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The Ludwik Solski State Theatre School


Straszewskiego 21-22
Kraków, Poland

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The Theatre School opened in Kraków in 1946. In 1954, it was given the name of Ludwik Solski, who was one of the greatest actors of the Polish stage. The school's present name - the Ludwik Solski State Theatre School - has been in use since 1955. In 1962 the school was granted the status of an academic institution. It is located in {C} Warszawska and Straszewskiego streets.

Poland's post-war theatre life was concentrated in Krakow, and as a result, the town become a pied-a-terre for a large number of people of the theatre. The Theatre School had its roots in three theatre studios established soon after the war had finished in 1945: the Actors Studio at Stary Teatr, managed by the actor and director Jerzy Ronard Bujański; the Actors Studio at the Teatr im. Juliusza Słowackiego, which opened thanks to the efforts of distinguished set designer and director Karol Frycz; and Iwo Gall's Dramatical Studio,  founded by Iwo Gall, the set designer and director connected with Juliusz Osterwa's Reduta Theatre. The three Studios were merged in 1946 into a State Drama School called the National Acting School from 1949 to 1954. The school's founder and first director was Juliusz Osterwa, the remarkable theatre reformer dedicated to vocation and mission.

Close ties with Kraków theatres defined the unique character of the school from the very start. This uniqueness has been maintained to this day. The school was able to survive the difficult period of the 1950s, when the authorities and the Soviet art school training model barred any student relations with professional theatres. Jerzy Stuhr, the school's would-be Chancellor, thus commented on his studies:

Warsaw was Lee Strasberg telling students playing Chekhov: what is Gayev to you, you are Marlon, you do not care about Gayev, and if you get through… Here we were told: do all you can to be Gayev. Our Warsaw colleagues had extremely awakened personality energies and they displayed them all the time. Someone must have told them to do so. We did not need to manifest our personalities so strongly, for we knew that our teachers would always take us in somewhere and that we would be able to continue to learn - to learn and not to exhibit ourselves. ("Krakowska Szkoła Teatralna wczoraj i dziś /dyskusja/" w: "Krakowska Szkoła Teatralna. 50 lat PWST im. L. Solskiego w Krakowie", red. J. Popiel, Kraków 1997) ["The Krakow Theatre School: Yesterday and Today (A Discussion") in "The Krakow Theatre School. 50 Years of the Ludwik Solski State Theatre School of Krakow", ed. J. Popiel, Kraków 1997).

When Juliusz Osterwa died in 1947, the four directors to succeed him in managing the school until 1953 were Władysław Woźnik, Antoni E. Balicki, Eugeniusz Fulde and Tadeusz Burnatowicz, who was also the school's first Chancellor in 1953-1963. The subsequent Chancellors were Bronisław Dąbrowski (1963-1968) and Eugeniusz Fulde (1968-1972), Jerzy Krasowski (1972-1981), Danuta Michałowska (1981-1984), Jerzy Trela (1984-1990), Jerzy Stuhr (1990-1996), Jacek Popiel (1996-2000). Jerzy Stuhr was again elected Chancellor in 2000.

Kraków's Theatre School trained actors from the very beginning. From 1949 a four-year training period was introduced. In the 1950s the authorities imposed the Stanislavsky method of training. The system developed by this celebrated Russian director, teacher and creator of the Moscow Art Theatre was applied in a schematic and vulgarized way. At the same time the Ministry of Culture and Art banned students from working as theatre extras, reduced the number of theoretical courses and increased the number of practical and ideological classes. The Ministry's directives applied to the entire system of art education and marked the introduction of Socialist Realism. The repertoires of theatre schools were narrowed down to Russian and Soviet drama and contemporary Polish plays, with no contemporary West-European drama whatsoever.

A new repertoire appeared after the "thaw" of 1956 and in the 1960s.

