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125th Anniversary of the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Cracow

The Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Cracow, opened on 21 October 1893, is one of the most distinguished Polish dramatic theatres. Initially, until 1909 it was known as the Municipal Theatre. The theatre’s beautiful building, characterized by the eclectic architectural style, was designed by Jan Zawiejski. The façade bears the motto: “From Cracow to the national art”. The auditorium is decorated with a famous curtain designed by Henryk Siemiradzki, and next to the stage there is an antique dressing room of Ludwik Solski. The theatre currently occupies several buildings, including the modern Małopolska Garden of Arts.

At the turn of the 20th century, the theatre served as a national stage and initiated modern theatrical productions in Poland. During the times of the ”golden years” when the theatre was managed by Tadeusz Pawlikowski and his successors, it provided the stage for the debut of the so-called Young Poland generation, and the masterpieces of Polish Romanticism were performed there for the first time: Kordian, Forefathers’ Eve and Un-divine Comedy. The best ensemble of actors working in the Polish territories included Stanisława Wysocka, Wanda Siemaszkowa, Irena Solska, Ludwik Solski, and Kazimierz Kamiński, while Helena Modrzejewska (Modjeska) made guest appearances. The significance of this theatre stage on the European scale resulted from the performances of the works of Stanisław Wyspiański. Although the theatre bears the name of the romantic poet Juliusz Słowacki, Wyspiański remains its spiritual patron. The artist was closely associated with this stage from his debut as a playwright in 1898 until his death in 1907. During that time, this brilliant playwright, poet, painter, visionary and reformer of the Polish theatre exercised artistic supervision over the official premieres of his works: La Varsovienne (1898), Lelewel (1899), the Wedding (1901), Liberation, Boleslaw the Bold, Protesilas and Laodamia (1903). In 1901, he prepared the first stage performance of Forefathers’ Eve by Adam Mickiewicz.

After Wyspianski’s death, the theatre paid tribute to its most prominent artist by organizing a festival in 1907 staging his works. The premieres of six of his dramas also took place, including November Night (1908), Acropolis (1916) and The return of Odysseus (1917). Also today, the works of Wyspiański provide the ideological foundation for the artistic activity of the theatre.

In the interwar period, the theatre supported not only classical drama, but also the new avant-garde trends – provocative performances were organized by the Futurists, and in 1921, Witkacy made his debut with the play “Tumor Mózgowicz”. Stellar performances were delivered by actors such as Zofia Jaroszewska and Juliusz Osterwa.

The post-war history of the theatre was created by outstanding actors such as Halina Mikołajska, Aleksandra Śląska, Halina Gryglaszewska, Gustaw Holoubek, Tadeusz Łomnicki, Marian Cebulski, Marek Walczewski, Stanisław Zaczyk. The theatre collaborated with eminent directors, such as Bohdan Korzeniewski, Kazimierz Dejmek, Lidia Zamkow, and stage designers such as Tadeusz Kantor, Andrzej Stopka, Andrzej Pronaszko, Andrzej Majewski, Lidia and Jerzy Skarżyński. In 1976, Krystian Lupa debuted with a stage performance of Sławomir Mrożek’s Slaughterhouse. The theatre’s directors, including its longest-serving director Bronisław Dąbrowski, were able to maintain a balance between tradition and artistic experimentation. Since 2016, a new artistic energy has been generated by the team led by Krzysztof Głuchowski in cooperation with Bartosz Szydłowski. Stage performances are now being prepared by the leading Polish theatre directors: Anna Augustynowicz, Michał Borczuch, Remigiusz Brzyk, Agata Duda-Gracz, Agnieszka Glińska, Wojtek Klemm, Agnieszka Olsten, Radosław Rychcik, Małgorzata Warsicka, Grzegorz Wiśniewski and others.

Professor Diana Poskuta-Włodek, PhD