‘I heard you calling’

Perhaps the loneliness we feel on our own is not as painful as the loneliness we can feel with others sometimes – with a lover, friend, family, colleagues, in a crowd… Snow Q’s poet Maria Jastrzębska has always been interested in what gets in the way of people communicating.  Gerda and Kai, two of the characters in her reimagining of the Snow Queen story, are young people whose relationship has broken down. They identify as non-binary, refusing to be confined by traditional gender roles or social expectations. Both are bilingual, switching effortlessly between Polish and English. However Kai has lost all sense of connection, not only with the community they grew up in but with Gerda, their closest friend. Ice has entered Kai’s heart. Gerda tries to find them in a landscape that’s part contemporary, part fairy tale.

Rita & Maria with Mark
Rita & Maria Z rehearsing with performance director Mark C Hewitt

‘Even if you had the money to phone/knew which door to open/in these marble white corridors...Nie ma, nie ma nikogo...No one here, not now, not on the ice..’

‘I heard you calling/I heard your voice/though it was daleko./I knew that it was you..Even though snow was falling/had covered up your footprints/ although the wind was moaning/and wilki-wolves answered it,/stars had lód in their eyes/and I was weary…’

We are delighted to work with performer Rita Suszek again and welcome emerging actor Maria Ziółkowska who will join us in performing Maria Jastrzebska’s poems during our tour in February 2020. Below they talk about rehearsing for Snow Q the live literature production. For tickets click on: https://snowqproject.wordpress.com/snow-q-live-lit-event-2020-tickets/

Rita & Maria rehearse
Can Gerda and Kai reach one another?

Rita:

This is my second time working on Snow Q and I couldn’t be more excited! This time we not only have more rehearsal time, but also I get to work with a fantastic co-actor. Maria Z is doing a great job as Gerda and it is thrilling to argue with another person as Kai. Somehow fighting with your own recorded voice, as I did in the previous incarnation of Snow Q, does not provide the same satisfaction… We are also adding more colour to the Crow character – dare I say, it shall ruffle some feathers in the best way possible. Overall, the work is going well and I can’t wait to perform in this unique show!

Maria Ziółkowska:

I cannot express the level of excitement I felt when I got invited to be a part of the Snow Q production! I feel so humbled and blessed and this excitement is only growing stronger as we progress with rehearsals. Being Gerda is a constant challenge, they bash into icy walls head on, full speed and each time bounce off with a new perspective, even the resulting frustration ultimately fuels their growth. To have the opportunity to step into such a complex character’s shoes is incredibly fun and rewarding. Having Rita as my co-actor is a treat and a great source of inspiration, she’s dynamite to work with and fearless in her commitment to the part. I simply cannot wait to share this beautiful and dynamic story with a broader audience. I feel like it’s going to resonate with a lot of hearts, as it sure melts mine.

SONY DSCFeatured image and headshot photo courtesy of Malcolm Glover.

Hurray! We have good news!

It’s getting colder & darker here…but we have good news (& in these times we need all the good news we can get) …we’re delighted to announce Arts Council England have awarded our Snow Q project a grant to build on our work to date and create Snow Q as a live literature production which will tour early next year, February 2020 – see dates below. fullsizeoutput_2e5d

Thank you all for waiting so patiently to hear what we’re doing next. We haven’t been idle! We’ve been figuring out our next move and applying for funding. As Dagmara, fine artist of our initial project, put it: Snow Q is like a tree and many branches grow from it. This is the live literature branch. We hope more will bloom.

The production will showcase poems by Maria Jastrzębska which will be performed by 2 actors, (in English, Polish and Ponglish) and directed by Mark Hewitt. We will be incorporating strands of the original Snow Q music composed by Peter Copley and artwork by Dagmara Rudkin. We are thrilled to be working with film-maker Wendy Pye again and she will be creating 3 filmpoems using all these elements alongside of the production.

Watch this space for ticket details and snippets of the new form Snow Q is taking.  We hope you will keep following our blog and telling your friends about it.

Snow Q Live literature performances:

February 13th Tongues & Grooves, Portsmouth

February 18th Lewes Live Literature, Lewes

February 20th Centrala, Birmingham

February 21st Lambeth Libraries, London

February 22nd The Spire, Brighton

We are also immensely grateful to the following for their continued or for new support:

Lewes Live Literature for their financial assistance and to all our partners: Blueprint 22, Centrala (Birmingham), European Literature Network, Lambeth Libraries, Marlborough Theatre, New Music Brighton, New Writing South, Polish Cultural Institute, Spire Arts, Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy, Tongues & Grooves.

Cover image by Wendy Pye.

 

 

‘Afterka’ (is Polish for after-party)

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An immense thank you to everybody who came to experience Snow Q our collaborative installation at the Regency Town House Annexe on December 21, 2018!  We were thrilled to share our work with you.  Thank you also for writing your thoughtful and very encouraging feedback on the backs of ‘fish’ – the way that in Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen story the old woman of Lapland and the Finnish woman communicate with one another, writing on fish and then, having read the message, add the fish to a stew. We are still processing everything at the moment but hope to share some fish with you before long.

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Is it all over? We certainly hope not! We are delighted to have freelance documentary film-maker Rosie Powell putting together a short film of highlights from the installation which we will be posting soon. Meanwhile Dagmara and Wendy, our visual team extraordinaire, will be giving an artists’ talk about Snow Q at the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton on Monday January 14th. All welcome!

