Sep 21, 2019 - Oct 6, 2019

Tickets: $90

Why? Peter Brook & Marie-Hélène Estienne

Theatre for a New Audience / Crossing the Line Festival

Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place
Brooklyn, NY 11217

“A global wanderer in search of theatrical truth.”
— The Guardian

The most celebrated theater director of our time, Peter Brook, and his longtime partner, Marie-Hélène Estienne, present a new work mulling the ultimate questions of existence.

A poignant reflection created by a master theatrical mind as his career comes to a close, Why? is an extraordinary introspective opus by a relentless artist and visionary. In it he asks: “Why theater? What’s it for? What is it about?”

This US premiere marks the highly-anticipated festival debut of Brook, who is celebrated for his work in theater, opera, film, and literature. Brook, who has been based in France since the 1970s, has revolutionized the performing arts around the world for multiple generations of artists through his work and writings.

Text & stage direction: Peter Brook & Marie-Hélène Estienne
Lighting Design: Philippe Vialatte
Cast: Hayley Carmichael, Kathryn Hunter, Marcello Magni

Why? received its world premiere at C.I.C.T/Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, France on June 19, 2019.

The project was co-commissioned by C.I.C.T./Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord; Theatre for a New Audience; Grotowski Institute in Wroclaw; National Performing Arts Center, Taiwan R.O.C. – National Taichung Theater; Centro Dramatico Nacional, Madrid; Teatro Dimitri, Verscio; Théâtre Firmin Gérmier, La Piscine.

Why? is supported by the Trust for Mutual Understanding, the French Institute/Alliance Française, and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States.

Why? is presented as part of Crossing the Line Festival. Crossing the Line Festival is produced by the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF).

Why? is part of Peter Brook/NY, a citywide recognition of Peter Brook & collaborator Marie-Hélène Estienne’s legendary artistic achievement.
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Peter Brook 

Throughout his career, Peter Brook (b. 1925, London) has distinguished himself in theater, opera, cinema, and writing. He directed his first play in London in 1943 and has since directed more than 70 productions in London, Paris, and New York. His work with the Royal Shakespeare Company includes Love’s Labour’s Lost (1946), Measure for Measure (1950), Titus Andronicus (1955), King Lear (1962), Marat/Sade (1964), US (1966), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1970), and Antony and Cleopatra (1978). In 1971, he founded with Micheline Rozan the International Centre for Theatre Research in Paris and opened its permanent base in the Bouffes du Nord Theatre in 1974, where he has enjoyed great success, most recently directing The Suit (2012), The Valley of Astonishment (2014) and Battlefield (2015) – many of these in both French and English. He has directed operas at Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera House, the Bouffes du Nord, and the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Brook’s autobiography, Threads of Time, was published in 1998 and joins his other titles including The Empty Space (1968), The Shifting Point (1987), There are no Secrets (1993), Evoking (and Forgetting) Shakespeare (1999), and The Quality of Mercy (2014). His films include Moderato Cantabile (1959), Lord of the Flies (1963), Marat/Sade (1967), Tell me Lies (1967), King Lear (1969), Meetings with Remarkable Men (1976), The Mahabharata (1989), and The Tragedy of Hamlet (2002, TV).  

Marie-Hélène Estienne

Writer and director Marie-Hélène Estienne first worked with Peter Brook in casting the 1974 production of Timon of Athens at the Bouffes du Nord. She subsequently joined the Centre International de Créations Théâtrales (CICT) for the creation of Ubu aux Bouffes (1977). She was Brook’s assistant on La tragédie de Carmen, Le Mahabharata, and collaborated on the stagings of The Tempest, Impressions de Pelléas, Woza Albert!, and La tragédie d’Hamlet. With Brook, she co-authored L’homme qui and Je suis un phénomène at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord. She wrote the French adaptation of Can Themba’s play Le costume and Sizwe Bansi est mort by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona. In 2003 she wrote the French and English adaptations of Le grand Inquisiteur based on Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. She authored Tierno Bokar (2005) and the English adaptation of Eleven and Twelve by Amadou Hampaté Ba (2009). With Brook, she co-directed Fragments, five short pieces by Beckett, and adapted Mozart and Schikaneder’s Die Zauberflöte for the acclaimed Une flûte enchantée. She a co-creator of The Suit (2012) and The Valley of Astonishment (2013).

Theatre for a New Audience / Crossing the Line Festival

Theatre for a New Audience
Founded in 1979 by Jeffrey Horowitz, Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) is a modern classic theatre. It produces Shakespeare alongside other authors such as Harley Granville Barker, Samuel Beckett, Edward Bond, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Adrienne Kennedy, Richard Maxwell, Richard Nelson, Wallace Shawn and TFANA has played Off- and on Broadway and toured nationally and internationally.

In 2001, Theatre for a New Audience became the first American theatre invited to bring a production of Shakespeare to the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), Stratford-upon-Avon. Cymbeline, directed by Bartlett Sher, premiered at the RSC; in 2007, TFANA was invited to return to the RSC with The Merchant of Venice, directed by Darko Tresnjak and featuring F. Murray Abraham. In 2011, Mr. Abraham reprised his role as Shylock for a national tour.

After 34 years of being itinerant and playing mostly in Manhattan, Theatre for a New Audience moved to Brooklyn and opened its first permanent home, Polonsky Shakespeare Center, in October 2013. Built by The City of New York in partnership with Theatre for a New Audience, and located in the Brooklyn Cultural District, Polonsky Shakespeare Center was designed by Hugh Hardy and H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture with theatre consultants Akustiks, Milton Glaser, Jean-Guy Lecat, and Theatre Projects. Housed inside the building are the Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage (299 seats)—the first stage built for Shakespeare and classical drama in New York City since Lincoln Center's 1965 Vivian Beaumont—and the Theodore C. Rogers Studio (50 seats). 

TFANA’s productions have been honored with Tony, Obie, Drama Desk, Drama League, Callaway, Lortel and Audelco awards and nominations and reach an audience diverse in age, economics and cultural background. 

Theatre for a New Audience created and runs the largest in-depth program in the New York City Public Schools to introduce students to Shakespeare and has served over 130,000 students since the program began in 1984. TFANA’s New Deal ticket program is one of the lowest reserved ticket prices for youth in the city: $20 for any show, any time for those 30 years old and under or for full-time students of any age. 

Crossing the Line Festival
FIAF supports national and international cultural practices by welcoming and nurturing new ideas and influential perspectives from around the world. FIAF critically maintains that practice through the Crossing the Line Festival by collaborating with leading cultural institutions in New York to present trailblazing local and international artists. Since its inauguration in 2007, Crossing the Line has cultivated an increasingly large and diverse following, and received numerous accolades in the press including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Time Out New York, Artforum, and Frieze. Festival performances have earned Obie and Bessie awards.