1955 – 1971 Teatr Klasyczny (Classical Theatre)
In 1945, Warsaw’s Municipal Dramatic Theatres organisation established a new stage in the basements of a tenement house at number 8 Marszałkowska Street. It functioned under several names, including Teatr Dzieci Warszawy (Warsaw’s Children’s Theatre) and Teatr Młodej Warszawy (Young Warsaw Theatre). In 1955, under the name Teatr Rozmaitości (Variety Theatre), it became affiliated with the newly established Teatr Klasyczny (Classic Theatre), located in the northern corner of the newly erected Palace of Culture and Science. Teatr Klasyczny regularly presented a repertoire of classic works and plays for younger audiences. Its directors included Emil Chaberski (1955-1961), Jerzy Kaliszewski (1962-1964) and Ireneusz Kanicki (1965-1971).
1971-1982 Józef Szajna
In 1971, Józef Szajna, a stage designer, theatre director, painter and theatrologist, became the director of Teatr Klasyczny. Co-founder and for many years the managing and artistic director of the avant-garde Teatr Ludowy (People’s Theatre) in Nowa Huta, by then one of the most stylistically prominent artists in Polish theatre, Szajna decided to transform the institution into a studio stage, experimental in nature, and open it to new formal solutions. At the beginning of 1972, the stage at number 8 Marszałkowska Street begun to function independently, under the name Teatr Rozmaitości (Variety Theatre). Some of the company relocated there to perform the previous season’s repertoire. New shows were created in collaboration with Teatr Satyryków STS (Student Satirical Theatre). On 1 February 1972, the stage in the Palace of Culture and Science was renamed Teatr STUDIO (STUDIO Theatre).
Szajna’s characteristic style, consistently evolving since his collaboration with Jerzy Grotowski on staging Stanisław Wyspiański’s Acropolis at Teatr Laboratorium 13 Rzędów (13 Rows Laboratory Theatre) in Opole in 1962, placed Szajna’s original theatre somewhere between visual and performance arts. In the plays he directed, Szajna often reduced words to the bare minimum, searching instead for different forms of expression in a dynamic interaction between the actor’s body and the objects placed on stage. Thanks to this original approach, STUDIO established a strong identity from the very first season, in sharp contrast with Teatr Dramatyczny (Dramatical Theatre), located on the opposite side of Warsaw’s iconic Palace of Culture and Science, led by Gustaw Holoubek, who focused on a more literary repertoire and psychological forms of acting. Performances staged by Szajna, including: subsequent versions of his Replica (1972, 1973), Witkacy (1972), Gulgutier (1973), Dante (1974), Cervantes (1976) and Mayakovsky (1978), as well as Karol Irzykowski’s The Benefactor of Thieves (1975) and Witold Wandurski’s Death on the Pear Tree (1978), were ground-breaking artistic events. Presented during numerous international tours, including in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Norway, Finland, the United States and Mexico, they reinforced the high standing of Polish arts abroad.
Other theatre directors who worked for STUDIO Theatre include: Lidia Zamkow (For Whom the Bell Tolls based on Earnest Hemingway’s novel, 1972; The Dream based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story, 1973); Helmut Kajzar (Judges by Stanisław Wyspiański, 1972; Kazar’s own play Andrew the Knight, 1974), Stanisław Różewicz (Pandora’s Box by Frank Wedekind, 1976), Hanna Skarżanka (Medea by Eurypides, 1977), Andrzej Markowicz (Matuzalem by Yvan Goll, 1977; The Mountain Giants by Luigi Pirandella, 1979); and Henryk Baranowski (The Trial based on Franz Kafka, 1980). Memorable characters were played by the likes of Olga Bielska, Jolanta Hanisz, Leszek Herdegen, Jacek Jarosz, Ewa Kozłowska, Tomasz Marzecki, Wiesława Niemyska, Helena Norowicz, Antoni Pszoniak, Andrzej Siedlecki, Józef Wieczorek and, above all, Irena Jun and Stanisław Brudny.
Szajna’s key ambition was to create a space which was artistic in nature, while also focusing on research and both formal experiments and theoretical reflections. In 1972, a modern art gallery was opened at the Theatre, followed by a stage design studio for students of the Warsaw Fine Arts Academy. There were plans to rebuild the big stage, but the innovative project developed for it by Oscar Hansen never came to life. In 1976, in the former theatre set design workshop, a small theatre stage, the so called Malarnia [Atelier], was inaugurated. Szajna’s consistent policy lead to yet another change in the institution name, which since 10 July 1980 has been known as Centrum Sztuki STUDIO – Teatr Galeria (STUDIO Centre for the Arts – Gallery Theatre).
