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Polish Theatre in Warsaw

Teatr Polski in Warsaw is one of the most important theatres in Poland. Its founding act says that the theatre was set up "for the benefi t, glory and development of the Polish stagecraft and to popularise the beauty of our mother language". This idea has set the path of creative freedom of the theatre’s directors from its establishment until now. In 2013, Teatr Polski in Warsaw celebrates its 100th anniversary.

The theatre was opened on 29 January 1913 with the premiere of “Irydion” by Zygmunt Krasiński. Against the odds of the crisis, unfavourable political situation and disapproval of the Warsaw theatre community, Arnold Szyfman, holder of a PhD in philosophy, a beginner playwright with almost no experience and grand dreams of a modern dramatic theatre, managed to convince representatives of the elite to follow his bold idea. Funds for building the theatre, called the New Polish Theatre at that time, were raised quickly. Organisational work took two years, the theatre was modelled on the best theatres in Europe. The building, designed by architect Czesław Przybylski, was built in less than nine months. It was one of the largest and most beautiful theatre buildings in Warsaw. Its equipment was very modern: an auditorium with 1,000 seats, a revolving stage, a mechanical fl yloft and a panoramic drop, which provided unprecedented production possibilities.

Subsequent directors of Teatr Polski in Warsaw consequently aimed at creating a distinguished individual style of Polish theatre art. The direction was set by Szyfman himself. He built an excellent, permanent team encompassing many outstanding names and talents: Andrycz, Barszczewska, Broniszówna, Ćwiklińska, Smosarska, Bodo, Dymsza, Jaracz, Junosza-Stępowski, Kreczmar, Węgrzyn, Zelwerowicz, and after the World War 2: Fijewski, Gogolewski, Hańcza, Jasiukiewicz, Wołłejko. Director Szyfman placed great emphasis on the quality of the repertoire and stage production, which was not so obvious in the 1920s and 1930s as it is now. In Teatr Polski, the play directors were inter alia Schiller, Zelwerowicz, Solski, and after 1945: Bardini, Hanuszkiewicz, Korzeniewski, Wierciński. The core repertoire consisted of Polish and world classics; contemporary European drama was bravely popularised. Szyfman established stage design workshops where distinguished painters, such as Karol Frycz and Wincenty Drabik, trained generations of high-class theatre craftsmen. With Szyfman as the director, Teatr Polski in Warsaw gained the status of the best theatre in Poland. It set the standards of contemporary theatre art and the national style.

Teatr Polski attracted particular interest again when Kazimierz Dejmek became its director. He turned out a reformer measuring up to Szyfman. Dejmek became the director in 1981 and ran the theatre for 14 years. At that time, the theatre once again became a part of the great history of European theatre. Teatr Polski vividly responded to the transformations taking place in Poland in the 1980s. Dejmek staged premieres of plays by Iredyński and adaptations of prose by Hłasko and Krzysztoń. Teatr Polski staged nine plays by Sławomir Mrożek, including three world premieres: “Ambassador,” “Contract” and “Portrait,” and one Polish premiere “A Summer’s Day.” The team of actors was expanded to include: Rachwalska, Mikołajska, Seniuk, Dmochowski, Englert, Łomnicki, Mrożewski, Szczepkowski, Łabonarska, Holoubek and Łapicki who later became the director of Teatr Polski. The canon of Polish classics was enriched by old Polish plays adapted and directed by Dejmek – they made their way into the history of Polish theatre. The stage designers were: Pankiewicz, Polewska, Kossakowska, Kreutz-Majewski. General opinion was that with Dejmek as the director, the theatre performed the tasks of the National Theatre in terms of the quality and importance of performances.

Since January 2011, the theatre’s general director has been Andrzej Seweryn. Drawing on his 20-years’ experience in Comédie-Française, he introduces Teatr Polski to the new century.

Patrycja Anna Mikłasz-Pisula
Teatr Polski in Warsaw