In 1978, he graduated from the the State Higher School of Theatre in Cracow. He made his stage debut as Edmund in Śluby panieńskie / Maidens’ Vows by Aleksander Fredro, under the direction of Mikołaj Grabowski, at the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Cracow (1978). Later the same year and on the same stage, he played Fortinbras in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, directed by Jerzy Krasowski. After completing theater school, he made his professional ties with the National Theater in (1982-1983) and then the Polish Theater in Warsaw (1983-1984). Between 1984 and 1989, he was part of the troupe at the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Cracow. In 1989-2006, he was a member of the ensemble of the Old Theater in Cracow and currently performs at Warsaw’s National Theater.
Frycz is one the most celebrated actors of his generation. His body of work includes many roles in the Russian classics. He has played in productions staged by Rudolf Zioło: as Peredonov in Mały bies / The Petty Demon by Fyodor Sologub (1985, Juliusz Słowacki Theatre and as Astrov in Wujaszek Wania / Uncle Vania by Anton Chekhov (1993, The Old Theater in Cracow). In Trzy siostry / The Three Sisters - another Chekhov play directed by Andrzej Domalik (2001, Bagatela Theater in Cracow) he was Vershinin. He also incarnated Pozdnyshev in Sonata Kreutzerowska / The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy, directed by Mikołaj Grabowski (1998, Juliusz Osterwa Theater in Lublin). He collaborated with Krystian Lupa, playing under his direction twice as Ivanov in Bracia Karamazow / The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1st version - 1990, 2nd version - 1999, The Old Theater in Cracow) and Pontius Pilate in Mistrz i Małgorzata / The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (2002, The Old Theater in Cracow).
He has also played such roles as Mozart in Amadeusz / Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, directed by Vladimir Strynisko (1986, Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Cracow), one of the characters in the excellent Opis obyczajów / Description of Customs by Jędrzej Kitowicz, under the direction of Mikołaj Grabowski (1990, STU Theater, Sawa in Sen srebrny Salomei / The Silver Dream of Salomé by Juliusz Słowacki, directed by Jerzy Jarocki (1992, The Old Theater in Cracow) and Reverend Piotr in Dziady - dwanaście improwizacji / Forefathers’ Eve – Twelve Improvisations inspired by the celebrated work of Adam Mickiewicz, under the direction of Jerzy Grzegorzewski (1995, The Old Theater in Cracow). At the Polish Theater in Wrocław, he played Adrian Leverkuhn in Doktor Faustus / Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann, directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna (1999). One of his recent roles, was the important title character in Król Lear / King Lear by William Shakespeare, under the direction of Mikołaj Grabowski (The New Theater in Łódź, 2000).
Frycz realized his full acting potential in the 1990s. His stagecraft is marked by a thorough analysis of each role and its "filtration" through his own personality, as well as acting that is sharp, yet never fails to uncover the complexity of his characters. Andrzej Wanat writes that:
What Frycz thinks of Frycz is not at issue, but there’s no doubt that he considers himself a problem to be resolved and judges himself harshly (...). Frycz does not spare his characters nor does he defend them. he sometimes seems to torment them with a masochistic satisfaction. He tries to to subdue them with the wealth of his actor’s inventory. He wants to understand, rather than justify them. ("Teatr", 1995, nr 7/8)
One of his most renowned roles was as Mikhail Astrov in Wujaszek Wania / Uncle Vania, about which the same critic said:
I think this was the most intelligent Astrov I have yet seen on a Polish stage. Quick on his feet, he flawlessly inteprets the character’s intentions (...) Frycz plays outside the text often and he does it well, so he is able to justify everyhting about his colorful, but contentious character. ("Teatr", 1993, nr 11)
Frycz’s collaboration with Krystian Lupa forms a distinct chapter in his career. He has played many roles for Lupa, beginning with his thesis performance at the State Higher School of Theatre in Cracow - as Mandelblaum in Nadobnisie i Koczkodany / Dainty Shapes and Hairy Apes by Witkacy (1977), through Mistrz i Małgorzata / The Master and Margarita in 2002. To the question: what is working with Lupa like? Frycz answers:
Horribly difficult, exhausting. (...) He is always seeking new stimuli. He doesn’t want actors to stagnate in comfortable situations or poses. That makes working with him fascinating, but it demands great effort and focus. ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 8 September 2000, with Beata Matkowska-Święch)
That "great effort and focus" has given us great Frycz performances under the direction of Lupa in Bracia Karamazow / The Brothers Karamazov, Malte albo Tryptyk marnotrawnego syna / Malte, or the Prodigal Son's Triptych based on the prose of Rainer Maria Rilke (The Old Theater in Cracow, 1991). Most notably, there was the production of Lunatycy. Esch, czyli anarchia / The Anarchist by Hermann Broch (The Old Theater in Cracow, 1995), in which Frycz, playing Esch, crafted one of Polish theater’s outstanding performances of the decade.
