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* * *

The Washington Post
Jeanne Cooper
The Mystery of Jesus
"a.k.a." (Also known as Christ)

It may be hard for any American production of Stefan Gechev 's "a.k.a." to have the same impact it did when it premiered in Bulgaria, the playwright's homeland, in 1989. A courtroom drama about the disappearance of the body of Jesus, it was suppressed for 17 years, appearing onstage about the time Bulgaria's pro-democracy forces appeared on the political scene. Nikolai Tsankov, director (and translator) of the English version at the District of Columbia Arts Center, was a member of the cast.

"The viewer is ultimately the one who's on trial," says Tsankov. "It has a great emotional and intellectual impact on the audience, and the {Bulgarian} audience were willing to participate. It sounded clearly like a political piece, a strong voice against the totalitarian regime. Just as the Roman Empire fought against the birth of the new idea of Christianity, there the Communist regime fought against the new ideas that questioned or demolished its authority. Just mentioning the name Jesus onstage was an incredible phenomenon, the first time it had been done in 50 years. We had people kissing our hands and crying after that."

Tsankov, who translated the play with his American wife, Mimi, doesn't expect the same political sparks from the DCAC production (which includes, from left, Vanessa Maroney, Naomi Major, Johanna Rodriguez and Stan Kang). But he says American audiences can identify with other aspects of the play.

"The great thing is it talks about humane values that can easily be understood here," Tsankov says. "It's still about the pursuit of spiritualism, about establishing values that can give strength to ask questions about our existence, and moreover about the danger of manipulation and speculation with people's ideas and beliefs."


* * *

The Washington Post
Leonard Hughes
`a.k.a.' (Also known as Christ) Places Beliefs on Trial

...Written by Bulgarian writer Stefan Gechev , "a.k.a." probes into the issue of Christ's Resurrection in a two-hour fictional courtroom trial convened a few days after the Crucifixion.

The emotional battle over Christianity's most basic premises produces rich dialogue and intriguing characters but little action.

...But even if religious philosophy is not your cup of tea, the passionate and spirited performances of this small professional cast will certainly keep you entertained.


* * *

United Bible Societies
From: LJerden@aol.com
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1999 05:35:11 EST

I must say that I was impressed by reading the play script you sent. It is of the highest quality.

Larry R. Jerden
Head of Communications
United Bible Societies


* * *

Correspondence with Prof. Susan Olden-Stahl, University of Maryland

13517 Wisteria Drive
Germantown MD 20874/USA
01 August 1994

Dear Mr. Gechev,

We have never met, but I am taking you up on your program note to request reactions to your play 'A.K.A.' I teach a course in 'Modern Balkan History' for the University of Maryland, University College. I took my class to see the play and to speak with Nikolay Tsankov. The play is powerful and came across well in the English translation. The theater where 'A.K.A.' was staged was intimate and stark and this also contributed to the powerful impact on the audience.

The universality of the themes of truth and deception made the play universal in appeal. However, after studying Bulgaria as a Balkan country, the students felt a special empathy for the production. You may have already heard from my students, individually.

I appreciate your dedication to truth and art and your having persevered through the oppressive decades. It seems more ironic than coincidental that the American debut of your play preceeded the Bulgaria's victory over Germany during the world Cup - also in America for the first time.

I was an exchange student in Yugoslavia in 1971-1972 and also visited Sophia for a short time.

Thank you again for a wonderful and powerful play.

Sincerely - Suzan Olden-Stahl
August, 1994


* * *

Dear Professor Olden-Stahl,

I have been out of  Sofia for a month, and I have found your letter on my return. That can explain the tardiness of my reply.

Thank you, for your kind words about my play. I am glad to hear your students like it, too. I shall be really delighted to get letters from them about the play as well.

In the reviews in Washington papers they emphasize the political and social side of the text, which has therefore such a significance for the Bulgarian public before the changes of 1989. That is true, no doubt, but only partly true, for beneath this implied meaning I have tried to put another one. That is I would like to explain.

The principal aim of my literary texts (poems, plays, short stories) have ever been to make certain, no matter how small, number of readers or spectators, to think over the problems I pose in my texts, and which are related to fundamental issues of human existence, and conduct to oneself and to others. It means to evoke desire, especially among young people, to ponder whether human existence has any goal, and if so, whether it is not the one of spiritual elevation. And that would mean rejection of personal egotism fo the sake of the others.

But what is the problem, I have put in my play, to be solved by those people who are apt to speculate. Some people claim Jesus had resurrected, other, he hadn't. This the only normal alternative. But is it really so? Is it the only one? I am deeply convinced that along the bipolar alternative there are many other solutions, for between the two poles (+  -), there is enough space in which other solutions can be inserted. Such a solution (third one!), I have tried to find in this play. For the great misfortune of mankind is that we do not  accept the third possibility. We determine that this person, this race, this class, this nation, is evil, and we declare them our enemies. But is it so? There are thousands of cases when we declare a person being evil, judging from only one of his acts. For another observer, who judges from different act of the same person, he is good and acceptable. But is the truth not in the possibility of uniting the two poles, or to put it bluntly, to accept that we all, led by our egotism, show ourselves sometimes in good light, and sometimes in bad light. If we accept this, we shall cease to judge the others, but we shall begin to understand them. And, if we reach this stage, we shall overcome our egotism, hatred, negative emotions. There are cases, of course, where principal act of a person, on the whole, are negative for himself, and for the society. Then we can dispatch him to the negative pole, without hating, or abhorring, just for his own good.

These are few thoughts I'd like to share with you the deeper meaning of my play. I know, in this second half of our century, people demand from arts only that offers curiosity, amusement, dynamism, and all that means oblivion. They seek oblivion of the vacuum in their souls left after the loss of faith in God and paradise, worried and overstrained in their efforts to live better. But it seems to me that great questions can be ignored, can be sent into oblivion, but they can never be annihilated, for otherwise we shall become captives of our egotism, of that "me first", which is the imperative of millions of people. And my deep conviction is, knowing the history of mankind, that we are created to make this little planet a spiritual paradise. Otherwise, we shall be destroyed. Or shall sooner destroy ourselves.

Excuse me, please, for the rather long letter.

Stefan Gechev



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© Електронно списание LiterNet, 21.10.2000, № 10 (11)