Can theatre be a democratic space of equality? This is the way Małgorzata Wdowik sees it. Born in 1988, she is a theatre director and dramaturg. She is more interested in the experience and values of the common creative process than the narrative or directorial domination.
She began her theatre education from the theoretical side – she studied theatre at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. After graduating, she began Director Studies at Warsaw’s Theatre Academy. She also studied at the famous Institute for Applied Theatre Studies in Giessen, Germany and was connected with the DAS Theatre Programme in Amsterdam – a two-year-long performative studies focused on practice and research.
Her time at Giessen probably influenced her manner of work and area of interest the most. The artist opposes hierarchies which allow the director to stamp their name on a work completed by a big group of creators. In an interview with Arkadiusz Gruszczyński, she explained her egalitarian approach:
I often view myself as a curator. I select my creators – experts in a given field. I don’t force my point of view on them and we try to listen to each other. This is my fight against viewing the director as a star or demiurge.
Her first important theatre position was as an assistant for Swedish director Markus Öhrn’s Heroes of the Future produced by Komuna Warszawa (2014). The artist says she learned from him to view theatre as an event and communal experience and not simply as a staging of a drama.
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She debuted in 2016 in Nowy Theatre in Łódź with an experimental performance titled Julius Caesar Believes in the Morning, based on a text by Tamara Anronijevic, inspired by Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It is understandable that she started with an experiment: ‘Conventional theatre bothers me at times’, as she said a few years later in an interview for Elle magazine.
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In the same year, she also directed a play based on a text by Jan Czapliński and Krzysztof Szekalski – Story of a T-shirt, or How Lucky it is to Be Born in the West was staged in Współczesny Theatre in Szczecin. It touched on topics related to the neo-colonial model of the world, uncovered consumer ignorance, and posed a challenge to the viewers – the ‘participants’ of Western capitalism.
Wdowik’s next project, 2016’s Football Players, was definitely a catalyst for her artistic career. It was co-produced by TR Warszawa and the BOTO Theatre Foundation in cooperation with Bemowskie Centrum Kultury, Sopot-Non Fiction and Warszawa.doc, and received the Main Award of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage at the 6th Young Directors Forum in Kraków. The project was another collaboration between Wdowik and Szekalski. Wdowik’s brother Kacper Wdowik and Wiktor Bagiński starred in this play about the experiences of young football players. ‘An entertaining play – almost a stand-up comedy’, Witold Mrozek wrote of Football Players in Gazeta Wyborcza. ‘A masterful composition of elements distilled from the football pitch’, stated Paweł Soszyński in Dwutygodnik. The choreography, inspired by elements of the football game and the gestures of players, was created by Marta Ziółek.
Football Players was followed by Girls – a play based on a text by Weronika Murek starring five adolescents invited by the director. Wdowik staged her devoid-of-narrative play in 2017 in Warsaw’s Teatr Studio. ‘It is an attempt to capture the phenomenon of girlishness in an ultra-fragile moment of its germination and transformation’, wrote Anka Herbut in Dwutygodnik.
Wdowik’s next play addressed emotions. In April 2018, in TR Warszawa, she staged Fear – a dark and disturbing adaptation of a text by Robert Bolesto. In the next season, she followed up with Anger in Warsaw’s Powszechny Theatre – for this play, she invited four boys aged 12 to 15.
Earlier, as a part of a performative exhibition titled Plac Małachowskiego 3 in Zachęta, she ‘took measurements for’ a play about coping with anger. The performance titled Name it in a Pleasant Way was another collaboration with Marta Ziółek. In a multimedia space, the artists arranged a ‘room of fury’ – a place filled with objects on which one can take out one’s anger.
Wdowik also presented her works in Komuna Warszawa and the Theatre Institute, at the Malta Festival in Poznań and also in Darmstadt, Munich, Cologne, and Frankfurt. She co-created K.A.U. Kollektiv, an inter-disciplinary artistic group mainly active in Germany. In 2015, she represented Poland at the Quadriennale in Prague – her The Boundaries of Landscape installation won her the 3rd Uprising Student Talent Award. In 2018, she was nominated for a Talenty Trójki – an award granted by the Polish Radio.
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Sources: e-teatr.pl, dwutygodnik.com, blog.wspolczesny.szczecin.pl; originally compiled in Polish MO, Mar 2019, translated to English by PG, Mar 2019.