Ewelina Marciniak is consistent, expressive, and socially sensitive, and her name has been among the most important in Polish contemporary theatre for a few years now. She has already directed a crime story by Gombrowicz, a prose piece by Elfriede Jelinek, and Szczepan Twardoch’s celebrated Morphine / Morfina at the Silesian Theatre in Katowice.
Theatre director, graduate of the State Drama School in Kraków.
Marciniak was born in 1984. She graduated in European Studies and Drama Studies at the Jagiellonian University and in Drama Direction at the State Drama School in Kraków. She debuted in 2010 at the Polish Theatre in Bielsko-Biała with Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s The New Deliverance / Nowe Wyzwolenie. Before that, she mastered the art of directing under the tutelage of such experienced directors as Anna Augustynowicz and Paweł Miśkiewicz. She has already realized a number of well-received plays at venues in Wrocław, Gdańsk, Szczecin, Wałbrzych, Koszalin, Kraków, Kielce, Katowice and Bydgoszcz. She has been working with the dramatist Michał Buszewicz for a few years. Apart from directing, Marciniak deals with theatrical education – she leads workshops for children living near Kraków.
Marciniak is the author of Amateurs / Amatorki, a celebrated, award-winning play based on the prose of the Austrian Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek. In this play, together with the choreographer Dominika Knapik, Marciniak toys with various theatrical conventions, ironically combining features of a musical and a romantic comedy. The critics deemed this play one of the most important of 2012. Agnieszka Kochanowska wrote what follows in a review that was published on the dwutygodnik.com portal:
This is a great performance, in which the actors are strikingly precise and disciplined. Ewelina Marciniak knows how to work with actors, how to get their trust, how to bring out their potential. This may be seen especially in the case of Katarzyna Dałek, a new actress in the theatre’s troupe who created a unique role, which is quite surprising given that earlier she hadn’t been acting all that well at the Wybrzeże Theatre. Marciniak’s consistent yet intuitive direction surprises the viewers with unexpected theatrical signs created as if from nothing, and leads the actors into unexpected places.
In interviews, Marciniak emphasizes that she admires the language of Elfriede Jelinek’s prose and promises to return to theatrical work on the Austrian’s writing. "I believe that when we read a book we fall in love with the characters. That’s why I try to make us fall in love with a given play. We accompany the characters and come to love their dreams, which are simple, however, we can relate to this simplicity", said Marciniak in the Dziennik Bałtycki daily newspaper..
The play won the Main Award at the 48th edition of the KONTRAPUNKT Showcase of Theatres of Small Forms and the Special Honorary Award of the City of Gdańsk for “play of the year”. Amateurs was also appreciated by foreign audiences – it was presented with success in Strasbourg, amongst others.
A New Reading of Molier
At the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Koszalin, Marciniak worked on a text by the German dramatist Roland Schimmelpfennig. The The Woman Before / Kobieta z przeszłości play, in which Katarzyna Zawadzka plays the lead role, was very warmly received by audiences. Jacek Cieślak commented in the daily Rzeczpospolita:
This performance is intimate, but precisely prepared and original. It has high potential for games with the audience, which is provided by the main topic – the temptation of romance. This temptation is seemingly innocent, but in the end, it turns out to ruin lives. An unrolled roll of paper is attached to one of the walls. The paper from this roll forms a carpet on the stage, on which a wife and husband walk, carrying the weight of a 19-year-long marriage. Their life is dull and boring. Meanwhile, the titular woman (Katarzyna Zawadzka) exercises her charm from a small couch standing in the cramped auditorium. The play’s strength lies in the dialogues and the emotions and tensions that arise between the actors, and between the actors and the audience.
At the Polish Theatre in Bydgoszcz, Marciniak prepared a new interpretation of Molier’s The Miser / Skąpiec. In this play, she asks about the value of money, transactions, desires, debts, greed, and the point of ownership.
Anna Tarnowska wrote what follows in the daily Gazeta Wyborcza:
The play itself is insolent, but in a positive way. Just as there’s not enough clothes to cover the actors’ bodies, there are no understatements and delusions that economy is something more than what it is. The language of the play is its strong point. Michał Buszewicz practically re-wrote The Miser. He rephrased the elaborate, baroque sentences into contemporary language, nevertheless retaining Molier’s courtly style.
