Renowned theatre director, stage designer. He was born on 7th November 1943 in Jastrzębie Zdrój.
Renowned theatre director and set designer.
Before turning his attention to theatre, Lupa was as student in the Physics Department of Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Shortly after matriculating, he abandoned this course of study and passed the entrance exams for the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, from where he graduated in 1969 with a degree in graphic design. He went on to spend two years studying directing at the Łódź Film School. In 1973 he was accepted into the theatre directing program at the State Higher School of Theatre in Kraków.
Kantor, Swinarski: masters of the path
While a student, Lupa developed a professional relationship with Konrad Swinarski, attending his classes in play analysis and serving as his assistant on a production of Hamlet at the Stary Teatr in Kraków. Lupa has admitted that Swinarski taught him to explore the meaning of individual scenes and to work with actors. As a student, the director was also fascinated by the theatre of Tadeusz Kantor and the function of the actor in the stage reality devised by Kantor. Lupa explained:
The work of Swinarski and Kantor was a psychological event for me. Specifically, I have in mind their stagings of Wyzwolenie (Liberation) and Umarła klasa (The Dead Class).
On the other hand, Carl Gustav Jung proved to be the author of paramount importance to the director.
If I can say I have a mentor, I would say this would surely be Jung, Lupa has said. Among the thinkers I have encountered in my life, he has explained the most to me. He is a psychologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, but just as Jerzy Prokopiuk stated in an introduction to one of Jung's works, he was also the 20th century's chief Gnostic. He is a master of the path - not only of truth - but a master of the path to the truth.
Lupa made his professional theatre debut in 1976 with a production of Sławomir Mrożek's Rzeźnia (The Slaughterhouse) at the Teatr im. J. Słowackiego in Kraków. For his thesis project in directing, Lupa chose Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz's Nadobnisie i koczkodany (Dandies and Frumps) (1977), a text he had worked on earlier. It was with a director's notebook on this play that he applied for and passed the entrance exams for theatre school. Kamiński wrote:
6 Polish Theatre Directors Who Revolutionised the Stage
This just might be one of the best Witkacy productions ever to have been mounted on our stages, after the premiere. Lupa has entirely abandoned the magical and manneristic style that for years has haunted stagings of this playwright's dramas. He has created a production as humorous as it is tragic, one that is raw in form and conceptually clear.
Witkacy: laboratory rehearsals
Upon graduating, Lupa was given a position at the C. K. Norwid Theatre in Jelenia Góra, where he once again directed Dandies and Frumps (1978) and twice more chose to work on plays by Witkacy, staging this author's Pragmatyści (The Pragmatists) and Maciej Korbowa i Bellatrix (Maciej Korbowa and Bellatrix). Grzegorz Niziołek explained:
Contrary to what is done most frequently, Lupa does not read Witkiewicz's dramas through the totalitarian experiences of the 20th century, doing so rather through the cultural transformations of the century's end. He does not value the author for being an avant-garde playwright. Rather, he extracts from Witkiewicz's dramas a special form of realism (treating the grotesque as an attribute of reality rather than of art) inscribed in inter-personal situations; what interests him in these plays are symptoms of anthropological change, not political change. Witkacy also represents the model of artist dearest to Lupa - that of an artist who seeks to express himself through various art forms (drama, theatre, the novel, painting, drawing), who treats the act of artistic expression as a complete act that engages the subconscious and the artist's most personal experiences.
