Playwright, director, theatre critic. Born on April 26, 1955 in Yeniseysk, Siberia. Author of Our Class, a gripping play about complicated Polish-Jewish relations in the 20th century.
Słobodzianek became closely involved with the theatre upon founding the Wierszalin Society, a private and professional theatre, with Piotr Tomaszuk in Supraśl, outside of Białystok, in 1991. It put on puppet-actor performances and musicals. The theatre drew inspiration from legends, folk stories of the region and, with time, of the entire Europe. Performances showed deep fascination with cultural and religious heritage of the Polish - Belarusian borderland. This fascination has developed through his writing and directing, ultimately culminating in his best-known work - 2010's Our Class.
Set in 20th century Poland and inspired by true events, such as the Jedwabne pogrom which led to the bloody demise of 300 Polish Jews in 1941, it tells a gripping, human story of the damages infliced by way in a small town where neighbourly relations turn to hate and murder. Since 2010 the stage adaptation has been performed in major cities around the world. Over the years Słobodzianek has received numerous national and international awards. The most significant ones include the Fringe First Award won with the Wierszalin Society at the Edinburgh festival in 1993 and 1995, Polityka Passport Award (1993), Stanisław Piętak Prize (1993) and the Kościelski Foundation Prize for lifetime achievements in drama and theatre arts.
Słobodzianek was born in Siberia, but soon after his birth his family returned to Poland and settled in Białystok. After completing his high school education in 1974, he studied Theatre Studies at the Polish Philology Department at the Jagiellonian University (1974-1979). As a theatre critic, he published his reviews, under the pseudonym of Jan Koniecpolski, in Kraków's biweekly Student (1978-1979) and Polityka (1979-1982). He made his debut as a playwright with a play for children Historia o żebraku i osiołku / Story about a Beggar and a Donkey in 1980, while in 1982 as a director of Osmędeusze by Miron Białoszewski and Ludwik Hering at the Puppet Theatre in Białystok.
Słobodzianek furthered his background in the theatre as literary manager at the Wojciech Bogusławski Theatre in Kalisz (1981-1982) and the Polish Theatre in Poznań (1982), programme consultant at the Stefan Jaracz Theatre in Łódź (1982 - 1983) and the Puppet Theatre in Białystok (1984-1989). In 1987, he earned a degree in puppet directing on extramural basis. He was a lecturer in the Puppet Department at the Academy of Theatre in Białystok (1988-1989), a literary manager at the Miniatura Theatre in Gdańsk (1989-1991), founder and vice-president of the Wierszalin Society - Theatre (1991-1993), Chairman of the Wierszalin Society Co., Ltd Management Board (1993-2003), playwright at the Dramatyczny Theatre in Warsaw (1994-1995) and Nowy Theatre in Łódź (1999-2003) and lecturer of The Art of a Dialogue at the Collegium Civitas in Warsaw (2000-2003). In 2003, Słobodzianek founded Laboratorium Dramatu / Laboratory of Drama in Warsaw. It first operated at the National Theatre and since 2005 at the Society of Theatre Authors which associates writers of the young and middle generation. As the society's chairman, Słobodzianek devoted himself to the development and promotion of contemporary dramaturgy.
In 2009, Słobodzianek published Our Class a shocking story about a group of classmates from 1925 up to our times, Poles and Jews those who play together later become perpetrators and victims. The play gained recognition in Poland, England and Israel, going on to be performed in Canada, Japan, Hungary, Italy and the U.S.
Nasza klasa / Our Class is a story about a group of classmates - Poles and Jews - from 1925 up to our times. As they grow up, their friendly fun ends. The war breaks out, invading forces, first Soviet then Nazi, enter the town. Anti-Semitism erupts in a series of rapes, murders, torture, culminating in a mass pogrom. Almost all the local Jews are killed, burned in a barn or murdered in the town square. Very few manage to survive. The violence doesn't end with the end of the war. A reckoning with the past begins, but this is an impossible task.Our Class is a shocking tale about complicated Polish-Jewish relations in the 20th century, collective blame, truth that nobody seems to need, and history which cannot be judged, retraced, or even explained. The book was nominated for the Nike 2010 Literary Award. The European Theatre Convention ranked it among the best contemporary European plays written during 2009 and 2010. It has toured the world, including Hungary, Canada and the US as a theatre production staged by the Warsaw-based Teatr na Woli.
Since 2010 he has served as director of the Teatr na Woli theatre in Warsaw, where he staged the first production of Our Class, directed by Ondrej Spisak. In May 2012 he was named director of the Gustaw Holoubek Dramatic Theatre. Since 2001 Słobodzianek has lectured at the Laboratory of Reportage at the Journalism Department at the University of Warsaw.
Author: Bartłomiej Szleszyński, Polish Philology Department, University of Warsaw, April 2003. Updated by Agnieszka Le Nart, November 2012.