1982-1997 Jerzy Grzegorzewski
In time, a conflict arose between the Theatre’s creative management team and the actors, who were worried about their future in view of changes taking place in Poland. Szajna’s resignation in December 1981 coincided with the introduction of martial law in Poland. Due to the political situation, a decision was made to restructure management competencies. In early 1982, Waldemar Dąbrowski, Deputy Director of the Warsaw City Culture Department, was appointed as General Theatre Director. On Szajna’s recommendation, Jerzy Grzegorzewski became its Artistic Director. Grzegorzewski, a theatre director, stage designer and dramaturgist, would ensure that the high artistic level and experimental character of the Theatre would be preserved. It was Grzegorzewski’s idea to name the Theatre after Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy), thereby making a program declaration, and on 24 February 1985, the centennial birthday anniversary of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (a Pure Form concept author), the STUDIO Art Centre was named after him.
The 15 years Grzegorzewski spent as director at Centrum Sztuki STUDIO Teatr Galeria is now considered to have been its golden age. Grzegorzewski followed Szajna’s path, although he did manage to leave an indelible mark of his sensitivity and imagination upon it. The original character of Grzegorzewski’s theatre, which on the one hand played refined and usually hermetic games with the heritage of European Modernism and on the other imposed demanding requirements on its actors, made STUDIO one of the most interesting Warsaw theatres of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Grzegorzewski staged several plays at STUDIO, including The Screens by Jean Genet, 1982; The Trap by Tadeusz Różewicz, 1984; Forefather’s Eve – Improvisation by Adam Mickiewicz, 1987; Death of Ivan Iljic based on Leo Tolstoy, 1991 – to name just a few. Grzegorzewski also staged his own authorial performances, including: The Slow Darkening of Paintings, 1985; So-called Humanity in Madness, 1987; Lips are Silent but the Soul Sings, 1988; The City Counting Dog Noses, 1991; Four Parallel Comedies, 1994; La Bohème, 1995.
Grzegorzewski wished to collaborate with artists representing more formal styles of theatre. Plays at STUDIO were directed by, among others: Henryk Baranowski (Despoiled Shores… by Heiner Müller, 1985), Jerzy Kalina (Pilgrims and Wanderers by Jerzy Kalina, 1989), Mariusz Treliński (Lautréamont: Dreams by Isidore Ducasse, 1992), Ewa Bułhak (The Victims of Duty by Eugene Ionesco, 1993; The Misanthrope by Moliere, 1995), and Zbigniew Brzoza (The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other by Peter Handke, 1966). In 1992, Grzegorzewski invited Szajna to stage a new version of Dante. It is worth highlighting his collaboration with Tadeusz Łomnicki, which lasted for several years and resulted in a spectacular staging of Krapp’s Last Tape in 1985. Other plays with Łomnicki included: Comedy, 1985, Catastrophe, 1986, and Endgame, 1986, as well as monodramas featuring Irena Jun, Not I, Rockaby and Steps, 1985, all directed by Antoni Libera, being some of the most important Samuel Beckett productions in the history of Polish theatre.
It is worth mentioning that in 1990 STUDIO staged Tamara by John Kranz, the first strictly commercial show in the history of Polish theatre, directed by Maciej Wojtyszko.
Grzegorzewski’s significant accomplishment was putting together one of the finest acting companies in Warsaw, after the breakup of Gustaw Holoubek’s Teatr Dramatyczny. Apart from actors collaborating with Szajna, the following appeared regularly or as visiting actors on the STUDIO stage: Mariusz Benoit, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Teresa Budzisz-Krzyżanowska, Stanisława Celińska, Anna Chodakowska, Józef Duriasz, Bogusław Linda, Olgierd Łukaszewicz, Krzysztof Majchrzak, Mieczysław Mielicki, Ewa Mirowska, Jan Peszek, Anna Romantowska, Zdzisław Tobiasz, Marek Walczewski, and Jerzy Zelnik. Stanisław Szymański, a legend of Polish ballet and a magnificent dancer, also performed at STUDIO. Zbigniew Zamachowski and Wojciech Malajkat, who soon became audience favourites, played their first important roles here.
