Theatre and television director. Born on the 1st of April 1959 in Dębica.
Anna Augustynowicz graduated from the Jagiellonian University in theatre arts. She also studied directing at the National Academy of Theatre in Kraków. She is part of a generation of young artists who developed under the watchful eye of Krystian Lupa. Her first independent undertaking, completed in 1989 during her studies, was Marek Koterski's Inner Life at the Bogusławski Theatre in Kalisz. In 1992, she took over as the artistic director of the Contemporary Theatre in Szczecin. That same year she opened a small stage named Malarnia near the Contemporary Theatre, an excellent place for staging contemporary chamber dramas.
Anna Augustynowicz was the first to consequently introduce the vogue of dramas by young artists touching important social problems onto Polish stages. It was in her theatre that the Polish premieres of dramas by Stig Larsson The Main One, Sisters and Brothers, Clare McIntyre Without Tenderness, Werner Schwab My Liver makes no Sense took Place. The artistic tendencies of Anna Augustynowicz were expressed to the fullest in the staging of Grzegorz Nawrocki's Young Death, using a brutal, even naturalistic language, about murders committed by young people. Augustynowicz included in her staging pure the atrical means and video projections, she attacked the public with the music.
She applies a similar method even in stagings based on classic texts, such as Juliusz Słowacki's Balladyna, Gabriela Zapolska's Mrs. Dulska's Morality or William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Here, the main desire of Anna Augustynowicz is easily observed; the will to clearly speak from the stage about the modern times and to the contemporary spectator. In an interview for Rzeczpospolita Daily, Augustynowicz said,
During the show, it is easy to hear what hits the spectators. There can be silence, which is thick listening, or laughter, or nervous reactions. The audience may not be treated as worse or more stupid than the circle of specialists. Theatre is for everybody. If it functions at the level of emotions, it will be efficient, because apart from education and descent, we are made out of emotions. In theatre it is not important to understand everything. The literary theatre taught us to refer to meanings, but the spectator does not have to interpret all of them. And I leave the levels of difficulty of the theatrical texts to specialists.
Over the next decade Augustynowicz continued to direct dramas by young artists. In Szczecin, she directed Marius von Mayenburg's Parasites (2001), Mark Ravenhill's Some Explicit Polaroids (2002) and Gerald Sibleyras's Inscription (2005) a sharp and bitter performance based on absurd techniques in order to criticise the contemporary lifestyle and language of the complacent middle-class. While in the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, Augustynowicz staged the Polish premiere of Bernard-Marie Koltes's Return to the Desert (2004). It depicts a tragedy about siblings fighting over a family estate, a house in the French countryside.An austere and symbolic setting. The performance displays the clash of two worlds, a sister who returns from Algeria, the inferior world. Simple theatrical and acting techniques were also applied in Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's Oscar and Mrs. Rose (Contemporary Theatre in Szczecin, 2004). Such a straightforward form allowed for a credible and metaphorical presentation of such a difficult subject as a child's death.
Augustynowicz returned to classical works. She staged Wyzwolenie / Liberation by Stanisław Wyspiański in Szczecin (2003). Marek Mikos wrote:
(...) it is a performance about contemporary Poland and the country's struggle with its demons, as well as about a theatre in which Augustynowicz made her debut 12 years ago with Klątwa / The Curse by Wyspiański. The artist wonders whether her theatre has grown older and whether penetration of reality by brutalist performances is sufficient. She also poses the question of the place of a Polish artist. She wonders what the artist's obligations are and whether one can speak about such obligations at all. Augustynowicz thinks that yes. (Gazeta Wyborcza 2003, No 291)
Also in 2007 in Szczecin, Augustynowicz staged Wesele / Wedding in a grotesque style which divided the critics. Recently, she directed two plays by Aleksander Fredro: Mąż i żona / Husband and Wife (Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk, 2002) and Zemsta / The Revenge (Współczesny Theatre in Szczecin, 2008).
She proposed an intriguing and symbolic interpretation of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure based on a distanced game. (Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, 2006). Her production was more logical and philosophical rather than emotional. The director focuses her interests more and more often on the distance towards the performed text and the actors distance towards the played roles. She followed a similar convention of multiple effects of alienation in her production of Bertolt Brecht's Baal (Wrocław Współczesny Theatre, 2008).
In 2009 Augustynowicz directed The Mountainbikers by Volker Schmidt, the play was staged both at the Stefan Jaracz Theatre in Łódź and the Współczesny Theatre in Szczecin. The following year, she made Getsemani based on David Hare's Gethsemane, also staged in two theatres: the above mentioned Współczesny Theatre and the Wojciech Bogusławski Theatre in Kalisz. The performance's form was discussed by Magdalena Figzał:
Getsemani is a play based upon words – dialogues and spontaneous monologues made by the characters. The director decided to remove from the performance any elements that could hace competed with the spoken word and so overshadow the meaning of the characters' statements. (Śląsk Magazine No. 12, 30.12.2010)
Later on she directed Migraine / Migrena written by Antonina Grzegorzewska. Jacek Sieradzki reviewed:
Augustynowicz opens unusual perspectives, yet she does not impose them, rather makes them ambiguous. The director's asceticim disappears. The full-bloded theatre flourishes, sensitive and mocking, concerned and lukewarm, intoxicated by the flickering of absurd, yet still kept in curb of restraint. Like the red that got its way out from monochrome, creating a profound impression of a image brimming with colours. (Przekrój Magazine No. 21, 26.05.2010)
Augustynowicz produced also numerous plays at the theater in Szczecin. These include Alan Ayckbourn's A Small Family Business (2012), Albert Camus' Caligula (2013), Frank McGuinness' Greta Garbo Came to Donegal (2013), Marius von Mayenburg's Martyrs (2014) and Stanisław Wyspiański's Akropolis (2015). In 2014 she collaborated with the Helena Modrzejewska National Old Theatre in Kraków where she staged Edward II based on the piece by Christopher Marlowe. Katarzyna Fryc and Agata Olszewska wrote:
In the play there is space for a pause, for a beautifully served text and the full sounding of the monologue's final phase. There is space for a breath, for focusing, and for an intimate connection between actors and the audience. (Gazeta Wyborcza. Trójmiasto Daily, 06.05.2015)
In March 2015 she directed William Shakespeare's The Tempest in Szczecin. The play was produced on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Contemporary Theatre / Teatr Współczesny w Szczecinie and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. The play was well received by the critic and the audience. Joanna Ostrowska wrote:
The Tempest directed by Augustynowicz is a precise, composed in all the details and greatly performed by the whole group of actors. This is a great way to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Contemporary Theatre / Teatr Współczesny, that was deeply affected by Augustynowicz who has been its director for over a half of the theatre's existance. (Teatralny.pl, 08.04.2016)
In an interview with Agnieszka Wnękowicz-Smenżyk, Augustynowicz told about the values of contemporary theatre:
Theatre has always been serving people, stands with them. The biggest asset? Those moments during the play, when while sitting in the audience we are willing not to be afraid of being humans, not depending of the currently recognized social standards and accuracy, not depending on the system of rules or law. Theatre firstly talks to a person, then with his nation. It is a kind of test for our bonds: are we able to „read” one another, do we belong in the same culture? (magazyn.o.pl, 27.11.2013)
Prepared: June 2002; updated: August 2016 (ND).
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