Zygmunt Hübner Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw
Jana Zamoyskiego 20
It was established in 1944 at the initiative of Jan Mrozinski, as the Teatr Popularny (Popular Theatre). It was named the Teatr Powszechny in 1945 and has operated at 20 Zamoyskiego Street in Warsaw's Praga district ever since; the building was readapted and altered to Jerzy Gajewski's design in 1975. In 1989 the Teatr Powszechny was named after Zygmunt Hübner.
In 1945 management was taken over by Eugeniusz Poreda - general manager of the Municipal Drama Theatres, an organization to which a number of theatres were subordinate to, including the Powszechny (until 1949). The artistic manager was Aleksander Maliszewski, followed by Zbigniew Kocznowicz. In 1949-1950 the managers were Jozef Maslinski, Czeslaw Szpakowski and Andrzej Krasicki. In the first years of its activity the Teatr Powszechny comprised a group of pre-war actors and young drama graduates.
"Almost everything was staged - Polish and world classics, new plays from Paris and New York, world premieres of Polish works. From time to time there was something to satisfy the sense of honour, but most often anything audiences enjoyed watching: comedies, often farces." (Cezary Niedziolka "Powszechny 1945-1970" in: "Teatr Powszechny w Warszawie 1945-1975-1995" / "The Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw 1945-1975-1995", Warszawa 1995)
The repertoire included Stanislaw Wyspianski's WESELE / THE WEDDING, Henrik Ibsen's AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE (1946), Jerzy Szaniawski's DWA TEATRY / TWO THEATRES (1947), Tennessee Williams' THE GLASS MENAGERIE (1947), Aleksander Fredro's MAZ I ZONA / HUSBAND AND WIFE (1948). Works by Wlodzimierz Perzynski, Tadeusz Rittner, Lucjan Rydel and Gabriela Zapolska were staged, and pieces by Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, and Jean Paul Sartre.
Karol Borowski ran the Teatr Powszechny in 1950-1955. In view of the officially decreed doctrine of socialist realism in art, the Teatr Powszechny produced successive premieres of ideological, political texts, such as ZAGUBIONY LIST / THE LOST LETTER about "bourgeois election tricks", produced in connection with the elections of 1952. However, the theatre also managed to maintain a balance between new, "committed" plays and its earlier repertoire. Many premieres were put on, including works by Fredro, Zapolska as well as European classics: Carlo Goldoni and Pierre Marivaux. During this period the theatre's greatest success was Jerzy Szaniawski's MOST / THE BRIDGE directed by Karol Borowski, with stage design by Stanislaw Cegielski (1955).
In 1955, for one season, Henryk Szletynski was the manager. He was followed by Tadeusz Kazmierski, and Irena Babel was the artistic manager. At the turn of 1956, the theatre lost in the competition against other Warsaw theatres. Despite having good actors, including Adam Hanuszkiewicz, Tadeusz Bartosik and Janina Nowicka, it lacked stars. Audience turnout was poor, artistic successes were few, whereas other theatres in Warsaw, Krakow and Lodz staged famous premieres of Polish and foreign plays. Polish theatre in general had begun to take advantage of the political thaw. Irena Babel and literary manager Zbigniew Krawczykowski decided about the Teatr Powszechny's profile until 1963. The late 1950's and early 1960's were a time of revival at the Teatr Powszechny. The breakthrough was WAR AND PEACE based on Leo Tolstoy, an adaptation by Erwin Piscator, Alfred Neumann and Guntram Prüffer, directed by Irena Babel (1957).
