Renowned theatre director, stage designer. He was born on 7th November 1943 in Jastrzębie Zdrój.
Before turning his attention to theatre, Lupa was as student in the Physics Department of Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Shortly after matriculating, he abandoned this course of study and passed the entrance exams for the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, from where he graduated in 1969 with a degree in graphic design. He went on to spend two years studying directing at the Łódź Film School. In 1973 he was accepted into the theatre directing program at the State Higher School of Theatre in Kraków.
While a student, Lupa developed a professional relationship with Konrad Swinarski, attending his classes in play analysis and serving as his assistant on a production of Hamlet at the Stary Teatr (Old Theatre) in Krakow. Lupa has admitted that Swinarski taught him to explore the meaning of individual scenes and to work with actors. As a student, the director was also fascinated by the theatre of Tadeusz Kantor and the function of the actor in the stage reality devised by Kantor.
The work of Swinarski and Kantor was a psychological event for me. Specifically, I have in mind their stagings of Wyzwolenie/ Liberation and Umarła klasa / The Dead Class, Lupa was quoted as saying. (Teatr / Theatre monthly, 1979, no. 15)
On the other hand, Carl Gustav Jung proved to be the author of paramount importance to the director.
If I can say I have a mentor, I would say this would surely be Jung, Lupa has said. Among the thinkers I have encountered in my life, he has explained the most to me. He is a psychologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, but just as Jerzy Prokopiuk stated in an introduction to one of Jung's works, he was also the 20th century's chief Gnostic. He is a master of the path - not only of truth - but a master of the path to the truth. (Notatnik Teatralny / Theatre Notebook, 1993, no. 6)
Lupa made his professional theatre debut in 1976 with a production of Sławomir Mrożek's Rzeznia / The Slaughterhouse at the Teatr im. J. Słowackiego (J. Słowacki Theatre) in Krakow. For his thesis project in directing, Lupa chose Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz's Nadobnisie i koczkodany / Dandies and Frumps (1977), a text he had worked on earlier. It was with a director's notebook on this play that he applied for and passed the entrance exams for theatre school.
This just might be one of the best Witkacy productions ever to have been mounted on our stages, wrote P. Kaminski after the premiere. Lupa has entirely abandoned the magical and manneristic style that for years has haunted stagings of this playwright's dramas. He has created a production as humorous as it is tragic, one that is raw in form and conceptually clear. (Literature / Literature monthly, 1977, no. 13)
Upon graduating, Lupa was given a position at the Teatr im. C. K. Norwida (C. K. Norwid Theatre) in Jelenia Góra, where he once again directed Dandies and Frumps (1978) and twice more chose to work on plays by Witkacy, staging this author's Pragmatysci / The Pragmatists (1981) and Maciej Korbowa i Bellatrix / Maciej Korbowa and Bellatrix (1986).
Contrary to what is done most frequently, Lupa does not read Witkiewicz's dramas through the totalitarian experiences of the 20th century, doing so rather through the cultural transformations of the century's end, wrote Grzegorz Niziolek. He does not value the author for being an avant-garde playwright. Rather, he extracts from Witkiewicz's dramas a special form of realism (treating the grotesque as an attribute of reality rather than of art) inscribed in inter-personal situations; what interests him in these plays are symptoms of anthropological change, not political change. Witkacy also represents the model of artist dearest to Lupa - that of an artist who seeks to express himself through various art forms (drama, theatre, the novel, painting, drawing), who treats the act of artistic expression as a complete act that engages the subconscious and the artist's most personal experiences. (Sobowtór i utopia. Teatr Krystiana Lupy / The Doppelganger and Utopia - The Theatre of Krystian Lupa, Krakow, 1997)
At around this same time and still in Jelenia Gora, Lupa staged productions of Leonid Andreyev's Życie człowieka / The Life of Man (1977), Stanisław Przybyszewski's Matka / The Mother (1979), Sławomir Mrożek's Pieszo / On Foot (1982) and Witold Gombrowicz's Ślub / The Marriage (1984). In 1978 Lupa directed Gombrowicz's Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda / Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy at the Stary Teatr in Krakow. At the time, critics noted that what interested Lupa most in the theatre were inter-human relationships, which he depicted on stage through subtle, lightly shaded psychological play that he combined with emphasis of the complex motivations of characters. Reviewers also underlined his highly precise composition of scenes and exquisite ability to interpret moments of silence. Much was also written about the director's conscious and purposeful repetition of certain sequences and his propensity for slowing down the tempo of action and generally experimenting with time in the theatre. It was at this time that Lupa created his first original productions Przezroczysty pokój / The Transparent Room (1979) and Kolacja / The Supper (1980).