At around this same time and still in Jelenia Góra, Lupa staged productions of Leonid Andreyev's Życie człowieka (The Life of Man), Stanisław Przybyszewski's Matka (The Mother), Sławomir Mrożek's Pieszo (On Foot) and Witold Gombrowicz's Ślub (The Marriage). In 1978 Lupa directed Gombrowicz's Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda (Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy) at the Stary Teatr in Kraków. At the time, critics noted that what interested Lupa most in the theatre were inter-human relationships, which he depicted on stage through subtle, lightly shaded psychological play that he combined with emphasis of the complex motivations of characters. Reviewers also underlined his highly precise composition of scenes and exquisite ability to interpret moments of silence. Much was also written about the director's conscious and purposeful repetition of certain sequences and his propensity for slowing down the tempo of action and generally experimenting with time in the theatre. It was at this time that Lupa created his first original productions Przezroczysty pokój (The Transparent Room) and Kolacja (The Supper). Grzegorz Niziołek wrote:
Both productions were like artistic manifestoes and contained certain autobiographical elements. Freed from literature, Lupa's theatre revealed itself in its purest form: as non-narrative theatre about inter-human situations and hypnotic psychological states.
The theatre programs for these productions almost invariably contained the following credit: Script by Krystian Lupa, production created jointly by the acting ensemble. While still in Jelenia Góra, Lupa developed his specific method of working with actors, a method that he would ultimately apply more broadly, not solely to those productions that were his original creations. His collaborators of the time referred to his method of developing productions as 'laboratory rehearsals.' Piotr Skiba, who has been working with Lupa since the director's time in Jelenia Góra, said:
An Alternative Biography of Witkacy
Krystian immediately taught me the most important thing - that theatre is about more than just showing off and presenting oneself, that it serves a greater purpose than merely satisfying one's vanity. Theatre should be a bridge to the land of spirituality. (...) Lupa does not create situational theatre. Rather, he leads his actors through issues, subjects, tasks. Situations are something final, ultimate.
Musil, Bernhard: Austrian fascinations
Krystian Lupa has enjoyed a relationship with the Stary Teatr in Kraków since 1980, and created some of his most exceptional productions there. He began his work at this theatre by staging Powrót Odysa (The Return of Odysseus) by Stanisław Wyspiański (1981), a play to which he would return in 1999, staging it once more at the Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw. Lupa also took on Austrian literature for the first time while at this Kraków theatre. In creating his original production titled Miasto snu (City of Sleep), Lupa drew inspiration from Alfred Kubin's novel Po tamtej stronie (The Other Side). In 1988 Lupa directed Robert Musil's Marzyciele (The Dreamers), a production which explored the deterioration of ideals through the prism of an individual who remains in a constant search for his identity. Bożena Winnicka wrote:
As in Musil's text, in Lupa's production man is a strange and impenetrable entity. Incomprehensible things happen within him. His intentions and deeds, feelings and thoughts, moments of elation and fear remain in constant flux.
Lupa would once again look to Musil two years later when he adapted and mounted a production of this author's great, epic work - the essayistic, philosophical novel Człowiek bez własciwości (The Man without Qualities). Mounted as the thesis production for students of the Acting Department of the State Higher School of Theatre in Kraków, Lupa titled this staging Szkice z Człowieka bez własciwości Roberta Musila (Sketches from Robert Musil's The Man without Qualities). The director once again adapted Austrian prose for his Malte albo tryptyk marnotrawnego syna (Malte, or the Prodigal Son's Triptych), a staging inspired by the work of Rainer Maria Rilke.
Krystian Lupa first drew on the work of Thomas Bernhard in 1992, creating a production based on his own adaptation of the author's novel Kalkwerk. This staging quickly gained the reputation of being a great metaphysical treatise, while exceptional acting simultaneously made it a shocking picture of the physical and mental sufferings of a man who seeks meaning in a world ruled by routine. Lunatycy. Esch, czyli anarchia (The Sleepwalkers - Esch, or Anarchy), a production from 1995, was yet another adaptation of a German language original, namely, the second part of Austrian author Hermann Broch's great prose trilogy. Encompassing the period from the close of the 19th century to the end of World War I, Broch's The Sleepwalkers describes the deterioration of values held sacred until this period, a deterioration caused by processes of social disintegration:
In a sensitive sharpness of perception. In the acceptance of humanity in all of its ugliness, ludicrousness and wildness, in the acceptance of all the falsities and pretences that culture imposes upon nature. In noticing spiritual fears and longings in the biological reactions of humans: their need for community, order, a lessening of the fear of death - if only for a moment... This is all awkward, desperate, pitiable to a degree and comic, and therefore it is real and great in spite of its modesty.
