A legendary Varsovian theatre manager, director and composer. Active during the twenty-year interwar period. Born on the 24th of April 1882 in Wrocław, died on the 5th of April 1953, in Warsaw.
A legendary Varsovian theatre manager, director and composer.
He began his education in Warsaw and there he graduated from middle school in 1900 . He then enrolled at the Warsaw Polytechnic and continued his studies in Berlin and Prague, although he never earned his sought-after diploma in engineering. Instead, an enduring legend about Boczkowski has survived - of the young man as a medicine student. This was later used to explain his particular concern with the health of the actors in his self-led theatres. He returned to Warsaw in 1908 and became the editor of Nowa Gazeta / The New Gazette. He mainly managed journalistic writing, also taking up the position of a reviewer of musical performance (Operas and Operettas). In 1909 he debuted as a composer in the Momus cabaret formed by Arnold Szyfman, the first permanent cabaret group in Warsaw. He composed songs, one of which (On Czerniakowska) became an instant hit. This experience inspired a lasting working relationship between Boczkowski and Konrad Tom, a lyricist, who provided the words to On Czerniakowska.
Boczkowski's directing career began in 1915, with his management of the Live Fly / Żywa Mucha musical theatre. In 1917 he assumed management of the literary-artistic theatre Mirage / Miraż, the forbearer to the famous Qui Pro Quo theatre. The following year he took charge of another small theatre, Argus and in the April of 1919, he began managing the most famous theatre of pre-war Warsaw: Qui Pro Quo. For the first two seasons, he joined on as the company's artistic director, but from 1921 onwards he became the theatre's co-owner along with Seweryn Majda. Eminent theatre historian, Edward Krasiński, once called Boczkowski "the chief leader of Warsaw's Entertainment Institute". This humorous designation held much truth. Boczkowski had an enormous talent for leading theatrical enterprises and an even greater skill in gathering together the most talented of contemporary artists. Qui Pro Quo, in particular, assembled the creative likes of Julian Tuwim, Marian Hemar, Fryderyk Jarosy, Mira Ziminska, Hanka Ordonowna, Zula Pogorzelska and many others, which ensured Qui Pro Quo an especially lengthy run of over twelve years. Boczkowski tried to open affiliated theatres, and so evidently had ambitions which extended to other Warsaw entertainment concerns. In later years, he managed to create, along with Leon Schiller, a short-lived theatre called Melodram (1932). For one season, in 1933, he was also head of the Sea's Eye / Morskie Oko and his last pre-war venture was a Qui Pro Quo Theatre spin-off, Małe Qui Pro Quo, which operated in a known coffee house, called Ziemiańska.
Boczkowski is remembered as an unusually harsh and demanding director, yet one who also managed to surround those who worked for him with a sense of great care and concern. He was known as Fumer - from his habit of smoking a pipe, an enduring characteristic, and one that he could never rid himself of. He knew how to impose iron-hard artistic discipline, although was not free from such petty indulgence, as with his already-mentioned craze of subjecting his actors to medical treatment. They, in turn, frequently made use of this habit to play tricks on him, which Boczkowski nevertheless took in good humour.
Apart from directorial skill, Boczkowski was a proficient composer. His professional accomplishments included many songs, including the now-infamous The Coffeehouse Echoes Resounded Around Him / Szumiały mu echa kawiarni, I've Got a Boy for Copernicus / Mam chłopczyka na Kopernika, a song inserted into the fantastic stage interpretation by Hanka Ordonówna with Qui Pro Quo, or the hit song You'll Forget Summer's Adventure / Ty zapomnisz o letniej przygodzie. He also composed many one-act operettas for Qui Pro Quo, including, On the Bright Shore / Na jasnym brzegu and Pomponette, although his dalliance with Operettas started earlier in 1916 and 1917 he composed One More / Jeszcze jeden and Toy-Box / Pudełko z zabawkami. He also composed now-lost music to sketches staged in his own theatres.
