Theatre director. Born in 1960.
Theatre director. Born in 1960.
Piotr Cieplak studied theatre arts at the National Academy of Theatre in Warsaw and directing at the National Academy of Theatre in Kraków. He studied the plays of Jerzy Jarocki, Andrzej Wajdaand the Teatr Ósmego Dnia. He debuted with Fredro's one-act plays in the Wilem Horzyca Theatre in Torun, under the guidance of Krystyna Meissner. He also participated in workshops led by Peter Brook. His professional career started in 1989 at the Wilam Horzyca Theatre in Toruń.
Cieplak's most important play, crucial in defining his style as a director, was the Story of the Glorious Resurrection / Historyja o chwalebnym Zmartwychwstaniu Pańskim by Mikołaj from Wilkowiecko. His style is rooted in tradition, but at the same time it abandoned theatrical conventions in an attempt to find a contemporary means by which to awaken religious experiences similar to those awoken by the old mysteries. Cieplak staged this old Polish drama twice, in Wrocław and in Warsaw's Dramatic Theatre. He also staged The Crusades / Wyprawy Krzyżowe by Miron Białoszewski and The Green Bird by Carlo Gozzi in Warsaw's Dramatic Theatre.
He was appointed head of the Variety Theatre, which he promoted as being "the fastest theatre in town". For himself, however, he chose works of little commercial potential, such as The Story of the Charitable by Ariano Suassuna. Once he left the Variety Theatre, he began directing at the Contemporary Theatre in Wrocław (The Story of Jacob based on Wyspianski), the Studio Theatre in Warsaw (Winnie P. based on Alan Alexander Milne) and the Common Theatre (King Lear by William Shakespeare).
Cieplak's theatre is outstanding, because it is a genuine religious theatre in times like these when it is so difficult to bring the stage back to its sacred roots. (...) Piotr Cieplak could be compared, in all proportions, with Hugo Hofmannstahl or Paul Claudel, who tried to repair the bonds between the theatre and the hastily-rejected tradition of the medieval world of shows.
(Paweł Goźliński, Notatnik Teatralny 16-17/1998)
In 2000, Piotr Cieplak staged a performance Hotel pod Aniołem / The Angel Hotel as a part of the international project Hotel Europa in Vienna. He directed the second version of this performance two years later at the Contemporary Theatre in Wrocław and the third one in 2004 at the Fabryka Trzciny Art Centre in Warsaw. This evolving and impressive non-verbal performance discusses universal Christian values and the meaning of love in our lives. Specific scenes of the performance are named after Jerzy Nowosielski's paintings.
What captivated me in 'The Angel Hotel' is the courageous idea of the director to adopt Nowosielski's paintings into theatre, wrote Michał Płoski. If the paintings of the master from Kraków are icons, than Cieplak's performance is, in a sense, a part of liturgy. It elevates the everyday experience to the universal and eternal dimension. The modern theatrical form becomes a misterium. Similarly to Nowosielski's paintings, it does not convey the truth about the Biblical events, but it presents the ordinary events in the light of the Mount Tabor and God's glory.
(Więź 2007, No. 3)
In 2003, in cooperation with the Montownia Theatre in Warsaw Cieplak directed a Christmas misterium Historia o narodzeniu Pana Jezusa pod Dworcem Centralnym / The Story of Jesus' Birth at the Central Station performed at the Warsaw Central Station. It was a contemporary and moving story about the beauty and mystery of Christmas, as well as about their present day commercial character. Shortly after, he staged The Book of Job (Wrocław Contemporary Theatre, 2004), a dense performance concentrated on the verbal and sound effects.
Cieplak showed his directing virtuosity in Eugene Labiche's Italian Straw Hat (Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, 2005) including T.S. Eliot's Four Quarters. The perfectly prepared farce performed in an incredible tempo has shown the other, bitter side of an apparently successful life wasted on trifles and ridiculous non-stop chase, which only brings us closer to death. Whereas Cieplak's show Albośmy to jacy tacy... based on Stanisław Wyspiański's works (Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, 2007) stimulated a lot of discussion. Some critics considered it a senseless theatre chatter while others saw this performance as an uncompromising, sharp diagnosis of the contemporary times with strong political accents, close to the spirit of Wyspiański.
Cieplak also staged Narty Ojca Świętego / The Holy Father's Skiis by Jerzy Pilch (Narodowy Theatre in Warsaw, 2004) and Zemsta / The Revenge by Aleksander Fredro in a contemporary style ( Polski Theatre in Poznań, 2005). He directed two performances at the Polonia Theatre in Warsaw: Samuel Beckett's Happy Days (2007) and John Patrick Shanley's Doubt: a Parable (2007).
