Contemporary Theatre in Wroclaw
Created in 1946 as the Teatr Lalki i Aktora (Theatre of the Puppet and Actor), this theatre was then sequentially renamed the Teatr Mlodego Widza (Theatre of the Young Viewer) and the Panstwowy Teatr Mlodego Widza (State Theatre of the Young Viewer). In 1957 it became the Teatr Rozmaitosci (Variety Theatre) and was finally dubbed the Teatr Wspolczesny (Contemporary Theatre) in 1967. Created by puppet artists, the institution was first managed by Elzbieta and Zenon Kalinowicz and was designed as a place for the education and entertainment of young audiences. However, its profile quickly changed and it began presenting productions with live actors, expanded its repertoire to include plays for young people and ultimately also began staging "plays for adults." In time, this Wroclaw theatre became an important arts center and the stage located at 12 Rzeznicza Street began attracting artists like Tadeusz Rozewicz, Helmut Kajzar and Jerzy Jarocki, who became long-time collaborators.
After the Kalinowiczes, Wiktor Bieganski managed the theatre (1950-1951) and was followed in this position by Waclaw Zdanowicz, who was in turn replaced in 1953 by Adolf Chronicki (1953-1966). In 1957, during the latter's tenure, Andrzej Makarewicz staged a production that consisted of the combined texts of Jean Anouilh's ANTIGONE and Andre Obey's IPHIGENIA. Wroclaw audiences came to view this production as marking the birth of a new stage. They were also moved by a staging based on the texts of Wyspianski's NOC LISTOPADOWA / A NOVEMBER NIGHT and WARSZAWIANKA / THE VARSOVIENNE, directed by Halina Dzieduszycka and Chronicki (1957), in which the November insurrectionists were costumed as World War II era soldiers of the Polish underground Home Army (AK). Zygmunt Hübner, on the other hand, mounted a production of Tennessee Williams's A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1958):
"This was the first time the Wroclaw public was confronted by what was American mainstream playwriting of the time. Hübner revealed his propensity for being a director-educator, which was rare among young theatre artists, and extracted the maximum from the ensemble he directed. (...) This was also the first production in which Eliasz Kuziemski (Stanley), who in subsequent years would become one of the leading actors of this stage, demonstrated abilities that had not been noticed in him before" (Jozef Kelera, "Wroclaw Teatralny 1945-1980" / "Theatrical Wroclaw 1945-1980," Ossolineum, Wroclaw 1983).
Jerzy Jarocki directed Tymoteusz Karpowicz's WRACAMY POZNO DO DOMU / WE'LL BE HOME LATE (1958), thus initiating a period of cooperation with the Wroclaw theatre that would last the next thirty years. The following year he staged Chekhov's UNCLE VANYA and Dürrenmatt's ROMULUS THE GREAT. Kazimierz Kutz debuted as a theatre director at the Wspolczesny Theatre with a production of Leon Kruczkowski's SMIERC GUBERNATORA / THE DEATH OF THE GOVERNOR (1961) that met with widespread interest. In the years 1962-1964, the theatre retained the services of its first full-time stage director, Andrzej Witkowski, who mounted a number of interesting productions, including Sartre's WIEZNIOWIE Z ALTONY / THE CONDEMNED OF ALTONA, Slowacki's HORSZTYNSKI, Jan Pawel Gawlik's POKUSA / TEMPTATION and Karpowicz's DZIWNY PASAZER / THE STRANGE PASSENGER. Throughout this entire period, however, the theatre's exceptional productions were lost among a deluge of hastily mounted, popular plays, and many ambitious projects ended in fiasco when the members of the ensemble proved incapable of meeting the challenge they represented. The Wspolczesny was additionally burdened by its status as a touring theatre, local authorities having obliged it to perform its productions outside of Wroclaw as well.
Witkowski returned to the theatre in 1966 and served as the managing and artistic director of this Wroclaw stage from 1966 to 1973.
