times of need. Tickets are $25 in advance, $39 at the door. Call 617-933-8600 or visit www.bostontheatrescene.com or www.bostonplaywrights.org.
Drama in hip-hop
Poets’ Theatre is presenting “Other Voices in the Room,” an opportunity to hear from six hip-hop poetry and spoken word artists at the Boston Athenaeum, May 21 at 6 p.m. Artists include Amanda Shea, Khadijah Aliyyah, Pedro “Flaco” Cruz, Regie Gibson, Phree, and Boston’s new poet laureate, Porsha Olayiwola. Tickets are $20 for members, $30 for visitors. 617-720-7612, www.bostonathenaeum.org
Presented by the Arlekin Players Theatre. At Studio 368, 368 Hillside Ave., Needham, May 17-June 9. Tickets $45-$65, 617-942-9822, www.arlekinplayers.com