(L-R) Anne-Marie Reuter, publishing director; Rafael David Kohn, author; Janine Goedert; Credit: Black Fountain Press

Luxembourg’s first English-language publishing house, Black Fountain Press, recently released a new book featuring two plays by local playwright Rafael D. Kohn: Medea // Ajax & Tecmessa.

Rafael Kohn has been working as an independent writer and director in various locations since 2010, including Luxembourg, Sibiu (Romania), Lomé (Togo), Berlin and Constance (Germany). Kohn's multilingual theatrical contributions include plays like Kadaver, Bushmeat, Lupenrein, Flaschenbrand and Waffensalon, addressing diverse themes such as colonialism, forced labour and social conflicts.

He also served as the Théâtre National du Luxembourg (TNL) author-in-residence for the 2018-2019 season. His play Demandez au président (Ask the President) reflected on political power and the role of the press. Moreover, he gained acknowledgment through the inclusion of Waffensalon in the list of the "119 Best Contemporary European Plays."

In 2022, Rafael David Kohn wrote and directed an adaptation of Euripides' tragedy Medea in English, at the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, while Ajax & Tecmessa has yet to be staged.

Speaking to Chronicle.lu, playwright and author Rafael D. Kohn, along with Anne-Marie Reuter, the publishing director, provided insights into the writing process and the publication of Medea // Ajax & Tecmessa, as well as the latest developments at Black Fountain Press publishing house.

Chronicle.lu: How did you decide on these themes? Please tell us a bit more about the synopsis and your particular focus.

Rafael D. Kohn: While working on Medea I tried to keep as close to the source material as possible. I focused on the social contract and how Medea, who has been deprived of justice from gods and men, has to fight for her rights. With Ajax and Tecmessa, I took more liberties. The play is rather rough and fundamentally an anti-war play, which I feel is needed in these times. 

Chronicle.lu: How did you go from idea to finished product in your writing? Is this different or similar to your usual writing process?

Rafael D. Kohn: Working on Medea felt very different from my usual process, it took many months of writing and rewriting until I was finally pleased with the play and ready to stage it as a director. Writing Ajax and Tecmessa was much easier - the war in Ukraine fuelled the process. Writing Ajax and Tecmessa was born from the desire to remind people how disgusting and absurd war is.

Chronicle.lu: How did you come to publish Rafael D. Kohn's work?

Anne-Marie Reuter: Rafael is a well-known figure in the theatre world, not just in Luxembourg but also abroad. His plays have been performed in many countries; he writes in English, German, French and Luxembourgish. I like his choice of topics, which is always pertinent... and he manages to illuminate classics in most fascinating ways with an incredibly modern and powerful approach that knows about and respects tradition. This also makes the plays extremely accessible: they're a pleasure to read. I'm hoping schools might be interested. In any case, at Black Fountain Press, we loved the two Greek plays Rafael submitted. The idea of having a Medea in the house was extremely tempting. Another incentive was the opportunity to work with Janine Goedert, a true expert in drama. She'd introduced Medea to the audience in half-hour sessions before the performances, and the idea of her writing an introduction to the two plays made the project all the more exciting.

Chronicle.lu: How has the business been evolving at Black Fountain Press?

Anne-Marie Reuter: Business has evolved nicely at Black Fountain Press. Last year, we only published winners (coincidence, but what a happy one!): JP Gomez's collection of short stories The Idiot of St. Benedict and Other Stories, the winner of the 2022 National Literary Competition; and the Young Voices, i.e. the shortlisted and winning young writers of the Young Voices Writing Contest 2023 that we organised together with the University of Luxembourg. That collection of prose and poetry, called Life–A Series of (Un)Eventful Events gives a marvellous insight into young people's minds and just proves how incredibly talented and creative that generation is.

2024 promises to be the busiest year ever in the short history of Black Fountain Press. If all goes well, we will have four publications! Madness for such a small house, but there you go: the demand for English-language publications increases all the time, and by the looks of competition submissions, more and more people choose English as their writing language.

Chronicle.lu: What other publications are you planning for this year?

Anne-Marie Reuter: The next publication will be a collection of tales: A Pint of Fish Fingers – Tales of a Wonderer by Robbie Martzen. It's a mad cocktail of travel stories. Quite a few of them are set in Ireland. There will be a public launch on 29 February. For details, check our website www.blackfountain.lu in the weeks to come. After that pint, things will turn futuristic, dark and satirical, but we don't want to spoil the suspense here, do we?