Friday, October 17, 2008

Performance: I- Fest 2008, Best of European Solo Acts

Performance: I- Fest 2008, Best of European Solo Acts

Press Release
For Immediate Release : October 2008
Contact: Zygmunt Dyrkacz 773.278.1500

Fourth edition of I-Fest presents Mr. Oleg Liptsin taking on Dostoevsky's A Propos of the Wet Snow and Mr. William El-Gardi taking on the Shakespeare inspired Yasser by Abdelkader Benali. I-Fest performances (15 from 10 countries in past 3 years -- Austria, England, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Switzerland and Ukraine) give a stage to nonconforming citizens. They choose their language, material and art form closest to their own I. They represent the growing population of individuals influenced by 21st Century new realities -- global culture, international migration, mixed marriages, and even world cuisine and attire. They dispel the myths of collective identities, often used for political and social simplification and manipulation. Reality is much richer than what's in a name.

O. Liptsin is a Russian Ukrainian and a Catholic Jew whose artistic partner is a Taiwanese woman. Sudanese Egyptian born Muslim W. El-Gardi immigrated to Switzerland and is now a citizen of the United Kingdom. The author of his play, Yasser, was born in Morrocco and now, similar to the director Teunkie van der Sluijs, is a citizen of the Netherlands. This very well received play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was produced by the British Theatre Tours International.

So it is fitting that I-Fest is produced also by a couple of Polish/African American misfits. It also illustrates that international theater, in whatever simple and inexpensive way, can still be shown in our City.

I-Fest will also featuring the following panel discussions
The State of Race - Oct 31st 6p (Special Guest Laura Washington, Chicago Sun Times)
Staging 1 Man Show for Edinburgh Festival - Nov 2nd 630pm (Special Guest Brian Shaw, Columbia College Chicago
Shakespeare meets the Middle East - Nov 9th 630pm (Special Guest Ray Hanania)

Chopin Theatre - 1543 West Division

10/28, 31 - 7p/830p
11/1, 6, 7, 8 - 7p/830p
11/2, 9 - 3p/430p
The U.S. premiere of Yasser (60 min) will be followed by intermission and A propos. (90 min.)
Both are in English.

$15/ea. or 2 for $20.
Tix: 773-278-1500

British Council, Consul General of the Netherlands, Wicker Park/Bucktown SSA#33

More info:

The Presentations

Yasser is an uncompromising, yet playful monologue by award-winning writer Abdelkader Benali. Yasser Mansour is a young, idealistic and fervent Palestinian actor, living and working in Europe. As he prepares in his dressing room to go on stage to play Shylock, the archetypal Jew in The Merchant of Venice, he finds himself torn between his Palestinian identity and the role he is about to play. He would really rather play Arafat. And Yitzhak Rabin, as he used to do as a young boy in Palestine. What's more, he has just been robbed of all his props necessary to perform his role, and dumped by his fellow actress and girlfriend Lucy, tired of his political soliloquies. It's an hour before curtain up, the pressure mounts, but where is his nose? As he maneuvers through conflicts, roles and identities, Yasser discovers that the Arab understands Shylock better than anyone else: can anyone really cut a pound of flesh without spilling blood?

Yasser was nominated for the 2008 Expression of Freedom Award by Amnesty International. Reviews and more information at

A Propos of the Wet Snow - (Based on "Notes From Underground" by Feodor Dostoevsky).
One of the most famous literal articulations on the irrationality of the human soul has been adapted into an emotionally challenging and physically active work touching on the main problems of modern life: hatred, destruction, intellectual and physical terrorism.

These "Notes" theatrically deliver the story of the notorious Dostoevskian hero - a person from
the underground. On examples from his own life he demonstrates the paradoxical quality of the human soul - "the territory on which God and devil carry on their battle". Starting from the philosophical question about the nature of evil in the human soul our protagonist quickly moves into the anecdote from his life. Getting drunk at the farewell party with his old school fellows he challenges one of the most popular and successful members of their group. Confronting this successful young man our hero is questioning all prosperous parts of society, everyone who corrupts with public rules and lies, who represents the corpus of "life winners". In his drunken debauchery the man from the underground defends the individual truth and personal freedom against compliance with social rules and norms of behavior.

By challenging the relationship between the individual and society, Dostoevsky touches upon a most vulnerable issue of the day - why people choose a freedom of doing something that hurts them rather than complying with public rules and be rewarded for it?

Reviews and more information at

Production Team - Yasser

William El-Gardi (Yasser Mansour) was born in Egypt in 1978 in an Egyptian-Sudanese-Turkish family and grew up in Egypt, the Sudan and Switzerland before settling in the United Kingdom, where he trained at Mountview Academy in London. His most recent theatre credits include Touch by Rikki Beadle-Blair at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London, as well as the Theatre Café Symposium at the Unicorn Theatre in London with Company of Angles. He made his Edinburgh debut in 2007 in The Container by Claire Bailey which won a Fringe First and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression award.