Both productions were like artistic manifestoes and contained certain autobiographical elements, wrote Grzegorz Niziołek. Freed from literature, Lupa's theatre revealed itself in its purest form: as non-narrative theatre about inter-human situations and hypnotic psychological states. (Sobowtór i utopia. Teatr Krystiana Lupy, Krakow, 1997)
The theatre programs for these productions almost invariably contained the following credit: Script by Krystian Lupa, production created jointly by the acting ensemble. While still in Jelenia Góra, Lupa developed his specific method of working with actors, a method that he would ultimately apply more broadly, not solely to those productions that were his original creations. His collaborators of the time referred to his method of developing productions as 'laboratory rehearsals.'
Krystian immediately taught me the most important thing - that theatre is about more than just showing off and presenting oneself, that it serves a greater purpose than merely satisfying one's vanity, says actor Piotr Skiba, who has been working with Lupa since the director's time in Jelenia Gora. Theatre should be a bridge to the land of spirituality. (...) Lupa does not create situational theatre. Rather, he leads his actors through issues, subjects, tasks. Situations are something final, ultimate. (Notatnik Teatralny, 1999, no. 18-19)
Krystian Lupa has enjoyed a relationship with the Stary Teatr in Krakow since 1980, and created some of his most exceptional productions there. He began his work at this theatre by staging Powrót Odysa / The Return of Odysseus by Stanisław Wyspiański (1981), a play to which he would return in 1999, staging it once more at the Teatr Dramatyczny (Dramatic Theatre) in Warsaw. Lupa also took on Austrian literature for the first time while at this Krakow theatre. In creating his original production titled Miasto snu / City of Sleep (1985), Lupa drew inspiration from Alfred Kubin's novel Po tamtej stronie / The Other Side. In 1988 Lupa directed Robert Musil's Marzyciele / The Dreamers, a production which explored the deterioration of ideals through the prism of an individual who remains in a constant search for his identity.
As in Musil's text, in Lupa's production man is a strange and impenetrable entity, wrote Bozena Winnicka. Incomprehensible things happen within him. His intentions and deeds, feelings and thoughts, moments of elation and fear remain in constant flux. (Życie Literackie/ Literary Life, 1988, no. 15)
Lupa would once again look to Musil two years later when he adapted and mounted a production of this author's great, epic work - the essayistic, philosophical novel Człowiek bez własciwosci / The Man without Qualities. Mounted as the thesis production for students of the Acting Department of the State Higher School of Theatre in Krakow, Lupa titled this staging Szkice z Człowieka bez własciwości Roberta Musila / Sketches from Robert Musil's The Man without Qualities. The director once again adapted Austrian prose for his Malte albo tryptyk marnotrawnego syna / Malte, or the Prodigal Son's Triptych (1991), a staging inspired by the work of Rainer Maria Rilke.
Krystian Lupa first drew on the work of Thomas Bernhard in 1992, creating a production based on his own adaptation of the author's novel Kalkwerk. This staging quickly gained the reputation of being a great metaphysical treatise, while exceptional acting simultaneously made it a shocking picture of the physical and mental sufferings of a man who seeks meaning in a world ruled by routine. Lunatycy. Esch, czyli anarchia / The Sleepwalkers - Esch, or Anarchy, a production from 1995, was yet another adaptation of a German language original, namely, the second part of Austrian author Hermann Broch's great prose trilogy. Encompassing the period from the close of the 19th century to the end of World War I, Broch's The Sleepwalkers describes the deterioration of values held sacred until this period, a deterioration caused by processes of social disintegration.
