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Playwrights Corner


Playwrights corner

Frédéric Sonntag
© DR
The George Kaplan International | Frédéric Sonntag


At the core of George Kaplan is the idea of a collective contemporary myth, one whose origin has been lost, and which everyone around the world could keep alive, in which each person could take part, making his or her own special contribution. There is also an issue at the core of the play that is very dear to me: the question of the complex and multiple relations between fiction and reality.

George Kaplan

So one shouldn't be too surprised that reality soon took over from fiction and that, while I hadn't even finished writing George Kaplan, a kind of George Kaplan International began to emerge, to my great surprise and delight. Through this interest in the play and the ensuing translations, publications and productions, the project itself came into fruition, the myth of George Kaplan was being spread, thus participating in its future development.

This International was born, so to speak, in June 2011 in Copenhagen; Simon Boberg had invited me to take part in the 3rd European Playwriting Festival at the Husets Teater and at first I was meant to present a totally different play, but during the 2010/2011 season, Simon had the excellent idea of asking me several times if I was in the process of writing something, his intention being to present the playwrights' most recent plays in the festival. I told him about George Kaplan and committed to finishing the play by June. I can only thank Simon Boberg, without whom I would probably still be working on writing George Kaplan, convinced that the more I worked on a play, the better it would be (therefore the importance of deadlines). The experience was thus quite unusual at the Festival at the Husets Teater, where the play was presented (in a first unfinished version) in a staged reading, because the text I was presenting was not only still being written, but I had never even heard it read, so I listened to it for the first time in Danish. Starting from there, the fate of George Kaplan seemed to have a link to Denmark (where the premiere was held in March-April 2013), and more generally speaking, to the international scene, where projects often get moving faster than in France. And it is interesting to note that most of these projects are connected: the Husets Teater was recommended by the Sala Beckett during my stay at the Obrador d'Estiu in 2009 at the initiative of the SACD (and the next production of George Kaplan was Catalan, staged by Toni Casarès at the Sala Beckett in July 2013, and to be revived in February-March 2014); audience members at the Danish staged reading in June 2011 included Philippe Lemoine, who was to take up his post at the French Institute in Belgrade where, as part of the Transcript project, George Kaplan was translated, read and published in Serbian in 2013… A George Kaplan network was thus born, connecting Barcelona to Copenhagen and Copenhagen to Belgrade, a network that then spread to other languages and countries including Germany (the German translation was used at first for the Catalan sub-titles during the German tour), the U.K., Slovenia, Italy and Russia.

One can always wonder about the reasons why a particular text plays better abroad than another, more easily or more quickly generating interest in other countries. Beyond the more pragmatic considerations that might provide a possible explanation: a reasonable number of characters, a rather simple set design, themes strongly rooted in contemporary issues, including forms of paranoia, anonymous figures, conspiracy theories, international espionage, storytelling, etc., I like to think that, in the case of George Kaplan, one of the reasons is that staging the play is an integral part of the narrative and the myth that it is about, that reality approaches fiction or that fiction is diluted in reality, that staging it adds another level of mise en abyme to those already present.

I believe another important reason for the interest in George Kaplan is the central issue of the role of fiction. George Kaplan speaks about stories, myths, narratives and their political ramifications, asking the question of what stories we can tell today, and how we tell them, with respect to dominant narratives. So in a sense it raises the question of theater, its relationship to fiction, its implications with regard to other forms of mass narrative, which is certainly an issue that goes beyond the borders of language and culture: what stories are we still able to tell today? What counter-fiction can we propose today to the kind of fiction that is plaguing us from all sides?

Frédéric Sonntag
February 2014
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