It is hard to overestimate the role Waldemar Dąbrowski played in forging the identity and establishing the position of STUDIO Theatre. His contacts and diplomatic skills made it possible to extend and diversify the theatre’s activities. Gallery STUDIO’s collection had grown under the caring hand of Zbigniew Taranienko (former artistic advisor of Józef Szajna). In 1982, it established a touring department, supervised by Władysław Serwatowski. In 1984, Sinfonia Varsovia, an orchestra founded by Franciszek Wybrańczyk (director of the Polish Chamber Orchestra) and Yehudi Menuhin (a conductor), was given office space and rehearsal rooms at the STUDIO. At the same time, a Film Workshop involving Jerzy Karpiński was organised, aiming not only to document the current artistic activity at the Theatre, but also to create a video library. The activities of all the units comprising the STUDIO Art Centre has not overshadowed the leading role played by the theatre stage – Grzegorzewski had total artistic control over the entire establishment, especially after Dąbrowski left in 1990 and Grzegorzewski took over.
1997 – 2006 Zbigniew Brzoza
In January 1997, Grzegorzewski accepted the position offered to him a year earlier and became the Director of the National Theatre, restored after a recent fire. When leaving STUDIO, Grzegorzewski took with him some of the actors. He handed the leadership of STUDIO to Zbigniew Brzoza (artistic director) and Krzysztof Kosmala (general director).
Under Grzegorzewski’s management, Brzoza established himself as an artist sensitive to the form. However, taking over the artistic management of STUDIO, he declared the intention to change its profile. He focused on modern drama, especially that from Austria, such as Finally Over, 1998; Love in Madagascar, 2000; Passion, 2007 (all by Peter Turrini) and Britain (Spoonface Steinberg by Lee Hall, 2001; Bond by Rona Munro, 2004). The premiere of The Ball under the Eagle (2003), based on Jean-Claude Penchenat’s famed Le Bal, turned out to be a significant artistic event.
The only performances from that period which revitalised the avant-garde tradition of STUDIO are the Polish premiere of West Coast by Bernard-Marie Koltes, directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski (1998), and Prze(d)stawienie by Agata Duda-Gracz, based on Merlin of the Wasteland by Tankred Dorst (2006).
Brzoza invited leading Lithuanian theatre directors to cooperate with STUDIO. In 1989, Oskaras Korsunovas directed Elizaveta Bam by Daniil Kharms and in 2001, The Hourglass Sanatorium by Bruno Schulz. In 2006, Rimas Tuminas staged Carl Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters. Brzoza established a regular collaboration with Piotr Cieplak (My Ballad), 1999; Winnie the P. based on A.A. Milne, 1999; Music with Words, 2002. Regular repertoire items were poetic shows staged by Irena Jun, which enjoyed great popularity (Dinner at Countess Pavahoke’s based on Witold Gombrowicz’s short story, 2004; A Highland History of Philosophy based on Józef Tischner’s book with Wiesław Komasa playing a leading part, 2005). STUDIO also hosted recitals by its actresses – Edyta Jungowska (Boiling Dog, 2000), Monika Świtaj (Ups and Down, 2001) and Ewa Błaszczyk (Even in Storms, 2006).
2007 – 2009 Bartosz Zaczykiewicz
Appointing Bartosz Zaczykiewicz as artistic director and general manager was an attempt to liven up STUDIO, which in the last years under Brzoza’s management had significantly declined. Zaczykiewicz, contrary to common expectations, failed to repeat the success of Jan Kochanowski Theatre in Opole, which he had managed for the preceding 8 years.
Zaczykiewicz based his agenda mainly on the continuation of his collaboration with Marek Fiedor, which had started in Opole, (Battle of Grunwald based on a short story by Tadeusz Borowski, 2008; The Spell based on Hermann Broch’s novel, 2010). One-off performances were also staged by young directors, including: Michał Siegoczyński (Holly Day based on Truman Capote, 2008), Michał Zadara (Everyman/woman, 2008), Paweł Aigner (Captain Pantoja and the Special Service, based on a Mario Vargass Llosa’s novel, 2008), Wojciech Klemm (Yerma by Federico Garcia Lorca, 2009), and Tomasz Hynek (Insatiability based on a novel by Witkacy, 2009). Zaczykiewicz himself directed only one play (Obrock based on Witkacy, 2008).
