Graduate of directing at The Aleksander Zelwerowicz National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw and psychology at the Jagiellonian University, laureate of the French Government Scholarship. She has co-operated with theatres in Warsaw, Poznań, Łódź, Kraków, and Toruń.
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Kalwat has gained practical experience while assisting Krystian Lupa in the making of Persona. Marilyn and Persona. Ciało Simone (editor's translation: Persona. Simone's Body). She debuted in 2009, presenting A Midsummer's Night Dream during the 13th Gdańsk Shakespeare Festival. In 2010 she directed Himmelweg by the Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga, a piece about concentration camps and concealment of evil.
In The Queen of Cakes (original Hungarian title: Sütemények királynője) by Béla Pintér, realised in the Jaracz Theatre in Olsztyn, Kalwat peeked behind closed door, inspecting the relationships in a violence infected family. She also directed Zażynki, awarded with the prize Metafora Rzeczywistości. In the piece, together with the playwright Anna Walulik, Kalwat conjoined family drama and politics. In the performance Wasza Wysokość (Your Highness) she tackled a completely different subject matter – the work inspected why Polish mass imagination has for ages been ruled by a very particular landscape, the mountains. It was inspired by the life of Wanda Rutkiewicz, one of Poland's greatest mountain climbers ever, the first woman to summit K2 and the first European female climber to summit Mount Everest. Kalwat asked herself: how would a contemporary Wanda feel? Why would she go? Would she be able to find common ground with the new generation of climbers? In a conversation with Wiesław Kowalski the director explained:
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We were interested in detailed accounts of the expeditions that were given in memoirs, but also documents or short films that climbers make during moments of euphoria on the peak. The third group of materials were medical texts. I have been fascinated with altered states of consciousness for a long time, it started already when I was studying psychology. What is going on in the human mind? Numerous reports, for example by Wojciech Kurtyka, mentioned hallucinations obfuscating the clarity of thought. What does man become standing in open, empty space with a paralysed mind?
In Rozmaitości Theatre in Warsaw Kalwat made a theatrical portrait of Tomasz Sikorski, a forgotten avant-garde pianist, one of the most interesting composers of the 20th century. Holzwege is a scenic montage of a concert, an improvisation and musical experiments. The project won the Ogólnopolski Konkurs na Wystawienie Polskiej Sztuki Współczesnej (the National Competition for the Staging of Contemporary Polish Drama). According to the critic Łukasz Maciejewski, Holzwege has been the most interesting work in Rozmaitości Theatre's recent repertoire. As the Polish branch of the International Association of Theatre Critics wrote:
To successfully develop such a risky idea for a biography, Katarzyna Kalwat had to find the perfect performer: an actor who would naturally conjoin vitality and depression. She could not have made a better choice. Tomasz Tyndyk created one of the most important theatrical characters of the recent years, comparable to his great performances in Krzysztof Warlikowski's plays: Prior Walter in Angels in America or Robin in Cleansed. Tyndyk's Sikorski is a whimsical child, a hothead, an egomaniac, and a suffering sage – all at once. We know such heroes; we have seen them many times in cinema and theatre, but looking at the charismatic Tyndyk it seems like Sikorski found a mirror. He is Holzwege.
In 2016 Kalwat directed Reykjavik '74 in Wilam Horzyca Theatre in Toruń. It tells a story of a group of young people who confessed to a crime they did not commit. As the director said:
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The starting point for my work is always factual material, self-contradictory and full of mutually exclusive theses. During rehearsals me, the dramaturge Marta Sokołowska and the actors turn into members of an experimental research group and conduct a sort of a investigation. On stage we try to reconstruct the events and protagonists of the case.
In 2017 the peculiar Landszaft. Lekcja anatomii (Landschaft. An Anatomy Lesson) was presented during Genius Loci festival in the Theatrum Anatomicum of the Department of Anatomical Pathology in Kraków. The performance, based on texts by Weronika Murek and Susan Sontag, examines illness from various points of view.
A year later Kalwat became interested in Robert Walser, the Swiss writer who had spent most of his life in a mental asylum. He was discovered for broader (still not too numerous, though) audience only after his death. At the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art the director showed Robert Walser. I would prefer not to. Walser was in constant hiding from the world and wrote his poems in extremely tiny, almost illegible letters. In her performative installation, three performers try to repeat his gesture.
Robert Walser. I would prefer not to
Kalwat co-operated with Zbigniew Libera, one of Poland's most famous artists, on her next project, Grotowski non-fiction. In the co-production of Jan Kochanowski Theatre in Opole and the Contemporary Theatre in Wrocław actors from both of these institutions appeared on stage. Grotowski was strongly connected to both of these cities – in Kalwat's work, actors who had never met him in person deal with his myth. The dramatic text was based on their improvisations about the legendary figure of Polish theatre.
In February 2019 Rechnitz. Opera – The Exterminating Angel premiered in Warsaw's Rozmaitości Theatre. It is based on the dramatic text by the Austrian Nobel prize winner Elfriede Jelinek. The piece narrates the appalling story of a massacre of Jews that happened in March 1945 during a ball in the titular Rechnitz. Jelinek's work has been translated to Polish by the dramaturge of the performance, Monika Muskała. Wojtek Blecharz was responsible for music. Kalwat said that Rechnitz is about the ways historical narratives can be changed through language, how some matters can be highlighted and other – obfuscated.
Kalwat returned to Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art with the project Maria Klassenberg. Ecstasies. She portrayed a 'forgotten Polish female artist', Maria Klassenberg, posing questions about women's presence and visibility in art. The archive of the mysterious figure displayed during the performance was prepared by Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga.
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Sources: press materials, originally written in Polish by AC, updated by NS (April 2019), translated by NS