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The ugliest woman in the world. A woman with a beard. Human monkey. Mysterious animal. These and other epithets were used to describe Julia Pastrana, a woman whose illness today has a nice-sounding name: hypertrichosis.
She was born in 1834 and immediately placed in an orphanage. Well-read, extremely feminine, she spoke several languages, sang like an angel, danced like a devil, performed in plays, conversed with the audience. Through most of her life she toured with a travelling monstruarium, a freak show, from which she was bought out by Teodor Lent. Then, as her personal impresario, Lent took her on tours in Europe as a star and a medical oddity. Scientists hailed her as an unusual hybrid, a creature existing between the human species and animals. In the meantime, Lent married her, they had a child together, who died shortly after birth, and the ugliest woman in the world passed away a few days later. Her husband had the two stuffed and toured the world showing these elegantly dressed mummies in glass display cases. He apparently went mad towards the end of life. Julia's funeral took place 153 years after her death, on February 12, 2013. Dozens of scientific papers, several literary works, one poem have been written about Pastrana. And now a play..
Malina Prześluga has written a story about the life of Julia Pastrana, the ugliest woman in the world, especially for Teatr Animacji. Justyna Jaworska has this to say about the play:
“Prześluga made an extremely difficult attempt to tell young people about the “ape woman” in the puppet and vaudeville convention. This convention is perfectly suitable here because it remains within the boundaries of a fair curiosity. (…) She has written a moving play which is also funny and rebellious. (…) The play is written with verve, tenderness and empathy, exposes the fair of misfits, while also carrying a more universal message - after all, it is addressed to an audience at a critical age where you do not have to be a freak to feel like one. It embarrasses a little and also works a bit like a therapy.”
("Dialog" monthly magazine, February 2015)
The performance is directed by Maria Żynel, a graduate in Acting and Directing at the Department of Puppet Theatre Arts of the National Academy of Dramatic Art. For several years associated with the Malabar Hotel Theatre, she also pursues her own independent artistic projects.
PASTRANA, a puppet and actor show for adults, is a song-filled vaudeville of horrors. A freak show and a theatre of the macabre, which – like a hundred and fifty years ago – are to move the viewers and make them think about the limits of what is normal.
The show is the result of work of young artists who in their quest touch upon difficult and uncomfortable issues in order to tell about them in an original way.
Festivals and tours
21.06.2016 – 8th International Festival of Drama Schools "Lalka nie lalka" (Białystok, Poland)
22.11.2015 – 6th "Ostfahen" Festival (Frankfurt on the Oder, Germany)