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Martyna Majok in Fort Tyron Park

Corey Ruzicano: Absolutely, and as someone who has known people from these many places and who has gotten to travel to different parts of this country and a little bit outside, I wonder how that perspective has affected your work. Have their been lessons from your travels that have influenced your writing or are there lessons that you think New York could learn from other parts of the world about how to make or take in work?

Martyna Majok: I’ve been to two places that I’ve seen theater outside of this country – I think just two? I’ve been to Poland and to Russia. I went to Russia with a program in grad school that was similar to one of the Lark programs where they translate your play into Russian and they stage it. I speak Polish; I don’t speak Russian, but I know enough cognates to have an idea of what’s going on. It’s funny – they flew me out to Moscow, translated my play and then when I got there they were like, What are you doing here? Get out! Playwrights, we don’t want you here! The director that was trying to get me out of the room said he didn’t speak English very well so I’d have to go but it turned out the two main actresses were from Poland. They said they’d translate for me but the director was not having it. For that particular experience though, I was totally fine to be out of the room. I mean, Isherwood wasn’t about to show up to Moscow to like, make or break this production. I was happy to go out and grab a drink and walk around Moscow and, you know, See you at opening!

CR: Wow, so it’s a really director-centric culture there?

MM: Oh yeah, it seems like they’re the auteurs there. I was on a panel with some Russian playwrights who became really emotional talking about how they felt like their words were disrespected. In their experiences, the directors would cut or insert or do whatever they want with their text. It seems if you want to have the more authorial voice in Russia, you become a director. But that was just my one experience. It seems similar in Poland. In this Russian production of my play, I was more watching someone’s response to my work versus my work. It was interesting to me as an experiment. And in Poland, from what I understand, it’s similarly director-driven, where often groups work for a long time devising a piece of theater that’s written together. Or they work from a text that they choose from freely. And it’s very politically engaged. I went out this past December for the Festiwal Boska Komedia in Kraków – my first time seeing Polish theater in Poland – and these shows were not shy about attacking the direction of the current government. I’d love to be able to work on a text for a really long time. Or to devise with a group – like Joint Stock, where people meet around an idea, talk and explore, and then the writer goes off with those thoughts and creates something for an ensemble. I’ve only gotten to do that once and I loved it.

full conversation