Anna Karasińska is a director, filmmaker and playwright. Her first play, ‘Ewelina’s Crying’, was a sensation when it opened in Warsaw’s TR Warszawa Theater in 2015, playing to packed audiences and winning critical praise. It has been extended several times since it opened and won invitations to the Interpretacje Festival in Katowice and the Boska Komedia Festival in Kraków.
Anna Karasińska is a director, filmmaker, and playwright.
Anna Karasińska was born in 1978 in Łódź, a rough former factory town not far from the capital of Warsaw. Often described as Poland’s Detroit, it is full of abandoned industrial sites, crumbling architecture, and a lively arts scene. It is also home to the famous Polish National Film School.
Łódż is a city where the past is present. The people are frank-talking and have a peculiar, hard-core sense of humor. Its nothing like Warsaw, which can be so pretentious.
As a child, she spent her time between Łódź and in nearby forests, where among other wild child activities, she mastered the dangerous art of picking cranberries. Her mother worked as a nurse in a retirement home, and as a result she ‘was conscious about death, and impermanence from a very young age...and that really affected me strongly’.
After completing High School, which she described as ‘tortuous existentialism’ she entered the School of Art while simultaneously studying philosophy at the University of Łódź. After graduating, she decided to continue studying at the National Film School where she completed the course in directing and made her thesis film: Duties.
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After finishing her thesis film, she became interested in theatre and began attending rehearsals. It was here that she observed the process of theatre making in-depth for the first time.
I saw the process of experimentation and play that happens in rehearsal and something clicked inside me. I realized that I have always been more interested in process than in the final result.
In 2015, she received an opportunity to make a project at TR Warszawa in the Teren TR Program curated by Roman Pawłowski with a group of amatuer performers. This would develop into her breakout project Ewelina’s Crying.
One of the young people I was working with came back from the toilet in the dressing room and remarked how amazing it was to go to the bathroom in the same place where all the big stars had. This was the moment of revelation for me, and Evalina Cries started from this comment.
She began making improvisations with her group asking them to describe the lives of famous actors as they imagined them to be. She recorded their often hilarious fantasies and then wrote a text ‘using the logic of bullshit’. When she finished, she gave the text to the professional actors of the theatre to perform. In the final piece, the actors try to play themselves as imagined by other people in a humorous but also painful disconnect between the fantasies of others and private truth – while the audience and the actors struggle to grasp the difference.
Writing in Gazeta Wyborcza, Witold Mrozek wrote of the piece:
Ewelina’s Crying is a comedy woven with notions of theatrical magic, dreams of an acting career, and a consciousness of the arbitrary hierarchy of the art world. Karasińska plays with the different layers of fiction, mocking the cult of the stars and their surroundings – the always trendy space of years of avant garde glamour.
The piece is also deeply existential and filled with a longing to connect to one another.
I am fascinated by the idea that there really is no hard reality. Especially when it comes to the self. That is why I use nonsense so much in my work. I am also extremely interested in the situation of meeting that can happen in the live moment of theatre. I want to meet the audience and the performers in real time.
With the success and appreciation of her play, it would appear that Anna has found a new home in the theatre.
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In 2016 in Poznań’s Polski Theatre, Anna Karasińska directed Drugi Spektakl (The Second Performance, trans. MD), a play which commented on the customs of the theatre-going audience. It features short, humorous scenes which instruct the audience how they should behave in the theatre. Łukasz Badula noted that the play is an intimate study of crowd psychology as well as a satire:
Karasińska catalogues theatregoers’ behaviour without any ill will. Drugi Spektakl is not a mockery of the so-called ‘Sunday audience’ or criticism of casual reception. The director juxtaposes the most extreme attitudes and reaches the roots of theatre.
Drugi Spektakl was awarded for its originality and uncompromising take on theatre at the 7th Koszalińskie Konfrontacje Młodych Festival.
Karasińska returned to Rozmaitości Theatre with the play Fantazja (Fantasia, trans. MD), which once again revolved around theatre as a medium, problematising acting techniques and the actor’s role in theatre production. She continued exploring these themes in the play Wszystko Zmyślone (Everything’s Made Up, trans. MD). It was the first of Karasińska’s plays to premiere in Stary Theatre in Kraków. In March 2018 the artist presented the play 2118: Anna Karasińska, which was the first part of a futuristic triptych curated by Tomasz Plata. In this case the director gave up meta-theatrical references for more simple dramaturgy. However, she still stayed true to her stylistic devices, sense of humour, and ideas about engaging the audience.
In December 2016 the director participated in the debate Ojcobójczynie (Patricide Girls, trans, MD), together with Katarzyna Kalwat, Magda Szpecht, Weronika Szczawińska, and Anna Smolar. The debate was hosted by Piotr Gruszczyński and facilitated by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute at the d’Automne à Paris festival.
In September 2018 at the Plac Małachowskiego 3 exhibition, the artist directed a performative tour through Zachęta art gallery. During this project, Karasińska used theatrical devices to create visual works of art. In 2018 the artist was nominated for a Polityka award. Dariusz Kosiński explained:
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Karasińska, in a seemingly superficial form, undertakes a serious reflection about people as characters in world theatre.