In 1988 Lupa staged the second part of his theatrical adaptation of The Sleepwalkers, subtitling it Hugenau, czyli Rzeczowość (Hugenau, or Objectivity). Piotr Gruszczyński noted:
Lupa's staging imperceptibly transcends the limits of the novel and becomes a painful treatise about the strangeness of existence. We are absolutely helpless in the face of our existence, perhaps even more helpless than in the face of death. This is the perspective of contemporary existence as tragedy. It is truly unimportant if we live in times of war or peace. War merely proffers the advantage of more sharply highlighting the troubles we experience with our existence.
In staging Bernhard's The Siblings (Ritter, Dene, Voss), Lupa took a similar approach to that which he applied in mounting the same author's Kalkwerk. Ritter, Dene, Voss is about the life of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and in his production Lupa examined the routine behaviors of three siblings while highlighting the emotional conflicts that absorb the would-be genius. The director also turned to his Austrian fascinations at the Teatr Polski in Wrocław, with which he has been collaborating since 1996. It was at this theatre that he staged Thomas Bernhard's Immanuel Kant (1996), The Lady and the Unicorn based on Hermann Broch's short story Hanna Wendling (1997), and Kuszenie cichej Weroniki (The Temptation of Quiet Veronica) based on a story by Robert Musil (1997). Most recently, at the Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw, Lupa directed Bernhard's Extinction, based on his own translation (2001) - a production in which he explored issues of memory, attempts at erasing one's biography, and the ability of individuals to be born anew. Janusz Majcherek wrote:
Secrets, Dreams & Stars: Spiritual Experiments in Theatre
The theme of spiritual transformation or renewal is nothing new in Lupa's theatre, although it seems this time the director has confronted it with unusual passion. The same author stated previously (...) it is worth noting the degree to which Lupa is familiar with Bernhard's text, which obviously both attracts and repulses the director, the reading of which is both a compulsion for him as well as a pain.
Dostoyevsky, Chekhov: European state of mind
In 1997 Lupa staged Yasmina Reza's comedy Art at the Stary Teatr in Kraków. Although strongly colored by a tone of irony, the humor in this production possessed a serious undercurrent.
Lupa has also brought works of Russian literature to the stage. He prepared Bracia (Brothers) - based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov - as the thesis production of fourth year acting students at the State Higher School of Theatre in Kraków, where Lupa has been teaching since 1983. He readapted this novel for the stage in 1990 at the Stary Teatr in Kraków, and developed a new version of The Brothers Karamazov, turning this work into a great theatrical fresco, in 1999. Working with students of the Acting Department of the State Higher School of Theatre in Kraków under the program of thesis productions, the director has twice staged texts by Anton Chekhov, adapting this author's play Platonov into a production consisting of two parts and titled Płatonow Wiśniowy i Oliwkowy (Cherry and Olive Platonov), and two years later staging The Three Sisters. He has also created a stage adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita ( 2002), and prepared a production titled Azyl (Asylum), based on Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths (2003), at the Teatr Polski in Wrocław.
When it comes to contemporary plays, Lupa mounted productions of Austrian author Werner Schwab's Prezydentki (First Ladies) as well as Stosunki Klary (Clara's Relations) by German playwright Dea Loher.
In 2004, Lupa did a production entitled Niedokończony Utwór na Aktora Wedlug 'Mewy' Czechowa - Sztuka hiszpańska Yasminy Rezy (Unfinished Work for An Actor Based on Chekhov's 'The Seagull' - The Spanish Play of Yasmina Reza) which premiered on March 27th, 2004, at the Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw. In 2006 Lupa tackled another one of Bernhard's plays - Na Szczytach Panuje Cisza (Over All the Mountain Tops).
