Paweł Łysak is a theatre director, philosopher, and artistic director of Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw. He was born in 1964.
Theatre director, philosopher, and artistic director of Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw.
In 1989, Łysak graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy and Sociology at Warsaw University, and in 1993 from the Directing Department at State Higher School of Theatre in Warsaw. He studied at the University of Toronto for a year, and in 1996 he held an internship at BBC Radio Drama in London. Since 1995, he has directed dozens of plays for Polish Radio Theatre. In 1998, he became vice-president of the Theatre Company, propagating socially engaged theatre and the latest western dramas. It was co-founded by director Paweł Wodziński, who is the president of the association.
From 2000 to 2003, he was the deputy director of the Polski Theatre in Poznań (then headed by Wodziński). From 2006, he was a general and artistic director of the Hieronim Konieczka Polski Theatre in Bydgoszcz, where he created a thriving theatre scene which was open to exploration.
First directing experience
At the Dramatyczny Theatre in Warsaw, Łysak assisted Maciej Prus in the production of The Un-Divine Comedy
by Zygmunt Krasiński
(1991) and Juliusz Słowacki’
(1993). He debuted on the capital's stages in 1992 with a premiere of Bernard-Marie Kolte’s drama Roberto Zucco
, which was not well received by critics. Afterwards, he collaborated primarily with the Juliusz Osterwa Theatre in Lublin. He directed Janusz Głowacki’
s Antigone in New York
(1993) and Eugene Ionesco's Chairs
(1998), which was an attempt at a new approach to the writer’s drama. On Lublin’s stage Łysak also directed Juliusz Słowacki’s Balladyna
(1995) and Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard
(1887), a performance about life passing by but free from cheap sentimentality.
At Lublin's Kameralny Theatre, Łysak staged Emigrants by Sławomir Mrożek (1997), and a year later he directed Judges by Wyspiański at the Polski Theatre in Warsaw. Before he began to work permanently in Warsaw, then in Poznań in 1995, he staged Euripides’ Bacchae at the Adam Mickiewicz Theatre in Czestochowa. In 1998 he directed Naparstek Pana Boga (Thimble of the Lord), which was an adaptation of short stories by Rainer Maria Rilke and so far his only performance for TV Theatre.
New Bruts on the Polish stage / Cooperation with TR Warszawa
Founded by Paweł Wodzińskiego and Łysak, the Modern Dramatic Theatre Company introduced many high-profile English and German authors from the circle of the so-called new brutalists to the Polish audience. In 1999, the Association of Theatre in Warsaw staged many premieres. On the stage of the Rozmaitości Theatre, Łysak produced Shopping & Fucking by Mark Ravenhil, which he co-translated with Wodziński, who also contributed to the stage design. The performance became controversial due to the many protests raised by right-wing politicians. It has also met with criticism concerning the actors’ skills. It was emphasized that the young actors appearing in the play failed at interpreting the text and did not cope well with the drastic emotions evoked by the drama.
His next premiere was Sarah Kane's Blasted. The play was translated by Łysak and Wodziński, directed by the latter and staged in the old hall of the Norblin factory. Another of the theatre company’s productions on the stage of Rozmaitości Theatre was Ogień w głowie (Fireface) by young German playwright Marius von Mayenburg (directed by Łysak, with set design by Łysak and Wodziński). It was a text about a disintegration of family ties leading to crime.
The founders of the Theatre Company were often accused of merely focusing on shock value and provocation, and of being unable to reach the depth of the problems touched on in their performances.
We're not trying to sell people an artificial, imaginary, good world, but the real world, which is sometimes terrible and cruel -- defended Paweł Łysak (Gazeta Łódź 01.12.1999).
Engaged Theatre in Poznań
In 2000, the founders of the Theatre Company were offered posts in Poznań. Wodziński became the director of the Polski Theatre and Łysak its deputy. The duo of young directors created a repertoire which made social service the mission of the theatre. Stagings of the newest dramas by authors such as Sarah Kane, Lars Noren, Nikolai Kolady, Sergi Belbel, Theresia Walser, and Bernard Marie-Koltes regularly appeared on the Poznań stage. Soon after, Polski Theatre came under a barrage of criticism from city councilors and other conservative circles in Poznań. It was accused of vulgarity, obscenity, and promotion of violence.
