Artisphere presents the world premiere of the complete The Lithuanian Trilogy

Aug 23, 2011

Artisphere presents the world premiere of the complete The Lithuanian Trilogy, a World War II-based cycle of plays inspired by true events, performed by award-winning actor Paul Rajeckas. The Trilogy will show sequentially September 15 -October 2. Tickets are $25; three-play packages are available for $60. All three plays stand alone as individual works.

In an effort to trace his family history, Rajeckas, of Lithuanian origin, traveled to his homeland. During his visit, he learned of his family's dark story of flight and survival, including discovering that his mother worked for the Gestapo while his grandmother helped rescue Jews during WWII. Rajeckas deeply felt the significance of his discovery and in collaboration with George Chieffet, a writer and World War II buff, propelled the story beyond personal experience and into the first play of the Trilogy, the critically-acclaimed Notes to the Motherland.

In this one-man show, called "compelling, gut-wrenching, and surprisingly funny" by New York Magazine, Rajeckas inhabits multiple roles with dignity and sensitivity. As young Paulius, and with a physicality often compared to Chaplin and Keaton, Rajeckas takes the audience on a dark and often hilarious journey to "the Motherland." In Lithuania, Paulius grapples with the memories and consequences of past events. Back home, his mother and grandmother-both played by the versatile Rajeckas-provide him with evidence of both good and evil while Vitus, his father, hides the truth. Central themes of assimilation, prejudice, love, loss and redemption are brought to life with Rajeckas' trademark humor and physicality. It is important to note that within the Lithuanian community, Rajeckas' perspective remains controversial as the Lithuanian nation continues to wrestle with its role in the Second World War.

Co-written by Rajeckas and Chieffet, and directed by Chieffet, Notes to the Motherland runs from Thursday, September 15 - Sunday, September 18. Notes to the Motherland was nominated for a Fringe First Award at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Rajeckas was nominated for best actor at the 2004 Festival by STAGE Magazine. His "remarkable physicality and offbeat humor make the show as endearing as it is cathartic" says Time Out New York and Back Stage says "every scene is a knockout." Notes to the Motherland premiered at the 78th Street Theatre Lab in New York City in October 2003 and was selected as a "Best Play of 2004" and received four stars from Time Out New York. The play went on to its Off-Broadway premiere at the 59th Street Theater in July 2004.

Love Cures Cancer: The Musical, also performed entirely by Rajeckas, is set in the 1970s. A Lithuanian father and his two sons cope with death as their wife and mother suffers from an incurable disease. The hapless trio, ill equipped emotionally to cope, struggle mightily to sidestep the obvious-Vitus, the father, tells windy often fabricated stories; his son Damon composes saccharine guitar ballads; his second son Pithias turns angst into zany mime sketches performed for loose change on the granite steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Somehow, they draw together becoming a family in the face of tragedy. Love Cures Cancer, written and directed by Chieffet with music by Rajeckas, runs Thursday, September 23-Sunday, September 25. Love Cures Cancer premiered at the HERE Arts Center in New York City in 2009.

The final play of the Trilogy cycle, My Lithuanian Sweetheart, premieres at Artisphere. Told as a series of surreal choreographed flashbacks, My Lithuanian Sweetheart begins when Vitus, now an old man, encounters two ghosts while riding the subway. These are his brother Festi and a beautiful farmer's daughter with whom he fled the Russian army in a compelling odyssey of the final days of the WWII. Between young Vitus and the farmer's daughter a romantic relationship unexpectedly flowers. In the face of amoral choices, love-struck Vitus is taunted by his embittered brother and bolstered by the courage and optimism of this young woman. My Lithuanian Sweetheart was written by Chieffet and based on his short story, My Lithuanian Sweetheart, which appeared in the Broadkill Review vol.3 issue 2 (May 2009). Directed by Rajeckas and featuring acclaimed jazz singer Ayana Lowe (whose luscious recording of Billie Holiday's Some Other Spring is featured) and Demetri Bonaros, My Lithuanian Sweetheart runs Friday, September 30 to Sunday, October 2.

Veteran actor and educator Paul Rajeckas has collaborated with many renowned artists including the late Jonathan Wolken, co-founder of Pilobolus Dance Theater. Rajeckas co-authored Notes to the Motherland which was named a "Best Play of the Year 2004" by and nominated for a Fringe First Award at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Rajeckas was nominated as best actor at the 2004 Festival by STAGE Magazine. As an educator, Rajeckas has been twice selected as a Doris Duke Foundation Creative Campus Innovation Artist. In November 2011, he will be the resident artist for the Telling Tales Project at SUNY Oswego. Rajeckas will also teach a graduate course in physical theater for the City University of New York School of Education in fall 2011. Rajeckas has a 30-year career teaching acting and communication skills to inner city children with his friend and colleague Neil Intraub. He resides in New York City.

George L. Chieffet received his MFA in fiction from the University of North Carolina where he studied with Fred Chappell, Allen Tate, Peter Taylor and Robert Watson. His poetry and short fiction has appeared in many magazines including the Comstock Review, Greensboro Review, Parting Gifts, Miller's Pond, Stickman Review and Pebble Lake Review. Recent stories will appear in periodicals Barely South and storySouth. He was a 2008 finalist for the Muriel Craft Bailey Award in poetryformerly wrote music reviews with Ayana Lowe for Jazz Now. As noted previously, he collaborated with Rajeckas in writing Notes to the Motherland, a Theatre Mania "Best Play of 2004." His play, Love Cures Cancer: The Musical, premiered at New York City's Here Arts Center in January 2009. Lucky in Love, a graphic novel created with artist Stephen Destefano, was published by Fantagraphics Press in September 2010; Part Two will be published in 2012. The play Lithuanian Sweetheart, part of the Lithuanian Trilogy, is based on his short story My Lithuanian Sweetheart which first appeared in the Broadkill Review vol.3 issue 2 (May 2009). Chieffet has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 30 years. He lives in River Vale, New Jersey.

Artisphere is a new breed of urban arts center that features four performance venues, three visual art galleries, a 4,000 square foot ballroom, free Wi-Fi and here CafeBar. Artisphere's wide array of programming ranges from contemporary visual art, live music, theatre and film to new media, family programs and salsa dancing. Admission to Artisphere and its new media and visual art exhibitions is free; there is a cost for ticketed events. Artisphere is open Monday through Friday from 11am to 11pm; Saturday from 11am to 2am and Sunday from 11am to 9pm. Artisphere is located at 1101 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia, two blocks from the Rosslyn Metro (blue/orange) and within walking distance of Georgetown. Artisphere is pleased to offer its patrons free parking evenings after 5pm and on weekends. For more information about Artisphere and its wide array of arts programming, visit