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Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)14.9.2009 | foundation stone
laying a foundation stone for the construction of the theater

People

(detail)Renato Rizzi |architect
Italian architect and author, active in Rovereto.

(detail)Jerzy Limon |contractor
Professor of University of Gdansk, the author of the books on Shakespeare published by Polish and international publishing companies, of many articles, essays, reviews as well as novels and the translations of Elizabethan and contemporary plays.

History

The cornerstone for the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre was laid on 14 September 2009. The author of the design is Italian architect Renato Rizzi, awarded a special prize at the international competition announced in 2004. The project is planned to be completed by the  2013. It will be the first theatre building erected from the foundations since 1989 and, at the same time will be the most modern theatre building in Poland.

      The idea of rebuilding the Elizabethan stage in Gdańsk has been the main purpose of the Theatrum Gedanense  Foundation since it was set up in 1991. After many years of endeavours and actions in order to revive the tradition of Shakespearean performances (including the organisation of the international festival) it became possible to start construction on the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre. On the site where, in the 17th century, there was the only Elizabethan type theatre building outside of the British Islands, a new theatre is to be built, adjusted to the needs of contemporary dramas, while at the same time, reconstructing the architectural solutions of the Elizabethan stage and based on the same principles of defining the theatre space.

      The construction of the Fencing School (the name of the building that existed in Gdańsk from about 1610 to the beginning of the 19th century) resembled the Fortune Theatre in London and was the site where English theatrical troupes wandering around the continent back in Shakespeare’s day gave their performances. Only one picture of the old edifice has been preserved: a drawing by Peter Willer from 1687. Archaeological excavations conducted next to the walls of Nowe Miasto (New Town) in Gdańsk, at the junction of Podwale Przedmiejskie Street and Bogusławski Street in 2004 and in 2007 showed wooden construction elements that were recognised as pieces of the historic theatre building. The Shakespeare Theatre will be rebuilt exactly on this site.

      In accordance with the requirements of the competition, Rizzi has not tried to faithfully reconstruct the old building. He creates a new quality, which is to reflect both historical accounts concerning the architectural solutions of Elizabethan theatres and, lying at the basis of these solutions, the idea of the theatre as a representation of “the stage of the world” in the context of manners, in the social, as well as the universal context. Then it is an attempt of reconstruction, which, though it reaches deeply inside, is not to grasp and recreate  the old building as such, but the idea of the world that it represents, and its position in the historical context (architectural and cultural).

      The brick edifice is situated distinctly on the East – West axis, built on the plan of an elongated rectangle, slightly cut from the south-eastern side; this refers to Gothic sacred architecture, preserved in Gdańsk, and to narrow façades of tightly cramped tenement houses, which is emphasised by buttresses placed rhythmically along the exterior walls of the building. The interior is composed of three elements with clearly distinct functions. The stage and the technical infrastructure will be located at in the opposite parts of the building, and in the middle of the brick block, like a treasure in a huge casket, the historic wooden theatre will be located. A convertible roof over the stage, divided in half, will enable performances to be held in the atmosphere of an Elizabethan stage: they will be played in broad daylight, metaphorically separated from everyday life, but open to the immensity of the sky. Three-storey galleries for 680 people will keep the relationship with the stage, surrounded from three sides, typical of Elizabethan stages, as well as the differentiation of seats, historically determined by social status.

However, the conditions of an Elizabethan stage would impose serious restrictions on staging, whereas the theatre should meet all the requirements of modern drama and direction. Hence the idea of flexible space, composed of revolving platforms, which, according to the needs, can be transformed into a box-set (by hiding the Shakespearean stage and fixing seats on its site) or into a central “theatre-in-the-round”. The adaptable space should be, like the Elizabethan stage, “transparent”, totally absorbed by the theatre world, totally subordinate to its structure. Gardens alike: designed at the six-metre-high elevation in front of the theatre are planned to allow spectators to admire the old town of Gdańsk, to be the auditorium of “the theatre of the city”.

One of the more original solutions involves the “stage structure”, at a height of 18 metres, housing equipment and technical rooms, with an entrance leading to the main room. The eastern part of the building, containing storerooms, will be separated from the external walls of the building by a complex of covered yards.

The Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre has been designed as multifunctional space. Apart from performances organised by an impresario theatre, it will hold non-theatrical events (concerts, exhibitions, workshops, conferences and so on). Moreover, an archaeological open air museum will be built to present the discovered wooden foundations of the theatre, as well as a permanent exhibition of the excavated objects and monuments.

 

Literature:

  1. Baran M., Fundamenty pod Szekspira, „Gazeta Wyborcza”, 12-13.9.2009.
  2. Baran M., Kamień pod Szekspira, „Gazeta Wyborcza – Trójmiasto”, 14.9.2009.
  3. Baran M., Włodkowska K., Teatr marzeń. To będzie wizytówka Gdańska, „Gazeta Wyborcza – Trójmiasto”, 13.10.2010.
  4. Czy Gdańsk straci historyczną panoramę?, „Nasz Dziennik”, 5-6.4.2008.
  5. Kiwnik J., Inwestycje kulturalne na światową skalę, „Gazeta Wyborcza – Trójmiasto” 31.3.2009.
  6. MAC, Dźwigi u Szekspira, „Gazeta Wyborcza – Trójmiasto”, 25.11.2011.
  7. Studium przedinwestycyjne budowy Teatru Gdańskiego przez Fundację Theatrum Gedanense, Fundacja Theatrum Gedanense, Gdańsk, maj 2000.
  8. Zamorska-Przyłuska E., Teatr elżbietański – reaktywacja, „Didaskalia” 2007, No. 1.

 

 

 

Author: Anna Ochman

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