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Polski Theatre - Main Stage of Jerzy Grzegorzewski

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Eventi importanti

(dettaglio)14.11.1906 | inauguration of the stage
Building was designed to musical theater.
(dettaglio)20.12.1950 | first premiere after reconstruction after war demages
premiere of Tysiąc walecznych [One thousand of brave men] by Jan Rojewski
(dettaglio)20.5.1996 | opening the theatre after rebuilding
premiere of Improwizacje wrocławskie [Wrocław improvisations]




At the beginning of the 20th century, Wrocław (at that time Breslau) had 413,000 residents, and twenty-five years later there were as many as 600,000 inhabitants. The six permanent theatres could house over 8,000 people, and there was also a huge concert hall, countless little theatres, seasonal theatres, garden theatres and variety shows.

At the turn of the century, Dr Theodor Loewe (1855–1935), a successful entrepreneur, a managing director and literary manager of theatres, a writer and collector was active in Wrocław.  The largest Wrocław theatres of that period were under his management. Therefore it was decided to build a new theatre to break his monopoly. One of the initiators, a well-known Wrocław merchant, Paul Auerbach, was also the investor. He acquired a plot at 3 Theaterstrasse (now 3 Zapolska Street), not far from the place where a concert hall (Konzerthaus) was to be built.

            The first plans of the building come from 1904-1905, drawn up by architect Paul Rother. However, the investor and the city authorities eventually chose a design by two Berlin architects: Walter Häntschel and Hermann Wahlich. It was a modern building both functionally and technically, built of a construction of reinforced concrete, which was also to be used later on to erect People’s Hall (Hala Ludowa), originally named Centennial Hall (Jahrhunderthalle). The theatre could house 1,736 people in the stalls and on the balconies, located on two storeys. The elevation, in the style of late Art Nouveau, was painted in white, yellow and gold, whereas the interior was white and red with gold ornaments.

The building, which was to perform the role of a musical theatre, was ceremonially opened on 14 November 1906.  However, the theatre did not remain independent for long: as early as in 1911, Theodor Loewe took over the Schauspielhaus as the artistic director. Soon he turned it into the best operetta theatre in Germany, and in 1919 became the owner. He gathered the best performers and brought in considerable revenue. After Loewe left the theatre in 1934, the Schauspielhaus was turned into a drama theatre, though without any significant achievements to its credit. At the end of the Second World War the theatre was left partially destroyed.

The Polski Theatre

A pioneering team under the guidance of Bolesław Drobner, a representative of the government and the first president of Wrocław, arrived in Wrocław on 10 May 1945. One of the members of the team was Adam Kaja, an experienced technical worker from the Słowacki Theatre in Kraków. He was charged with preserving the possessions of the Wroclaw theatres. First and foremost, Kaja took care of the only undamaged theatre building: the former Municipal Theatre, i.e. the Opera House. In fact, after the war the Opera House was called the Grand Theatre, and was to be the venue of performances by the Polski Theatre, which was still being set up at that time. The Polski Theatre was to wait another five years for a stage of its own. (…)

The name “Polski Theatre in Wrocław” has been used since as early as 1965. Nevertheless, it was officially approved of by the Presiding Officers of the National Council of Wrocław only on 28 April 1969. It included two stages (the Large Stage on Zapolska Street and the Chamber Stage at 28 Świdnicka Street).

The position of the first managing director was offered to the creator of the Reduta Theatre, Juliusz Osterwa, though health problems meant that he was unable to take on the challenge. He recommended Teofil Trzciński, a well-known theatre specialist and the former managing director of the Słowacki Theatre in Kraków. (..) Director Trzciński had planned to inaugurate the activity of the theatre with The Revenge by Aleksander Fredro, with the participation of Ludwik Solski and Jerzy Leszczyński, and with Skiz by Gabriela Zapolska with Mieczysława Ćwiklińska in mid-November 1945. However, for various reasons the premieres did not happen. Roman Niewiarowicz promptly staged his comedy What Shall We Do with Him? on the stage of the Opera House on 25 December, in which he starred alongside Jadwiga Zaklicka. The official, ceremonial inauguration of the 1945/1946 season did not take place until 6 January 1946, when Maiden Vows by Aleksander Fredro was premiered, directed by Teofil Trzciński. This date is conventionally regarded as the beginning of the activity of the Polski Theatre. (…)

