An actor and theatre director. Born on the 11th of November 1948, in Torun, died on the 12th of September 2015 in Warsaw.
In 1970, he graduated from the acting department of Warsaw's Theatre Academy / Państwowej Wyższej Szkoły Teatralnej. After his studies, alongside Małgorzata Dziewulska and Ryszard Peryta, he was one of the founders of Studio Theatre by the nitrogen region of Puławy. A small group, reliant on very modest use of means, it nevertheless allowed its young members to create their own, ambitious, 'new-actor' theatre. Its creators were fascinated by Jerzy Grotowski's theatre, both in terms of his acting techniques and methods of working. In Puławy they staged Włodzimier Majakowski's Mystery Bouffe, Chekhov's Bear and Light in the Dark, Cyprian Norwid's Thousand and Second Night as well as Miguel de Cervantes' Theatre of Miracles. But within a short while resentment from the authorities surfaced as did tensions from the Puławy establishment itself. The Theatre Studio was subsequently dissolved, on the grounds that it did not draw labourers as audience members and for its being too experimental a theatre. After enduring three years, the Studio ceased activity in 1973.
After this experiment in Puławy, Cieślak made it to Warsaw's Studio Theatre / Teatru Studio, where he performed in two plays: one by Józef Szajna Czekladnik (1972) based on Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz's text and John in Dante's Diving Comedy (1974). He also continued his studies at theatre school, this time in the directing department, from which he graduated in 1978. At the same time, from 1973 onwards, he became a lecturer. He led student classes until 1997.
In 1974 he became involved with the Varsovian Universal Theatre / Teatru Powszechnego, to which he was linked for several years. He performed in Buffalo Bill show of Zygmunt Hübner's (screenplay by Arthur Kopit), creating the role of the reporter (1975); he played Marty in On Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Dale Harding (1977). In Warsaw he also directed. His first staging at the Universal was a world premiere of the play by Wasil Szukszyn, entitled In the Morning, When They Wake (1979).
Piotr Cieślak's directing deserves high acclaim, wrote Mateusz Zinowiec about the play. Discreet, it nevertheless marks out the different phases of memory structuring this strange play: the memories of people who wake in the morning only to find themselves in a large drunk tank. (Friendship, 01.02.1980).
Shortly after, Cieślak made a name for himself as a director, who stages shows in a discreet, "transparent" way, skillfully directing his cast of actors. Writing about an interesting textual adaption of Edward Redliński's Nikiforma in 1984, was Temida Stankiewiczówna, she called his work "an absorbing performance of exerted expression; largely aided by brilliant acting" (T.V. Nr 2. 1984).
Above all, Piotr Cieślak successfully staged twentieth century works. Some of the performances he showed at the Universal Theatre included: Lole Bellona's Thursday Dames (1980), David William's The Apartment (1984) and The Hour of the Cat by Olova Enquista (1988). He also staged Izaac Babla's Mothers and Ben Jonson's Volpone (1982) and directed texts by Bertold Brecht: Baal (1985) and Turandot (1987).
The actors, but in particular the public, have probably become used to the fact that, in Universal, you need to discuss contemporary matters directly, says Cieślak. But this does not mean that I would not want to experiment with a different repertoire. For instance, I also did the classics... I did not choose to stage productions repeatedly exhibited in Poland, they were generally world premieres, plays that had not been performed for a long time, or only rarely performed. Most preferably, I would write plays on my own, because I think this is most needed in theatre. (Scene 1986, nr 4)
Piotr Cieślak also co-worked with other dramatists. At the beginning of the 1990s, he created two shows in the Łodź-based Stephen-Jaracz Theatre. He first rehearsed his adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm (1990) in Łodź and later the show The short memoirs of Jakub Czarniecki, based on texts written by Witold Gombrowicz, Władysław LudwikAnczyca and Aleksander Ładnowski (1991).
In 1993 Piotr Cieślak took over the directorship of Warsaw's Theatre of the Dramatic Arts. He led it until 2007. The director repeatedly stressed that he felt like Zygmunt Hübner's student.
I had, admits Cieślak, an incredible directing teacher in Zygmunt Hubner, with whom I worked as an actor, and then as a director for twelve years at Theatre Universal. (Polish Courier 28.02.1997)
The first show at Warsaw's Theatre of the Dramatic Arts was Anton Chekhov's The Party and Brecht's The Petite Bourgeoisie Wedding (1993). Still close to his heart are the works of contemporary authors but at the Theatre of the Dramatic Arts he also staged Shakespeare's As You Like It (1996) and All's Well That End's Well (2000). He also staged Roland Topor's Roland Celebrates an Anniversary (1998) and Hanoch Levina's Murder (2002).
The show, directed by Cieślak in the Brechtian manner of the Theatre of Facts, with documental video projections, pyrotechnic tecnhiques and songs lost nothing by way of its existential dimension, wrote Janusz R Kowalczyk. (The Republic, 20.05.2002)
In the Theatre for the Dramatic Arts the director also created a very well done and effective adaptation of Brohumil Hrabala's prose-piece I Assisted the British King (2003). He was one of the creators (he undertook the directorship of the whole group) of the show Memoirs adapted from The Memoirs of Stefan Czarniecki / Pamiętnika Stefana Czarnieckiego by Witold Gombrowicz(2004).
From this tale the Theatre for the Dramatic Arts in Warsaw created a shocking and polemic narrative about Polish roots, xenophobia and anti-semiticism, noted Marek Mikos. (The Elect Gazette 09.10.2004)
Cieślak's last show was Sisters, (2006) a play by Pera Olova Enquista, which is a continuation of Chekhov's famous Three Sistersand Gombrowicz's Iwon (2007). It was re-staged in a war-torn Warsaw, with an alienated Iwona, a ghetto run-away, as its protagonist.
Cieślak also directed for television. His tv shows on the small screen include: The Mixed Devil, an interesting collage based on a few different works from contemporary British authors. (1984). Frank Wedekin's Autumn Awakening (1989) Queue by Władimir Sorokin (1991), as well as The Wedding Photo based on the works of Anton Chekhov (1995).
The director also has a couple of film roles to his credit. He played the character of the police worker 'Michalak' in Andrzej Wajda's Man of Marble (1976).
- 1980 - Honourable Mention in the theatrical weekly Friendship for directing the play In the Morning, When They Wake by Wasil Szukszyn, at the Theatre Universal in Warsaw;
- 1994 - Awarded the title of squeeze of the season in the third-ranking of the Poland-wide theatre programme in Polish Theatre Radio, for John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation from the Theatre for the Dramatic Arts in Warsaw;
- 1997 - The Golden Yorick, the main award from the Gedanaese Theatre for staging Shakespeare . The show was As you Like It brought over from the Theatre of the Dramatic Arts in Warsaw.
Updated: September 2009, 2015