Zaczykiewicz managed to revitalise the activities of STUDIO Gallery, appointing as its chief curator Krzysztof Żwirblis, who had earlier cooperated with the Academy of Movement (Akademia Ruchu). Nevertheless, the termination of the agreement with Sinfonia Varsovia, which was about to get new premises, and the relocation of the film collection to the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute, and also the liquidation of the artistic management company Impresariat, led to a situation where it made little sense to keep the STUDIO Art Centre. On 1 January 2008, pursuant to the resolution of the Council of Warsaw, the Art Centre ceased to exist, and the stage came back to its original name, and since then it has been known as Teatr Studio im. Stanisława Ignacego Witkiewicza (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz STUDIO Theatre).
In the face of a growing crisis in the Theatre, Zaczykiewicz decided to resign in the second half of 2009.
2010 – 2012 Grzegorz Bral
In early 2010, the Theatre management was taken over by Grzegorz Bral (artistic director) and Maciej Klimczak (general director). Bral, the creator of alternative theatre Song of the Goat Theatre (Teatr Pieśń Kozła) and director of the international Brave Festival, was expected to re-open STUDIO to experiment. However, the performances staged at STUDIO by Bral (Scenes from Ionesco, 2011; The Idiot based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, 2011; August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, 2012) did not match to his former projects, presented on a guest basis, such as Macbeth or Looking for Lear. At the same time, Klimczak’s policy was leading STUDIO towards becoming a sponsored stage.
Outstanding premieres included Paweł Passini’s Artaud. Doppelgänger and his Theatre (2011), and Grzegorz Wiśniewski’s stage version of Joseph and Maria by Peter Turrini (2011), memorably played by Irena Jun and Stanisław Brudny.
At that time, many workshops for actors were conducted by Grzegorz Bral and Krzysztof Majchrzak. There was also a single workshop for students of directing. In 2010, Jerzy Grzegorzewski’s Workshop was opened, coordinated by Mateusz Żurawski, aiming to collect, edit and publish documentation of Grzegorzewski’s work, and to carry out projects on the history of STUDIO Art Centre. In the 2011/2012 season, several meetings of the Club of Unwashed Souls were held at the Theatre’s Café, headed by Janusz Majcherek (including a series of meetings dedicated to Witkacy and his oeuvre).
After Klimczak left in 2011, Roman Osadnik became Theatre General Director. Previously the director of Polonia Theatre and Och-Theatre, in a short time Osadnik managed to increase the number of performances as well as audience numbers. Additionally, he expanded the Theatre repertoire, organising cultural events, thanks, among other things, to opening the STUDIO to cooperation with NGOs. He also initiated refurbishment works to gain new space for rehearsals and performances.
2012 – 2015 Agnieszka Glińska
On 1 September 2012, Agnieszka Glińska, a director and actress, took over the artistic leadership. She started by building a strong and diverse acting ensemble, inviting actors from other Warsaw-based theatres to collaborate. In the first year of her management, Glińska was awarded the-so-called Wdecha 2012 in the category People of the Year for “changes she has already managed to make” […], for promising new performances and high audience numbers” by Gazeta Wyborcza (Co Jest Grane). At the inauguration of her first season, on 17 October 2012, a ceremony was performed at which STUDIO stages were named after key former directors – the Big Stage after Józef Szajna and the Gallery after Jerzy Grzegorzewski.
Glińska established her repertoire on reinterpreted classical texts (with special focus on Russian drama) and on modern texts just being discovered for a larger audience. The performances which were enthusiastically received by the audience and appreciated by the critics included: Wuthering Heights based on the novel of Emily Bronte (directed by Kuba Kowalski, 2012), Marriage by Nikolai Gogol (directed Ivan Vyrypaev, 2013), Talented Mr. Ripley based on Mary Highsmith (directed by Radosław Rychcik, 2015). In 2013, Glińska’s collaboration with Dorota Masłowska resulted in an award-winning stage version of Dwoje biednych Rumunów mówiących po Polsku (Two Poor Romanians Speaking Polish), and in 2014 in a very popular play for kids Jak zostałam wiedźmą (How I Became a Witch). In 2015, the first performance intentionally accessing the avant-garde traditions of STUDIO was staged, namely Exercises in Style based on Raymond Quenau (directed by Maria Żynel, in a coproduction with Malabar Hotel Theatre).
