Agnieszka Glińska is a theatre and television director, a professor at the Academy of Theatre in Warsaw, and one of the most talented theatrical directors of the young generation.
Her performances are distincively ambitious, deeply psychological and based on great literature. Apart from Chekov and Dostoyevsky, her favourtie writers are William Shakespeare, Witold Gombrowicz, Bohumil Hrabal, Ödön von Horváth and Dorota Masłowska.
Table of Contents: Debut and Breakthrough | Czechov at Powszechny Theatre | Director of Dramatyczny Theatre | Musical and Historical Plays | Work with Students and Plays for Children | Staging Masłowska | Awards
She graduated from the Faculty of Acting and Drama Directing of the National Academy of Theatre in Warsaw. Her two first independent works are Harlequinade / Arlekinada at the Jan Kochanowski Theatre in Opole and Prosper Merimée's Heaven-Hell at the Stary Theatre in Kraków.
The breakthrough staging in Glińska'a directing career was Moira Buffini's and Anna Reynolds's Jordan in the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw in 1996. The monodrama about an infanticide played by Dorota Landowska clearly presented Glińska's artistic interests, her extraordinary concentration of the text and the psychology of characters and her disinclination for excessive theatrical effects. The staging also revealed one of her greatest trump: her extraordinary capacity to work with the actor, which Glińska uses at the workshops with the students of the Faculty of Acting of the Academy of Theatre.
In my work with the students I try to teach them a certain conscience. I do not lead them by the hand, I let them achieve themselves, I just navigate them a little. The most important thing nowadays is for the actor to know how to be independent, thinking, conscious, sensitive and not ashamed of his interior and his personality, said Glińska in her interview with the hosts of "Pegasus" television programme.
Jordan opened for Glińska the possibility of staging in the best Polish theatres: the Old Theatre (Stary Teatr) in Kraków, the Athenaeum Theatre (Teatr Ateneum) in Warsaw and the Powszechny Theatre in Łódź and the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw. In Athenaeum she staged Arthur Schnitzler's Procession / Korowód and Odon von Horvath's Stories of the Forest of vienna, both with excellent roles played by Dominika Ostalowska, and Connor McPherson's Santa Claus, all of them warmly welcomed by the critics and the public.
The Small Stage of the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw wound up to be the perfect place for Glińska's stagings. She directed there Czechov's Three Sisters, surprising with the fresh understanding of the drama, which enchanted the reviewer of Rzeczpospolita Daily:
The newest, enthusiastically welcomed, staging of Three Sisters directed by Agnieszka Glińska forces us to verify our ideas concerning Czechov's creation. (...) The young director staged Three Sisters in a ingeniously naive way. And it was a deserved success. (...) The staging in the Common Theatre is not in any way unfaithful to Czechov's text, but it proposes a more vital perspective for human everyday grief and complaints, the tragedy of which sometimes reveals irresistibly comic lines.
Martin McDonahh's Cripple of Inishmaan, proclaimed to be "a perfect staging", was also created in the Common Theatre. Similar praises were pronounced about Jon Fosse's Name staged by Glińska in the Współczesny Theatre in Warsaw.
When looking at Glińska's repertoire selection, it is clear that she especially likes texts of the widely understood contemporary psychological drama. In her directing, Glińska doesn't obey to theatrical fashion and prefers the work with the actor to sophisticated staging ideas. Her stagings are fascinating, because she manages to read the text until the end and to throw the actors out of the pattern and routine.
Glińska is today in the forefront of the young Polish directors. She does not follow the model of Krystian Lupa's authorial theatre, like her colleagues of the Kraków theatrical school do, but she follows her own path. She stages realistic texts, concentrating of meticulous analysis of the reality presented in the drama. As a director she answers the five fundamental questions that a journalist asks himself: first: who, second: where, third: when, fourth: what and fifth: why.
(Roman Pawłowski, Gazeta Wyborcza Daily)
From 2000 to 2004 Glińska regularly collaborated with the Współczesny Theatre in Warsaw. Since 2007 she has been working as the theatre director at Warsaw's Dramatyczny Theatre. After Tales from the Vienna Woods the director went back to portraying communities - this time in Bambini di Praga, a play based on Bohumil Hrabal's novel, produced at Współczesny Theatre in Warsaw (2001). She created an accurate, sad and comedic show, fully expressing the spirit of Hrabal's writings.
(…) she managed to transfer not only the atmosphere of the 1950s streets in Prague, but also the journalistic and poetic style of looking, wrote Aleksandra Rembowska. Before she started the rehearsals, Glińska took the actors to Prague - as previously, before starting the work on a play by Belbel, when she took the company to the top of a skyscraper to make them feel what height and wind meant.