"... Witkacy, Różewicz, Ionesco, Pinter entered", wrote Danuta Michałowska. "When it came to designing 3rd year poetry curriculum, students suggested contemporary works, mostly American and English ... Polish poets were proposed as well, particularly Miron Białoszewski, Stanisław Grochowiak, Ewa Lipska, Leszek Moczulski, and, a little later, the super-idol of the young, Edward Stachura." (" 'Stara' i 'nowa' szkoła wiersza" w: "Krakowska Szkoła Teatralna. 50 lat PWST im. L. Solskiego w Krakowie", Kraków 1997) [" 'Old' and 'New' School of Poetry" in "The Krakow Theatre School. 50 Years of the Ludwik Solski State Theatre School of Krakow", Kraków 1997].

Approach to diploma projects changed gradually, too.

"... Until 1951 they were not so much full performances as shows composed of selected scenes from dramas and poems. Later they started to stage plays. Some just highlighted the strengths of the graduates-to-be, but others reflected much farther-reaching ambitions of directors and young actors" (Tadeusz Kornaś, "Echo Krakowa" 1996 no. nr 119).

This evolution produced some outstanding diploma performances that would be remembered by audience and critics alike, for instance Tadeusz Różewicz's PIESZO (1981) and BROTHERS based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, directed by Jerzy Jarocki in 1981 and 1988, respectively, or SKETCHES FROM THE MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES based on Robert Musil's prose, directed by Krystian Lupa in 1990.

Kraków's Theatre School's Directing Department operated in1955-1962 and was re-established by Chancellor Jerzy Krasowski in 1973. Its syllabus focused increasingly not only on acting skills but also on personalities and talking to actors. Care was taken to maintain co-operation with major artistic individualities and to enable students of both Acting and Directing Departments to work with people of the theatre from outside of Kraków's circles.

"I have made contact with theatre schools abroad", said Jerzy Trela, Kraków Theatre School's Chancellor in the late 1980s. "Our students could therefore go to international workshops and festivals in France, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, US and Ukraine. … I have also come to the conclusion that the school needs to open up more as it is too insular and lacks input. I have introduced a subject which I called 'Partnership Skills'." ("Dwa wspomnienia" w: "Krakowska Szkoła Teatralna. 50 lat PWST im. L. Solskiego w Krakowie", Kraków 1997) ["Two Memories" in: "The Krakow Theatre School. 50 Years of the Ludwik Solski State Theatre School of Krakow", Kraków 1997).

In 1954-1964 the school had a Puppetry Art Department. Maja Komorowska and Ryszard Cieślak were among its graduates. In 1972 Puppetry was re-established at the branch of the Kraków school in Wrocław, the city having become one of the centres of Polish theatrical life. Stanisław Stapf, the director of "Chochlik", the State Puppetry Theatre in Wrocław, who had founded a Puppeteer School at the Theatre, was the first Dean, replaced in 1975 by Henryk Jurkowski. The major challenge of puppetry training was to teach puppeteers to appear on the stage and to expand the repertoire to include plays for adults.

"From the commedia dell'arte, street and market comedy through animal fable and classic fairy tales to nativity play to satirical, surrealist and even Dadaist repertoire. Using the best drama pieces, we developed difficulty-graded scripts, designed curricula for each year". (A. Helman-Twardowska, "Wrocławski Wydział Lalkarski" w: "Krakowska Szkoła Teatralna. 50 lat PWST im. L. Solskiego w Krakowie", Kraków 1997) [A. Helman-Twardowska, "The Wroclaw Puppetry Art. Department" in: "The Krakow Theatre School. 50 Years of the Ludwik Solski State Theatre School in Krakow", Kraków 1997).

In 1992 the Wroclaw Puppetry Art Department opened Poland's first Graduate Children and Teenager Theatre Directing School, and since 1991 the Department has hosted the International Meetings of Theatre School Puppetry Art Departments.

Since 1979 Wrocław has also been home to the Acting Department, whose first Dean was Igor Przegrodzki. Since 1991 its second-year students have had the option to choose the pantomime and movement line. Pantomime is taught by experienced actors of the Henryk Tomaszewski Wroclaw Pantomime Theatre. {C}

Theatre studies literature contains a term "Krakow school", referring to the style of acting created in the 1870s by Stanisław Koźmian, the then director of the Krakow Theatre. The style was characterized by the actors' submission to the director's staging concept, moderation in the use of emotions, gestures and intonation, and rather natural acting. Its exponents included such celebrities as Helena Modrzejewska [Modjeska] and Antonina Hoffmann. Most of the teachers and alumni of the Krakow Theatre School consider themselves creative continuators of that 19th century school, or at least see in it the roots of Kraków's later approach to actor training.