The love for humankind that I found so consuming in this production - in what is it expressed (...)? asked Andrzej Wanat. In a sensitive sharpness of perception. In the acceptance of humanity in all of its ugliness, ludicrousness and wildness, in the acceptance of all the falsities and pretences that culture imposes upon nature. In noticing spiritual fears and longings in the biological reactions of humans: their need for community, order, a lessening of the fear of death - if only for a moment... This is all awkward, desperate, pitiable to a degree and comic, and therefore it is real and great in spite of its modesty. (Teatr monthly, 1995, no. 7/8)
Lupa's state of mind is a European one, wrote Piotr Gruszczyński about the director's style of theatre - applying these words specifically to his Krakow production of 'The Sleepwalkers. His plays reflect the exhaustion of the Old Continent and all of its descents into decadence. Being a Pole, a German or an Austrian has no meaning in and of itself. What is important is the spiritual context in which we act and live, rather than any national, historical or political context. (...) European spirituality of the twentieth century is the most essential dimension of activity, the site of real struggle and conflict, a realm of strong tensions. (Notatnik Teatralny, 1999, no. 18-19)
In 1988 Lupa staged the second part of his theatrical adaptation of The Sleepwalkers, subtitling it Hugenau, czyli rzeczowosc / Hugenau, or Objectivity.
Lupa's staging imperceptibly transcends the limits of the novel and becomes a painful treatise about the strangeness of existence, noted Piotr Gruszczynski. (...) We are absolutely helpless in the face of our existence, perhaps even more helpless than in the face of death. This is the perspective of contemporary existence as tragedy. It is truly unimportant if we live in times of war or peace. War merely proffers the advantage of more sharply highlighting the troubles we experience with our existence. (Teatr monthly, 1998, no. 45)
In staging Bernhard's Rodzenstwo. Ritter, Dene, Voss / Ritter, Dene, Voss (1996), Lupa took a similar approach to that which he applied in mounting the same author's Kalkwerk. Ritter, Dene, Voss is about the life of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and in his production Lupa examined the routine behaviors of three siblings while highlighting the emotional conflicts that absorb the would-be genius. The director also turned to his Austrian fascinations at the Teatr Polski (Polish Theatre) in Wroclaw, with which he has been collaborating since 1996. It was at this theatre that he staged Thomas Bernhard's Immanuel Kant (1996), Dama z jednorozcem / The Lady and the Unicorn based on Hermann Broch's short story Hanna Wendling (1997), and Kuszenie cichej Weroniki / The Temptation of Quiet Veronica based on a story by Robert Musil (1997). Most recently, at the Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw, Lupa directed Bernhard's Auslöschung / Wymazywanie / Extinction, based on his own translation (2001) - a production in which he explored issues of memory, attempts at erasing one's biography, and the ability of individuals to be born anew.
The theme of spiritual transformation or renewal is nothing new in Lupa's theatre, although it seems this time the director has confronted it with unusual passion," wrote Janusz Majcherek. The same author stated previously (...) it is worth noting the degree to which Lupa is familiar with Bernhard's text, which obviously both attracts and repulses the director, the reading of which is both a compulsion for him as well as a pain. (Teatr monthly, 2001, no. 5)
In 1997 Lupa staged Yasmina Reza's comedy Art at the Stary Teatr in Krakow. Although strongly colored by a tone of irony, the humor in this production possessed a serious undercurrent.