(Teatr, 2001, no. 12)
A short time later Glińska produced Shelagh Stephenson's The Memory of Water, a contemporary version of Chekhov's Three Sisters (Dramatyczny Theatre, 2002), and Andrzej Saramonowicz's Testosteron / Testosterone (Montownia Theatre, 2002), a farce about frustrated men, filled with "crude" sexual humour. The latter play enjoyed record popularity. The subsequent experience with Saramonowicz's text proved less successful. 2 maja / May 2 (2004) created at the National Theatre in Warsaw was an inept attempt to describe the past of the Polish Peoples' Republic.
In 2003 the director staged a musical play, Oczy wielkiego miasta / Eyes of the Big City with songs written by Kurt Tucholsky (Ateneum Theatre in Warsaw). At the Współczesny Theatre she challenged herself and for the first time worked on a play by Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost. She returned to Ödön von Horváth on the same stage a year later, this time directing The Stranger from the Seine. As the last two performances were not enthusiastically received by the critics, Glińska went back to contemporary dramatic works and showed Peter Zelenka's superbly staged Wrong Side Up (Dramatyczny Theatre, 2005).
Agnieszka Glińska, who directed the play in Warsaw, managed to keep the balance between the comic and serious notes, wrote Roman Pawłowski. The play does not come down to laughter, leaving space for thought, while the actors play their characters so lovingly they tone down the grotesque.
(Gazeta Wyborcza, 2005, no. 108)
Glińska took up a completely different topic in Wojciech Tomczyk's Norymberga / Nuremberg (The National Theatre, 2006), a quiet drama about the historical settling of accounts with the Polish People's Republic. From a story about a retired colonel of the military counterintelligence who examines his conscience and demands a new Nuremberg trial for himself, she created an important play winning over the audience with great acting. In the following production at The National Theatre, Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman (2007), the director once again showed skill in guiding the actors. The story laid out in the play took place in a totalitarian state, where a police investigation became interlaced with questions about the value of art.
Agnieszka Glińska created a great performance with macabre and absurdity in the background, wrote Łukasz Drewniak.
(Przekrój, 2006, no. 45)
In addition, Glińska worked with students from The Theatre Academy in Warsaw, where she directed Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard (2003) and Three Sisters (2006), as well as Stags and Hens written by Willy Russell (2003).Recently Glińska produced two superb plays for children: Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking at Dramatyczny Theatre. It was performed with dash and included the brilliant title role played by Dominika Kluźniak (2007). The other was Roald Dahl's The Witches performed on a live puppet set at Lalka Theatre in Warsaw (2008).
In 2009, Glińska directed Chekhov’s Sztuka bez tytułu/ A Story without a Title at the Współczesny Theatre in Warsaw with Dominika Kluźniak and Borys Szyc in the leading roles, who both received Warszawski Felix Awards for their performances. The director commented on the play:
The perspective in which young Chekhov perceives and describes the world is fascinating with regard to its insolence, profoundness, and uncompromising approach, especially in exposing human relationships. For this reason the play is very contemporary. Chekhov reveals our human deviousness, smallness, weakness, and our helpless actions, and at the same time he does it with great understanding and depth, he touches the essence of humanity.
A subsequent staging of Chekhov’s work Mewa / The Seagull in a new translation by Agnieszka Lubomira Piotrowska was produced by the National Theatre. Once again, Glińska invited Dominika Kluźniak and Joanna Szczepkowska to collaborate. "In her terrific The Seagull, Agnieszka Glińska distances herself from today's aphrodisiacs: love and fame", commented Jacek Cieślak in Rzeczpospolita.
"It's one of those books which isn't being read these days," the director commented on Moralność Pani Dulskiej/ The Morality of Mrs. Dulska, the tragic farce about the petty-bourgeois by Gabriela Zapolska, and probably that's why she decided to stage the drama in 2011.
I'm interested in how much of Dulska is inside us. How much of her is inside me? I could say after Flaubert: 'Dulska is I'. A petty-bourgeois director, with petty-bourgeois actors staging a petty-bourgeois play at a petty-bourgeois theatre. “Petty-bourgeois-ness” is our national feature. Our Polish “petty-bourgeois-ness” drives us to find someone 'worse' than ourselves, at whom we can point the finger and who we can hold in contempt. 'Look, what a petit-bourgeois woman, so smug, so horrible, yuck! 'We're better, smarter, more sophisticated' – said Glińska.
