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Juliet by Andras Visky

The Romanian ethnic-Hungarian playwright András Visky is one of the most esteemed contemporary playwrights of Eastern Europe.

Visky’s play Juliet is a riveting 90-minute solo work, a monologue spoken by the title character in near-delirium as a Job-like cry from the heart at the end of her endurance in a labor camp with her seven young children. The play is based on the experience of the author’s family under the brutal Communist regime in Romania during the early 1960s.

In 1939, Visky’s father had fled Romania for Hungary, where he met his future wife. After World War II, the couple returned to Transylvania, by then a part of Romania. There, Visky’s father, a pastor in the Hungarian Reformed Church, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the crime of “organization against socialist public order.” Soon after, his wife and their children were themselves deported to a Romanian gulag a thousand kilometers to the east. Visky was only two years old at the time. In 1964, the family was reunited when his father and other political prisoners were released during a short-lived period of relaxation of repression.

Visky—as poet, playwright and essayist—carries on in a different mode his family’s Christian faith. He is the author of more than a dozen plays, staged variously in Romania, Hungary, France, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and the United States. Juliet premiered in 2002 at the Thalia Theatre in Budapest, where it ran for several seasons. His play Long Friday is a stage adaptation of Kaddish for an Unborn Child by Imre Kertész (winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize for Literature), and received awards for Best play and Dramaturgy at the Hungarian National Theater Festival. A recent play, Born For Never, was rated as the best performance of the Festival d’Avignon (France) according to the critics’ votes. In 2009 Visky was awarded the prestigious József Attila Award by the Hungarian Minister of Culture. His 2010 play I Killed My Mother is set in the context of the Romanian orphanage crisis.

Visky is also the associate artistic director at the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj, Romania, and an instructor in the Department of Theatre and Television at the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj.

Karin Coonrod (Gordon Alumnus of the Year recipient in 2010) has established a close friendship and professional relationship with Visky, having already directed Juliet in Chicago at the Royal George Theater with Theater Y, and I Killed My Mother at the Green House Theater in Chicago (2010) and La MaMa Theater in New York (2012).

The production of Juliet in Orvieto continues Coonrod’s longstanding collaboration with Gordon College in Orvieto, both as a guest teacher in the semester program and as director of a number of theater productions sponsored by the Studio for Art, Faith & History and the Festival of Art & Faith. Her several productions of the medieval mystery plays gave birth to the international theater company “de’ Colombari” (named after the dovecote niches carved into the cliffs of Orvieto).

Juliet was performed in the courtyard of Palazzo Simoncelli on three consecutive evenings, June 22, 23 & 24, in both English- and Italian-language versions, with a reception between the two performances.

American actress Melissa Lorraine played the title role of the version in English. Cristina Spina, an accomplished young actress from Rome, performed the Italian version in a translation by Giovanni Papotto commissioned by the Studio for Art, Faith & History for this Italian premier.

The play has particular resonance in Orvieto because of the growing number of East European immigrants in the area, many from Moldova and Romania.

Orvietano pianist Riccardo Cambri played the music composed for the play by Tony Geballe.  Peter Ksander was the stage and lighting designer, assisted by Kevin Brouder. Oana Botez designed the costumes. Hannah Armbrust served as production manager and assistant to the director. Matthew Doll provided graphic design, and Marziano Fontana assisted with recording.  Produced by John Skillen. 

Special thanks to the Petrangeli family for offering their palazzo and giardino for the production; to Le Vellette vineyard and Galleria del Pane for catering the reception; to Kay and Csaba Börzsönyi for a relaxing evening at their villa; to Colombari members John Conklin and Anna Gincherman for their presence and encouragement; to the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Rome for providing rehearsal space; and to András Visky and his wife Saci and son Bence for coming from Romania to witness this premier production of Giulia in Italian.