Boczkowski's career also saw a period of free involvement in Warsaw's theatrical life, in spite of explicit ban on Secret Theatrical Help, which condemned the undertaking of shows under the protection of the German department of propaganda. Boczkowski was active in Nowy Świat's Theatre Złoty Ul. It was there that the variety shows In the Long Lull-Two Bees Got Drunk from Honey / W ululanym ulu - upiły się pszczółki miodem or Let's Get Our Legs Wet / Moczmy nogi were staged. Although chroniclers of the time stress that the level of artistic merit that the theatre achieved was greater than at similar theatres, no doubt thanks to Boczkowski's high standards. Boczkowski led Złoty Ul from 1941 to March 1944. During that time, he transformed it into "Wodewil" and for its inauguration, staged a French farce with Antoni Fertner in the lead role of I'm the Leader / Pan naczelnik to ja. He then made use of his skill in composing to re-stage the show as a musical comedy.
After the war he endeavored to revive the spirit of pre-war Warsaw with a cabaret staged in 1945, in Praga district's The Pink Balloon / Różowy Balonik theatre. After its dissolution, he returned to organizational work, he was the first president of ZAiKS in the postwar period (a role which he first exercised in 1936). He died in Warsaw on April 5, 1953. The cause of death was, as the stage designer, Józef Galewski, noted in his diaries, strong sclerosis (Boczkowski was therefore most likely a victim of Alzheimer's disease). He passed away exactly thirty years and a day after the inauguration of the greatest masterpiece of his life, the formation of the Qui Pro Quo Theatre.
- Władysław Dan-Daniłowski, Oj dana dana, Miami Beach 1996;
- Mieczysław Fogg, From a stick-ball to a Belle Canto / Od palanta do belcanta, Warsaw 1971;
- Józef Galewski, Memoirs / Wspomnienia, mps, rkps, sygn. M. 233, t. 5., Theatre Documentation Group IS PAN Warsaw;
- Stefania Grodzieńska, A Blue Bird Gave Birth to Him / Urodził go Niebieski Ptak, Warsaw 1988;
- Ryszard Marek Groński, Just Like in a Pre-war Cabaret / Jak w przedwojennym kabarecie, Warsaw 1978;
- Ryszard Marek Groński, Hemar's Cabaret / Kabaret Hemara, Warsaw 1988;
- Kazimierz Krukowski, A Short Anthology of Cabarets / Mała antologia kabaretu, Warsaw 1982;
- Kazimierz Krukowski, My Warsaw / Moja Warszawka, Warsaw 1957;
- Małgorzata Kucińska-Wiśniewska, The Variety Show Theatre of Morskie Oko 1928-1933, MA thesis, mps sygn. 348, The Warsaw Theatre Academy Library 1988;
- Ludwik Lawiński, Although / Aczkolwiek, London 1963;
- Ludwik Lawiński, I Bought My Memories from Behind the Scenes / Kupiłem. Wspomnienia zza kulis, London 1958;
- Edward Krasiński, Warsaw's Stages, 1918-1939 / Warszawskie sceny 1918-1939, Warsaw 1976;
- Anna Mieszkowska, Me, the Cabaret Artist - Marian Hemar from Lwow to London / Ja, kabareciarz. Marian Hemar od Lwowa do Londynu, Warsaw 2006;
- Anna Mieszkowska, I'm Járosy. Always the Same / Jestem Járosy. Zawsze ten sam, Warsaw 2008;
- Tomasz Mościcki, I Love the Old Shack. Qui Pro Quo Theatre / Kochana stara buda. Teatr Qui Pro Quo, Łomianki 2008;
- Tomasz Mościcki, Warsaw's Theatres 1939, A History / Teatry Warszawy 1939. Kronika, Warsaw 2009;
- Zbigniew Raszewski, A Short History of Polish Theatre / Krótka historia teatru polskiego, Warsaw 1977;
- Kazimierz Rudzki [red.], Cigarette Fumes. A Recollection of Being On-stage and Behind the Scenes / Dymek z papierosa. Wspomnienia o scenkach i nadscenkach, Warsaw 1959;
- Ludwik Sempoliński, Great Artists and Small Scenes / Wielcy artyści małych scen, Warsaw 1968;
- Tadeusz Wittlin, The Songstress of Warsaw. Hanka Ordonówna and her World / Pieśniarka Warszawy. Hanka Ordonówna i jej świat, Warsaw 1990;
- Mira Zimińska-Sygietyńska, I Didn't Lead a Lonely Life / Nie żyłam samotnie, Warsaw 1985.
Author: Tomasz Mościcki. Translated and published in October 2010.