On 1st September, 2012, Glińska was appointed the artistic director of Warsaw's Studio Theatre. She began her directorship by inviting artists from other Warsaw stages to build a diverse theatre troupe. Her decision has proved to be worthwhile, for the first premiere of the new season – Sąd ostateczny / The Last Judgement – was very successful. Moreover, for "promising new performances and theatre audience growth" Glińska received the 2012 Wdecha Award bestowed by Co Jest Grane in the category of Man of the Year.
The same year, Glińska directed the short, gag-saturated drama by Dorota Masłowska, Dwoje biednych Rumunów mówiących po polsku /A Couple of Poor, Polish-Speaking Romanians. "The viewer must take into account that this piece is not as cheerful as it may seem, the characters do not represent positive social and psychological attitudes, and this journey does not need to turn out as a journey of a lifetime, quite the contrary", said Masłowska. The performance, staged at the Studio Theatre, received great reviews. Aneta Kyzioł in Polityka complimented it so:
With the debut drama by Dorota Masłowska, the director brings out the elegiac tone of her writing. At the same time, she manages to maintain Masłowska’s fantastic sense of humour. The night odyssey of the intoxicated Parch and Dżin across Poland C is even more amusing thanks to Glińska’s directorial decision to add two comically-played police officer roles (great performances by Dorota Landowska and Modest Ruciński).
Glińska collaborated with Masłowska once again. This time she invited the playwright to cooperate on the performance for children, Jak zostałam wiedźmą. Autobiograficzna sztuka dla dorosłych I dla dzieci / How I Became a Witch. An Autobiographical Play for Adults and Children. "It is a performance for young and old", says the director, "it will be funny and scary. The fable is a versatile and modern story about the struggle between good and evil in the world of gadgets, artificial desires and endless longing". In an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza, Masłowska explained:
It was supposed to be a fairy tale, but eventually a lot of serious plots appeared in it. I like to create democratic works that different people can understand on different levels. During the preparation period, I read a lot of different books from children's shelves. Still, as I see it, The Moomins and the saga of Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit are unrivalled. When I was reading the latter, I cried with laughter several times, even though it is a book from the early twentieth century. Eventually, I decided that I would like to write something combining the Grimms’ fairy tales and Toy Story, the completely mysterious old school vibe of Klechda sezamowa / Sesame’s Folk Story mixed with Pixar’s animations.
How I became a witch was a hit in terms of the audience attendance of the Studio Theatre. The leading role was performed by Kinga Preis, and music was composed by Wojciech Waglewski.
On 25 October 2014, the National Theatre in Warsaw held a premiere of Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda / Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy by Witold Gombrowicz and directed by Glińska. The director created a story about the results of infringing the ideal and hierarchized world by the Other. The theatre's website announces:
Unsophisticated and unformatted, she doesn’t fit the reality of Photoshop. What’s more, Ivona is cheeky in her own way, as she grants herself the right to make mistakes, to be weak and imperfect. It is irritating, it evokes envy, and it exposes our own ingenuity. We have democracy, but social hierarchies exercise control over us. We protect this order, just as the court did in Gombrowicz’s drama. We dislike those who stand out.
Aneta Kyzioł wrote in her review:
The thing that makes Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy of the National Theatre a great, sometimes thrilling perfromance is honest job done by the director and the whole group of actors. The play is intelligent, coherent, held at a quick pace, funny and horrific. (Polityka weekly, 04.11.2014)
Glińska worked as the artistic director and the vice director of the Studio Theatre in Warsaw until 2015. She works as a lecturer at the Ludwik Solski Academy for the Dramatic Arts in Kraków.
Yet another performance Glińska staged at the Studio Theatre in Warsaw was The Effect based on a play by Lucy Prebble from 2015. Young people become a part of experiments on a new antidepressant, however, isolation and lack of connection with the real world make them ask about their identity and the essence of feeling.
In 2016 Glińska directed a full-lenght musical #WSZYSTKOGRA. The film is a manifesto of love, friendship and cherishing life; a story about three generations of women (in these roles Stanisłąwa Celińska, Kinga Preis and Eliza Rycembel) who stand together to fight for their family house. The film is full of well known Polish songs written by Agnieszka Osiecka, T.Love, Jonasz Kofta, Maanam, Lombard and others, and re-arranged for the film.
Cyprian Kamil Norwid Award in the theatre category for the direction of the play Lekkomyślna siostra / The Reckless Sister at the National Theatre in Warsaw;
Bronze Medal Gloria Artis for Distinguished Service to Culture; the Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński Award for the distinguished achievements in directing with the special attention paid to staging the plays written by Anton Chekhov at the Współczesny Theatre and the National Theatre in Warsaw
Article created: 2001, update: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, December 2008, update October 2014, GS, October 2016 (ND)
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