The Nobel Prize-winning Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek is best known in English-speaking countries as the author of The Piano Teacher and other novels (or, more likely, through Michael Haneke’s film of the first), but she’s one of the most accomplished playwrights of the German-language theatre as well. You wouldn’t know it from US stages — despite her notoriety, productions of Jelinek plays are rare, even in New York.
In February the Women’s Project will go some way to rectifying the situation with a production of Jelinek’s play Jackie, one of her “Princess Plays,” directed by Tea Alagic and featuring, in a solo performance, Tina Benko. The Web page for the show describes the play thusly:
From the controversial pen of Elfriede Jelinek, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature, flows the solo play Jackie, an intensely theatrical dissection of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and the myths surrounding her well-coiffed veneer. Like Jelinek’s acclaimed novel The Piano Teacher, the film of which won the 2001 Gran Prix at Cannes Film Festival, Jackie is a disturbing exploration of submission, power, and the hypocrisy of everyday life.
The translator is Gitta Honegger, who has translated several of Jelinek’s plays as well as those of her compatriot Thomas Bernhard; an interview with Ms. Honegger can be found here.
It was only last year that Jelinek’s Sports Play had its English-language premiere in Great Britain; Jackie provides a unique opportunity to see one of the German-language theatre’s most controversial dramatists at work. Jackie opens 24 February and runs through 31 March at the City Center Stage II, 131 West 55th Street; tickets are now available here.
I have briefly written about Jelinek here; but the first port-of-call for anyone interested in Jelinek’s stage work should be this 2006 issue of Yale’s Theater magazine, which features the texts of the “Princess Plays” as well as important essays by Honegger and Jelinek herself.