Marciniak worked as a guest director at the Stary Theatre in Kraków (2012). Her play The Death and Resurrection of the World / Śmierć i zmarwychwstanie świata was the Polish pre-premiere of one of the plays written by the young German playwright Nis-Momme Stockmann.
Peter Pan and the Social Cause
The Buszewicz/Marciniak duo also realized a swashbuckling tale about Peter Pan in the fairytale land of Neverland at the Współczesny Theatre in Szczecin. However, the authors warn that:
The fairytale convention shouldn’t shroud the important issues in the story of Peter Pan, which draw much attention. After all, we're dealing with running away from home to a very far away place, where you have to choose between the half-wild world of the Lost Boys and the ruthless world of the pirates, who take on the features of celebrities in the play. More and more, Neverland starts to resemble a world to which a child escapes when rebelling against the constraints of upbringing. We will see less and less of the worlds we know from other fairy tales, which we thoughtlessly grew accustomed to as grown-ups and consider the only existing models. It mostly depends on the parents what path their child will choose. A child too strongly controlled might reject everything it has learned at home, seeing that this knowledge doesn’t correspond to the world that surrounds us.
About That Which Is Inappropriate
At the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk, Marciniak directed Michał Buszewicz’s play Binge / Ciąg, undertaking a theatrical attempt to grapple with the stereotype of alcoholism and alcoholism’s consequences, which are more extensive than commonly believed. The creators said that this was also an attempt to talk about things which aren't appropriate to talk about:
Alcohol, as an easy and dangerous tool for coping with one’s problems, is a perfect prism through which you can see the dramas, inconsistencies, mistakes and ridiculousness of a person having close relations with others. This type of catching problems from one another – one seldom drinks alone – sets avalanches in motion which one may not be able to stop later. I’m interested in a kind of maneuvering between the realities of sobriety and drunkenness, in researching which state is more comfortable and why. Escaping into alcohol is a consequence of a certain emotional state, that’s why I don’t want to show only the consequences of drinking as that leads to oversimplifications.
In the Rhythm of Morphine
In November 2014, Ewelina Marciniak staged an adaptation of Szczepan Twardoch’s famous novel Morphine at the Silesian Theatre in Katowice. The performance was well received by audiences as well as critics and was awarded, among others, the Grand Prix of 55th Kalisz Theatre Meetings. The jury appreciated the ‘impressive teamwork which brilliantly combined body expression, literary interpretation, and musicality’. This confrontation between two strong personalities of Polish culture also brought the Katowice ensemble as many as 3 Golden Mask Awards. In a review in Gazeta Wyborcza we read:
The performance of Morphine brings the Silesian ensemble into the national league. They expressed themselves exceptionally well in the compact form based on musicality and rhythm. They built a well-oiled mechanism with the guest appearance of Paweł Smaga (known from performances directed by Krzysztof Garbaczewski), set in motion by female characters. (...) Morphine is proof that Silesia can consistently export high-quality products.
She received many compliments from major nationwide papers and theatre magazines. Rzeczpospolita daily paper noted that with this production Ewelina Marciniak joined the ranks of the national best directors, and Newsweek praised the pace and energy of the performance.
This colourful world, depicted on a grand scale by the writer, was brought to life on stage through only a few props, choreography by Dominika Knapik, and mesmerizing music by Chłopcy Kontra Basia. The rhythm of the performance is made with extraordinary precision by subsequent songs.
Despite her young age, the director has already won a few awards considered important by the theatrical community. Crime / Zbrodnia, a play based on a crime story by Witold Gombrowicz which Marciniak directed in Bielsko-Biała, was a hit at the most important theatre festivals of 2012. For this play, the director was awarded at the 17th Polish Competition for the Staging of a Contemporary Polish Play and at the 11th Festival of Pre-Premieres in Bydgoszcz.
In turn, the monodrama Medea won the Grand Prix at the Polish Showcase of Contemporary Monodramas. Marciniak is also a laureate of the prestigious Talent of the Third Programme of Polish Radio competition. The journalists of Polish Radio appreciated her vivid vision of theatre, combined with a deep social and artistic sensitivity.
Sources: Gazeta Wyborcza, Rzeczpospolita, Dziennik Bałtycki (dailies), dwutygodnik.com (portal), the Wybrzeże Theatre, edited by AL.
Transl. MK, updated July, 2015