Łysak worked in Poznań for the first time at the end of the 90s. He staged Tadeusz Słobodzianek’s Kowal Malambo (Malambo. Argentinian story, 1997) – a morality play almost performed as a musical. He then staged two dramas by Ingmar Villqist: Helver’s Night (2000) and Helmucik (2002) – performances dealing with the vision of a totalitarian society in which violence is opposed to redemptive love and mutual understanding. In 2001, he took on Juliusz Słowacki’s Książę Niezłomny (Constant Prince) which he staged as a contemporary, 'sharp', journalistic spectacle of hatred and intolerance, performed in a loud and violent manner.
At the Polski Theatre in 2001, Łysak produced Freiheit - Freedom based on Pierwszy dzień wolności (First Day of Freedom) by Leon Kruczkowski, a joint project by German and Polish actors which told the story of the modern perception of freedom and different representations of its historical and cultural conditioning. After a three-year contract, the last production of the two directors at the Polski Theatre was Terroryzm /Terrorism by Oleg and Vladimir Priesniakow, a play about fear causing aggression, directed by Łysak (2003). The performance was criticized for its incompetent use of theatrical means and the actors’ skills. However, it was praised as a good choice of play and for its great stage production which highlighted Priesniakow’s absurd humor.
Reflective theatre in Bydgoszcz
In following years, Łysak directed two plays by Anton Chekhov – he staged Ivanov (2006) at Stefan Jaracz Theatre in Łódź, and a contemporary, reflective folk version of Trzy Siostry / Three Sisters (2009) at the Polski Theatre in Bydgoszcz. He produced a similarly modern interpretation of Sen nocy letniej/ Midsummer Night's Dream at Wilam Horzyca Theatre in Toruń, which was a well-acted, exuberant, and cabaret-like show.
In his two recent performances staged at Bydgoszcz Theatre, Sprawa Dantona /The Danton Case by Stanisława Przybyszewska (2008) and V [F] ICD – 10 Transformacje/ Transformations by Artur Pałyga (2009), the director dealt with the issues of freedom, community and political processes.
Again at Bydgoszcz Theatre, Paweł Łysak directed an acclaimed play about the solitude of the priest Jerzy Popiełuszko based on a text by Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk. The staging was well received by critics and the audience, and received the Gdynia Dramaturgy Award.
A year later, Łysak directed The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov. "By staging this play I wanted to raise questions about the models of life that dominate in today's world", said the director before its premiere.
Director of Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw
In 2014, Paweł Łysak won the competition for the position of director of Warsaw's Powszechny Theatre. Paweł Sztarbowski became the deputy director. Since 2006, both directors run Bydgoszcz Theater, which has become one of the most famous stages in the country over the course of few seasons under their leadership.
- Second prize at the Biała Wieża International Theatre Festival in Brest, Belarus, for staging Helver’s Night by Ingmar Villqist at Polski Theatre Teatru in Poznań
- Mikołaj Kopernik University Award at the Kontakt International Theatre Festival in Toruń for staging Helver’s Night by Ingmar Villqist at Polski Theatre in Poznań
- Poznań Medal of Young Art bestowed by Oficyna Wydawnicza Głos Wielkopolski Publishing for promoting theatre as a space for discussion
- Award for directing broadcast of Witaj w tej krainie/ Welcome to This Land based on prose by Mareka Nowakowski at the 7th Dwa Teatry Festival of Polish Radio and TV Theatre in Sopot
- Feliks - Gazet Wyborcza Award
- Distinction for broadcast of Akropolis based on works by Stanisław Wyspiański at the 8th Festival of Polish Radio and TV Theatre at the Dwa Teatry in Sopot
- Marshal Award on the occasion of International Day of Theatre
- Polityka's Passport Award for the year 2008 in the Theatre category
- Andrzej Szwalbe Award
- Gdynia Dramaturgy Award for Popiełuszko by Małgorzat Sikorska-Miszczuk
Author: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, August 2005; update: November 2009, August 2014r. AL/GS