Simple, at moments even pedestrian, sometimes vulgar, maybe primitive – that is Esch, genially portrayed by Jan Frycz. (Jacek Wakar, "Życie Warszawy" 25 November 1996)
Having seen the actor perform the role, Andrzej Wanat said:
Frycz is an exceptional actor. I know that we aren’t supposed to write things like that these days, but I don’t care. It’s what I think, so why should I hide it and deprive the man of some pleasure, to boot (...). ("Teatr", 1995, nr 7/8)
Frycz also works with the Polish Public Television Theater and performs in film. He has appeared i dozens of roles on Television Theater. He once again revealed himself to be an excellent interpreter of Chekhovian roles – as Nikolai in Płatonow / Platonov, under the direction of Andrzej Domalik (1992), again as Astrov in Wujaszek Wania / Uncle Vania, directed by Kazimierz Kutz (1994) and as the title character in Ivanov, in the production by Jan Englert (1995). One of his most important Television Theater roles was the lead in Król Edyp / Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, under the direction of Laco Adamik (1992).
Frycz belongs to a select group of stage actors who have made themselves at home in film, winning him wide public acclaim. He made his film debut while still a student – playing Tomasz II in Na srebrnym globie / On The Silver Globe by Andrzej Żuławski (1976). In 1982 he played alongside Jan Nowicki in Wielki Szu / Big Shar, under the direction of Sylwester Chęciński, in which he created a poignant portrait of a greedy, sordid young man making all the wrong choices early in life. Frycz took on important roles for Mariusz Treliński in Pożegnanie jesieni / Farewell to Autumn (1990) and Egoiści / Egoists (2000) and in the films of Andrzej
Barański - Dwa księżyce / Two Moons (1993) and Horror w Wesołych Bagniskach / Horror at Happy Swamp (1995), where he brilliantly wore the conventions of pastiche and the nostalgic return to modernist moods and sensibilities.
The versatility of Frycz’s stagecraft compels directors to cast him in film productions of widely varying aesthetics. He played in the costume piece Dama Kameliowa / The Lady of the Camellias under the direction of Jerzy Antczak (1994) and crafted roles in contemporary comedies – Dzieci i ryby / Children and Fish by Jacek Bromski (1996) and Zakochani / In Love by Piotr Wereśniak (2000). He played in the dramas Nocne graffiti / Night Graffiti, by Maciej Dutkiewicz (1997), and Egzekutorze / The Executor, by Filip Zylber (1999). Audiences also saw him play Piotr Klimk in Tam i z powrotem / There and Back by Wojciech Wójcik (2001) – set in 1960s Poland, where the characters dream of freedom and of leaving the country. Frycz has also played memorable supporting characters, such as Siemian in Pornografia / Pornography by Jan Jakub Kolski (2003) and Professor Dąbrowski in Korowód / Twists of Fate by Jerzy Stuhr (2007). His most important role during this period was as Andrzej Winkler in Pręgi / The Welts - a disturbing work directed by Magdalena Piekorz (2004). The actor played a sadistic father who, though he loves his son, is incapable of showing him love and torments him psychologically and physically.
In 2008 he played the main role in Łukasz Barczyk's controversial The Unmoved Mover and two years later he worked with Jan Kidawa-Błoński on Little Rose, inspired by Paweł Jasienica's story. He also played in commercial films of diverse quality, therefore challenging his image of 'a serious drama actor'. In 2004 he played the main protagonist's husband in one of early Polish romantic comedies made in Hollywood style - Nigdy w życiu / Never in my Life, based on Katarzyna Grochola's novel (2004). He also appeared in films such as Tylko mnie kochaj / Just love me (2006), Wyjazd integracyjny / Integration Trip (2011), Pokaż kotku, co masz w środku / Kitty, show me what you have inside (2011) and Och Karol 2 (2011).
Lately he also played Ignacy Jan Paderewski in Łukasz Barczyk's Influence (2015) and the Mieczysław Wejman in Tadeusz Kantor's biography Kantor. I shall never return directed by Jan Hryniak, which still awaits its premiere.