"Excellent reviews, recognition for the director and actors, audiences filling the house for 243 evenings - this was all a first for the theatre in Zamoyskiego Street. Though Babel never managed to repeat a success of this scale during her six seasons as manager, these years can still be counted as a watershed in the theatre's history. That first season, and especially its crowning production, raised the Teatr Powszechny's status on the theatrical map of Warsaw and Poland." (Cezary Niedziolka "Powszechny 1945-1970" in: "Teatr Powszechny w Warszawie 1945-1975-1995" / "The Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw 1945-1975-1995", Warszawa 1995)
Babel staged classics and contemporary repertoire. Shows which received good reviews included N. Richard Nash's THE RAINMAKER (1958) and Jean Racine's BERENICE (1962) directed by Adam Hanuszkiewicz, Franciszek Zablocki's KROL W KRAJU ROZKOSZY / THE KING IN THE LAND OF PLEASURE directed by Wanda Laskowska (1960, staged at the Theatre on the Island in Lazienki Park), Jean Anouilh's EURYDICE directed by Jacek Szczek (1961). World premieres of Polish plays were also staged, including SZACHY / CHESS directed by Jacek Szczek - the drama debut of Stanislaw Grochowiak (1962). The Teatr Powszechny's ensemble now included Tadeusz Janczar and Zofia Kucowna. Zofia Rysiowna was an actress here as well, creating an evocative duo with Hanuszkiewicz in BERENICE and in RESURRECTION based on Leo Tolstoy, directed by Hanuszkiewicz (1961).
Hanuszkiewicz, a director and actor of the Teatr Powszechny who had won the position of the ensemble's greatest star over the previous few years, took over as manager in 1963. He developed the Teatr Powszechny's profile based on great, chiefly Polish repertoire. As a director who had collaborated with the Television Theatre ever since its inception, he made references in his stage projects to the formula of great television shows, creating lively and controversial productions. First there was Wyspianski's WESELE / THE WEDDING, which unfolded at a breakneck pace, with a memorable Straw Man who - in Hanuszkiewicz's interpretation - was a character formed from the spectres of Act 2 (1963), followed by CRIME AND PUNISHMENT based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which featured projections of Raskolnikov's bloodied hands on a screen, among other effects (1964), and finally the ironic FANTAZY by Juliusz Slowacki, featuring a jazz band (1967). Some sharp disputes on interpretation were also caused by KOLUMBOWIE, ROCZNIK 20 / COLUMBUSES, GENERATION OF 1920 based on the novel by Roman Bratny (1964), and PAN WOKULSKI / MR WOKULSKI based on Boleslaw Prus's LALKA / THE DOLL (1967).
Hanuszkiewicz's tenure was a time of the Teatr Powszechny's most distinctive image, complaints from critics, and box-office successes. Hanuszkiewicz attracted the youngest generation of the intelligentsia and a whole array of stars to the theatre. Actors of the time included Iga Cembrzynska, Emilia Krakowska, Mariusz Dmochowski, Gustaw Lutkiewicz, and Daniel Olbrychski. In 1969 Hanuszkiewicz was appointed general manager of the Teatr Narodowy (National Theatre) in Warsaw. The actors of the two theatres formed one ensemble, with performances staged at the Powszechny in Zamoyskiego Street and at the Narodowy in Teatralny Square. A year later the Teatr Powszechny building was closed and underwent a thorough renovation, reopening in 1975. Zygmunt Hübner, a great director and actor, a former manager of the Teatr Stary in Krakow, was appointed the new manager.
"The Teatr Powszechny's overriding objective is to produce contemporary repertoire in a broad sense, reflecting the views of the theatre's artistic ensemble on fundamental moral, social and political issues of interest to our country," Hübner wrote. "The Teatr Powszechny speaks out in defence of the nation's freedom and its independence traditions, the ideals of democracy and respect for the rights of individuals. In particular the theatre takes care to stage Polish drama, making sure that the stage presentation equally serves Polish theatre and Polish literature. The Teatr Powszechny produces classical repertoire whenever a classic piece offers the possibility to express socially important ideas which are not properly reflected in contemporary drama." ("Projekt deklaracji programowej Teatru Powszechnego" / "Draft policy statement for the Teatr Powszechny" in: "Teatr Powszechny w Warszawie 1945-1975-1995" / "The Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw 1945-1975-1995", Warszawa 1995)
Under Hübner's management, in 1975-1989 the theatre became one of the most important venues on the theatrical map of Poland. Hübner created the profile of a theatre nonconformist in content but not directly political, contemporary in form but keeping away from experiments and theatrical fads. Great acting was this theatre's trademark. Hübner brought in actors such as Mariusz Benoit, Ewa Dalkowska, Miroslawa Dubrawska, Edmund Fetting, Janusz Gajos, Leszek Herdegen, Krystyna Janda, Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak, Elzbieta Kepinska, Kazimierz Kaczor, Gustaw Lutkiewicz, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Piotr Machalica, Bronislaw Pawlik, Franciszek Pieczka, Wojciech Pszoniak, Andrzej Szalawski, Anna Seniuk, Stanislaw Zaczyk, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Jerzy Zelnik, Joanna Zolkowska. Directors included Aleksander Bardini, Kazimierz Kutz, Andrzej Wajda, Lidia Zamkow as well as beginners such as Piotr Cieslak, Waldemar Smigasiewicz, Tomasz Zygadlo.
