In Celebration of the National Gallery of Art’s Exhibition Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music
at MEAD THEATRE LAB PROGRAM AT FLASHPOINT
OPENING RECEPTION: TUES, 08.27.13, 8PM
WASHINGTON, DC — To coincide with the National Gallery of Art’s exhibition Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music, CulturalDC welcomes Slovenia’s Mladinsko Theatre, and their production of Norman Allen’s solo drama Nijinsky’s Last Dance. Exploring the artistry and madness of Diaghilev’s greatest star, the play joined the Mladinsko repertory in 2010, and has toured throughout Europe. Washington-based playwright Allen said, “I saw the production in Ljubljana and was thrilled with the matched intimacy and innovation. It’s a stunning performance by Primož Bezjak, and fascinating in its use of theatre craft. I felt I was seeing it for the first time.” In addition to support from CulturalDC, the Mladinsko Theatre’s visit is funded by the City of Ljubljana, the Slovene Ministry of Culture and the Slovene Embassy in Washington.
Vaslav Nijinsky, renowned as a dancer but even more influential as a groundbreaking choreographer, is featured prominently in the National Gallery’s exhibition. Curator Sarah Kennel commented, “Nijinsky was a vitally important figure in early twentieth-culture. His virtuoso technique, which combined powerful athleticism with feline grace, revived interest in male dancing more generally while his chameleon-like ability to transform himself in different roles made him into a cult figure. But it was the innovative choreography for works like The Rite of Spring that revealed Nijinsky as an iconoclast.”
In CulturalDC’s intimate Mead Theatre Lab, the production finds a home similar to its original venue, where it played the smallest of the Mladinsko’s three theatres. Director Marko Mlačnik explained, “Our ideal is to perform to an audience seated in a single row that circles the stage. More than that and we lose the intimacy that is required for this piece.” Allen saw the production while guest artist with the company in spring 2011. “The Mladinsko is ensemble based, with a history of being politically subversive,” he said. “It was interesting to see the play shaped to become a part of that tradition.”
Jenny McConnell Frederick, Director of Performing Arts at CulturalDC, commented, “We were immediately intrigued when Norman came to us with this idea. His play The House Halfway was a big success in our Source Festival last year, and we’re always happy to support our alums. The chance to partner with new colleagues in Slovenia around this exhibition is an opportunity we couldn’t miss.”
Uršula Cetinski, artistic director of the Mladinsko Theatre, added, “We feel that we are following in the footsteps of this great dancer, who also crossed the Atlantic to bring his work to American audiences. We share Nijinsky and Diaghilev’s Slavic heritage, which brings a special sensiblity to our performance. There are many theatre-lovers in Europe who have come to love this production. We hope to add to their number during our stay in Washington.”
Nijinsky’s Last Dance premiered at Arlington’s Signature Theatre in 1998. Directed by Joe Calarco and starring Jeremy Davidson, it won four Helen Hayes Awards, including Outstanding Play. Subsequent incarnations include a Kennedy Center reprise of the Signature original in 2003, and productions across the United States, South Africa and Europe.
A tour de force solo drama, Nijinsky’s Last Dance delves into the hidden recesses of the great dancer’s psyche as he fights for his sanity. Slipping into his own legendary past, Nijinsky enters the personas of his greatest collaborators, from Ballet Russe impresario Sergei Diaghilev to prima ballerina Tamara Karsavina. As he embodies his own rise and fall, Nijinsky offers a glimpse into the unraveling of the twentieth century.
With Primož Bezjak as Nijinsky, direction is by Marko Mlačnik, choreography by Mateja Rebolj and Slovenian translation by Jakob J. Kenda. The creative team includes composer Bojana
Šaljić Podešva, set and costume designer Barbara Kapelj Osredkar, lighting designer Matjaž Brišar, sound designer Silvo Zupančič, dramaturg Uršula Cetinski, language consultant Mateja Dermelj, make-up artist Barbara Pavlin and stage manager Janez Pavlovčič.
Nijinsky’s Last Dance will be performed in Slovenian, with English surtitles. Performances are Monday, August 26 through Friday, August 30 at 8PM. Tickets are $25, and available online through culturaldc.org. Running time is approximately 80 minutes.
Mladinsko Theatre: Nijinsky’s Last Dance
Pay-What-You-Can-Previews: Monday, August 26, 8pm
Opening Performance and Reception: Tuesday, August 27, 8pm
Performances: August 26 – August 30, 2013
Venue: Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW (near Metro Center & Gallery Place Metro)
For Tickets: Call 866.811.4111 or visit culturaldc.org.
ABOUT MLADINSKO THEATRE
Established in Ljubljana in 1955 as the first professional theatre for children and youth in Slovenia, the Mladinsko was gradually re-structured into a company focused on interdisciplinary, experimental work. Known for the creative range of its stage directors and the strength of its ensemble, the Mladinsko investigates the universal paradoxes of civilization, and seeks to develop a code of new theatrical practice, new visual paradigms and new views on the classics. All company members research and develop, risk and create together.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
Norman Allen’s previous work with the National Gallery includes scripting PBS documentaries based on exhibitions on Vincent Van Gogh, Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent. His work for the stage has been commissioned and produced by the Kennedy Center, the Shakespeare Theatre Company and the Karlin Music Theatre in Prague, where his contemporary Carmen (score by Wildhorn & Murphy) ran for three years. While playwright-in-residence at Signature Theatre, Allen premiered Melville Slept Here, Fallen from Proust and In the Garden (Charles MacArthur Award, Outstanding New Play), among others. He was invited to join the Playwrights Arena development program at Arena Stage in 2013. Recent projects include the acclaimed, inter-disciplinary Once Wild: Isadora in Russia.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART
The National Gallery of Art is the sole US venue for Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music. The exhibition, on view in the East Building through September 2, showcases some 150 original costumes, set designs, paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs, posters and film clips in a theatrical multimedia installation. Included are original costumes worn by Nijinsky in performance, a Rodin study of the dancer, and film presentations of his groundbreaking choreography for Afternoon of a Faun and The Rite of Spring.
CulturalDC creates opportunities for artists and arts organizations that stimulate economic development and improve the quality of life in the greater Washington region. We envision the arts as a driving force in community development and as an integral part in sustaining DC as a vibrant metropolitan area. CulturalDC ensures that there are spaces and resources for artists and arts organizations to live, create, exhibit and perform throughout the city.
ABOUT THE MEAD THEATRE LAB PROGRAM
CulturalDC operates the Mead Theatre Lab Program and its intensive mentorship program for performing artists and independent theatre companies. Inaugurated in January 2006, the program provides theatre space, technical production support and production mentoring. A panel of noted DC theatre professionals selects the projects and provides guidance to the chosen producers. The result is an eclectic group of innovative, edgy productions and an environment in which emerging performing artists can grow.
The Mead Theatre Lab Program at Flashpoint, a CulturalDC project, is generously sponsored by the late Jaylee Mead. Additional support is provided by The Dallas Morse Coors Foundation for the Performing Arts, the Max & Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, the Mary & Daniel Loughran Foundation, The Washington Post Company and The Weissberg Foundation.
Funding for CulturalDC is generously provided by The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, The Kresge Foundation, the MARPAT Foundation, the Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Prince Charitable Trusts, The Share Fund of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and many other generous partners. Marvin is CulturalDC’s 2012-13 Wine Partner.
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