On the stages in Warsaw, Cieplak also directed exceptional performances for children based on classical literary works such as Tankred Dorst's and Ursula Ehler's Amelie, the Beaver and the King on the Roof (Guliwer Theatre, 2005), Janosch's Oh, How Wonderful Panama Is (Powszechny Theatre, 2006) and Isaak Bashewis Singer's Stories for Children (Narodowy Theatre, 2007).
In 2008, Cieplak cooperated again with the Montownia Theatre for Utwór sentymentalny na czterech aktorów / Sentimental Piece on Four Actors, an exceptional non-verbal performance which captivates the audience's attention with warmth, lightness and freshness. In this ever-changing world of a story performed by four actors of the Montownia Theatre, Cieplak referred to the simplest emotions and experiences. Jan Bończa-Szabłowski wrote in the Rzeczpospolita daily:
Piotr Cieplak's performance radiates with positive energy. And the spectator becomes convinced that life has many tones. Sentimental piece is a thing about emotions, warmth and beautiful feelings, but also about fragility of life, because this world made of strings and paper may easily fall down with a stronger blow.
In 2009 Cieplak directed Przed południem, przed zmierzchem / Before Noon, Before Dusk for the Kazimierz Dejmek Nowy Theatre in Łódź. In this performance with no words, the director decided to use modern dance on stage, for the first time in his career. He cooperated with Leszek Bzdyl, the initiator and director of the Dada von Bzdülow Theatre, who created the choreography. The astonishing music used in the play was composed by a renowned duo - Patryk Zakrocki and Paweł Szamburski. Jacek Wakar wrote in his review:
Przed południem, przed zmierzchem / Before Noon, Before Dusk is a completely selfless theatre. It does not demand any interpretation, does not use big words, gives up on pathos. It offers someting more – an hour of being together, contemplation of these moments we do not cherish while constantly being in a rush. It brings out beauty and lyricism of the everyday life. It is a unique phenomenon in our country. (Dziennik daily, 14.08.2009)
The following year three of Cieplak's performances premiered, including Juliusz Słowacki's Fantazy at the Witold Gombrowicz Miejski Theatre in Gdynia, Charlie bokserem / The Champion at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk and The Book of Paradise based on The Book of Paradise: The Wonderful Adventures of Shmuel-Aba Abervo by Itzik Manger (staged at the Ester Rachel Kamińska and Ida Kamińska State Jewish Theater in Warsaw). The Book of Paradise is a magical story about a clash of dreams and reality. It is a story about a man whose soul coming to the earth was accidentially not deprived of the memories from the paradise, contrary to other souls.
It is a touching, sad, but at the same time funny story about people, who used to be angels, but later on with a flip on the nose they got sent to earth, not remembering anything from their former angelic lives – says Piotr Cieplak. - However, one of them keeps the memories from the heaven and his story becomes axis of the play. (press release)
Later on he produced two plays at the Zygmunt Hübner Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw. Cieplak directed Artur Pałyga's Nieskończona historia / Endless Story (2013) and Julian Tuwim's Lokomotywa / The Locomotive (2013). The same year he wrote and directed Milczenie o Hiobie / The Silence About Job at the National Theatre in Warsaw. Aneta Kyzioł wrote about the play:
[…] everyone tries to refer to the parable in a way and – broadly – understand and deal with distress of those close to us and more remote, humanity and the world, and finally Job's and our own distress. Each and every of the actors/characters makes it in their own way, so the form of the play is also a collage of theatre […] performance, lecture, concert (with music by Kormorany group) and reading of interviews with Marek Edelman and Andrzej Stasiuk. Cieplak made it to achieve two things: he got to the audience with his real problem and honest doubts. And he made a real crew of the National Theatre actors and those appearing somewhere on his horizon from time to time. (Polityka weekly, 05.11.2013)
Since 2014 Cieplak has been working as a director for the National Theatre in Warsaw, at the same time he collaborates with other Polish theatres. He has staged Nikolai Gogol's Marriage and Toon Tallegen's Letters to Anyone and Everyone at the Doll and Actor Theater in Opole.
Then, again at the National Theatre in Warsaw, he staged Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen (2015) and widely discussed Suplement. Soplicowo – owocilpoS / Soplicowo – owocilpoS. Supplement, an additional fragment based on Adam Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz, czyli ostatni zajazd na Litwie. Historia szlachecka z roku 1811 i 1812 we dwunastu księgach wierszem / Sir Thaddeus, or the Last Lithuanian Foray: A Nobleman's Tale from the Years of 1811 and 1812 in Twelve Books of Verse. Jacek Wakar wrote:
Cieplak creates on the stage of the National Theatre – despite everything and above everything – a community. He builds it on reflections of Romanticism, Aleksander Fredro's pieces, but there is a lot of Gombrowicz in it! Yes, indeed, it is a broken, fallen, sometimes laughable community, yet still a touching one (…). Finally, it is a pitiable community. Ours. (Dziennik Gazeta Prawna daily No. 116/17, 19.06.2016)
Recently Cieplak directed three plays for the Polish Radio Theatre including Juliusz Słowacki's Fantazy in 2009, O niewiedzy w praktyce, czyli droga do Portugalii / About ignorance in practice in 2012 and Malina Prześluga's Dziób w dziób / Beak to beak in 2013.
