Borderlanders: Finding Their Voice Festival

Storytelling radiates the joy of being in the world at a specific place and time. It is nothing more than a celebration of living, remembering that we are alive. Sometimes, as Heidegger would say, that point escapes us.

poster for

"Sejny Chronicles" Experimental Play

at La MaMa La Galleria
in the Villages area
This event has ended - (2008-04-10 - 2008-04-20)

In Reviews by Edyta Kuzian 2008-04-23 print

Borderlands exist where nations draw their geographical boundaries. They are regions of certain suspense in which readiness and openness to new influences is a way of life. Are the boundaries merely psychological? Is our sense of belonging to a culture limited or enhanced by them? How does one thrive in the face of a silenced historical past? How do we begin to tell the story of the past? The Borderlanders: Finding Their Voice festival encompasses all of these questions.

The Borderland Foundation was established in 1989 in the small town of Sejny (pronounced SAY-knee) on the northeastern border of Poland. It presents previously unheard narratives of the past through theatre, film, poetry and lectures. Sejny before World War II was home to Poles, Lithuanians, Jews, Belarusians, Roma and Russians expelled from Czarist Russia. However, due to shifting borders, its multicultural past has given way to a homogenous present.

In The Sejny Chronicles, a theatre spectacle at La MaMa E.T.C., one is immersed in the stories of the past. Storytelling is a rare breed nowadays, especially among younger generations. In an intimate setting with a minature clay model of Sejny onstage, fourteen young adult actors, under the art direction of Bozena Szroeder, narrate and sing stories in the many languages and voices of Sejny’s past. They peek into the houses through windows, sit at wedding wassail tables and also among the audience, telling stories once spinned by the elderly. Each tale is dazzlingly woven into another, seamlessly transitioning from plot to plot in Yiddish, Polish or Russian. The old ethnic songs featured in the performance transgress boundaries. Sung in one voice they vibrate the warmth of human closeness beyond borders, nations and cultures.

One could parallel Sejny with multicultural New York, or any other large city today in which we coexist, where our lives are unavoidably entangled with ‘the Other’. Perhaps it is the lost past revived through storytelling that makes the experience of Sejny especially magical. I think it is a combination of finding delight in an homage to the past as well as a nostalgia for storytelling, which was once one of the most fundamental ways to weave one’s identity and sense of belonging to a community. Storytelling radiates the joy of being in the world at a specific place and time. It is nothing more than a celebration of living, remembering that we are alive. Sometimes, as Heidegger would say, that point escapes us.

Edyta Kuzian

Edyta Kuzian. Edyta is currently working on her PhD in Philosophy at The New School for Social Research. In order to pair her academic experience with praxis, she has worked in theatre, dance and recently, an art gallery. Her role varies from coordinating marketing and fundraising strategies to simply appreciating and writing about art. » See other writings

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