8.06.2023 - 10.06.2023 Events, Literature, Performing Arts, Polish-Jewish Relations

The Books of Jacob at La MaMa’s CultureHub

Artist Residency
April-June 2023
La MaMa’s CultureHub

The Books of Jacob
story by Olga Tokarczuk
directed by Krzysztof Garbaczewski
June 8–10, 2023
Thursday–Friday at 7:30pm ET
Saturday at 2:30pm ET
The Club/La MaMa
74A East 4th Street

La MaMa, CultureHub, and the Polish Cultural Institute NY present The Books of Jacob  present The Books of Jacob by Dream Adoption Society, a digital laboratory led by Krzysztof Garbaczewski. The Books of Jacob is inspired by Olga Tokarczuk’s Nobel prize-winning novel of the same name which explores the historical events surrounding Jacob Frank, a man who claimed to be the reincarnation of Sabbatai Zevi. In front of a live audience, Garbaczewski creates a hybrid theatre and virtual reality experience that delves into the ideas and relevance of Jacob’s transformative religious movement in 18th Century Europe.

Performers: Danusia Trevino, Anna Podolak, Alexandra Rudnicka
Adaptation/Script/Dramaturgy: Rebbeca Pierrot
Costume Design: Monika Palikot
Music: Jan Duszyński
Director, Set Design, VR Design: Krzysztof Garbaczewski

This event is part of Experiments in Digital Storytelling 2023, a series of explorations and experiments in digital storytelling in La MaMa’s newly renovated building at 74A East 4th Street.

Experiments in Digital Storytelling is made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and Radio Drama Network.Additional support for Krzysztof Garbaczewski’s fellowship in Experiments in Digital Storytelling is provided by TMU and Polish Cultural Institute New York.

Image by Krzysztof Garbaczewski.

La MaMa’s art and technology studio CultureHub and Polish Cultural Institute New York invited Poland-based digital laboratory Dream Adoption Society and his creator Krzysztof Garbaczewski to be at the center of Experiments in Digital Storytelling (EDS), CultureHub’s multi-pronged program that brings artists, writers, creative technologists, and scientists together to spark new forms. Pioneers of digital storytelling, Dream Adoption Society and CultureHub share a mission to investigate and develop noncommercial platforms for artistic online experiences. After collaborating remotely throughout the season, Garbaczewski will be in residence at La MaMa from the beginning of April to June 15, 2023, culminating in a final presentation as part of CultureHub’s annual showcase.

Garbaczewski’s project draws from Nobel prize-winning Polish author Olga Tokarczuk’s epic historical novel The Books of Jacob. Garbaczewski was first drawn to the book while incorporating metaphysical texts into his theatre practice, especially those of Jewish messianic thinker Sabbatai Zevi and Jacob Frank – the 18th Century man who claimed to be Sabbatai Zevi reincarnated. Tokarczuk’s novel takes on the perspectives of Jacob’s followers and others who witnessed his establishment of a transformative religious movement against the kaleidoscopic backdrop of Poland, Ukraine, Turkey, and Greece. Despite its power in 18th Century Europe, Jacob’s movement has largely been forgotten by European history. Struck by Jacob’s ideas and their relevance to today, Garbaczewski is motivated to explore the work as a multiplayer virtual reality experience.

The source material lends itself to the project, which is dependent on collaboration across fields, aesthetic disciplines, languages, and geographic locations. The Books of Jacob provides a fascinating panorama of many cultures inhabiting and mixing through centuries. The characters transcend their traditions to collaborate on a new system of thought. The text mirrors the project’s mission to combine CultureHub and Dream Adoption Society’s resources to create new systems of making and experiencing art.

Krzysztof Garbaczewski

Krzysztof Garbaczewski (b. 1983 in Białystok, Poland) Theatre director, author of adaptations serving as the basis of his so-called theatre installations, which combine performance, visual arts and music. His trademark collage/syncretic style, the use of video projections and live transmissions are related to our contemporary cyber-sensibility. Garbaczewski’s spectacles address the most important existential matters and search for liminal experiences. The director stages unobvious juxtapositions, for instance by situating the Romantic protagonists of Juliusz Słowacki’s Balladyna a genetics laboratory. He also confronts the question of contemporary Polish identity. A graduate of the Faculty of Theatre Directing and Dramaturgy at the Ludwik Solski State Theatre School in Cracow. Honoured with numerous awards, such as the “Passport” award of Polityka weekly. Krystian Lupa’s assistant in Factory 2 at the Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre in Cracow (2008). He debuted with Elfriede Jelinek’s A Sport Play in Opole (2008). His adaptations include The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Polski Theatre in Wrocław, 2009) and Kronos by Witold Gombrowicz (Polski Theatre in Wrocław, 2013). Director of the spectacles Odyssey (Jan Kochanowski Theatre in Opole, 2009), The Sexual Life of Savages (Nowy Teatr in Warsaw, 2011), The Death Star (Jerzy Szaniawski Dramatic Theatre in Wałbrzych, 2010), Balladyna (Polish Theatre in Poznań, 2013) and The Sky of Stone Instead of Stars (Nowy Teatr in Warsaw, 2013). Often collaborates with Aleksandra Wasilkowska on stage design. Garbaczewski also staged Victory Over the Sun (Grand Theatre – National Opera, 2014), The Tempest (Polski Theatre in Wrocław, 2015) and Hamlet (Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre in Cracow, 2015). In June 2016 Garbaczewski directed Robert Robur based on an unfinished novel by Mirosław Nahacz Robert Robur’s Incredible Adventures / Niezwykłe przygody Roberta Robura, published two years after the author’s death. Garbaczewski transfers dystopian reality, created by the writer to the world of media and virtual reality.  

This year, Garbaczewski staged Feast (Nowy Teatr in Warsaw). In 2017 he directed Plato’s “Symposium” at Nowy Theatre in Warsaw, Reymont’s “The Pheasants” at Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, and Wyspański’s “Liberation” at Studio Theatre in Warsaw. In 2018 he directed “Nietota” and “New Territory” at Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw. He also directed  “Miron Białoszewski/ Allen Ginsberg VR” in New York at The Performing Garage. In 2018 he also initiated an artistic collective Dream Adoption Society, an artistic collective based in Warsaw,  focused on virtual and augmented reality in the context of theater, performance and contemporary art exploring new technologies to create immersive, performative experiences.

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