Most significant awards:
1991 - The 17th Theatrical Confrontations in Opole award for a young director of Żołnierz Królowej Madagaskaru / The Soldier of the Queen of Madagascar at the Wilam Horzyca Theatre in Toruń
1994 - The 19th Theatrical Confrontations in Opole Grand Prix for Historyja o Chwalebnym Zmartwychwstaniu Pańskim / History of the Glorious Christ's Resurrection at the Współczesny Theatre in Wrocław;
1998 - The 8th International Theatre Festival Kontakt -award for stage design of Testament psa / A Dog's Testament at the Rozmaitości Theatre in Warsaw;
2000 - The 3rd Festival of the Art of Directing Interpretacje / Interpretations in Katowice - 2 Pouches (2 jury members awards) for directing Kubuś P. / Winnie the P. based on Alan Alexander Milne's novel at the Studio Theatre in Warsaw; Warsaw Feliks Award for directing Kubuś P. / Winnie the P. based on Alan Alexander Milne's novel at the Studio Theatre in Warsaw; the 4th Shakespeare Festival in Gdańsk - Golden Yorick for Merry Wives of Windsor at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw;
2001 - The 26th Theatrical Confrontations in Opole - the journalists' award for Historia Jakuba / The History of Jacob by Stanisław Wyspiański at the Współczesny Theatre in Wrocław;
2002 - The 5th Festival of the Art of Directing Interpretacje / Interpretations in Katowice - 1 Pouch (a jury member award) for directing William Shakespeare's King Lear at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw; 2001 Polityka Passport Award in the theatre category - for consistent presentation on the theatre stages of solidarity, empathy and formation of a human being's identity;
2005 - The 12th International Puppet Theatre Meetings - award for stage design and directing of Tankred Dorst's Amelie, the Beaver and the King of the Roof at the Guliwer Puppet Theatre in Warsaw and the children's jury award; Konrad Swinarski Prize for directing Eugene Labiche's Italian Straw Hat at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw; Warsaw Feliks Award for directing Eugene Labiche's Italian Straw Hatat the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw;
2006 - Atest - 2005 Certificate of High Quality and Artistic Standard for Tankred Dorst's Amelie, the Beaver and the King of the Roof at the Guliwer Puppet Theatre in Warsaw; the 12th Festival of Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant in Łódź ; Eugene Labiche's Italian Straw Hatat the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw was recognised as the festival's best performance;
2007 - Atest - 2007 Certificate of High Quality and Artistic Standard for Janosch's Oh, How Wonderful Panama Is at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw and Jan Dorman Prize;
2008 - Warsaw Feliks for directing Isaak Bashewis Singer's Stories for Children at the Narodowy Theatre in Warsaw; Atest - Certificate of High Quality and Artistic Standard for Isaak Bashewis Singer's Stories for Children at the Narodowy Theatre in Warsaw; Gwarancja Kultury / A Guarantee of Culture Prize awarded by TVP Kultura channel in the theatre category for directing Isaak Bashewis Singer's Stories for Children at the Narodowy Theatre in Warsaw;
2009 - Grand Prix and the Journalists Award for the play Utwór sentymentalny na czterech aktorów / Sentimental Piece on Four Actors produced by the Montownia Theatre at the 44th at the Kontrapunkt Review of Small Theatre Forms;
2010 – Award for directing the radio play based on Juliusz Słowacki's Fantazy at the 10th Festival ofPolish Radio Theatre and Polish Television Theatre Dwa Teatry/ TwoTheatres;
2011 – Award from the Marshal of Pomeranian Voivodship for directing Juliusz Słowacki's Fantazy of the Miejski Theatre in Gdynia
2012 – Award for the play of Nieskończona historia / Endless Story of the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw in the category of the best performance and an award for directing granted in the National Competition for Polish Contemporary Play Staging; the Konrad Swinarski Award for directing Nieskończona historia / Endless Story of the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw
2015 – Golden Mask for the best performance for the play Letters to Anyone and Everyone of the Opolski Teatr Lalki i Aktora / the Doll and Actor Theater in Opole.
Written in: 2002; updated: October 2016 (ND).