The first production under the new management was Stanislawa Przybyszewska's SPRAWA DANTONA / THE DANTON CASE directed by Andrzej Wajda, with Wojciech Pszoniak as Robespierre and Bronislaw Pawlik as Danton (1975).
"The first show was meant to be a strong accent. It was meant to show what character the theatre would have in its subsequent activity, and immediately to win over the audience," wrote August Grodzicki. "... A lot of thinking had to go into choosing a play - fitting for an inauguration - significant in terms of quality but also attractive to audiences through its vivid theme and the compelling form of the show." ("Współczesny i myślący" / "Contemporary and Intelligent" in: "Teatr Powszechny w Warszawie" / "The Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw")
After the success of SPRAWA DANTONA / THE DANTON CASE, Wajda staged ROZMOWY Z KATEM / CONVERSATIONS WITH AN EXECUTIONER based on Kazimierz Moczarski, featuring Zygmunt Hübner, Stanislaw Zaczyk and Kazimierz Kaczor (1977), August Strindberg's MISS JULIE with Krystyna Janda in the title role and Mariusz Benoit as Jean (1988), Anna Bojarska's LEKCJA POLSKIEGO / THE POLISH LESSON with Tadeusz Lomnicki as Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1989). Hübner's major directing projects included Dale Wasserman's ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST based on the novel by Ken Kesey, with the great roles of Wojciech Pszoniak and Franciszek Pieczka (1977), a theatre version of the story about a mental hospital well-known from its American screen adaptation.
"The Teatr Powszechny production in a way dissociates itself from that legend, from all the Douglases, Americans, Nicholsons, and the publicity connected with the whole matter. It's as if all that had never been. And it is this - being reserved and modest - that shocks." (Teresa Krzemien, "Kultura" 1977, No. 41)
Hübner's other projects included SPISKOWCY / THE CONSPIRATORS based on Joseph Conrad's novel UNDER WESTERN EYES (1980), Witold Gombrowicz's IWONA, KSIEZNICZKA BURGUNDA / YVONNE, PRINCESS OF BURGUNDY (1984), Ronald Harwood's THE DRESSER (1986), and Euripides' MEDEA (1988). The repertoire often featured literature adapted specially for the stage. This material yielded shows referring to the current social and political situation, to mention DONOSY RZECZYWISTOSCI / DENUNCIATIONS OF REALITY based on Miron Bialoszewski (director: Ryszard Major, 1976), CESARZ / THE EMPEROR based on the book by Ryszard Kapuscinski (director: Jerzy Hutek, 1979), WSZYSTKIE SPEKTAKLE ZAREZERWOWANE / ALL SHOWS BOOKED based on the poetry of such writers as Stanislaw Baranczak, Ryszard Krynicki, Adam Zagajewski (director: Elzbieta Bukowinska, 1981), NIKIFORMY based on Edward Redlinski (director: Piotr Cieslak, 1984), and PAN COGITO SZUKA RADY / MR COGITO SEEKS ADVICE based on Zbigniew Herbert (director: Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, 1984). Contemporary Polish and foreign plays included Janusz Glowacki's KOPCIUCH / CINDERS directed by Kazimierz Kutz (1980), Alexander Gelman's THE BENCH directed by Maciej Wojtyszko and featuring Joanna Zolkowska and Januz Gajos, as well as plays by Vaclav Havel, Per Olov Enquist, John Osborne. Older and newer classics included Maxim Gorky's BARBARIANS directed by Aleksander Bardini (1976), Aleksander Fredro's ZEMSTA / THE REVENGE directed by Hübner (1978; "The funniest 'Revenge' I've ever seen, perhaps the funniest ever in its stage history, but at the same time very contemporary" - August Grodzicki "Współczesny i myślący" / "Contemporary and Intelligent" in: "Teatr Powszechny w Warszawie" / "The Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw"), Henrik Ibsen's AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE directed by Kazimierz Kutz (1979), ANTIGONE in Helmut Kajzar's transcription from Sophocles, also directed by him (1982), Alfred Jarry's UBU ROI directed by Piotr Szulkin (1987).
