Actor, one of the most controversial Polish theatre directors.
In 1945 Hanuszkiewicz began his acting career at the Wanda Siemaszkowa Theatre in Rzeszów. From 1945 to 1946 he played in Dolnośląski Theatre in Jelenia Góra. He made his debut with a role of Wacław in Aleksander Fredro's Zemsta / The Revenge directed by Stefania Domańska (1945). He graduated with honours on extramural basis in 1946 in Łódź. The committee of the diploma examination consisted of Leon Schiller, Edmund Wierciński, Jacek Woszczerowicz and Aleksander Zelwerowicz. Between 1946 and 1949 Hanuszkiewicz was an actor in Juliusz Osterwa's ensemble at the Drama Theatre in Kraków. He was Kajetan in Juliusz Słowacki’s Fantazy / Fantasy directed by Osterwa (1946). Another significant role was that of Amphitryon in Jean Giraudoux's drama by the same title directed by Bohdan Korzeniewski (1948). From 1949 to 1950 he was an actor at the Rozmaitości Theatre in Warsaw; from 1950 to 1955 in the Polish Theatre in Poznań. There, he played Hamlet in a renowned production by Wilam Horzyca (1950).
In 1951, he made his debut as a director with Leonid Rachmanov's socialist realist play Niespokojna starość / The Restless Old Age at the Polish Theatre in Poznań.
(...) it was the sole Soviet play, said Hanuszkiewicz, that I have directed throughout my career as the general director of the Powszechny Theatre for 7 years and of the National Theatre for 14 years. ("Without Me Theatre is Boring. Roman Pawłowski's Interview with Adam Hanuszkiewicz", in: "Gazeta Wyborcza", August 29, 2002)
Since 1955 Hanuszkiewicz has been working in Warsaw. First, he was an actor at the Polish Theatre. At that time he was also involved in the formation of the Television Theatre. In 1955 Hanuszkiewicz directed his first television play – Jerzy Andrzejewski's Złoty lis / Golden Fox. Between 1957 and 1963, he held the chair of the first chief director of the TV Theatre. The repertoire that the director staged was quite diverse and included: Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński's Babcia i wnuczek / The Grandmother and the Grandchild (1955) and Zielona gęś / The Green Goose (1956); Jean-Paul Sartre's Muchy / Flies (1956); Marek Hłasko's Dwóch mężczyzn na drodze / Two Men on the Road (1957); Joseph Conrad's Amy Foster (1960), and Tadeusz Różewicz's Świadkowie albo nasza mała stabilizacja / Witnesses, or Our Little Stabilization (1960). During that period he also staged Adam Mickiewicz's Dziady / The Forefathers (1959) whose poetics referred to the Warsaw Uprising. Thus, his directing career developed simultaneously in television and theatre. Hanuszkiewicz's contribution to the development of the television theatre, then still broadcast live, is invaluable. Much of his skills developed at television studios such as film-like scene shooting, close-ups, shadowing and detail exposition were applied by Hanuszkiewicz in theatre productions.
At the Television Theatre Hanuszkiewicz directed the Polish classics: Aleksander Fredro's Zemsta / The Revenge (1961) and Trzy po trzy / Topsy Turvy Talk (1977); Juliusz Słowacki's Beniowski (1966); Gabriela Zapolska's Ich czworo / The Four of Them (1967). He also staged Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz / Sir Thaddeus (1966, 1970–1971) and some works of the contemporary Polish literature, such as Leon Kruczkowski's Pierwszy dzień wolności / The First Day of Freedom (1963), Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz's Matka Joanna od Aniołów / Mother Joan of the Angels (1965); Roman Bratny's Kolumbowie / The Generation of Columbuses (1966), Ireneusz Iredyński's monodrama Maria / Mary with the outstanding performance by Zofia Kucówna (1980). Hanuszkiewicz was a producer of poetic shows which paid tribute to the Polish writers of the romantic period: Norwid (1966 and 1973); series of shows called Szkice do portretu / Sketches for a Portrait (devoted to Zygmunt Krasiński (1969), Cyprian Kamil Norwid (1969), Adam Mickiewicz (1970), Juliusz Słowacki (1970)); O Wyspiańskim... / About Wyspiański… (1968); Julian Tuwim's Kwiaty polskie / Polish Flowers (1965), Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński's Pochwalone niech będą ptaki / Praised be the Birds (1967) and Nim przyjdzie wiosna / Before the Spring Arrives based on Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz's poems(1993). In addition, Hanuszkiewicz produced television shows based on the world's classics, such as Vita Nuova based on Dante's works (1962); Pierre Abelard's The Letters of Heloise (1963); Sonety i monologi / Sonnets and Monologues based on William Shakespeare's works (1964); Marcel Proust's Albertine Gone (1965) and Euripides's Electra (1968). His other Television Theatre productions included the classics of the Russian, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment (1967), and Scandinavian literature: Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (1962) and August Strindberg's Miss Julia (1971).