In 2004 he brought two performances to the stage of the National Old Theatre under the patronage of Helena Modrzejewska in Kraków. The first, which premiered in Athens at the Hellenic Festival in 2004 (it's Polish premiere took place in 2005 at the Old Theatre) is Zarathustra based on Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Einar Schleef's Nietzsche. Trilogy. Full of rigour and drama, Lupa's adaptation of Zarathustra showed the spiritual journey of a man who asks about the point of human existence, the point of an existence without God, about the possibilities and limits of human experience. The second play he laid out reflections about the essence of creation, the artist's consciousness and the role of chance in art. He also put on stage Factory 2 based on his own script and inspired by the life and work of Andy Warhol and the phenomenon of his legendary studio (2008).
The Polish Stage: Between Spirituality and Prank
Since 2009 he has been working on the Persona.Triptych devoted to intriguing female personalities across borders and generations. Lupa's focus is on three iconic figures from the Twentieth Century: Marilyn Monroe, Simone Weil and George Gurdjieff. In 2011, his Waiting Room premiered at Wrocław's Polski Theatre. 2012 saw the production of Lupa's City of Dreams, an adaptation of Alfred Kubin's novel The Other Side, brought to the stage together with the TR Warszawa theatre group. The official premiere staging of the play took place at the Theatre de la Ville in Paris.
Theatre of psychological extremes
Lupa is a master at creating internally coherent stage realities. He often translates and adapts the texts which he stages, simultaneously designing the scenery and directing these productions. In some, he himself appears on stage as the narrator. He is capable of achieving unusual unity of expression and creating concepts marked by immense clarity and precision. He treats music in a very special way in his productions. Tadeusz Kornas noted:
Basically it can exist only in concert with the action of the play. It constitutes a space of sound that is entirely integrated with what the actors do. At times it unites with the action so completely that spectators cease to perceive it.
The quality of Lupa's theatre derives from strong acting, which is often deemed "invisible" or "transparent," made so by actors who unite almost completely with the characters they play. Most often, characters so thoroughly take over the actors that the smallest psychological nuances and inner contradictions become perceivable in the intimacy of his productions. Tomasz Man wrote:
Lupa warns: cheap entertainment means cheap humans, cheap lives, cheap souls, cheap reason, cheap sensibilities... His productions begin where questions are not asked and end where all that relates to us has been questioned. This delicious paradox is not a mere mechanism, but denotes a certain inability to name man 'completely.' Thus is created the mystery of being human to one self and to others. (...) In the structured stage world, every individual is a contradiction on the inside. He or she builds castles on sand, because that makes sense. They decline into madness because they find no answer to questions regarding who they truly are.
Krystian Lupa made his debut in Polish Television Theatre in 1978 with a production of Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz's Wariat i zakonnica (The Madman and the Nun). His credits also include televised versions of his theatrical adaptations of Robert Musil's The Dreamers (1992), Thomas Bernhard's Immanuel Kant (1997) and Kalkwerk (1998), Robert Musil's The Temptation of Quiet Veronica (2001) and Hermann Broch's Hanna Wendling (2001). In 1993 he created a three-part television production titled W strone Klarysy. Szkice z 'Człowieka bez właściwosci' Roberta Musila (Towards Clarissa - Sketches from Robert Musil's 'Man Without Qualities'), basing this upon a stage version he mounted in 1990 at the State Higher School of Theatre in Krakow.
Krystian Lupa is the author of a collection of sketches titled Utopia i jej mieszkańcy (Utopia and Its Inhabitants) and two volumes of prose - Labirynt (Labyrinth) and Podglądanie (Spying), both of which contain excerpts from the diaries that Lupa has been keeping for years.
What Makes Chinese Audiences Appreciate Polish Theatre?
On 23 October 2014 at the Jerzy Grzegorzewski Stage of the Polish Theatre in Wrocław another widely discussed premiere of Lupa's play took place. Woodcutters, based on Thomas Bernhard's prose, was recognised by the audience and critics as the best play of the season. The play’s plot takes place over a dinner shared by old friends from an informal art group. The gathering soon turns into a funeral meal after the death of one of the protagonists. The jury of the Divine Comedy International Theatre Festival awarded its creators with three prizes in the most significant categories (best play, best director, best actor). In the opinion of the jury members we can read:
for a skillful critic of an artist's position and confronting the audience with the most inconvenient truths, and for the totality of the work which provides us with many amazing theatrical moments.
