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Purge at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York

La MaMa’s company Actors Without Borders ITONY produces the US premiere of Sofi Oksanen’s play Purge (translated Eva Buchwald) at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York in February 2011. Purge will be directed by the theatre’s artistic director Zishan Ugurlu who has already given visibility to contemporary drama from outside the US over the past few years by directing plays by Lars Norén and Franz Xaver Kroetz amongst others. La MaMa’s programming of Purge is a breakthrough for Finnish dramatic literature in the United States.  It is the first time that a Finnish play is produced for a major US stage.

”The US publication of the novel Purge might have influenced the decision to program the play. The novel will attract readers and raise interest in the play” Sofi Oksanen assumes.

Oksanen visited La MaMa during her recent trip to New York.

”I liked it. The space is pleasant and the director lives upstairs” Oksanen describes the commitment of the New York based director of Turkish origin to La MaMa.

Director actor Zishan Ugurlu and playwright Sofi Oksanen agree that Purge fits La MaMa’s stage perfectly.

Founded in 1961 La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club is one of the most important off-off-Broadway theatres. Situated in New York’s East Village the theatre has nowadays three main stages and an art gallery. At the moment it is also home to the famous Great Jones Repertory Company. Zishan Ugurlu is a member of the Great Jones group.  La MaMa was founded by Ellen Stewart (born in 1919) with the idea of promoting a multicultural and international theatre and giving visibility to upcoming stage artists. Amongst those who started their career under the wings of La MaMa are artists like Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Diane Lane, Jackie Curtis, Patti Smith and many more. To this day, Stewart is carrying on with her artistic work.

Zishan Ugurlu is a critically acclaimed actress and director who has worked in New York since 1995. In 2004, she played for example Helena in the monumental opera The Trojan Women directed by Andrei Serban and composed by Elizabeth Swados which has toured all over the world. Ugurlu has also performed in directions of La MaMa founder Ellen Stewart. Apart from Purge Zishan Ugurlu currently works on a three part stage piece based on texts by Ingmar Bergman.

Before Purge’s New York Premiere at La MaMa, the play will be performed as a reading at the conference of the Theatre Communication Group in Chicago in June 2010. After the reading Sofi Oksanen will be interviewed via satellite connection.

The conference in Chicago is a yearly event organized by the Theatre Communication Group, the national organization for the American theatre, which is attended by directors and producers of the most important theatres of the country. Mikko Viherjuuri, director in residence at the Tampere Theatre, is invited to the conference in June. He has been actively promoting Finnish drama in the United States for several years. Sofi Oksanen’s Purge is just one of the dramatic texts that are promoted by the joint project of Mikko Viherjuuri and the Finnish Theatre Information Centre.