From 1946 to 1949 the managing director was Jerzy Walden and the position of the artistic director was entrusted to Marian Godlewski (1946 - 1948). In the 1946/1947 season, Walden succeeded in recruiting Jan Kurnakowicz, one of the most distinguished actors of the post-war period. In the following years, the company of actors was still being put together, which was successfully finished only by Henryk Szletyński. The latter left his cushy position as an actor and director in the Polski Theatre in Warsaw in order to move to Wrocław. Within a short period he created a company of seventy-five people (forty-three actors, thirty-two actresses). Nevertheless, he was the managing director for just one season (1949/1950), and in September 1950, following a decision by the minister, he was transferred to Kraków.  (…)

The first premiere in the theatre at 3 Zapolska Street, rebuilt to a design by engineer Andrzej Józef Frydecki, took place on 20 December 1950. For the inauguration, director Czesław Staszewski staged the Polish premiere of a three-act-play - A thousand Brave Men by Jan Rojewski, an architect by training. It was an example of “factory literature”[1] on the subject of the construction industry; the story was set in Warsaw, while it was being rebuilt. It was the first time that the Wrocław audience had experienced new, contemporary drama, which had been virtually unknown to them until that time.
            After being rebuilt in 1950, the theatre served actors until 1994, when, on the night of 18 January, the building caught fire, completely destroying the auditorium and foyer. As a result, the opening night of The Wedding by Stanisław Wyspiański, directed by Eugeniusz Korin, never happened, despite rehearsals being at quite an advanced stage at that time. The stage was saved, along with the administration rooms, and the theatre was rebuilt to a design by Wiktor Jackiewicz. It reopened on 20 May 1996 with the premiere of Wrocław Improvisations directed by Andrzej Wajda. Due to the reconstruction, the appearance of the building changed, the foyer was reconstructed and the auditorium was remodelled. As for the stage, it has remained intact since the post-war reconstruction, having survived the fire thanks to the fire curtain, which fell down at the appropriate moment. In 2007, preparations started for a complex renovation and modernisation of the stage; they are to be completed in 2011 and 2012.

A room in a former furniture shop in the disused Świebodzki Station was originally adapted as a backup stage for the period of the reconstruction of the Polski Theatre. After the opening night of Kathy of Heilbronn, directed by Jerzy Jarocki, on 30 November 1994, it became the third stage of the Polski Theatre.

In the sixty-plus years of the Polski Theatre there have been ups and downs, as with all artistic institutions. The ups were marked by the personalities of the artistic directors, such as Henryk Szletyński, who created the actors company, Jakub Rotbaum, who included great Polish and foreign classics into the repertoire, and Zygmunt Hübner, who replaced the Wrocław Theatre Festival (organised  since 1960, the first edition under the name: Festival of the Theatres of Silesia and Opole Region) with the Polish Festival of Contemporary Plays in 1963 (organised until 1998, though with interruptions) and started to reorganise the theatre. (…)

The golden age of the Polski Theatre came in the second half of the 1960s, under the management of spouses Krystyna Skuszanka and Jerzy Krasowski. During that period, Polish romantic dramas, mainly by Juliusz Słowacki, reigned on the stage. It is worth mentioning that, as early as in 1962, Krasowski moved his adaptations of the novels Of Mice and Men and Joy of the Repossessed Dumpsite, both with sets by Józef Szajna, from the theatre in Nowa Huta (Kraków) onto the stage in Wrocław. (…)

However, the 1970s, when the managing director of the theatre was a talented organizer, Marian Wawrzynek, was also a bonanza period. He invited an outstanding Russian theatre director, Pyotr Fomenko, to stage a comedy by Aleksei Arbuzov – In This Pleasant Old House (1973).  He also succeeded in recruiting Henryk Tomaszewski as the theatre’s permanent collaborator.  Among other performances, Tomaszewski directed two plays that turned out to be very successful: Killing Game (1973) and Princess Turandot (1974). (…)

In June 1975, as a part of the University of Research of the Theatre of Nations, organised by Jerzy Grotowski, meetings with Peter Brook and Jean Louis Barrault were held on the Large Stage of the Polski Theatre, to the overcrowded auditorium.

At the initiative of Wawrzynek and Paradowski, the distinguished artist Jerzy Grzegorzewski appeared in Wrocław, first as an actor and a set designer (1975), then as the artistic director (1978–1981). Starting from The Marriage (1975) with Bogdan Koca in the role of Henryk, Grzegorzewski revealed an original style of staging that had not been previously seen in Wrocław. The premiere of The Marriage sparked interest in the work of Witold Gombrowicz, who until then had not been put on in professional theatres, and this resulted in the premiere of Ivona, the Princess of Burgundia, directed byWitold Zatorski. Another very successful performance was a contemporary staging of Mr Jowialski, also by Witod Zatorski (1979). (…)

Grzegorzewski came to Wrocław with his wife, Ewa Bułhak, who first staged Melancholy (1976) and  Skiz (1978).  Her husband designed sets for her subsequent performances, Emigrants (1979) and Antigone (1984); the latter was set in the realities of martial law in Poland.  In 2006, Bułhak drew up the script of the sixtieth anniversary celebration of the Polski Theatre: Suite for Word and Piano, with music by Stanisław Radwan.

