Tadeusz Słobodzianek winning the Nike Award in 2010. Photo: Marek Dusza
Tadeusz Słobodzianek winning the Nike Award in 2010. Photo: Marek Dusza

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.

 

Slected Plays:

  • Baśń jesienna. Premiered on November 7, 1981, Wojciech Bogusławski Theatre in Kalisz, directed by Rudolf Zioło
  • Pułapka. Premiered on September 11, 1983, Groteska Theatre in Kraków, directed by Wojciech Ziętarski
  • Car Mikołaj
    • Version I. Published in Dialog May 1987. Premiered on December 17, 1988, Dramatyczny Theatre in Warsaw, directed by Maciej Prus
    • Version II. Premiered on October 20, 1995, Polish Television Theatre, directed by Tadeusz Słobodzianek;
  • Obywatel Pekosiewicz. Published in Dialog May 1989. Premiered on May 28, 1989, Stefan Jaracz Theatre in Łódź, directed by Mikołaj Grabowski
  • Turlajgroszek (1990), co-authored with Piotr Tomaszuk. Published in Dialog November 1990. Premiered on November 14, 1990, Miniatura Theatre in Gdańsk
  • Jaskółeczka (1992). Premiered on May 16, 1992, Guliwer Theatre in Warsaw, directed by Adriana Nora Pizzino
  • Prorok Ilja. Published in Dialog November 1991
    • Version I. Premiered on June 6, 1994, Polish Television Theatre, directed by Tadeusz Słobodzianek
    • Version II. Premiered in Germany on November 24, 1995, Kreatur Theatre in Berlin. Translated by Martin Pollack. Directed by Andrej Woron
    • Version III. Published in Kartki February 22, 2000. Premiered in Poland on November 12, 1999, Nowy Theatre in Łódź, directed by Mikołaj Grabowski. Premiered in Czech Republic on October 11, 2000, Aréna Theatre in Ostrava. Translated by Janusz Klimsza. Directed by Janusz Klimsza. Premiered in Hungary on December 10, 2001, Áron Tamási Theatre in Sepsiszentgyörgy. Translated by Patricia Pászt. Directed by László Bocsárdi
  • Merlin - inna historia (1993). Published in Dialog March 1993. Premiered on July 15, 1993, Wierszalin Society - Theatre, directed by Piotr Tomaszuk. Premiered in Belgium on March 15, 1993, Temporalia Festival 1994 in Brussels. Translated by Michel Maslowski and Jacques Donguy. Directed by Richard Kalisz. Premiered in Germany on November 24, 1995, Kreatur Theatre in Berlin. Translated by Martin Pollack. Directed by Andrej Woron
  • Kowal Malambo. Published in Dialog July 1993. Premiered on January 26, 1995, Dramatyczny Theatre in Koszalin, directed by Marek Pasieczny
  • Obywatel Pekoś (new version of Obywatel Pekosiewicz). Premiered on April 12, 1997, Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków, directed by Mikołaj Grabowski
  • Sen pluskwy, czyli towarzysz Chrystus. Published in Krasnogruda December 2000. Premiered on September 15, 2001, Nowy Theatre in Łódź, directed by Kazimierz Dejmek;
  • Nasza klasa / Our Class. Published in "Gdańsk" 2009. Premiered on October 6, 2010, Teatr Na Woli in Warsaw, directed by Ondrej Spišák.

 

Performances directed by Tadeusz Słobodzianek:

  • Osmędeusze by Miron Białoszewski and Ludwik Hering, Stefan Jaracz Theatre in Łódź, 1982
  • Scenariusz dla trzech aktorów by Bogusław Schaeffer, Puppet Theatre in Białystok, 1986
  • Kabaret Kici Koci by Miron Białoszewski, Ateneum Theatre in Warsaw, 1988
  • Wielki Teatr Świata by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Puppet Theatre in Białystok, 1989
  • Historia o żebraku i osiołku by Tadeusz Słobodzianek, "Miniatura" Theatre in Gdańsk, 1990
  • Czerwony Kapturek by Jan Brzechwa, "Miniatura" Theatre in Gdańsk, 1991
  • Prorok Ilja by Tadeusz Słobodzianek, Polish Television Theatre, 1994
  • Magia Grzechu by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Dramatyczny Theatre in Warsaw, 1995
  • Car Mikołaj by Tadeusz Słobodzianek, Polish Television Theatre, 1995


Author: Bartłomiej Szleszyński, Polish Philology Department, University of Warsaw, April 2003. Updated by Agnieszka Le Nart, November 2012.