In 1989, after Hübner passed away, Andrzej Wajda became the Teatr Powszechny's artistic manager, followed by Maciej Wojtyszko the next year. After both these directors resigned, Krzysztof Rudzinski was appointed artistic manager in 1991, continuing in his post to this day (and as general manager since 1989). Rudzinski successfully introduced the formula of a theatre of stars. Audiences came to see Piotr Machalica and Krystyna Janda in William Gibson's TWO FOR THE SEESAW directed by Andrzej Wajda (1990), Boguslaw Schaeffer's TUTAM / HERETHERE directed by Marek Sikora and featuring Janusz Gajos and Joanna Zolkowska (1992), George Tabori's GOLDBERG VARIATIONS directed by Rudolf Ziolo and featuring Mariusz Benoit and Wladyslaw Kowalski (1994). Monodramas were staged: MSZA ZA MIASTO ARRAS / A MASS FOR ARRAS based on Andrzej Szczypiorski, with Janusz Gajos (dir. Krzysztof Zaleski, 1994), and Felix Mitterer's ...TYLKO UMRZEC??? with Henryk Machalica (dir. Artur Hofman, 1994). Krystyna Janda starred in Willy Russell's SHIRLEY VALENTINE directed by Maciej Wojtyszko (1990) and KOBIETA ZAWIEDZIONA / A WOMAN SCORNED based on Simone de Beauvoir and directed by Magda Umer (1994). She was Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's MACBETH directed by Mariusz Trelinski (1996), and Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's MASTER CLASS directed by Andrzej Domalik (1997). The Teatr Powszechny's hit productions also included Peter Shaffer's BLACK COMEDY directed by Marek Sikora (1994), Andrzej Lapicki's version of Fredro's SLUBY PANIENSKIE / MAIDENS' VOWS (1995), and finally Michael Frayn's farce NOISES OFF directed by Juliusz Machulski (2003).
In the early 1990's the ensemble expanded to include actors from the younger generation, to mention Jacek Braciak, Katarzyna Herman, Agnieszka Krukowna, Rafal Krolikowski, Dorota Landowska, Edyta Olszowka, Slawomir Pacek, Tomasz Sapryk. Later they were joined by such actors as Paulina Holtz, Anna Moskal, Dominika Ostalowska, Szymon Bobrowski. Directors who had worked with the theatre in the 1980's continued staging their projects, including Maciej Wojtyszko and Waldemar Smigasiewicz (e.g. Witold Gombrowicz's FERDYDURKE, 1993). Other directors included Jaroslaw Kilian (Juliusz Slowacki's BALLADYNA, 1994), Piotr Cieplak (e.g. Shakespeare's KING LEAR, 2001), and Agnieszka Glinska (e.g. Anna Reynolds and Moira Buffini's JORDAN, 1996, Anton Chekhov's THREE SISTERS, 1998). The Teatr Powszechny expanded its profile by making its stage available to the private Teatr Montownia. Today the theatre produces classic texts of 20th-century drama. Edward Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (2002) attracted audiences with the names of director Wladyslaw Pasikowski and actors Krystyna Janda and Marek Kondrat. At the same time, the theatre is open to new plays and young artists (Michal Walczak's PIASKOWNICA / THE SANDBOX directed by the author). The Teatr Powszechny's broad formula involves continual attempts to create a theatre which encompasses the most important trends in contemporary repertory theatre, a theatre faithful to its long-standing audience, and a theatre seeking to attract the young generation of theatregoers.
ul. Jana Zamoyskiego 20
Phone: (+48 22) 818 00 01, 818 00 13
Fax: (+48 22) 818 00 46
Jana Zamoyskiego 20