Lupa has also brought works of Russian literature to the stage. He prepared Bracia / Brothers (1988) - based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov - as the thesis production of fourth year acting students at the State Higher School of Theatre in Krakow, where Lupa has been teaching since 1983. He readapted this novel for the stage in 1990 at the Stary Teatr in Krakow, and developed a new version of The Brothers Karamazov, turning this work into a great theatrical fresco, in 1999. Working with students of the Acting Department of the State Higher School of Theatre in Krakow under the program of thesis productions, the director has twice staged texts by Anton Chekhov, adapting this author's play Platonov into a production consisting of two parts and titled Płatonow wiśniowy i oliwkowy / Cherry and Olive Platonov (1996), and two years later staging The Three Sisters. He has also created a stage adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita (Stary Teatr in Krakow, 2002), and prepared a production titled Azyl / Asylum, based on Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths (2003), at the Teatr Polski in Wroclaw.
When it comes to contemporary plays, Lupa mounted productions of Austrian author Werner Schwab's Prezydentki / First Ladies (Polish Theatre in Wroclaw, 1999) as well as Stosunki Klary / Clara's Relations by German playwright Dea Loher (Teatr Rozmaitości / Variety Theatre in Warsaw, 2003).
In 2004, Lupa did a production entitled Niedokończony utwór na aktora wedlug 'Mewy' Czechowa - Sztuka hiszpanska Yasminy Rezy / Unfinished Work for An Actor Based on Chekhov's 'The Seagull' - The Spanish Play of Yasmina Reza, which premiered on March 27th, 2004, at the Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw. In 2006 Lupa tackled another one of Bernhard's plays - Na szczytach panuje cisza / Over All the Mountain Tops (2006).
In 2004 he brought two performances to the stage of the National Old Theatre under the patronage of Helena Modrzejewska in Krakow. The first, which premiered in Athens at the Hellenic Festival in 2004 (it's Polish premiere took place in 2005 at the Old Theatre) is Zarathustra based on Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Einar Schleef's Nietzsche. Trilogy. Full of rigour and drama, Lupa's adaptation of Zarathustra showed the spiritual journey of a man who asks about the point of human existence, the point of an existence without God, about the possibilities and limits of human experience. The second play he laid out reflections about the essence of creation, the artist's consciousness and the role of chance in art. He also put on stage Factory 2 based on his own script and inspired by the life and work of Andy Warhol and the phenomenon of his legendary studio (2008).
Since 2009 he has been working on the Persona.Triptych devoted to intriguing female personalities across borders and generations. Lupa's focus is on three iconic figures from the Twentieth Century: Marilyn Monroe, Simone Weil and George Gurdjieff. In 2011, his Waiting Room premiered at Wrocław's Polski Theatre. 2012 saw the production of Lupa's City of Dreams, an adaptation of Alfred Kubin's novel The Other Side, brought to the stage together with the TR Warszawa theatre group. The official premiere staging of the play took place at the Theatre de la Ville in Paris.
Lupa is a master at creating internally coherent stage realities. He often translates and adapts the texts which he stages, simultaneously designing the scenery and directing these productions. In some, he himself appears on stage as the narrator. He is capable of achieving unusual unity of expression and creating concepts marked by immense clarity and precision. He treats music in a very special way in his productions:
Basically it can exist only in concert with the action of the play. It constitutes a space of sound that is entirely integrated with what the actors do. At times it unites with the action so completely that spectators cease to perceive it. (Tadeusz Kornas, Notatnik Teatralny, 1999, no. 18-19)
The quality of Lupa's theatre derives from strong acting, which is often deemed "invisible" or "transparent," made so by actors who unite almost completely with the characters they play. Most often, characters so thoroughly take over the actors that the smallest psychological nuances and inner contradictions become perceivable in the intimacy of his productions.
