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Aleksander Węgierko Drama Theatre

alias Teatr Dramatyczny im. Aleksandra Węgierki (Aleksander Węgierko Dramatyczny Theatre, 1964-2007), Teatr Miejski (Municipal Theatre, 1945-1949), Teatr Miejski – Dom Ludowy im. Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego (Municipal Theatre - Józef Piłsudski People's House, - 1938-1939, Teatr Dramatyczny im. Józefa Piłsudskiego (Józef Piłsudski Dramatyczny Theatre, 2007)
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1938 | completion of the building

People

Jarosław Gerycz |architect

History

Spectators often ask us how long the Dramatyczny Theatre has existed. And this is a problem: where to begin the history of this institution in the city? Should it be 1938, when the building of the Miejski Theatre – Marshal Józef Piłsudski People’s Home (Dom Ludowy im. Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego) was completed? Shortly after Christmas, a performance of ‘Cydzik i spółka’ (‘Cydzik & Co’) was played here, the first performance in this theatre. However, the company of the Wandering Theatre from Grodno performed on this stage, whereas the official inauguration was still put off on the grounds that Marshal Rydz-Śmigły had been invited. Although he accepted the invitation, for various reasons he could not get to Białystok, and, as a result, the opening was delayed until May 1939, and then until September, and then the war broke out…

Therefore, if we count the history of the theatre according to the age of the walls, it starts in 1938. However, the theatre is the people, the company! And here the first important date is 1940, when a group of distinguished Warsaw actors, under the guidance of Aleksander Węgierko, came to Białystok fleeing from the Germans. Their stay in our city was short, but pivotal, since they created the first permanent company in the theatre. They performed such plays as ‘Intrigue and Love’ by Friedrich Schiller, ‘Life Pension’ by Aleksander Fredro, and ‘Pygmalion’ George B. Shaw. The most popular event though was a Mickiewicz evening, consisting of excerpts of ‘Pan Tadeusz’, ‘Konrad Wallenrod’ and ‘Forefathers’ Eve’. The performances were all in Polish and the national anthem was sung, all this at the time when Białystok belonged to the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. This beautiful episode finished in 1941. While the company was giving guest performances in Minsk and Brest, the German-Russian war broke out. On the way back, some of the artists, including Węgierko, were arrested by the Germans and never returned to Białystok. The theatre itself also suffered: part of the building was burnt while the city was being bombarded.  Węgierko was even said to have perished in the walls of the Białystok theatre. However, this is only a legend, showing how closely the theatre had become connected with this artist in the imagination of the residents of Białystok. Węgierko passed away in Warsaw, though it is not clear whether in the ghetto or in Pawiak prison.

Another date that could be regarded as the true ‘beginning’ of the theatre is 1944. Białystok had been ravaged during the war, three-quarters of the city lay in ruins.  Nevertheless, shortly after the liberation of the city, a handful of artists who had survived the war and could not immediately return to Warsaw or Cracow, where war was still waging, took cover in Białystok. Joanna Błońska, Halina Kossobudzka, Halina Czengery, Lidia Zamkow, Marian Meller (the first managing director), Jan Świderski, and Czesław Wołłejko made up the first company after the war, and were soon joined by Białystok actors: Rena Ruszczyc, Władysław Szumowicz, Władysław Szypulski, Mikołaj Aleksandrowicz and Witold Różycki. As early as on 22 September 1944 they premiered ‘Uciekła mi przepióreczka’ (‘My Quail  Has Fled’) by Stefan Żeromski, which was the first performance in post-war (almost) Poland. The premiere evening was unusual. As Szumowicz reminisced, when the first words were pronounced on the stage the audience was overjoyed. But a minute later the lights went out… Someone suggested lighting candles. This was done and the performance went on. The theatre has been performing without interruption until today. This is why 1944 is generally regarded as being the proper beginning of the history of the Dramatyczny Theatre in Białystok.

material sent from the Węgierko Dramatyczny Theatre

 

Literature:

  1. Mościcki H., Białystok - zarys historyczny, Białystok 1933.
  2. Wróblewski A., W Białymstoku teatr stoi za miastem, „Teatr” 1954 No. 9.
  3. Pierzchała M., Ludzie i teatr im A. Węgierki w Białymstoku w latach 1950-1956.
  4. Szulecka E., Ludzie i teatr im. A Węgierki w Białymstoku w la­tach 1956/57-1974/75.
  5. Kozłowska-Świątkowska E., Cały świat gra komedię. 50 lat Państwowego Teatru Dramatycznego im. Aleksandra Węgierki w Białymstoku, Teatr Dramatyczny im. Aleksandra Węgierki, Białystok 1995.

 

 

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