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Adventures in language and identity – Rita

In our project to re-imagine the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen along contemporary themes we’ve been lucky in attracting some fantastic organisations as partners, but have also found amazing individuals to work with. We’re extremely excited to be working with actor Rita Suszek who will perform live as well as in recordings at our installation on Dec 21st.   Here she tells us a bit about herself and her approach to Snow Q:

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When I first saw the casting call for Snow Q, I had to pinch myself, it was so perfect. It included words such as “non-binary”, “poetry”, “fluent in both Polish and English” – terms that describe me as a person, but also pertain to my artistic career. I have lived in the UK for over 6 years now, and have all but given up on being cast in projects as an actor, largely because I don’t present like people’s idea of a Polish girl (slim, short, blonde, long-haired); I have been writing and performing my own work for some time now. To find a casting like that was a miracle; to get the part was a gift.

I have been learning English steadily since age 10, with first exposure to it from about age 5; it is my second language, second home. When I moved to the UK in 2012 I already spoke it fairly fluently and was starting to write in it. Even though my actual degree is in Polish Literature, the everyday usage has taken its toll: when I converse with family, I’ll suddenly realise I translated idiomatic English phrases or the very sentence structure into Polish. The concept of Polglish (or Ponglish, as Maria calls it) is something of an inside joke for me and my loved ones.

In many ways, I feel both Polish and not-Polish at the same time: Polish because I am an immigrant and won’t be shamed for that, political rhetoric be damned; because languages and writing have always been my home; because as a Literature graduate I have roots in the writing of Mickiewicz, Świrszczyńska and many others – Polish poets, novelists and playwrights that shepherded me through my childhood and adolescence. But my not-Polishness – living somewhere else; finding home in another language that at times allows me more breathing room; disagreeing strongly with Poland’s dominant rhetoric, conservative mindset and ruling political paradigm – is equally important to me. Gender identity, something very poignant in Snow Q, is also a concept I have given a lot of thought over the years – partially because growing up in Poland, I have found no way to simply… be. If I was indeed a girl, I was a “girl interrupted”, mostly by ubiquitous misogyny: something that to this day I work through, both privately and through my art.

Given all that, I have been really enjoying the experimentation with phrasing and alliteration in both languages that is the text of Snow Q. It feels like a secret code, tailored to a few, partially accessible to many. Being an immigrant, you are often expected to do all the work necessary to understand and be understood: learn the words and phrases, look up the cultural references, catch up on the backstory. Against this backdrop, Snow Q gives me a feeling of relief. There is a playfulness to dropping Polish words here and there, disrupting the fluency of the experience for the English speakers. Not to mention it connects both halves of my brain, that often, when left undisturbed, thinks in both languages at the same time – a patchwork-y mass of meaning, mess of words.

There is some magic that I feel coursing through the project as a whole; an extraneous meaning that is born out of connecting different art forms and people. If nothing else, there is nuance. We are bringing things that are cast as opposites or binaries (Polish and English; genders; ice cold, loving warmth – isolation and friendship) and creating a living, breathing portrayal that is multifaceted and full of depth. Taking on a story that everyone knows sometimes makes you realise that we don’t know it all that well; the tale of Snow Queen becomes a vehicle through which we can find ourselves again. In our troubled yet beautiful and fractured times, connection is the answer – and art is one way to find it.

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Photographs courtesy of Wendy Pye and Juwel Haque

A short Intermission – Maria

All through this year’s glorious U.K summer we’ve been thinking about snow and ice –  literally and metaphorically – for our project to reimagine Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen story. The nights are drawing in now, the wind is cold and we’re getting  closer and closer to our event.  Scroll down for more information & how to book.  (Maria tried to chase the sun but found she couldn’t escape.)

IMG_7646On a short break in beautiful Málaga, not only did the rain catch up with me, but who should I bump into: Mr Andersen who travelled to Málaga in 1862, on one of the ‘first cultural tours of the 19th century’. Here is a sculpture of him by Maria Córdoba in the Spanish town he said he felt ‘most happy and comfortable’ in.

As if that wasn’t enough at CAC (Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga) I found myself mesmerised by this and other paintings by Hernan Bas – all of men or boys. It’s called Thawing.

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Paintings of men/boys generally hold a currency of ‘everyman’-ness while women are interpreted very differently in the art world which in turn determines how non-binary people are seen. Bas’ young men in the exhibition are referred to as androgynous. I’ve yet to see a major exhibition by an out lesbian artist.

Nevertheless I was enchanted by this artist’s work: his exploration of adolescence, the shifts between past and present in his paintings, of which he says that he likes to make images ‘that describe the middle of the story, maybe the intermission, but never the end’.

 

Back to Snow Q EVENTS: On December 1st at 4pm Lewes Live Literature presents a sneak preview from Snow Q. Maria Jastrzębska will talk about the Snow Q project, with performances by actor Rita Suszek of new text written in the curious hybrid language of Ponglish (half English / half Polish). An intimate try-out of a new work in progress at the secret space that is LLL HQ. Numbers are very limited and entry is free but by invitation only.  If you would like to come please contact: leweslivelit@gmail.com.

On December 21st between 4pm and 9pm Snow Q presents its COLLABORATIVE INSTALLATION at the Regency Town House Basement Annexe in Brighton/Hove.  For all the information about our event please go to our Snow Q event page or click HERE – we recommend booking! This will be the culmination of this phase of our work. Which isn’t the same as the end of course…