La MaMa presents the US debut of "This Is Why We Live"
by Canada's Open Heart Surgery Theatre.
Poetry of Wislawa Szymborska, Polish Nobel Prize-winner,
is rendered in movement theater.

September 19-29, 2019
Thur-Sat at 8:00 PM, Sun at 5:00 PM
La MaMa (Downstairs Theater), 66 East Fourth Street
$25 Adult Tickets; $20 Students/Seniors + $1 Facility Fee
The first ten tickets for ever performance are available for only $10 each (limit 2 per patron, advance sale necessary).
Box office 212-352-3101,
Running time: 70 min.
Critics are invited to all performances.

NEW YORK, August 16 -- "This Is Why We Live" by Open Heart Surgery Theatre, a Lecoq-bred performance troupe from Toronto, brings the poetry of Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska to the stage using movement, poetry-theatre, live music and collage. La MaMa will present the work's US premiere run September 19 to 29 in its Downstairs Theatre, 66 East 4th Street.

In a work of live music, physical theater and clown, two actors and a cellist journey through the ironic and astonishing work of one of the greatest voices of the 20th century. Her poetry is performed in English, French and Polish and projected English translations are provided for the Polish and French language texts. Director is Coleen Shirin MacPherson, Artistic Director of the troupe.

Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012) was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and initial surprising recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. Her body of work (only 325 pieces), that is 4 to 5 poems annually, was quickly followed by the surprise that it is possible to put so much lightness and seriousness, so much tact and sensitivity, simplicity of imagery and complexity of philosophical contemplation in so few words. Irony and self-­-irony, wit, humor, playfulness are the hallmarks of her poetry, personality, and philosophical attitudes. She was known for sending cards with quirky collages (instead of letters) or organizing lotteries in which one could win small, delightfully kitschy prizes, “thinking up games and riddles,” as she put it, and for her delightful limericks. The fact that she called her Nobel Prize “a Stockholm tragedy,” says much about her. This playfulness and wit; seriousness and philosophical contemplation have been transposed into This is Why We Live, a work that celebrates the woman behind the words as much as the woman herself.

Her poetry explored humanity’s relationship with nature, the irony of existence and the existential questioning of our place within the universe and are all themes that are vital today. Through poetry this play relights the aura of routine, day-to-day life for our self-obsessed times. In Szymborska’s view, no matter how horrific the world may be we can still stand in awe, be amazed and remember what came before us. This state of truly seeing the world around us is explored in "This Is Why We Live."

"This Is Why We Live" was devised by its all-female ensemble using movement-based theatre techniques of École Jacques Lecoq, which center on the dynamics of movement of all things as a way of inspiring original theater. The creative challenge was to find the movement within Szymborska's poetry and transpose it to the stage without losing the poems emotional integrity and intimacy. The original poems and the translations were explored through improvisation and the poet's collages were hung in the rehearsal room. The play emerged from this exploration.

Szymborska's Swedish translator, Anders Bodegård, once said: “When I met Wislawa Szymborska in Kraków, I thought to myself that one should dance with this woman. Now when I have translated a selection of her poems I realize that I was doing nothing else but dancing. Her poems have this characteristic quality of dances, that is they allow the swirling dancer to maintain the balance.”

"This Is Why We Live" was originally performed at Plateau 31, Paris in 2016 and went on to The Theatre Centre in Toronto and the Hamilton Conservatory for the Performing Arts in Ontario. It was part of Off-Milosz Festival in June 2018 and was performed in Krakow and Katowice.

Open Heart Surgery Theatre is an all-women company led by Parsi-Irish Canadian theater maker Coleen Shirin MacPherson. It was founded in 2014 and is based in Toronto and London. Its work has been presented in Poland, France, UK, USA and Egypt.  Its performers are a mixture of Butoh and Lecoq-trained theatre makers whose interests lie in intercultural work. Its interdisciplinary approach employs multiple languages, live music, media and dance. Its website is

"This Is Why We Live" is created by Open Heart Surgery Theatre and directed by Coleen MacPherson. It is performed by Elodie Monteau (France), Alaine Hutton (Canada) and Dobrochna Zubek (Poland/Canada) to music by Zubek. Musical development and dramaturgy are by Tatiana Judycka and Dobrochna Zubek. Set and costume design are by Helen Yung. Lighting design is by Rebecca Picherak. French translation is by Piotr Kaminski. English translation is by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak. Dramaturgy and translation support is by Viktor Lukawski.

The piece was originally created as a co-production with Théatre de L’Enfumeraie in France and supported with a residency in London at Old Vic New Voices.

This project is funded by the Canada Council for the Arts. Other supporters include Polish Consulate (Canada) and Polish Institute in Paris and New York City.

There will be a reading of Wislawa Szymborska's poetry on Thursday, September 12 at 7:00 PM at WORD Independent Community Bookstore, 126 Franklin St, Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It will be moderated by Polish poet-in-exile and Slavic scholar Anna Frajlich-Zajac ( Company members of Open Heart Surgery will read poetry by Szymborska and share excerpts of the play. $5 charge is a voucher to the bookstore. Runs :60, info: and 718-383-0096,

Anna Frajlich-Zajac will also moderate a post-play discussion at La MaMa on Sunday, September 22 following the 5:00 PM performance.

La MaMa is dedicated to the artist and all aspects of the theater. La MaMa's vision of nurturing new artists and new work remains as strong today as it was when Ellen Stewart first opened the doors in 1961. La MaMa has presented more than 5,000 productions by 150,000 artists of all nations, cultures, races and identities. Cultural pluralism and ethnic diversity are inherent in the work created on La MaMa stages. Artists find a supportive environment for artistic exploration and audiences are part of the development of an artist’s work over time.
A recipient of the 2018 Regional Theater Tony Award, more than 30 Obie Awards and dozens of Drama Desk, Bessie, and Villager Awards, La MaMa has been a creative home for thousands of artists, many of whom have made lasting contributions to the arts, including Blue Man Group, Ping Chong, André De Shields, Adrienne Kennedy, Harvey Fierstein, Diane Lane, Warren Leight, Michael Mayer, Tadeusz Kantor, Bette Midler, Meredith Monk, Peter Brook, David and Amy Sedaris, Julie Taymor, Kazuo Ohno, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

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Critics are invited to all performances.