"He restored order to the theatre and introduced a rigor and discipline to artistic work that was never before known at this institution. (...) He rebuilt the theatre and transformed it at its core, though this took much effort. Ultimately, this work used up most of his strength and proved to be the most important phase of his creative career (...)." (Jozef Kelera, "Wroclaw Teatralny 1945-1980", Ossolineum, Wroclaw 1983)
The theatre's building was modernized and the institution was renamed the Teatr Wspolczesny im. Edmunda Wiercinskiego (Edmund Wiercinski Contemporary Theatre) after Witkowski's spiritual patron. A new stage opened in the history of the Wspolczesny and under the guidance of their new director, young actors like Edward Lubaszenko and Boguslaw Kierc developed their talents. The theatre's ensemble also expanded when Maja Komorowska joined the troupe after leaving Jerzy Grotowski's Teatr Laboratorium (Theatre Laboratory). The theatre's artistic level was determined by Witkowski's own stagings, including Karpowicz's ZIELONE REKAWICE / GREEN GLOVES (1966), Zeromski's ROZA / THE ROSE (1967) and PRZEDWIOSNIE / EARLY SPRING (1969) and Slowacki's SAMUEL ZBOROWSKI (1970), and a handful of other productions. Among the latter were Wyspianski's BOLESLAW SMIALY / BOLESLAUS THE BOLD in a highly visual staging designed by Jozef Szajna and directed by Helmut Kajzar (1969), and a number of exceptional stagings by Jerzy Jarocki, including Mayakovsky's THE BEDBUG (1967) and Rozewicz's STARA KOBIETA WYSIADUJE / AN OLD WOMAN BROODS (1969), a difficult dramatic score for which Jarocki found an excellent stage metaphor to illustrate the horror of a world of ruined values. Also noteworthy in this period was a production of Kajzar's PATERNOSTER (1970) which featured scenery designed by Kazimierz Wisniak and music by Stanislaw Radwan.
In 1973-1974 Jozef Para was the Wspolczesny Theatre's managing and artistic director. Critics of the time wrote that his work consisted of "mediocre Polish provincial theatre productions." The level delineated by Witkowski was restored by Para's successor, Kazimierz Braun, who was director of the Wspolczesny Theatre from 1975 to 1984.
"Braun was already known throughout Poland as a leading enthusiast, if not a preacher, of 'community theatre,' 'open theatre' and 'new theatre' in general. He had devoted several interesting books to these phenomena and made a number of approaches toward or attempts at these 'regions' while still in Lublin" (Jozef Kelera, "Wroclaw Teatralny 1945-1980", Ossolineum, Wroclaw 1983).
During Braun's tenure, the theatre began seeking out new production spaces beyond its traditional box stage. Its repertoire expanded to include stagings of the so-called "theatre of fact" genre. Of the premieres Braun himself mounted, renowned productions included Rozewicz's BIALE MALZENSTWO / MARIAGE BLANC (1975), which went on to be performed over five hundred times and remained in the repertoire for several seasons, and ANNA LIVIA, a stage poem by Maciej Slomczynski based on the writings of Joyce (1976). Kajzar continued his own highly original explorations at the Wspolczesny Theatre, mounting a number of productions based on his own texts, including TRZY KRZYZAKI / THREE TRESTLES (1977) and VILLA DEI MISTERI (1979). He was also quite successful with the premiere of Rozewicz text, ODEJSCIE GLODOMORA / THE DEPARTURE OF THE HUNGER ARTIST (1977). Braun's other successes at the theatre included Gombrowicz's OPERETKA /OPERETTA (1977), whereas his production of Mickiewicz's DZIADY / FOREFATHERS' EVE (1978), the first ever in Wroclaw, became a source of controversy. Braun divided the production into two evenings, with the audience and actors moving from the theatre's home stage on Rzeznicza Street to the Museum of Architecture. FOREFATHERS' EVE staged according to the ‘open theatre' convention, proved an ambitious failure.
Braun left the theatre in 1984 after a conflict arose between him and city authorities, and he was replaced by Jan Prochyra (1985-1989). The position of director was subsequently occupied in sequence by Krzysztof Rosciszewski (1990-1992), Julia Wernio (1992-1994) and Zbigniew Lesien (1994-1998). The most interesting productions of these years were Nikolai Erdman's THE SUICIDE as directed by Jarocki (1988), the theatre debut of filmmaker Sylwester Checinski with Johnnie Mortimer's and Brian Cooke's SITUATION COMEDY (1996), as well as the fantastic HISTORYJA O CHWALEBNYM ZMARTWYCHWSTANIU PANSKIM / STORY OF THE GLORIOUS RESURRECTION OF THE LORD by Mikolaj of Wilkowiecko, directed by Piotr Cieplak (1993). Krystyna Meissner became the artistic and managing director of the Wspolczesny Theatre in January of 1999. Under her guidance, the stage is once again becoming an important venue on Poland's theatre map. It retains the services of directors who are viewed as members of the "younger, more talented" generation, among them Piotr Cieplak, Pawel Miskiewicz, who staged Gombrowicz's KOSMOS / COSMOS (1999), and Krzysztof Warlikowski, who mounted the renowned Polish premiere of Sarah Kane's CLEANSED (2001). The Wspolczesny Theatre is the organizer of the MIEDZYNARODOWY FESTIWAL TEATRALNY DIALOG - WROCLAW / 'DIALOGUE' INTERNATIONAL THEATRE FESTIVAL - WROCLAW. The first edition of the festival was held in 2001.
Wrocławski Teatr Współczesny im. Edmunda Wiercińskiego
ul. Rzeźnicza 12
Phone: (+48 71) 358 89 22 (kasa); 358 89 10 (sekr.)