The Coastal Theatre in Gdansk
Św. Ducha 2
This stage, founded in 1946, proved to be one of Poland's most interesting post-World War II theatres. This was especially true in the 1960s and 1970s, when the institution mounted many innovative productions, drawing on the talents of exceptional artists who chose it as the place to pursue their singular and highly varied visions of theatre.
Initially, the Wybrzeze Theatre operated in the city of Gdynia as the Miejski Teatr Wybrzeze (Municipal Coastal Theatre), which acted as an umbrella organization for a number of stages dispersed throughout the entire Tri-Cities (i.e. Gdansk, Sopot, Gdynia). By 1960 the theatre was only operating two stages, one in Gdansk and the other in Sopot. In 1967 it moved into a new building constructed on the site of the former Teatr na Targu Weglowym (Coal Market Theatre) in Gdansk. In 2002 a yearlong adaptation of this theatre building was completed.
The theatre's founder and first managing director was Iwo Gall, a stage director and designer who appeared in Gdynia after the war with a group of graduates from the Studio Dramatyczne (Dramatic Studio) in Krakow. Gall ran the stage in the Tri-Cities through 1949 and determined the theatre's artistic profile practically on his own. During his four-year tenure as director, he contributed to over half the productions premiered by the theatre, either directing or designing them. All productions in which he participated in either of these roles were strongly marked by his visual style. Gall shaped theatrical space in an architectural manner, using Cubistic podiums to grant it rhythm and never really approaching naturalism on stage. The Wybrzeze Theatre inaugurated its operations with a poetic and metaphorical world premiere production of Tadeusz Gajcy's HOMER I ORCHIDEA / HOMER AND THE ORCHID, designed and directed by Iwo Gall (1946). The theatre cemented its reputation as an experimental venue with subsequent productions that included Juliusz Slowacki's BALLADYNA (1947) and MARIA STUART / MARY STUART (1949), Anton Chekhov's THE CHERRY ORCHARD (1949) and, its most renowned project of that period, William Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT (1947) in a production that perfectly combined elements of Elizabethan theatre with modern staging and design.
Following Iwo Gall's departure in the early 1950s, Socialist Realism began to dominate the stage of the Wybrzeze Theatre and its productions were most often characterized by a flat naturalism. An example this was the theatre's premiere of Leopold Rybarski' rote drama W STOCZNI / IN THE SHIPYARD, directed by Wiktor Bieganski (1951).
Antoni Biliczak served as the Wybrzeze Theatre's managing director between 1955 and 1980, contenting himself throughout this period with being an efficient organizer and theatre administrator. During his extended tenure as director, the institution's artistic profile was shaped by a string of artistic directors who included Lidia Zamkow (1953-1954), Zygmunt Hübner (1956-1960), Jerzy Golinski (1960-1967), Tadeusz Minc (1967-1969), Marek Okopinski and Stanislaw Hebanowski (1969-1980).
Lidia Zamkow arrived at the Wybrzeze Theatre from Krakow with a group of young actors that included Kalina Jedrusik, Zbigniew Cybulski, Jerzy Golinski, Leszek Herdegen and Bogumil Kobiela. While in Gdansk, Zamkow directed the Polish premiere of Maxim Gorky's BARBARIANS (1953) as well as a production of Vsevolod Vishnevsky's AN OPTIMISTIC TRAGEDY (1955). With the latter she proved that a play about revolution could be staged non-schematically, with highly expressive group scenes and an underlining of the role of human individuality in historical processes. Jerzy Golinski staged Bertolt Brecht's HERR PUNTILA AND HIS MAN MATTI in a production that featured exquisite, metaphorical scenery designed by Wojciech Krakowski (1955).
Following a period of stagnation and mediocre productions in Gdansk, Zygmunt Hübner appeared at the Wybrzeze Theatre and
"proposed an 'open' and contemporary brand of theatre. He created a repertoire that generally responded to high audience expectations and simultaneously sought to have this repertoire express a clear line in terms of artistic form and the issues explored (...)" (Michal Misiorny in: "Panstwowy Teatr Wybrzeze 1946-1976" / "The State Coastal Theatre 1946-1976," Gdansk 1976).
Hübner invited such directors as Bohdan Korzeniewski, Konrad Swinarski and Andrzej Wajda to work at the theatre. Wajda, in fact, made his theatre directing debut at the Wybrzeze with a production of Michael Vincent Gazzo's A HATFUL OF RAIN (1959), featuring Miroslawa Dubrawska and Zbigniew Cybulski. This staging proved something of a revelation with its expressive, film style acting. Hübner emphasized contemporary drama - primarily from Great Britain and the United States - in the theatre's repertoire. Swinarski directed Shelagh Delaney's A TASTE OF HONEY (1959), creating a production that was poetic and metaphorical in its structure but that simultaneously revealed the social issues at its heart in decisive manner. Jerzy Golinski's staging of William Saroyan's THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE (1960), featuring an exceptional performance by Edmund Fetting, was similarly sharp and passionate but simultaneously clear and disciplined. Hübner also directed at the Wybrzeze, staging such plays as Fyodor Dostoyevsky's CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (1958) before bidding farewell to this Gdansk theatre with an extraordinary production of Eugene Ionesco's THE RHINOCEROS (1960).
