Theatre and film actress and director, born 21st January 1939 in Kraków.
Theatre and film actress and director; one of the most acclaimed Polish actresses, she has always been associated with Kraków and has been dubbed the "first lady of Kraków's theatres"
One of the most acclaimed Polish actresses, Polony has always been associated with Kraków and has been dubbed the "first lady of Kraków's theatres".
"A petite, diminutive blond whose features are far from those of the perfect beauty of 'eternal Eve' and whose voice is low, dark and disconcertingly broken, she owes most of her stage success to her inner self", wrote Elżbieta Morawiec. ("Teatr" no. 5/1976)
Polony, who holds two diplomas, one in Acting (1960) and the other in Drama Directing (1984), both from the Ludwik Solski State Theatre School (Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Teatralna im. Ludwika Solskiego) in Kraków , debuted on stage in Jean Giraudoux's The Trojan War Will Not Take Place at Stary Teatr (1959, dir. Jerzy Kaliszewski). Upon graduation she joined Kraków 's Juliusz Słowacki Theatre (Teatr im. Juliusza Słowackiego), but four years later moved to Stary Teatr, in which she remained as a full-time actress until 2002. It was there that Polony came to know Konrad Swinarski, the director whose all major theatre productions would feature her in spectacular roles, from Orcio in Zygmunt Krasiński's Nie-Boska Komedia / Non-Divine Comedy (1965) to Claire in Jean Genet's The Maids (1966), Joas in Stanisław Wyspiański's The Judges (1968), Hermia in Shakespeare's A Midsummer-Night's Dream (1970), to Girl in Ireneusz Iredyński's Żegnaj Judaszu / Farewell Judas. That latter role turned Polony from a local into a national celebrity.
"Polony's body language and the way she contrasts emotions, moods and intonations is perfect", observed Bronisław Mamoń. "She reaches a height in the last scene, when she watches Judas' death. She makes a gesture as if she wanted to shy away from what she sees. Her cry dies down before it has reached vocal cords, returning to where it started." ("Tygodnik Powszechny" no. 13/1971)
According to Elżbieta Morawiec, that role - like the roles of Orcio and Joas before - revealed Polony's most fundamental acting quality, that is her underlying emotionality ("Teatr" no. 5/1976).
Polony continued to play major roles in Swinarski's productions. She was Helena in Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well in 1971 and Woman (Maryla/Ewa) in Adam Mickiewicz's Dziady / The Forefathers' Eve in 1973. In both cases her acting was brave and fully aware of the heroines' passions, and she captivated the audience each time she appeared on stage.
Polony's role as the Muse - or rather as the actress playing the Muse - in Stanisław Wyspiański's Wyzwolenie / Liberation (1974) was a tour-de-force.
"(...) This is laying yourself bare", observed Elżbieta Morawiec. "Showing from the inside the intelligence of a star actress and a woman who wants to be admired (the Muse, not Anna Polony), who grabs every opportunity to elicit the well-deserved applause. This is a masterpiece of acting, leaving you in awe of Anna Polony's meticulous construction and thorough analysis of her role." ("Teatr." no. 18/1974)
Besides a series of roles in Swinarski's productions, Polony has worked for other directors as well. She was Zelka in Mieczysław Piotrowski's Marsz / The March (1973) and Rachel in Wyspiański's Wesele / The Wedding (1977); both plays were directed by Jerzy Grzegorzewski. She was also Mrs Dulska in Andrzej Wajda's Z biegiem lat, z biegiem dni / As Years Go By, As Days Go By (1978). Contrary to the traditional approach to Rachel, Polony created a character of an artificial mythomaniac, a hybrid of her times. Her Dulska was "greedy, noisy and wrathful for no reason. Polony excelled at giving verisimilitude to her" (Elżbieta Morawiec, "Życie literackie" no. 18/1978).