Between 1956 and 1968, Hanuszkiewicz worked for the Powszechny Theatre, first as a theatre director, and later, since 1963 as a general director. There, he created a popular theatre rooted in his previous television experiences. Some critics accused him of creating the theatre for masses and Hanuszkiewicz never denied it. Usually, he answered to such accusations quoting Słowacki:
I enjoy popular fame, it is the sleek fame that I am afraid of Juliusz Słowacki used to say. And I agree with him, answered Hanuszkiewicz in the interview by Roman Pawłowski. ("Without Me Theatre is Boring. Roman Pawłowski’s Interview with Adam Hanuszkiewicz", in: "Gazeta Wyborcza", August 29, 2002)
Hanuszkiewicz staged a few renowned and very controversial performances at the Powszechny Theatre. In Stanisław Wyspiański's Wesele / The Wedding (1963) Hanuszkiewicz focused on the stage design: during the first act a revolving stage enhanced the rhythm of dances while in the second act the director melted all the phantoms into one character of Chochoł / Straw Cover. For this reason, some critics accused him of weakening the philosophical meaning of Wyspiański's drama. A year later, he produced Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment taking it out of the Russian context. He himself played Raskolnikov. In this production, Hanuszkiewicz used many television theatre tricks such as:
screening the red hands of the murderer on a dark screen, displaying the axe in the murder scene (…), water splashing while Raskolnikov washes the axe, swelling and deadening of the electronic sound … (Witold Filler, "Theatre of Hanuszkiewicz", PIW, Warsaw 1974)
Again, the critics accused the director of depriving the character of its psychological depth. In 1964, Hanuszkiewicz directed Stefan Żeromski's Przedwiośnie / Early Spring, and a year later a contemporary work by Roman Bratny Kolumbowie, rocznik 20 / The Generation of Columbuses, 1920, a show which contributed to the national discussion about the war heroism and achieved immense popularity among audiences. It was played 250 times. At that point, Józef Kelera criticised Hanuszkiewicz for artistic abuse:
emotional abuse towards the spectator who does not in fact react to and through what he sees on the stage, but to what his soul suffers from, that is, something he knows or remembers, and what the director simply attempts to copy and duplicate the real hell in the footlights and spotlights. (Józef Kelera, "Pojedynki o teatr/ Duels for Theatre", Wrocław 1969)
Another drama by Wyspiański produced by Hanuszkiewicz, this time in a clear and easily understood manner, Wyzwolenie / Liberation (1966), was criticised for simplifying the poet's ideas.
It is a vivid and sharp theatre which applies its simplifications consciously and effectively, wrote Józef Kelera. It is undoubtedly a highly contemporary and original production of "Wyzwolenie / Liberation" although there is some clear accent shifting towards demagogy. (Józef Kelera, "Pojedynki o teatr / Duels for Theatre", Wrocław 1969)
In Pan Wokulski / Mr. Wokulski (1967), an adaptation of Bolesław Prus's Lalka / The Doll. Once again a freely adapted literary text for the purpose of stage production. Hanuszkiewicz made the work more contemporary and Wokulski's character, played by Mariusz Dmochowski more grotesque. During his last years as a general director of the Powszechny Theatre Hanuszkiewicz staged Juliusz Słowacki's Fantazy / Fantasy (1967) in an ironic and mocking tone, and Georg Büchner's Danton's Death (1968).
After his legendary production of Dziady / The Forefathers in 1968, which was received as a political statement, Kazimierz Dejmek was recalled from the post of the general director of the National Theatre. The same year Adam Hanuszkiewicz accepted the post which was regarded by some as an act of collaborationism. For the first premiere the new director chose Zygmunt Krasiński's Nie-Boska komedia / The Un-divine Comedy (1969). The critics praised the attractive form of the performance, however criticised him for avoiding the difficult subject of a revolution. In 1970, the director staged more premieres, the highly criticised Kordian by Juliusz Słowacki, Hamlet and Norwid based on Cyprian Kamil Norwid's works. Before the renowned premiere of Słowacki's Balladyna was held in 1974, Hanuszkiewicz had directed: Słowacki's Beniowski (1971); Franz Kafka's Process (1972); Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz's Kochankowie piekła / The Lovers of Hell (1972); Shakespeare's Macbeth (1972) and Sophocles's Antigona (1973), which was staged as the opening performance of the Mały Theatre, a new stage of the National Theatre.
