‘Wonder Bread’ by Daniusia Trevino at Theater for the New City, NYC

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Wonder Bread
Danusia Trevino in Wonder Bread.

So that one of his daughters could see the world, the father of Polish-born actress Danusia Trevino had to work hard, save and borrow. To get Danusia her first airline ticket to New York, he bribed the ticket clerk (a lady with a purple beehive and a golden tooth) with a pig. The first time Danusia arrived here to visit relatives in Valley Stream, NY, she ate a peck of fresh fruit and drank a gallon of Tropicana (no pulp). She couldn’t sleep wondering if she would put her Wonder Bread in the toaster the next morning, or eat it soft. Her story of coming to America, and coming into herself here, is “Wonder Bread,” a solo show. Theater for the New City will present the premiere of the piece March 11 to 28, 2010, directed by Aleksey Burago.

“Wonder Bread” is a fairytale-like odyssey about a farmer’s daughter from behind the Iron Curtain. Escaping her poor village in Poland, where she helped her family grow tomatoes, she flew here first for a three week vacation and subsequently came back to stay. Eventually she achieved the secure married life in America that her parents had wanted for her, but realized that it was not exactly what she desired. At 28, she met Iggy Pop and experienced teenage rebellion. She rejected her past, painfully tried to reinvent herself over and over, only to realize one truth: there is no hope for happiness without the acceptance of one’s roots.

In the play Trevino, with the aid of minor props, shuffles about 20 characters in the autobiography, fluttering effortlessly from one to another. Along the way, we get to know her Polish parents and family particularly well. Her characters also include various people who held authority over her in the new world, including a Burger King manager and her first boyfriend, who tried to kill her. The tale mixes comedy and the harsh reality. Amid her struggles and desperation, there is an overall sense of gratitude for being here (common to most Polish immigrants) and a genuine amazement at small things about America, like having oranges every day.

Trevino’s autobiographical slice of life has been developed at the HB Ensemble. It was initially read in 2005 at Wow Cafe and the Lee Nagrin Gallery and was subsequently workshopped at Gretchen Cryer Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Source and Center Stage NYC. Trevino performed a 60-minute work-in-progress at HB Playwrights Foundation as part of Immigrant Heritage Week 2008, sponsored by the Mayors Office. Subsequently, there was a 90 minute work-in-progress staged at HB Studio. More recently, an excerpt was performed at the Players Club at a Gala Benefit celebrating Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.

This Theater for the New City production is a treasured opportunity for Ms. Trevino because it brings the play back to the East Village, which she regards as its inspiration and her “second home” (after Poland). Having moved to the U.S. in 1981 (“I got a fluke visa. It was a month before martial law was declared in Poland in response to the Solidarity movement.”), she lived on Avenue B for 14 years during her “belated adolescent rebellion.” During that period, she played bass guitar with an East Village Punk band named Fur and hung out with Anthony and the Johnsons. She also frequented shows at TNC, but her creative efforts were all in Punk Music. At the time, the East Village was something of a Polish neighborhood. Finally, in ’96, she couldn’t deny any more what her true calling is and left the band for the world of theater. She started writing this show. Now she says, “Oh my God, I am home again. It feels really right.” She stresses that TNC’s commitment to its neighborhood probably contributed to her career change.

Ms. Trevino is a member of HB Ensemble and through this, met her director, Aleksey Burago. She has appeared at HB Playwrights Foundation in “Summerfalk” (directed by Austin Pendelton), as Natasha in “The Master and Margarita,” as Lubov Griegorievna in “Lady with a Lapdog with Jokes and Happy Ending” (directed by Aleksey Burago), Masha in “The Seagull “(directed by Rochelle Oliver) and Sunna in “Unity” (directed by Carol Rosenfeld). Her other New York credits include Dimentia in “Scenes From an Execution” (directed by Yelena Gluzman) at Horace Mann Theater and two productions at P.S.122, “Miracle Now” and “The Birth of Anne Frank,” both directed by the singer Antony of Antony and the Johnsons.

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Danusia Trevino in Wonder Bread.

She toured nationally with Anne Bogart’s “War of the Worlds–The Radio Play.” Her films include “Acts of Worship” (directed by Rosemary Rodriguez), “Where is Joe Baum” (directed by Pearl Gluck) and “And Accordion Dreams” (directed by Michelle Lippitt). Her documentary photographs were recently a part of photography exhibit Polish Women Photographers of the 20th Century at the National Art Gallery in Warsaw, Poland and are published in a book under the same title.

Aleksey Burago (Director) graduated from Moscow Academy of Theatre Arts (GITIS) and studied with world famous director Peter Phomenko. His Moscow directing credits include: “Beyond Recognition.” Off-Broadway, he has directed “Gamblers,” “An Absolutely Happy Village” and “Ah! My Dear Andersen On the Eve.” At HB Playwrights Foundation, he has directed “Vassa,” “Picnic on the Battlefield,” “The Master and Margarita,” “Wonder Bread” and “Lady with the Lapdog with Jokes and a Happy Ending.” His TV credits include “The Queen of Spades” (Actor/Director). His awards include 1992 Best Director – St. Petersburg Comedy Festival and 1993 Best Director – Moscow Annual Festival of Classical Plays. He is an Acting Professor at Theatre Academy and Conservatory in St. Petersburg, Danish Theatre School GITIS and Manhattanville College. He is Artistic and Founding director of Russian Arts Theatre & Studio, based in New York City. He is an Associate Member of SSDC.

Set design is by Olga Rogova.

Theater for the New City is located at 155 First Avenue, between Ninth and Tenth Streets. Show times for “Wonder Bread” are Thursday – Saturday at 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through the box office at (212) 254-1109 or online at www.theaterforthenewcity.net.