Garry's Garbles 03
Theatre has a responsibility to creatively enlighten society to both the beauty and the flaws of the world. Since COVID, I have found it increasingly more difficult to remain isolated in a bubble of ignorance with regards to international events of concern. Theatre, film and the plight of artists in countries like the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia have been the conduit for my understanding of the world that I had seemingly barricaded myself from experiencing. ETC’s latest production will be the second time ETC has partnered with California-based translator John J. Hanlon in presenting a world premiere English translation of a foreign playwright. In 2014, Hanlon’s translation for COLONEL PILATE by Latvian playwright Aleksey Scherbak was premiered by ETC. HOW WE BURIED JOSEF STALIN, like many of ETC’s production blurs the line between reality and storytelling, breaking down a fourth wall while simultaneously respecting the convention. “It really is the perfect play for ETC; it has creative storytelling, it’s meta-theatrical and it’s brand new,” states Joel Sanchez-Avantes who is a Producing Associate with ETC and is also featured in the production. The story revolves around a theatre troupe presenting the first scene of a play, also titled HOW WE BURIED JOSEF STALIN, to a press corps as a preview of what is to come, since the play has yet to be finished. A representative of the Minister of Culture arrives to implore the troupe to continue on with the presentation because the President has requested it. This request propels the theatre troupe into a cyclone of hysteria and excitement, demise and deceit. “The play really does show how easy it could be to become a dictator in a power vacuum where there are scores of people looking to one person for direction,” mentions James Ogden who is directing his second production with ETC. In HOW WE BURIED JOSEF STALIN, that person is ironically the director and lead actor of the troupe Voldemar Arkadievich, played by ETC first-timer Alex Walker. Solomonov’s play is about the troubling plasticity of the human psyche, about its readiness, under certain conditions, to reproduce the most dangerous practices of the totalitarian past, which never disappeared. In fact, as recent events in Russia and elsewhere make clear, that past has seized the present moment and is about to become the future.