Other recent theatre credits include Failed States, a political Musical satire at the Pleasance Theatre,
London and Time of the Tortoise at Theatre 503 in London. UK tours of: Tangier Tattoo with
Glyndebourne Opera House, OneFourSeven with the Dende Collective/Lyric Hammersmith, and a
Welsh national tour of Flowers from Tunisia with Theatre Ibyd/Theatre Clwyd. Other theatre
includes Laters with Rikki Beadle-Blair at the Tristan Bates Theatre, Release The Beat-The Musical
with Mehmet Ergen at the Arcola Theatre and Funky Stuff at the King's Head Theatre, all in

In Film and TV, William recently completed guest roles in the BBC series Whistleblowers, The Bill, and Channel 4's new drama Saddam's Tribe. Other recent credits include Last Flight to Kuwait for the BBC, a lead role in the BBC/HBO film Dirty War, and Danish Dogma feature Brothers with Suzanne Beir. Other TV includes: Spooks (series 3), and Black September-Days that Shook the World, both for the BBC, The Sketch Show-Clithero for Channel 4 and Murder Prevention for World productions/Five.

Teunkie van der Sluijs (director) was born in the Netherlands in 1981 and is a graduate of the three year directing programme at Rose Bruford College in London. Recent directing work includes productions of Robert Holman's Kerry Leaves Home (Battersea Arts Centre, London), Boris Vian's The Empire Builders (Pleasance Theatre, London), Howard Barker's Judith (Rosemary Branch Theatre, London) and The Love of a Good Man (Rose Bruford College), devised piece The Great Monkey Trial (Rose Bruford College) and The Expected, a modern opera by composers ThomasMyrmel and Wilbert Bulsink, which toured Europe in 2006-2007. College productions include Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, Don Duyn's Den Uyl and Marguerite Duras' India Song.

Van der Sluijs holds a BA and MA in Drama from the University of Amsterdam, and directed several productions in the Netherlands, including Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis, Stanislaw Witkiewicz' The Madman and the Nun and Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano, as well as co-directing a devised production based on the writings of Nikolai Gogol. His work has toured in Europe, to North America and to North Africa, where he was awarded the Récherche Théâtrale Award 2003 by the Arab theatre critic's jury at the Festival International de Monastir, Tunisia ("This masters the vocabulary of theatrical depiction; it presents us a distinguished piece of artistic work" - Le Temps). He has taught drama at the University of Amsterdam and City University London, and is currently working as coordinator of the international new writing programme at Rose Bruford College. He has taught theatre workshops in the Netherlands, the UK, Canada and Tunisia.

Van der Sluijs aims to (re)discover and re-imagine the great texts of European writers, both classic and contemporary. He has a keen interest in the dark comedic undertones of conflict - both personal and political.

Esteban Nuñez (lighting designer and technician) was born in 1975 in the Basque Country, an autonomous region in Northern Spain. He studied physical and technical theatre in France and Ireland and worked in puppet theatre, clowning and visual theatre all over Europe. He subsequently completed a BA in lighting design at Rose Bruford College London, and set up Fishylight Productions, a UK-based company in lighting design and visual imagery for performance.

Abdelkader Benali (author) was born in Morocco in 1975 and has lived in the Netherlands since 1979. He is one of the best-known contemporary writers in the Netherlands. For his debut novel Wedding by the Sea he won the prestigious Geertjan Lubberhuizenprijs, and the Prix de Meilleur Premier Roman Étranger in France ("Vivid, mythic and heartfelt" - Financial Times; "Full of verve and hilarity" - Le Soir). He was awarded the 2003 Libris Literature Award in the Netherlands. Critically acclaimed because of his lucid and insightful treatment of migrants' issues, Benali has been widely translated, and some of this work has been published in English. He reported from Beirut under siege in the 2006 Lebanese war. With Yasser, Benali won the H.G. van der Vies Award for best new play in the Netherlands in 2002; in the same year, the play was selected
for the Nederlands-Vlaams Theaterfestival, the showcase festival of the 10 best dramatic works of
the Low Countries.

Andy Sinclair-Harris (designer) was born in the United Kingdom in 1982 and trained at Rose Bruford College. He holds a degree in theatre design and an MA in Theatre Practices. He is a celebrated designer/director and concept artist with an extremely diverse portfolio including theatre, puppetry, events, parades and theme parks.

His credits include Zoetrope the first aerial show to be performed at Rose Bruford College which he both designed and directed. When the Lights Go Out an interactive, visually powerful piece and The Autumn of His Years, a production using only projection. Andy also formed the production company Kinematic, and has already become renowned for creating visually stunning performances without dialogue. He has also designed Howie the Rookie at Battersea Arts Centre in London, and And the River Weeps for The Miskin Theatre. He has also assisted Bob Crowley with the design of Disney's Tarzan and Mary Poppins, both of which ran on Broadway.

