Little Thunder. Saint Catherine of Siena theatrical concert by actress Julianna Bloodgood and composer Katarzyna Szwed. It is the result of field research carried out in Siena, Italy, the aim of which was to reach authentic sources of knowledge about the context of Saint Catherine’s life. The initiator of the project was Julianna Bloodgood, a resident of Poland specializing in Grotowski theatre tradition which combines body, movement and voice.

For nearly a decade Julianna was an actress of the Song of the Goat Theater, becoming a principal performer. In 2017, while conducting a workshop for Associazione Culturale Topi Dalmata in Siena, she was introduced to the patron saint of Italy and Europe “Saint Catherine of Siena”. The story of this strong and passionate woman captured her imagination. Images from the legends of levitation, healing the sick and multiplying food continued to play out in her mind.Catherine’s story opened up the realm of female mystics within Christianity and there she discovered the powerful voices of women who had direct and potent relationships with their divinity, greatly influenced their communities and in some cases evoked significant socio-political change.The dream of creating a performance based on elaborate polyphony, which would allow contact with the essence of the mystical experience, was the impulse to invite composer Katarzyna Szwed and conductor Lilianna Krych to the project.

The performance was created thanks to the obtained grants: from the Institute of Music and Dance (Composition Commissions Program 2022), the Association of Authors ZAiKS, and with generous support of the Grotowski Institute, which made its forest base in Brzezinka near Wrocław available for a five week residency. The rehearsals of a group of women – actresses and vocalists, specially formed for this project, supported by the multi-instrumentalist Rafał Habel, took place in this forest base of the Grotowski Institute, away from everyday life in difficult conditions where each member of the ensemble intensely worked together to create the piece Little Thunder. 

We invite you to listen to samples of these songs:

Saint Catherine of Siena was a mystic who did not take into account the established norms. She claimed that what she knew about God she knew directly from himself. The piece by Katarzyna Szwed and Julianna Bloodgood is an attempt to reach the essence of the mysticism of Saint Catherine of Siena, as well as a new look at her story and the message of her words.

The authors give the floor to Saint Catherine, whose words, in their opinion, do not function enough in the general circulation, just like many other female mystics. It is an attempt to recreate the lost line of transmission of women – Christian mystics. The words of Saint Catherine are countered by the words of, among others, Saint Hildegard of Bingen, as well as excerpts from the manuscript of Naj Hammadi.

Referring to the music of the late Middle Ages, the piece uses old instruments, also those symbolizing Saint Catherine – bells and frame-drums. 

Composer: Katarzyna Szwed
Librettists: Julianna Bloodgood and Danielle Blackbird
Director: Julianna Bloodgood
Music Director: Lilianna Krych
Assistant Directors: Isabel Santos and Mariana Guerra
Drumming Instructor: Alexandros Rizopolous
Performers: Julianna Bloodgood, Lilianna Krych, Olga Kunicka, Rhianna Compton, Paulina Krupa, Nenè Barini, Saraï O’gara, Ditte Berkley, Rafał Habel
Costume Designer: Agnieszka Katyńska
Project Manager: Radosław Wójcik
Producer: Warsaw Stage Society
Photos: Marta Ankiersztejn / Nowe Epifanie Festival

So far, there have been 2 shows of “Little Thunder. Saint Catherine of Siena”:

  • March 5, 2022 at the seat of the Institute of the Institute of Jerzy Grotowski in Wrocław (“Na Grobli”)
  • March 8, 2022 as part of the “Nowe Epifanie” Festival at the Laboratory Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw
  • August 27th, in Łódź, Poland as part of International Retroperspektywy Theatre Festival

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Co-financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage from the Culture Promotion Funds as part of the “Composing Commissions” program implemented by the National Institute of Music and Dance.