Glińska’s artistic spirit and energy, combined with Osadnik’s marketing efficiency, in a short time brought STUDIO back to the theatrical map of Warsaw. STUDIO was not only an interesting theatre stage, but it also became quite popular and trendy. Apart from the wide repertoire and numerous exhibitions at the Gallery (run by Agnieszka Zawadowska), several regular guest projects were launched, including The Met Opera HD (in 2012) and the STUDIO Dance Stage (in 2015). STUDIO began, on a larger scale, to organise readings of plays, meetings, open lectures and educational projects not just for children or seniors, but also for people with auditory and visual disability. Furthermore, the JG Workshop extended its activity, collaborating with the Theatre Institute and the National Theatre in publishing the original scripts by Jerzy Grzegorzewski. The first of two volumes edited by Ewa Bułhak and Mateusz Żurawski were given Theatre Book of the Year Award in 2013 by the Critique Section of Polish Center of the International Theater Institute. In the same year, Grzegorz Lewandowski opened the STUDIO Bar, in the former Theatre foyer. Soon enough, the bar became an important place for public debates and cultural events on the fringes of various artistic fields. In 2014, the Plac Defilad (where the Palace of Culture and Science is located) project was launched, aiming to make use of this public space (Wdecha 2015 award in Event of the Year category).
Since 2016, Natalia Korczakowska
In April 2016, STUDIO’s artistic management was taken over by Natalia Korczakowska – a theatre director, whereas Dorota Jarecka, a critic and art historian, took charge of the gallery. Since 2019, the role of deputy director has been filled by Tomasz Plata, a theatrologist and curator.
On Korczakowska’s initiative, the name of the place was changed to reflect the avant-garde traditions of STUDIO Art Centre, and now it is STUDIO teatrgaleria (STUDIO theatregallery).
Putting into practice the idea of ‘theatregallery’, which is to create a space for free dialogue between various art forms and disciplines, STUDIO established contact with the prestigious California Institute of Arts, which offers degree programs in performing, media and literary arts. The collaboration between students of the CalArts Center For New Performance and actors of the STUDIO theatregallery, under Trevis Preston’s artistic supervision, following the avant-garde traditions of the place, resulted in a CalArts STUDIO mini festival being staged on Plac Defilad in Warsaw, in June 2018.
This partnership has continued with a show by Korczakowska titled Metafizyka dwugłowego cielęcia (The Metaphysics of a Two-Headed Calf), based on texts by Witkacy, developed as a coproduction with CalArts (2018, Los Angeles; 2019, Warszawa). As part of a project titled Scenografia jako dzieło sztuki (Scenography as an art form), Olga and Nicolas Grospierre created new pieces at STUDIO (Izolatka, 2016), as did Daniel Buren (In situ, 2018).
Korczakowska’s stage adaptations of the novels Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin (2017) and Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky (2018) were very well received. At the start of 2020, Korczakowska prepared a new version of the show Demons VR, “a prototype of a theatrical work in a new medium that is virtual reality”, taking the idea of our “teatrgaleria” into a new dimension.
STUDIO also stages projects by renowned directors such as Michał Borczuch (Żaby, 2018), Krzysztof Gabraczewski (Wyzwolenie, 2017), Paweł Miśkiewicz (Serotonina, 2019), Michał Zadara (Sen srebrny Salomei, 2018), as well as younger, up-and-coming artists: Grzegorz Jaremko (Chroma, 2019), Radosław Maciąg (Sarah Kane: Łaknąć, 2018) and Ewa Rucińska (Miasto białych kart, 2019). Solo shows by Ewa Błaszczyk (Oriana Fallaci, 2017) and Irena Jun (Matka Makryna, 2018) returned to enthusiastic reviews. STUDIO co-produced (along with Nowy Teatr, Teatr Powszechny and TR Warszawa) one of the most eagerly awaited premieres of recent years – The Process according to Franz Kafka, directed by Krystian Lupa (2017).
STUDIO’s musical activities are also evolving. Partnerships with Marcin Masecki led to projects such as Urodziny kompozytorów (together with Marcin Markowicz, since 2019), along with the cycle Opusy (together with Barbara Majewska, since 2019). The staging of Madame Butterfly, conducted by Marcello Mottadelli (2019) outside the Palace Of Culture and Science, proved to be a major event.
STUDIO is not just about shows, exhibitions and concerts. We also host numerous lectures, meetings and discussions dedicated to the arts, culture and society, as well as workshops and other educational initiatives, aimed at participants of all ages.
STUDIO teatrgaleria aspires to being of the most important experimental stages in Poland.