During his tenure as artistic director of the Wybrzeze Theatre, Jerzy Golinski gave preference to German language authors. The theatre's repertoire included many of their plays and included works by Bertolt Brecht, Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Max Frisch. As a stage director, Golinski propagated social and political theatre, often structuring his productions as montages of real life facts and events. It was in this convention that he staged Dürrenmatt's FRANK V (1962) among many other plays.
Michal Misiorny wrote,
"In its effort to reveal and explore the significant social and moral issues of our times, the Wybrzeze restored its reputation as a political theatre (...)" ("The State Coastal Theatre 1946-1976," Gdansk 1976).
The Wybrzeze also mounted productions of Polish drama at this time, above all presenting the plays of Slawomir Mrozek, including INDYK / THE TURKEY, directed by Zbigniew Bogdanski (1961), STRIP-TEASE I INNE / STRIP-TEASE AND OTHERS, a production of one-act plays directed by Kazimierz Braun (1961), and Witkacy's JAN MACIEJ KAROL WSCIEKLICA / JAN MACIEJ KAROL HELLCAT, directed by Bogdanski (1966).
Other important productions that followed on the Gdansk stage included Anonim Gdanski's (Anonymous of Gdansk) TRAGEDIA O BOGACZU I LAZARZU / THE TRAGEDY OF THE RICH MAN AND THE BEGGAR (1968). Directed by the theatre's new artistic director, Tadeusz Minc, this mysterious, baroque production differed in spirit and mood from Kazimierz Dejmek's stagings of early Polish texts. Henryk Bista provided a beautiful portrayal of the Beggar. One of the most exceptional productions ever at the Wybrzeze Theatre was a staging of the great poetic manifesto ULISSES / ULYSSES, adapted by Maciej Slomczynski from the novel by James Joyce and directed by Zygmunt Hübner. The play featured scenery by Lidia Mintycz and Jerzy Skarzynski, music by Stanislaw Radwan and two extraordinary performances by Halina Winiarska as Molly and Stanislaw Igar as Bloom (1970). At the turn of the 1950s and 1960s, the theatre in Gdansk had a very strong troupe whose members appeared in numerous ensemble productions. Among the most praiseworthy and extraordinary individuals in the company - alongside Winiarska, Igar and Bista - were Boguslawa Czosnowska, Andrzej Szalawski and Tadeusz Gwiazdowski.
The 1970s were marked by the artistic directorships of Okopinski and Hebanowski, both of whom introduced yet more changes in the repertoire. Literature focusing on moral and existential issues began to dominate the stage of the Wybrzeze Theatre. Hebanowski directed Samuel Beckett's WAITING FOR GODOT (1970) and a number of symbolic dramas, including Fernando Arrabal's mystical and farcical THE CAR CEMETERY (1972). In another drama strongly marked by symbolism, Tadeusz Micinski's TERMOPILE POLSKIE / POLISH THERMOPYLAE (1970), Hebanowski portrayed the changeability of the Polish soul through highly contemporary means. Other directors also mounted productions at the Coastal. Maciej Prus directed Adam Mickiewicz's DZIADY / FOREFATHERS' EVE (1979) - "(...) a symbolic, group portrait of 'the great century of Poles,' 'the century of Polish dreams' " (Zbigniew Majchrowski in: "Pol wieku Teatru Wybrzeze" / "Half a Century of the Polish Theatre," ed. J. Ciechowicz, Gdansk 1988), while Andrzej Wajda and Maciej Karpinski staged Stanislawa Przybyszewska's SPRAWA DANTONA / THE DANTON CASE (1980).
In the 1980s Ryszard Major mounted his often controversial projects on the Gdansk stage, resorting to a carefree, comedic tone in staging a number of plays by Witold Gombrowicz, including IWONA KSIEZNICZKA BURGUNDA / YVONNE, PRINCESS OF BURGUNDY (1977), SLUB / THE MARRIAGE (1982), OPERETKA / OPERETTA (1984) and HISTORIA / A STORY (1990). The most interesting productions at the Wybrzeze at this time were Krzysztof Babicki's stagings of Anton Chekhov's THE CHERRY ORCHARD (1985) and THE THREE SISTERS (1995), Juliusz Slowacki's KORDIAN, Tadeusz Rozewicz's PULAPKA / THE TRAP (1984) and Tom Stoppard's ARCADIA (1994).
Maciej Nowak has been the director of the Wybrzeze Theatre since the year 2000. Krzysztof Babicki remains a collaborator of the institution, most recently having staged Friedrich Schiller's DON CARLOS (2003). Other directors who have worked at the theatre include Anna Augustynowicz, Krzysztof Nazar and Grazyna Kania, who staged Dejan Dukovsky's controversial play BECZKA PROCHU / A BARREL OF GUNPOWDER (2002). Rudolf Ziolo mounted a production of David Harrower's KNIVES IN HENS (2003) and playwright Ingmar Villqist directed a production of his own play titled SPRAWA MIASTA ELLMITT / THE CASE OF THE CITY OF ELLMITT (2003).
Teatr Wybrzeże w Gdańsku
ul. Św. Ducha 2
Phone: (+48 58) 301 70 21, 301 18 36
Fax: (+48 58) 301 20 46
Św. Ducha 2