The Segal Center’s celebration of Prof. Daniel Gerould’s Quick Change: Theatre Essays & Translations proved to be a justifiably crowded event. If you didn’t reserve tickets in advance, chances are you didn’t get in.
The evening was divided into three parts. It began with a staged reading of the English-language premiere of Andrzej Bursa’s one-act play, Count Cagliostro’s Animals (1957). Originally written in Polish, Gerould’s translation was presented by members of Counterpoint; it was directed by Allison Troup-Jenson and performed by Jason Emanuel as Albandine, Andrew Vallins as Bartholomew, and Alenka Kraigher as Catherine. The play opens with the sounds of stomping boots, and we soon learn that revolutionaries outside on the streets seem to be on the march against the Count Cagliostro. These three characters are all being held captive in a basement by the unseen Count. Each has been tortured by him in ways that have left emotional and/or physical injuries. Throughout the play these three characters seem to support the revolutionaries, then switch sides, back and forth. In the end, one of the three characters is dead, and as the other two hear more sounds of marching boots, there seems to be the suggestion that they may shift their support, yet again.
This staged reading was followed by a brief discussion between Gerould and Troup-Jensen. Both agreed that this script seems particularly timely, especially given all the unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere in the world. Clearly these characters want freedom, but they are willing to adjust allegiances as their conditions change.
The evening concluded with a conversation between Gerould and Elinor Fuchs. Fuchs is currently a professor at the Yale School of Drama, and had been a student of Prof. Gerould’s at the CUNY Graduate Center in the 1990s. Fuchs asked Gerould about the many resonances conjured up by the title Quick Change. Gerould said that these multiple potential meanings were intended, but that the title grew out of an essay on Witkiewicz that is included in the collection. From their discussion we learned about the diverse topics that this book explores, and how some of them came to be of interest to Gerould. We also found out that the book was intentionally arranged, not by chronology or by subject, but to allow the reader to move around as s/he saw fit and discover recurring themes in these essays that play off of one another.
Quite a few people in the audience were current and past students or colleagues of Prof. Gerould. I left appreciating even more the example he has set for so many of us through his teaching and his scholarship. I also look forward to reading Quick Change.