Krystian Lupa after the peremiere said himself:
Bernhard criticises the situation where the uncompromissing attitude and fight for a different world, which is a part of artists' lives at the beginning of their path, dissapear. Instead, the artists start to entangle themselves in relations with cynical and ignorant authorities, they accept compromises, to have power over their careers. It is a play about problems which people of culture experience, about mechanisms the culture is affected by.
The director was also appreciated by the jury of the TVP Kultura (a culture-oriented channel of the Polish Television) who awarded him with the 'Supergwarancja', a special award given on the 10th anniversary of the channel. The jury wrote:
The Supergwarancja Award for an artist who still searches, provokes and inspires, an artist who consider art a way to explore human and discover his secrets. For his ability to create another reality on stage and for amazing skills in alluring the audience. For the director who proves his uniqueness once again by staging Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard at the Polish Theatre in Wrocław.
In 2015 Lupa produced Plac Bohaterów (Heroes' Square) at the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre in Vilnius. It was another time the director took on Thomas Bernhard's work. He is already considered an expert on theatrical adaptations of this author’s works and he is also a member of the board of the Thomas Bernhard Foundation. This time Lupa creates a play based on a scandalous drama from 1988, telling about antisemitism and Austrian collaboration with Hitler. The director depicts hypocrisy of the society who has created reality they live in and sincerely hate. Marcin Miętus in his review for Kultura Liberalna wrote:
It is not an easy play. It demands focusing. Also upon leaving the theatre you cannot get rid of it, it rushes upon your mind and does not give simple interpretations. It is not about a complete bonding between the stage and the reality. Neither about simple lables or slogans. Lupa's politics is not a cheap opinion journalism. He director has created a strong content play where the dominating helplessness is nearly tangible.
The play was later presented at the Drama Theatre in Warsaw during 36th Warsaw Theatre Meetings and during the Divine Comedy International Theatre Festival in Kraków.
I Hate the Theatre: Lupa Revives Bernhard
teatr polski in wrocław
contemporary polish theatre
Significant awards and distinctions:
1977 – Silver Key Award for creating stage design and directing Życie człowieka (The Life of Man) at the Cyprian Kamil Norwid Theatre in Jelenia Góra
1978 - 4th Opole Theatre Confrontations - award for the direction and design of his production of Nadobnisie i koczkodany (Dandies and Frumps) by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz at the Teatr im. C. K. Norwida in Jelenia Gora
1979 - recognized as an Individual of Merit by the city of Jelenia Góra
1983 - 23rd Kalisz Theatre Meetings - distinction for his work on theatrical form in his production of Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz's Pragmatyści (The Pragmatists) at the Teatr im. C. K. Norwida in Jelenia Gora; 9th Opole Theatre Confrontations in Opole - award for his work on the plays of Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz - The Pragmatists at the Teatr im. C. K. Norwida in Jelenia Góra and Bezimienne Dzieło (Nameless Work) at the Stary Teatr in Kraków
1987 - 13th Opole Theatre Confrontations - award for the general visual form of his production of Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz's Maciej Korbowa i Bellatrix (Maciej Korbowa and Bellatrix) at the Teatr im. C. K. Norwida in Jelenia Góra
1988 - Konrad Swinarski Award (bestowed by "Teatr" monthly) for his direction of the Robert Musil's The Dreamers at the Stary Teatr in Kraków
1991 – The Polish Culture Foundation, Kraków Branch Prize for Lupa's life achievement in art
1992 - Leon Schiller Award for outstanding achievement in the art of directing in 1991
1993 – 2nd prize for his production of Kalkwerk at the Stary Theatre in Kraków granted at 5th "Contact" International Theatre Festival in Toruń; The Governor of Kraków Province Prize for special achievements in the art of directing and for pedagogical work at the State Higher School of Theatre in Kraków
1995 - 5th "Contact" International Theatre Festival in Torun - 3rd prize for his production of Hermann Broch's Lunatycy (The Sleepwalkers) at the Stary Teatr in Kraków.