Production Team - A Propos of the Wet Snow

Oleg Liptsin (Dostoevskian Hero/Director) - Mr. Liptsin studied theater at Russian Academy of Theatre Arts (GITIS) in Moscow with Anatoly Vasiliev and Mikhail Butkevich. He worked as an actor and assistant director at renowned Moscow State Theatre "School of Dramatic Arts" (Theatre de l'Europe) under artistic direction of Anatoly Vasiliev. For 3 years Oleg performed in a worldwide known production "Six Characters In Search Of An Author" by Pirandello.In 1989 Oleg established one of the first independent theatre ensembles in Ukraine - Theater Club, Kiev - which became a leading experimental and avant-garde theatre-laboratory in the country.

In early 90s Oleg began his directing and teaching career in Europe and other parts of the world. In 1991, a short-term residence in Schaubuhne (West Berlin) while Luke Bondy was directing "The Winter's Tale" by Shakespeare. In 1993, experimental theatre/installation project "Kusma" based on Andrej Platonov in frames of art festival in Upper Austria. In 1993-94, teaching at the "Konrad Wolf" Film and TV Institute in Potsdam/Babelsberg, Germany. Later, a production based on Joyce's "Ulysses" for International Festival "Kontakt" in Poland. In 1995, teaching at the National School of Drama in Delhi, India. From 1995 Oleg Liptsin began working in USA and later - in Canada, from 2003 - in Paris.
Awarded a National Award for Experimental Work in Theatre by the Theatre Union of Ukraine, won the "Best Director" award and 4 nominations for "Best Director" and "Best Actor" in Ukraine, participated in more than 30 international festivals.Currently Mr. Liptsin works as director and professor of drama in different parts of the world. He established and conducted the post-graduate educational program in stage directing at National University of Theatre, Film and TV in Kiev, teaches acting at Slavic University in Moscow and at Shelton Theater School in San Francisco, manages the InternationalTheaterEnsemble - recently established experimental international theatrical network. Oleg Liptsin's most recent directing credits include: 'Outcry" by T.Williams, "A Propos Of The Wet Snow (notes from the underground)" by F.Dostoevsky, "The Gamblers" by N.Gogol at PODOL Theatre in Kiev, "Happy Days" by S.Beckett - ITE production in San Francisco and Berkeley, "The Living Corpse" by Leo Tolstoy at Shelton Theater in San Francisco, "Oscar" by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt in Kiev, "The Elephant Man" by B. Pomerance in San Francisco and "The Serpent-Woman" by Gozzi in Kiev. Currently Oleg works on "The Overcoat" by N.Gogol and continues his effort on developing the innovative theatrical network - ITE/InternationalTheatreEnsemble

Ai-Cheng Ho (Prostitute) - Ai-Cheng Ho was born in Tau-yuan, Taiwan. She studied acting with Oleg Liptsin at Acting International in Paris and was trained in Jacques Lecoq's acting method at the International Jacques Lecoq Theatre School in Paris and International School of Performing Arts in London.

Ai-Cheng's other performing trainings include the Chinese opera and contemporary dance, which she's mastering for years. She is trained in martial arts: Tai-ji quan and others.

Since 2004 Ai-Cheng Ho is a member of ITE, she participated in such ITE projects as 'Cherry Orchard On Plain-Air' based on Anton Chekhov, 'The Snake-Woman' by Carlo Gozzi (Commedia dell'arte) and 'Mozart and Salieri' by Pushkin.

Ai-Cheng is Master of Performing Arts with major in Film study from the University Paris I-Panthéon-Sorbonne.

Kevin Quennesson (Video Art Programming) - Kevin was born in France and studied sciences in the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, leading French school of Engineering. He came to the USA in 2004 and studied philosophy at Stanford and computer vision and graphics at Georgia Tech. His interests are in the intersection of technologies and the humanities.

He showed his first work called "conscious=camera" in August 2005 at Siggraph, LA in the Emerging Technology and Art Gallery category. The "conscious=camera" based on real-time body-tracking is a poetic interpretation of the phenomenology of images expressed by JP Sartre in "L'Imagimaire". In 2006, he presented at Siggraph in Boston his "traces" installation aimed at representing people passage and absence. "traces" is featured in the large scale "quell code" (source code) Kunst an Bau installation in the new headquarters of SAP in Germany. "Quell code" was made in partnership with the Ars Electronica Futurelab in Austria.

Since 2006 Kevin is a featured artist of the Victory Media Network in Dallas, TX - largest outdoor media art gallery in the world. Kevin Quennesson now lives in California and is a software development engineer at Apple Inc.