Since 1969 Polony has been associated with TV Theatre and successfully so, too, particularly in the Russian repertoire: as Vera in Maxim Gorky's The Last Ones (1973), Masha in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull (1975, dir. Irena Wollen) and others.
Meanwhile she embarked on a directing career (her first directing effort being William Gibson's Two for the See-Saw at Teatr Stary in 1975), as well as started teaching at Kraków Theatre School, where she was Deputy Dean of the Acting Department and Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 1987-1991 and 1999-2002, respectively.
In 1980 she played Anna Andreyevna in Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector (dir. Jerzy Jarocki) and in 1981 she was Ophelia in Andrzej Wajda's production of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Again, she defied tradition. Aged forty, she showed a different Ophelia - and was vindicated despite some controversial judgments.
The following seasons saw Polony as Catherine II of Russia in Tadeusz Miciński's Termopile polskie / Polish Termopiles (1985, dir. Krzysztof Babicki), Maman Liedermeyer in Adolf Nowaczyński's Wiosna narodów w Cichym Zakątku / The Spring of Nations in a Quiet Corner (1987, dir. Tadeusz Bradecki) and Actress / Frada in Szymon Anski's Dybbuk (1988, dir Andrzej Wajda). Her directing projects intensified, too, and included, among others, Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party (1984) and Karol Wojtyła's Przed sklepem jubilera / The Jeweller's Shop (1988). Her non-theatre roles were few, but successful, and included the screen adaptation of Z biegiem lat, z biegiem dni / As Years Go By, As Days Go By (1980, dir. Andrzej Wajda), the role of Magda Egri in the film Diary for My Children (1982, dir. Márta Mészáros) and a role in Decalogue VII (1988, dir. Krzysztof Kieślowski ).
Later on Polony appeared in more Mészáros's films: again as Magda Egri in Diary for My Mother and Father (1990) and as the Mother Superior in a German Carmelite nunnery in The Seventh Room, a film about the life of Blessed Edith Stein (1995). She then appeared in Andrzej Barański's Wszyscy święci / All Saints, a 2002 television film made for the series Święta polskie / Polish Holidays. More recently she played the eccentric grandmother of Sabina, a thirty-year-old woman looking for a husband, in Borys Lankosz's 2009 comedy-drama Rewers / Reverse (2009).
The 1990s saw Polony again working as a director, on Sławomir Mrożek's Wdowy / Widows (1993, jointly with Józef Opalski), Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew (1993), Aleksander Fredro's Śluby panieńskie / Maidens' Vows (1993) and Gwałtu, co się dzieje! / Help! What's Going On Here! (1994). She played less, but each of her stage appearances was an event. In 1994 she was a "volcanically tempered" (Jacek Sieradzki, "Polityka" no .1/1995) Yasuko Rokujo / Jitsuko in Yukio Mishima's Mishima (1994, dir. Andrzej Wajda), Erna Korn in The Sleepwalkers after Hermann Broch (1995, dir. Krystian Lupa), Queen Margaret in Witold Gombrowicz's Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda / Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy (1997, dir. Grzegorz Jarzyna). In 1999 she played the part of Selma Lagerlof in Per Olov Enquist's The Image Makers (dir. Kazimierz Kutz).
"This role is made for this actress", wrote Marek Mikos. ("Gazeta Wyborcza" no. 233/1999)
"You can see that the actress enjoys every moment on stage", added Jacek Wakar. "You need to listen attentively to her flawless enunciation, watch each perfect gesture. Here is an extraordinary and fully justified self-confidence." ("Życie" no. 234/1999)
In 2001 Polony celebrated her professional jubilee with the role of Mrs Orgonowa in Aleksander Fredro's Damy i huzary / Ladies and Hussars (dir. Kazimierz Kutz). More recently she worked with the director Agata Duda-Gracz in Kraków 's Teatr Scena STU, playing Sarah Bernhard in Kreatura after John Murrell's Memoir in 2002 and the First Julia in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in 2008. Meanwhile, in 2006, she was the Old Woman in Henryk Baranowski's production of Tadeusz Różewicz's Stara kobieta wysiaduje / The Old Woman Broods at Teatr Ludowy in Nowa Huta, as well as playing the part of Ewa in Dea Loher's Sinobrody - nadzieja kobiet / Bluebeard, staged at the Stary Teatr by Arkadiusz Tworus in 2005. She re-appeared on that stage again in 2008 as Queen Margaret in Eugène Ionesco's Król umiera, czyli ceremonie / Exit the King (dir. Piotr Cieplak), a story about passing and dying. Cieplak's production built on the iconic image of Teatr Stary, making references to the acclaimed roles which that stage had seen. Polony repeated the lines of Muse from Swinarski's legendarny staging of Wyspianski's Wyzwolenie / Liberation, while Jerzy Trela (King) quoted the lines of Konrad.