Lupa's theatre is one of psychological extremes, which he chooses to reveal in times of hypocrisy and cheap entertainment," wrote Tomasz Man. "Lupa warns: cheap entertainment means cheap humans, cheap lives, cheap souls, cheap reason, cheap sensibilities... His productions begin where questions are not asked and end where all that relates to us has been questioned. This delicious paradox is not a mere mechanism, but denotes a certain inability to name man 'completely.' Thus is created the mystery of being human to one self and to others. (...) In the structured stage world, every individual is a contradiction on the inside. He or she builds castles on sand, because that makes sense. They decline into madness because they find no answer to questions regarding who they truly are. (Notatnik Teatralny, 1999, no. 18-19)
Krystian Lupa made his debut in Polish Television Theatre in 1978 with a production of Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz's Wariat i zakonnica / The Madman and the Nun. His credits also include televised versions of his theatrical adaptations of Robert Musil's The Dreamers (1992), Thomas Bernhard's Immanuel Kant (1997) and Kalkwerk (1998), Robert Musil's The Temptation of Quiet Veronica (2001) and Hermann Broch's Hanna Wendling (2001). In 1993 he created a three-part television production titled W strone Klarysy. Szkice z 'Człowieka bez właściwosci' Roberta Musila / Towards Clarissa - Sketches from Robert Musil's 'Man Without Qualities', basing this upon a stage version he mounted in 1990 at the State Higher School of Theatre in Krakow.
Krystian Lupa is the author of a collection of sketches titled Utopia i jej mieszkancy / Utopia and Its Inhabitants and two volumes of prose - Labirynt / Labyrinth (2001) and Podgladanie / Spying (2003), both of which contain excerpts from the diaries that Lupa has been keeping for years.
On 23 October 2014 at the Jerzy Grzegorzewski Stage of the Polish Theatre in Wrocław another widely discussed premiere of Lupa's play took place. Wycinka / Woodcutters / Holzfaellen, based on Thomas Bernhard's prose, was recognised by the audience and critics as the best play of the season. The play’s plot takes place over a dinner shared by old friends from an informal art group. The gathering soon turns into a funeral meal after the death of one of the protagonists. The jury of the Divine Comedy International Theatre Festival awarded its creators with three prizes in the most significant categories (best play, best director, best actor). In the opinion of the jury members we can read:
for a skillful critic of an artist's position and confronting the audience with the most inconvenient truths, and for the totality of the work which provides us with many amazing theatrical moments.
Krystian Lupa after the peremiere said himself:
Bernhard criticises the situation where the uncompromissing attitude and fight for a different world, which is a part of artists' lives at the beginning of their path, dissapear. Instead, the artists start to entangle themselves in relations with cynical and ignorant authorities, they accept compromises, to have power over their careers. It is a play about problems which people of culture experience, about mechanisms the culture is affected by.
The director was also appreciated by the jury of the TVP Kultura (a culture-oriented channel of the Polish Television) who awarded him with the 'Supergwarancja', a special award given on the 10th anniversary of the channel. The jury wrote:
The Supergwarancja Award for an artist who still searches, provokes and inspires, an artist who consider art a way to explore human and discover his secrets. For his ability to create another reality on stage and for amazing skills in alluring the audience. For the director who proves his uniqueness once again by staging Wycinka / Woodcutters / Holzfaellen by Thomas Bernhard at the Polish Theatre in Wrocław.
In 2015 Lupa produced Plac Bohaterów / Heroes' Square at the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre in Vilnius. It was another time the director took on Thomas Bernhard's work. He is already considered an expert on theatrical adaptations of this author’s works and he is also a member of the board of the Thomas Bernhard Foundation. This time Lupa creates a play based on a scandalous drama from 1988, telling about antisemitism and Austrian collaboration with Hitler. The director depicts hypocrisy of the society who has created reality they live in and sincerely hate. Marcin Miętus in his review for Kultura Liberalna wrote:
It is not an easy play. It demands focusing. Also upon leaving the theatre you cannot get rid of it, it rushes upon your mind and does not give simple interpretations. It is not about a complete bonding between the stage and the reality. Neither about simple lables or slogans. Lupa's politics is not a cheap opinion journalism. He director has created a strong content play where the dominating helplessness is nearly tangible. (Kultura Liberalna nr 376, 22.03.2016)
The play was later presented at the Drama Theatre in Warsaw during the 36. Warszawskie Spotkania Teatralne / 36th Warsaw Theatre Meetings and during the Divine Comedy International Theatre Festival in Kraków.