Hanuszkiewicz, as Wojciech Majcherek concludes, avoided formulating any program for the national stage and, contrary to Dejmek, he was not eager to define any canon concerning its performances. He simply did not believe in it. (…) The critics thought that Hanuszkiewicz's arrogance comes from the simplification of the classical works, cheap tricks and flat approach to current affairs. Between the lines of the critical reviews, one can also read more serious accusations towards his activity in the National Theatre, namely opportunism. And yet, observes Majcherek, the National Theatre won genuine popularity under his management, in particular, among younger audience. Hanuszkiewicz communicated with them by use of mass cultural expressions: shows, cabaret, cartoons and pop music. His production of "Balladyna" became a classic example of Hanuszkiewicz's theatre tricks. Goplana on a Honda motorcycle reminded of Barbarella, a cartoon character. Hanuszkiewicz's ideas were discussed extensively. (Wojciech Majcherek, "Więksi niż scena (2) / Greater Than the Stage (2)", in: "Dialog", 1995 No. 12)
Subsequent performances staged at the National Theatre were the Polish classics directed in a contemporary tone, some included: Stanisław Wyspiański's Wesele / The Wedding (1974); Juliusz Słowacki's Sen srebrny Salomei / The Silver Dream of Salome** (1971) and Samuel Zborowski (1981); Adam Mickiewicz's Mickiewicz - młodość / Mickiewicz - Youth (1976), Dziady część III / The Forefathers. Part III (1978) and Pan Tadeusz / Sir Thaddeus (1982). Hanuszkiewicz also produced Aleksander Fredro's Trzy po trzy / Topsy Turvy Talk (1973) and Mąż i żona / Husband and Wife (1977) in a farce tone. What is more, he directed Jan Kochanowski's Treny / Laments (1979). Soon Russian classics appeared on the stage of the National Theatre, Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters (1971) and Platonov (1976); Nicolai Gogol's The Inspector General (1973); Ivan Turgenev's A Month in the Country (1974) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (1979). Hanuszkiewicz's productions of Beniowski, Norwid, Trzy po trzy / Topsy Turvy Talk and Mickiewicz - młodość / Mickiewicz - Youth were based on the director's original screenplays and text edition. The shows were staged so as to establish a close and direct contact with the audience. In these productions, Hanuszkiewicz often used techniques borrowed from television theatre, current affairs or show productions. Nevertheless, Jean Racine's Phèdre was directed in a discreet, almost transparent manner (1977). At the beginning of the 1980s, Hanuszkiewicz fell out of the authorities' favour and was recalled from the post of the general director of the National Theatre. Stanisław Moniuszko's Śpiewnik domowy / Songbook for Home Use was staged as his last premiere and at the same time a farewell performance.
During the Martial Law in Poland, Hanuszkiewicz joined the actors' boycott of television.
In the 1980s Hanuszkiewicz worked for the Ateneum Theatre and Studio Theatre in Warsaw, as well as theatres in Łódź and abroad. His cooperation with the theatres in Finland started as early as in the 1970s. He staged August Strindberg's Miss Julia (1970), Aleksander Fredro's Mąż i żona / Husband and Wife (1971) and Shakespeare's The Twelfth Night (1974) at the Tampere Theatre. In the West Germany, he showed such productions as Molier's Don Juan in Karslruhe (1975), Tadeusz Różewicz's Wyszedł z domu / He Went Out in Münster (1978) and Anton Chekhov's Platonov in Göttingen (1980). The director cooperated twice with the Baden-Baden theatre where he produced Ivan Turgenev's A Month in the Country (1984) and again Fredro's Mąż i żona / Husband and Wife (1987).
