Actor and writer Anthony Nikolchev presents the Chicago premiere of his solo show, Look, What I Don't Understand, as part of Thirteen Pocket's first season devoted to original works. This one-man drama accesses the historical narratives experienced by Nikolchev's family during their 1960s escape from the totalitarian hostility of communist Bulgaria to detainment in America, challenging himself and audiences to comprehend the experience of past generations through the perspective of present generations. Told through the words of a middle-aged Bulgarian immigrant at the gates of the US border, Look, What I Don't Understand integrates documentary theater with fictional narrative while exercising the audience's ability to process the alleged objectivity of history.
The issue of immigrant rights in the United States has become more complicated since the great migrations through Ellis Island a century ago, and this show attempts to remind Americans that this country was once, and still is, a revered destination for many seeking freedom and opportunity. Addressing issues of immigration, American and Eastern European nationalism and the ongoing struggle to understand our pasts, "Look, What I Don't Understand" is a play as well as examination of what it really means to be an immigrant, or the child of one. Five directors - including a dance choreographer, film director, writer and Obama field organizer - were employed to bring as many different perspectives to one story as possible, in order to reflect the myriad of ways one historical event can be interpreted. During the majority of the two month rehearsal process, none of the directors saw each other's sections; they only worked with the script segment they had chosen at the first rehearsal. Only in the final two weeks did they all meet to seam together an historical narrative that was no longer about one American immigrant, but about any American immigrant. Yuriy Kordonskiy served as the supervising director, working only with the play once the four sections had been stitched together. Post-show discussions with Nikolchev and guests will be held following the Sunday matinees on January 11, 18, 25, and February 1, 2009 (free with paid ticket).
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