"Is there really a major difference between the Kraków and Warsaw schools nowadays? Is it the training method that makes the Kraków graduates' style of acting so distinct from that of alumni of other schools?", wonders Janusz Degler. "Everybody says that the method is a fact of life and that the 'Krakow school' owes it its one-hundred-year-old fame. The distinctiveness must be the result of a number of factors, yet there has to be a core element to have kept the Krakow Theatre School unique despite all the changes. I think that this critical element is traditionalism, not to say conservatism, demonstrating itself in the perpetuation of certain values and principles, such as solidity in teaching fundamental acting skills, and in particular the requirement of perfect diction. It was for the reason of the latter that Ryszard Cieślak, found to possess a speech defect, was admitted to the Puppetry Art and not the Acting Department; it was the same case with Maja Komorowska". ("Krakowska Szkoła Teatralna wczoraj i dziś /dyskusja/" w: "Krakowska Szkoła Teatralna. 50 lat PWST im. L. Solskiego w Krakowie", red. J. Popiel, Kraków 1997) ["The Krakow Theatre School: Yesterday and Today /A Discussion/" in "The Krakow Theatre School. 50 Years of the Ludwik Solski State Theatre School in Krakow", Kraków 1997].

The importance attached by the Kraków school to work on the text was similarly extolled by Danuta Michałowska, who pointed out "…reverence for the text, passion for poetry to which we refer as classics, especially for the works by the great Romantics and Norwid" (" 'Stara' i 'nowa' szkoła wiersza" w: "Krakowska Szkoła Teatralna. 50 lat PWST im. L. Solskiego w Krakowie", Kraków 1997) [" 'Old' and 'New' School of Poetry" in "The Krakow Theatre School. 50 Years of the Ludwik Solski State Theatre School in Krakow", Kraków 1997].

The Kraków school teachers were the celebrities of Polish post-war theatre and included Jerzy Jarocki, Tadeusz Kantor, Mieczysław Kotlarczyk, Konrad Swinarski, Ewa Lassek, Krystian Lupa, Krzysztof Penderecki, Anna Polony, Krystyna Skuszanka.

Some of the key people of the Polish theatre have included the alumni of the Acting Department, in particular Halina Mikołajska, Halina Gryglaszewska, Gustaw Holoubek, Zbigniew Cybulski, Bogumił Kobiela, Leszek Herdegen, Kalina Jędrusik, Zofia Kucówna, Anna Polony, Marek Walczewski, Jerzy Bińczycki, Teresa Budzisz-Krzyżanowska, Jan Nowicki, Anna Seniuk, Ewa Demarczyk, Jan Peszek, Olgierd Łukaszewicz, Wojciech Pszoniak, Jerzy Trela, Jerzy Stuhr, Anna Dymna, Jan Frycz, Krzysztof Globisz, Dorota Segda. The Acting Department also had Jerzy Grotowski among its graduates. Directing was studied here by Mikołaj Grabowski, Krystian Lupa, Edward Lubaszenko, Anna Polony, Krzysztof Babicki, Tadeusz Bradecki, Andrzej Dziuk, Waldemar Zawodziński. Over the last ten years the school's graduates included such directors as Anna Augustynowicz, Grzegorz Jarzyna and Krzysztof Warlikowski as well as actresses Magdalena Cielecka and Maja Ostaszewska. All of them have had a major impact on Polish theatre and acting in the past ten years.

Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora
November 2003

Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Teatralna im. Ludwika Solskiego w Krakowie
ul. Straszewskiego 21-22
31-109 Kraków
Phone: (+48 12) 422 18 55, 422 57 01, 422 15 90
Fax: (+48 12) 422 02 09



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