Poland’s Teatr ZAR on the MCA Stage 3/29 – 4/1

Poland’s Teatr ZAR uses song, chanting, physical theater, and rich sets to examine birth, death, pleasure, and pain. The Gospels of Childhood Triptych is staged in three acts during a single evening, with the audience and actors inhabiting a different set for each act: the first and third take place in the MCA Theater with the audience on stage; and the second is in the MCA’s 2nd-floor atrium. The performances take place at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago, March 29 – April 1, 2012, and are presented by MCA Stage in association with Goodman Theatre.

Inspired by Eastern Orthodox ancient sacred music, The Gospels draws on texts from the apocryphal gospels and the 19th century Polish romantic poet Juliusz Slowacki. The work is the culmination of a decade of research by artistic director, Jaroslaw Fret, and the company. The Gospels exemplifies a trend in contemporary Polish theatre, described as “theatre out of the spirit of music.”

Part 1: Gospels of Childhood / The Overture (Theater): Based on texts from the apocryphal gospels, the overture to the triptych tells the story of resurrection. Its musical structure is based on the chant singing tradition of Georgia, Bulgaria, and Greece and reveals the story of Lazarus, his sisters, and Mary Magdalene, who in the Gnostic tradition is considered one of the disciples.

Part 2: Caesarean Section / Essays on Suicide (2nd floor atrium): Explores the question of freedom and its limitations that draws on the music of Corsica, intertwining Bulgarian, Romanian, Icelandic, and Chechen songs, combined with the more modern music of Erik Satie and Ástor Piazzolla.

Part 3: Anhelli / The Calling (Theater): The poem “Anhelli,” by Slowacki, follows a tragic journey of a young man through Siberia and portrays the struggles for independence and a missed calling due to human weakness. Teatr ZAR created a musical score for Anhelli based on Byzantine and Sardinian Paschal hymns.

Talk by Jaroslaw Fret
Pneumatics of an Actor: Theater out of the spirit of music 
Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 5:30 pm
At the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.
Presented by the League of Chicago Theaters as part of World Theatre Day
Free; advance reservation strongly advised through MCA Box Office at 312.397.4010 or www.mcachicago.org
Artistic Director Jaroslaw Fret talks about the sources and inspirations for Teatr ZAR’s acclaimed music and theater work. Actors perform a demonstration, with an emphasis on how breath relates to the acting practice.  Fret also shares film and sound footage of Teatr ZAR’s investigative expeditions into Georgia, Greece, Corsica, and Sardinia.

First Night

Thursday, March 29, 2012
Opening night post-show talk with the artists and MCA Performance Programs staff in the theater provides insight about the performance and includes time for questions from the audience.Saturday Speakeasy
Saturday, March 31, 2012
An informal post-show gathering provides a special opportunity for the audience to engage with the artists. Snacks, hot and cold beverages, and beer and wine are available for purchase.

Flesh of Sound
Saturday March 31 and Sunday April 1, 2012, 11 am – 2 pm
Registration each day is $15, or $10 with Teatr ZAR performance ticket
Participants train and deeply explore rhythm with Teatr ZAR, the resident company of the Grotowski Institute. Balkan and Caucasus vocal patterns along with physical improvisation explores the connection of physical rhythms to the breath, and physical contact between partners. Participants are encouraged, but not required, to attend both session days. Separate registration applies each day.


Teatr ZAR is the resident company at the Grotowski Institute in Wroclaw, Poland, and was formed in 1999-2003 by apprentices of the Grotowski Institute during their annual research expeditions to learn centuries-old music from people in to the Caucasus Mountains in the country of Georgia. The members are trained in the method of theatre icon Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999), who was widely influential in experimental theater. He developed several distinctive approaches to theater that used communal rites, simple interactive exchanges, and music and performances from traditional cultures as ways to transcend the separation between performers and audience members.

Teatr ZAR took its name from the word ‘zar,’ which means bell or the sound of a man singing a lamentation. This pre-Christian music, more than 2,000 years old, is still part of funeral ceremonies in certain regions of the Caucasus Mountains. The work of Teatr ZAR is based on the belief that theater does not only pertain to the Greek ‘thea’ – seeing – but that it is something that should be heard. The company was last in the US in 2009 for a tour that included performances at Chicago’s Millennium Park.


The Gospels of Childhood Triptych takes place on Thursday – Sunday, March 29 – April 1, at 7:30 pm, at the MCA Stage, 220 East Chicago Avenue. Individual tickets are $28. Student tickets are $10 and subject to availability. MCA Box Office is at 312.397.4010 or www.mcachicago.org. One free museum admission is granted with an MCA Stage ticket stub, valid up to seven days after the performance.

Teatr ZAR: The Gospels of Childhood Triptych from MCA Chicago on Vimeo.