From 1989 to 2007 Hanuszkiewicz was the general director of Nowy Theatre in Warsaw. There, he returned to the Polish classics and staged Słowacki's Lilla Weneda (1995) and Balladyna (1996); Wyspiański's Wesele / The Wedding (1998); Mickiewicz's Ballady i romanse / Ballads and Romances (1998) and Fredro’s Mąż i żona / Husband and Life (2003). He produced his own original shows:, Iwaszkiewicz based on Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz's works (1993), Dulska a musical based on Gabriela Zapolska's works (1995), Chopin jego życie, jego... / Chopin, his life, his... based on his own screenplay (1999), Telepatrzydło moje / My Telly based on Bolesław Prus's works(2000), Mickiewiczowska lekcja teatralna / Mickiewicz Theatre Lesson based on Mickiewicz's works (2002), My do Europy, Europa do nas / We Towards Europe, Europe Towards Us based on Witold Gombrowicz's works (2003), and Miłość i krew / Love and Blood based on Juliusz Słowacki's works (2004). His last production staged at the Nowy Theatre was an intimate performance about an autistic boy Gdzie jest pies pogrzebany? based on a novel by Mark Haddon The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in 2005. Hanuszkiewicz has remained the intellectual provocateur who reads well-know texts in an original manner and places them in a contemporary context. However, contrary to the director's objectives, the theatrical form of his productions does not keep up with today's life rhythm and the transformations that took place in the theatre itself. Hanuszkiewicz has remained faithful to that construction of performances which brought him fame in the 1970s. Still, he is one of the most original personalities in the Polish theatre and has his loyal audience, also outside the Nowy Theatre. His production of August Strindberg's Taniec śmierci / The Dance of Death (1998) was well received by both the spectators and the critics
Selected awards and distinctions:
- 1955 - Medal of the 10th Anniversary of the People's Republic of Poland;
- 1957 - The Gold Cross of Merit;
- 1962 - 2nd Degree Labour Banner Order; 2nd Degree Award for stage design and direction of Anton Chekhov's "Platonov" at the Drama Theatre in Warsaw at the Festival of Russian and Soviet Plays in Katowice;
- 1963 - Polish Radio and Television Committee Award for artistic explorations and achievements in the field of television theatre directing;
- 1964 - Award for directing Stanisław Wyspiański's "Wesele / The Wedding" in Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw and for the role of Poet in this performance won at 4th Theatre Meetings in Kalisz, 1st Degree State Award; 1st Degree Award for stage design and directing of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw and the role of Raskolnikov in this production won at the Festival of Russian and Soviet Plays in Katowice, Polish Radio and Television Committee Award for achievements in the field of radio, highly artistic radio performances as a radio lector, in particular for reading Stefan Żeromski's "Popioły / Ashes" on the radio;
- 1965 - The City of Warsaw Prize, Boy Prize awarded by Theatre Criticism Club;
- 1967 - The Golden Screen Award;
- 1968 - The Golden Screen Award, 1st Degree State Award for achievements in the field of acting and directing, Polish Radio and Television Committee Award for outstanding and innovative achievements in television theatre;
- 1969 - The Golden Screen Award;
- 1971 - The Golden Screen Award for production of Adam Mickiewicz's "Pan Tadeusz" / "Sir Thaddeus" at the Television Theatre;
- 1973 - Medal of the National Education Commission, Award for directing Sophocles's "Antigone" at the National Theatre in Warsaw won at the 13th Theatre Meetings in Kalisz,
- 1974 - 1st Class Labour Banner Order, Medal of the Polish-Soviet Friendship Society, the Golden Screen Award for stage design and directing of "Norwid" at the Television Theatre, Diploma of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
- 1975 - Distinction: Meritorious for Jelenia Góra, Medal of the 30th Anniversary of the People’'s Republic of Poland, "Koryfeusz" Award for text edition and directing of Juliusz Słowacki's "Beniowski" at the National Theatre at the 1st Theatre Confrontations in Opole;
- 1977 - Distinction: Meritorious for Warsaw;
- 1978 - Meritorious Culture Activist, The Golden Screen Award, Award for directing Juliusz Słowacki's "Sen srebrny Salomei / The Silver Dream of Salome" at the National Theatre won at the 4th Theatre Confrontations in Opole;
- 1979 - Diploma of the USSR Ministry of Culture, Diploma of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
- 1983 - Moniuszko Medal for production of Stanisław Moniuszko's "Śpiewnik domowy / Songbook for Home Use" at the Narodowy Theatre;
- 1987 - "The Hetman's Baton" Award for Morsztyn-Corneille's "The Cid" at Powszechny Theatre in Łódź at the 12th Theatre Summer in Zamość;
- 1989 - Meritorious for National Culture, Silver Boat for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" at the Wielki Theatre in Łódź;
- 1996 - Commander Cross of the Order of the Rebirth of Poland;
- 1997 - Award for the artistic contribution to the European culture won at the Mikhail Tumanishvili Theatre Festival in Tbilisi, Title of the Honorary Citizen of the City of Jelenia Góra;
- 2001 - The Grand Cross, the German Order of Merit, Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Opole, winner of the audience plebiscite for best leading actor in the "W imię Ojca Strindberga / In the Name of Father Strindgerg" based on August Strindberg's works at the Nowy Theatre in Warsaw and for the best production at the 40th Theatre Meetings in Rzeszów;
- 2005 - Title of the Honorary Citizen of the Opole province; Gloria Artis Golden Medal, Meritorious for Culture;
- 2006 - Commander Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Lithuania;
- 2007 - Special Prize for significant achievement in the field of television, in particular the artistic achievements in the Television Theatre at the 7th Polish Radio Theatre and Polish Television Theatre "Dwa Teatry / Two Theatres" in Sopot;
- 2008 - The Honorary Award of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage for merits for Polish and international theatre, Special "Feliks" Prize awarded to actors and directors working in Warsaw.
Author: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, May 2003; updated: October 2009.