Frycz has performed his most recent stage roles on the boards of the National Theater - Ivan Nikolayevich Zakhedrynsky in Miłość na Krymie / Love in the Crimea by Sławomir Mrożek, directed by Jerzy Jarocki (2007) and the title character Ivanov, in the production of the Chekhov play by Jan Englert (2008) – a role to which Frycz has returned, having played Ivanov, also for Englert, in a 1995 television production).
Jan Frycz as Ivanov (...) - wrote Aleksandra Rembowska – ably unites and in a way sums up his acting experience. He reminds us of his accomplishments, among which his work as Ivanov has a special place. Ivanov is helpless in the face of the emptiness that surrounds him and struggles against his inner nature with a crushing sense of guilt. He is Turgenev’s "disposable man", the hero who has lost the will to live. ("Teatr" 2008, nr 6)
He doesn't only work in the National Theatre though. In 2011 he played Van Helsing in Grzegorz Jarzyna's Nosferatu in TR Warszawa theatre, and a year later - Niels Bohr in Michael Frayn's Copenhagen, directed by Waldemar Krzystek in the IMKA theatre. His last role up to date is the 'Actor of the National Theatre' in Woodcutters based on Thomas Bernhard's text, staged in Teatr Polski in Wrocław by Krystian Lupa.
Selected awards and distinctions:
- 1980 – Special mention for role as Madan in "Sto rąk, sto sztyletów / A Hundred Hands, a Hundred Daggers" by Jerzy Żurek (dir. Jerzy Krasowski, Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Cracow) at the 21st Modern Polish Arts Festival in Wrocław;
- 1986 - Polish Radio and Television Commissioner’s award for accomplishments in Television Theater;
- 1990 – The Zelwerowicz Award for his role in "Opis obyczajów... / Description of Customs"dz: by Jędrzej Kitowicz (dir. Mikołaj Grabowski, STU Theater in Cracow) and Ivan in "Bracia Karamazow / The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (dir. Krystian Lupa, The Old Theater in Cracow);
- 1991 – Grand prize (collective) for role in "Opis obyczajów / Description of Customs" at the 21st Kalisz Theater Festival;
- 1996 – Acting award for role of Witkacy-Walpurg in "Grzebanie / Rummaging" by Jerzy Jarocki (dir. Jerzy Jarocki, The Old Theater in Cracow) at the 2nd National Competition for Productions of Contemporary Polish Plays;
- 1998 – Audience award for role as Pozdnyshev in "Sonata Kreutzerowska / The Kreutzer Sonata" by Leo Toltsoy (dir. Mikołaj Grabowski, Juliusz Osterwa Theater in Lublin) at the 37th Rzeszów Theater Festival, Byrski Award for role as Pozdnyshev in "Sonata Kreutzerowska / The Kreutzer Sonata" at the 15th Gorzów Theater Festival;
- 1999 – Golden Mask;
- 2001 – Award for title role in "Król Lear / King Lear" by William Shakespeare (dir. Mikołaj Grabowski, The New Theater in Łódź) at the 41st Kalisz Theater Festival;
- 2003 – Award for best supporting male role – for the role of Siemian in the film "Pornografia / Pornography", Jan Jakub Kolski dir. at the 28th Polish Film Festival in Gdynia;
- 2004 - Eagle – Polish Film Award for best supporting role - for the role of Siemian in the film "Pornografia / Pornography", Jan Jakub Kolski dir.;
- 2005 - Eagle – Polish Film Award for best supporting male role – for the role of Andrzej Winkler in the film "Pręgi / Welts" Magdalena Piekorz dir.;
- 2006 – Award for the role of Marcus Brutus in the television production "Juliusz Cezar / Julius Caesar" by William Shakespeare, Jan Englert dir. at the 6th "Two Theaters" Festival of Polish Radio Theatre and Polish Public Television Theatre in Sopot;
- 2007 – Actors’ special mention for the role of Harry in "Collection / Kolekcja" by Harold Pinter, under the direction of Marcin Wrona at the 7th "Two Theaters" Festival of Polish Radio Theatre and Polish Public Television Theatre in Sopot.
- 2013 - Grand Prix for Stomil's role in Tango at the "Two Theaters" Festival of Polish Radio Theatre and Polish Public Television Theatre in Sopot.
- 2014 - Actor's Award for Love in the Crimea at the "Two Theaters" Festival of Polish Radio Theatre and Polish Public Television Theatre in Sopot.
- 2015 - Golden Medal of Merit for Culture Gloria Artis
Author: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, April 2003; updated: November 2016.