1996 - 14th Polish National Review of Theatre School Thesis Productions in Lodz - Krzysztof Kieslowski Award for best staging for the production Płatonow Wiśniowy i Oliwkowy (Cherry and Olive Platonov), based on Anton Chekhov's Platonov, realized at the State Higher School of Theatre in Kraków
1997 - Fredro Statuette - award of the Wrocław Society of Critics and Friends of the Theatre for the "Theatre Event of the Year 1996" for his production of Thomas Bernhard's Immanuel Kant at the Teatr Polski in Wrocław
1998 - Award of the Minister of Culture in the realm of theatre; the city of Kraków prize for directing Rodzeństwo. Ritter, Dene, Voss (Ritter, Dene, Voss) by Thomas Bernhard and Art by Yasmina Reza at the Helena Modrzejewska Stary Theatre in Kraków
1999 - Opole Theatre Confrontations - award for his direction of Stanisław Wyspiański's Powrót Odysa (The Return of Odysseus) at the Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw; Paris - French Critics' Award for his production of Hermann Broch's The Sleepwalkers at the Stary Teatr in Kraków, judged to be the best foreign language production presented in France during the 1998/99 season
2000 - award of the Critics' Section of the International Theatre Institute for the popularization of Polish theatre culture abroad; Wrocław - title of best production and Fredro Statuette for his production of Werner Schwab's Prezydentki (First Ladies) at the Teatr Polski in Wroclaw, awarded in celebration of International Theatre Day; Ludwik Award - bestowed by the Kraków theatre community for his direction of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov at the Stary Teatr in Kraków
2001 - Austrian Cross of Merit; Warsaw Felix - award for best director of the 2000/01 season for his direction of Thomas Bernhard's Extinction at the Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw
2002 - French Order of the Fine Arts and Humanities; Pegasus Statue for best theatre director
2003 - 37. BITEF International Theatre Festival in Belgrade - Grand Prix for his production of Thomas Bernhard's Extinction at the Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw; The Diploma of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Lupa's outstanding contribution to promote Poland abroad in 2002
2004 - The Ludwik Award (from Krakow's theatre milieu) for directing and the set design to the adaptation of Thomas Bernhard's Kalkwerk performed at the National Old Theatre under the patronage of Helena Modrzejewska in Kraków. A second Ludwik Award for Best dla najlepszego performance; the Public Award for Best Performance;
2008 - Ars Quaerendi Award for the project to the theatrical adaptation of Robert Musil's The Temptation of Quiet Veronica; European Theatre Award (Rome) - lifetime achievement award; Grand Prix at the 1st Divine Comedy International Theatre Festival in Kraków for staging Factory 2 at the Stary Theatre in Kraków; The Kulturalny Odlot in category 'Artist of the Year' in Kraków; Polityka Passports for 2008 – The Special Culture Creator Award; Golden Mask for producing Seagull at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg
2009 - Premio Europa per il Teatro (European Theatre Award) given by the international theatre milieu
2010 – Individual Special Award for the production of Persona. Marilyn at the Drama Theatre in Warsaw, granted at the 16th Competition in Staging Polish Contemporary Play; Honorary Jury Award for Persona. Simone's Body at the Divine International Comedy Theatre Festival in Kraków
2012- Award in the Best Directing category for directing Poczekalnia.0 (Waiting Room.0, granted at the Divine Comedy International Theatre Festival in Kraków
2014 - Austrian Nestroy Peris Award in the 'Best Directing' category for Holzfaellen at the Schauspielhaus Graz
2015 – The Supergwarancja Award – a special prize from the Polish Television TVP Kultura for his life achievement.
Author: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, February 2004, updated by MJ June 2013