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Back to Back Theatre
Ganesh Versus the Third Reich

May 16–19, 2013

This program is presented as part of Bodies of Work: Festival of Disability Arts and Culture.

“A remarkable production… it’s a vital, senses-sharpening tonic for theatergoers.”
—New York Times

“Wows its audience with human simplicity—it’s unlikely that you will have ever seen anything quite like this production”
—Los Angeles Times

One of the most exciting theater groups today, Australia’s acclaimed Back to Back Theatre makes its Chicago debut with an unforgettable work. The story begins with the elephant-headed god Ganesh travelling through Nazi Germany to reclaim the Swastika, an ancient and sacred Hindu symbol. As the intrepid hero begins his journey, another narrative is revealed—the behind the scenes process of bringing this play to the stage. The actors themselves feel their weighty responsibility as storytellers and begin to question the ethics of cultural appropriation. The cast and their increasingly overbearing director argue passionately over knotty issues of power and control, exploring our complicity in the abuses of power and conversely, the possibilities of human compassion.

What does it mean to oppress? When does one group get to impose its will on another? Passionate and at times confronting, this courageous double-narrative brims with enchanting visuals and transforming theatrical moments, challenging the audience to examine who has the right to tell a story—and who has the right to be heard.

Back to Back Theatre’s ensemble primarily features actors with perceived intellectual disabilities, a group of people whose position of marginality provides them with a unique and at times subversive view of the world.

Running time: 105 minutes
Due to coarse language and adult themes, Ganesh Versus the Third Reich is recommended for mature audiences. The production is a work of fiction and does not purport to be an accurate representation of historical fact or scripture.


Program Notes

GANESH VERSUS THE THIRD REICH: Promo from Back to Back Theatre on Vimeo.

About the Artists

Back to Back Theatre was founded in 1987 in Geelong, Australia, to create theatre with people who are perceived to have a disability. It has gone on to become one of Australia’s leading creative voices, focusing on moral, philosophical and political questions about the value of individual lives. The stories they create explore “the cold, dark side” of our times, be it sexuality of people with disabilities, the uses of artificial intelligence and genetic screening, unfulfilled desire, the inevitability of death, and what the fixation with economic rationality and utilitarianism means for people excluded from the “norm.” With Bruce Gladwin as Artistic Director, Back to Back has nurtured a unique artistic voice, placing the ensemble at the centre of social and cultural dialogue. Through a process of research, improvisation and scripting, and collaboration between the ensemble, Artistic Director, and invited guests, new work is realized and performed to audiences around the world.

More info about Back to Back Theatre

Artists Up Close

Post-Show Talk
Fri, May 17

In recognition of the rich topics raised in Ganesh Versus the Third Reich, the MCA is organizing a moderated post-show talk with members of Back to Back Theatre and Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Director and Senior Fellow, Centre for the Study of Culture & Society in Bangalore, India.

Rajadhyaksha is curator of a film series presented by the Smart Museum in conjunction with the special exhibition The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989 (on view at the Smart through June 9). Notable books by Rajadhyaksha include The Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema (1999), Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India (2005), and Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid: From Bollywood to the Emergency (2009).


Generous support for Back to Back Theatre: Ganesh Versus the Third Reich is provided by Lisa Yun Lee, Ellen Stone Belic, Sharon and Lee Oberlander, Cheryl and John Seder, Marcia E. Lazar and Alan Amos, Cynthia Raskin, and Jim Stone.