Major awards and distinctions:
- 1971 - Award for the role of Girl in Ireneusz Iredyński's Żegnaj Judaszu / Farewell Judas (dir. Konrad Swinarski, The Cracow Stary Teatr) at the 12th Wrocław Festival of Polish Contemporary Plays.
- 1972 - Cracow's Golden Badge of Merit.
- 1975 - Minister of Culture and Art's 2nd Degree Award.
- 1977 - Golden Cross of Merit.
- 1979 - Distinguished Culture Champion Title; Polish Radio and Television Committee Award; 5th Opole Theatrical Confrontations award for the role of Aniela Dulska in Z biegiem lat, z biegiem dni / As Years Go By, As Days Go By at Cracow's Stary Teatr (dir. Andrzej Wajda and Anna Polony).
- 1980 - Przyjaźń Magazine Award and Best Actress Award at the 20th Kalisz Theatre Meetings for the role of Paulina Andreyevna in Dziesięć portretów z czajką w tle / Ten Portraits with a Seagull in the Background after Anton Chekhov (dir. Jerzy Grzegorzewski, Cracow's Stary Teatr).
- 1982 - Honorary Diploma of Przekrój Magazine (readers' vote) for Cracow's most popular actor/actress in 1946-81.
- 1987 - Aleksander Zelwerowicz Award and 27th Kalisz Theatre Meetings Award for the role of Maman Liedermeyer in Adolf Nowaczyński's play Wiosna narodów w Cichym Zakątku / The Spring of Nations in a Quiet Corner at Cracow's Stary Teatr (dir. Tadeusz Bradecki).
- 1992 - Bydgoszcz Theatre Society Złoty Wawrzyn Grzymały Award.
- 1994 - The Cracow Province Governor's Award.
- 1995 - Best Actress Award (Audience Choice) at the 34th Rzeszow Theatre Meetings.
- 2000 - Best Actress Award for the role of Queen Margaret in Witold Gombrowicz's play Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda / Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy at Cracow's Stary Teatr (dir. Horst Leszczuk) at the 25th Opole Theatre Confrontations; The Cracow Theatre Circles Ludwik Award for the role of Selma Lagerlöf in Per Olov Enquist's play The Image Makers at Cracow's Stary Teatr (dir. Kazimierz Kutz).
- 2001 - Złota Maska / Golden Mask Best Actress Award (Audience Choice).
- 2002 - Złota Maska / Golden Mask for the role of Mrs Orgon in Aleksander Fredro's play Damy i huzary / Ladies and Hussars at Cracow's Stary Teatr (dir. Kazimierz Kutz); Medal of the Commission of National Education.
- 2003 - Officer's Cross of the Polonia Restituta Order.
- 2005 - Gold Medal Gloria Artis - for contribution to culture.
- 2007 - Capital and Royal City of Cracow Award; Polish Culture Foundation Złoty Laur / Golden Laurel Mastery in Art Award.
- 2010 - Orzeł / Eagle Polish Film Award (Actress in a Supporting Role) for the role in Borys Lankosz's film Rewerse / Reverse.
Author: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, June 2003. Updated in November 2009.