It is also worth noting, that the Actors’ College worked under the auspices of the Polski Theatre from 1977 to 1980, guided by Paradowski. This was, in fact, the second theatre school of the Polski Theatre: the first one, the Drama College was in operation from 1956 to 1959. (…)

In 1990s, under the management of Jacek Weksler, theatre directors Jerzy Jarocki and Krystian Lupa collaborated with the Polski Theatre. Jaroski had been well known in Wrocław due to his performances in the Współczesny Theatre (at that time operating under the name “the Rozmaitości Theatre”) since the late 1950s. After a lengthy absence in Wrocław, he came up with the idea of staging The Trap by Stanisław Różewicz. Ten years earlier he had been authorised by the author to stage the play in the Dramatyczny Theatre in Warsaw, though the plans had been thwarted by the introduction of martial law in Poland. Understandably enough, the premiere in Wrocław in 1992 provoked interest and led to the director’s permanent collaboration with the Polski Theatre. He successively staged Platonov (1993) and - as its sequel – The Missing Act (1996), History of the People’s Republic of Poland (1998) and, to inaugurate the stage in Świebodzki Station, he directed Kathy of Heilbronn, as mentioned above (1994). (…)

In October 2000, a young theatre director, Paweł Miśkiewicz, became the artistic director of the Polski Theatre and brilliantly developed collective work. He was not anonymous in Wrocław as, in 1998, still under Jacek Weksler’s management, he had staged Art by Yasmina Reza; the performance was exquisitely acted and gained considerable recognition. As the artistic director, he certainly had two successful performances to his credit, which he directed himself: The Cherry Orchard and the Polish premiere of Clara’s Relations with the magnificent Kinga Preis in the title role. (…)

From 2004 to 2006, the managing and artistic director of the Polish Theatre was Bogdan Tosza, a theatre director and the long-standing managing director of the Śląski Theatre in Katowice. His priorities as director were to continue the EuroDrama Festival, and to acquire new drama texts. (…)

On 14 September 2005, the Large Stage was named after Jerzy Grzegorzewski, which was an important event at the beginning of the sixtieth season.

At the turn of the millennium and into the first decade of the 21 century, many actors left the theatre, either to move to Warsaw or – as in the case of Konrad Imiela and Wojciech Kościelniak – to start work in the musical theatre. Since September 2006, the managing and artistic director has been Krzysztof Mieszkowski. The new head of the theatre has managed to stop the actors’ tendency to leave the company and has strengthened it with young staff. (…) The theatre continues its educational and social activity through the “Open Mondays” series of meetings with artists representing various disciplines of art (…)

From 6 to 9 January 2011, the Polski Theatre organised a review of its performances on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of its activity.

Since January 2012, the Jerzy Grzegorzewski Stage has been under a complex modernisation, the first since 1950.

Published with the permission of the Polski Theatre in Wrocław

Drawn up by Jarosław Minałto

[1] The term “factory literature” or “countryside literature” (in Polish: produkcyjniaki) refers to novels, short stories and plays written in the Socialist Realist style. They were set in the workplace (factories, coal mines, construction sites, villages, etc), the story was schematic and the only positive characters were the local activists from the Polish United Workers' Party (translator’s footnote).




  1. Grzegorczyk B., Architektura i budownictwo teatralne we Wrocławiu od około 1770 roku do schyłku XIX wieku, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego, Wrocław 2000.
  2. Hawałej A., Teatr Polski gra ..., Wydaw. Dolnoślaskie, Wrocław 1996.
  3. Majewski T., Teatry dramatyczne Wrocławia w okresie rządów narodowosocjalistycznych 1933-1944, Oficyna Wydawnicza ATUT Wrocławskie Wydawnictwo Oświatowe, Wrocław 2003.
  4. Rekonstrukcje, red. Jarosław Minałto, Piotr Rudzki, Marzena Sadocha, Teatr Polski, Wrocław 2010.
  5. Teatr Polski we Wrocławiu : 50 lat, oprac. red. Jan Stolarczyk ; oprac. dokumentacji Elżbieta Małecka, Wydaw. Dolnośląskie, Wrocław 1996.


SEE ALSO: The Polski Theatre - Chamber Stage, The Polski Theatre - Świebodzki Railway Station Stage



Autore: Jarosław Minałto

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