Producer, director, stage designer. Born in 1939. Along with Krystian Lupa and Jerzy Jarocki, he was one of the most outstanding Polish theatre directors. Died April 9, 2005 in Warsaw.
A producer, director and stage designer.
He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź and from the Faculty of Direction of the National Academy of Theatre in Warsaw. In 1963, he assisted Kazimierz Dejmek with his productions at the National Theatre. After graduation, he began a collaboration with the Stefan Jaracz Theatre in Łódź, where he staged, among others, Bertolt Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz's Daemoniac Super-Cabaret, Zygmunt Krasiński's Iridion, Anton Chekhov's The Pewit and his first production of Stanisław Wyspiański's The Wedding Party. Grzegorzewski created his own set designs for these productions, conjuring up a grotesque but internally uniform scenic world.
In 1967, Jerzy Grzegorzewski began a collaboration with the Old Theatre (Stary Teatr) in Krakow, where he created a second version of The Wedding Party, Variations, based on his own script and Ten Portraits with the Pewit based on Chekhov. Two years later, while continuing his work in Łódź and Krakow, Grzegorzewski became the artistic director of the Polish Theatre (Teatr Polski) in Wrocław, where he staged outstanding productions of Witold Gombrowicz's Wedding, Zygmunt Krasiński's Non-divine Comedy, and America based on Franz Kafka's novel. In 1982, Grzegorzewski moved to Warsaw and became the artistic director of the Studio Theatre (Teatr Studio) replacing Józef Szajna. Here, he staged his most mature productions, among them: Jean Genet's Screens, Tadeusz Różewicz's Trap, Bertold Brecht's The Threepenny Opera, Slow Darkening of Paintings, So Called Humanity Gone Mad and City's Counting Dog News based on his own scripts, Leo Tolstoy's Death of Ivan Ilyich, Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, La Boheme based on Stanisław Wyspiański's rendering, and Molière's Don Juan.
Grzegorzewski's Łódź productions outlined the scope of his theatrical interests. He would return to many authors and plays staged at the Stefan Jaracz Theatre. The plays of Witkacy, plus the authors of Polish Romanticism, Juliusz Słowacki, Adam Mickiewicz and Zygmunt Krasiński, Stanisław Wyspiański, Anton Chekhov, Jean Genet and Tadeusz Różewicz were interpreted many times. Returning to the same subjects and problems but always from new angles became a characteristic feature of Grzegorzewski's theatre, a theatre deconstructing cultural myths, including Polish romantic myths, while toying with theatrical traditions. For a long time, Grzegorzewski favoured collage, both on the textual level and in terms of the set design. Most of the productions based on his own scripts are compilations of plays by Lowry, Shakespeare, Wyspiański, Witkiewicz and Mickiewicz.
Usually, Grzegorzewski was not faithful to the text. He would change the script and place the words in provocative new contexts.
Grzegorzewski believed in a vision of theatre as an autonomous art and that is why his theatre survived the shocks of the turn of the 1980s. 'I was stubbornly, but maybe not effectively realising my version of understanding art as an independent field, and if there was any relation to reality, it resulted from what literature and the pressure of the times brought', he said in 1990. From the beginning, he was interested in existential problems, the death of culture, and of human beings, the theatricality of life, the motives of dream and memory,
In 1997, Grzegorzewski was appointed director of the main Polish theatre, the National Theatre in Warsaw. This appointment was controversial among critics who claimed that Grzegorzewski's previous productions were mannered and hermetic. These critics were against trusting a principally academic theatre to a principally avant-garde artist. Roman Pawłowski wrote:
After twelve years, Poles got their National Theatre back. But the first premiere did not allow us to hope that this coexistence would be easy. Jerzy Grzegorzewski did not surprise his fans, did not shock his adversaries. His 'Night of November' is another puzzle of literary motifs, fascinating but difficult to understand because, as usual with this director, not all the pieces fit together.
Soon, however, Grzegorzewski changed his approach a little. Instead of relishing theatrical games, he decided to use the national stage to speak about contemporary Poland, the fate of artists and spectators after the changes of 1989, and of history and the present. These were the subjects of Stanisław Wyspiański's Night of November, Halka Spinoza based on Witkacy, Witold Gombrowicz's Wedding and, in particular, his third staging of Wyspiański's The Wedding Party and Gombrowicz's Operetta.
He wants us to look at ourselves and his diagnoses are pitiless. In his 'Wedding party' there are no good characters: impotence, resignation and posing attack arrogance and primitivism. (...) Who will then rule the souls and lead them to action? Some are incapable of doing that, others can only wave their scythes, but that is definitely not enough. Are we then supposed to give up and continue considering our weaknesses or stir up reciprocal accusations? How current are the questions asked in Grzegorzewski's production? wrote Jacek Marczynski in "Rzeczpospolita Daily".
Most important awards:
- 1976 - the award for the direction and staging of Wedding in the Polish Theatre in Wrocław at the 17th Festival of Polish Contemporary Plays
- 1981 - the second grade award for his entire artistic output in the field of direction awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Art
- 1984 - the first grade award for the direction of Trap in the Studio Theatre in Warsaw at the 24th Festival of Polish Contemporary Plays
- 1987 - the first grade award for outstanding artistic achievements in the field of direction and set designing for theatre awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Art
- 1991 - the Konrad Swinarski award for the staging of Death of Ivan Ilitch based on Leo Tolstoy in the Studio Theatre in Warsaw and in the Old Theatre in Krakow.
Prepared in June 2002; updated by James Hopkin, August 2010 .