ISSN 2451-2966


Zofia Smolarska

Institutional Gastroscopy: Publicly Funded Theatre in Poland, Diagnosed by Its Craftspeople

Technical staff in front of Władysław Daszewski's set design for CRACOVIANS and MOUNTAINEERS, directed by Leon Schiller, premiere: National Theatre in Warsaw 1946. Photographer: Edward Hartwig. Collection of the National Digital Archive.

Technical staff in front of Władysław Daszewski's set design for CRACOVIANS and MOUNTAINEERS, directed by Leon Schiller, premiere: National Theatre in Warsaw 1946. Photographer: Edward Hartwig. Collection of the National Digital Archive.

Read Abstract

The author takes as her starting point the assumption that institutional theatre in Poland since 1989 has been undergoing a secret, non-systemic transformation from the Fordian to the post-Fordian model (the latter being peculiar to late capitalism). The author argues that, although little has been offered by way of substantial reflection on the subject, the changes in question contribute to the exploitation of the lowest-earning staff, leading towards the gradual extinction of craft in theatre. The article aims to identify systemic reasons for existing dysfunctions, such as inadequate self-knowledge within the organization, institutional disintegration and structural opportunism. The findings presented here are based on qualitative research undertaken by the author: interviews with more than eighty craftspeople, technicians and stagehands, both employed and retired.

<i>Institutional Gastroscopy: Publicly Funded Theatre in Poland, Diagnosed by Its Craftspeople

From climate politics to ecology of theatre

I first came across theatre craftspeople in 2014, at the Miniatura Theatre in Gdańsk, while working on a Polish-Icelandic project, Blue Planet. Blái hnötturinn[Blue Planet], a play by Andri Snær Magnason – a well-known children’s author, environment activist and in 2016 a presidential candidate – considers climate change in a political context, demonstrating that democratic mechanisms are as likely to be used as instruments of protection as of destruction, when it comes to the environment. Working as an assistant to director Erling Jóhannesson, I realized that he found it essential to stage Magnason’s play in Gdańsk. Inspired by the history of the Solidarity movement then its disintegration following the fall of Communism in Poland, Jóhannesson decided to adapt the globally relevant issue of climate-change politics to the Polish context and ask what issues Poland has today with democracy. Just after work on the production got under way, however, it became clear that a crisis of democracy and the tense atmosphere at the theatre institution hosting us would be our main concerns.

Leaving the Miniatura Theatre’s impressive history to the side for the time being, and its succession of artistic directors over the years (I’ve described the theatre’s personnel predicaments in another article1), it must be said that since 2012 the theatre had been undergoing conspicuous change. The new managing director , Romuald Wicza-Pokojski, appointed in 2011, had put much effort into restoring the theatre’s reputation and attractive image. Drawing on his experience in alternative theatre,Wicza-Pokojski abandoned long-term production planning and set about securing additional funds for project-based work: the Blue Planet project, funded by the European Economic Area (EEA) (as part of the so-called Norway grants) was one example of this. He expanded the theatre’s scope of activities to include performative readings and workshops for parents. He also rebranded the theatre, completely overhauling its visual identity. A boost in attendance and reputation was reflected in the fact that the Miniatura Theatre was nominated for awards in several municipal competitions,2 with the theatre’s status rising swiftly to among the major arts institutions in the region.

As I observed while working on Jóhannesson’s production, this success was at odds with what went on within the theatre. Technical staff and craft workshops had not been consulted while the modernization process was in progress. One may find that surprising, bearing in mind Wicza-Pokojski’s social-activism streak, manifested in projects aimed at socially and economically disadvantaged groups. In his capacity as the director of a municipal institution, however, Wicza-Pokojski failed to utilize this experience and engage his lowest-paid staff in the transformation process.

Unaware of the full story behind the changes, Jóhannesson – who also has roots in alternative theatre3 – suggested a working model that was natural to him, based on a collective process in an atmosphere of mutual trust, with mutual appreciation between craftspeople and the director regarding their creative abilities. To his surprise, some craftspeople and stagehands were extremely reluctant to work together in this manner at first. To translate to him not just the literal meaning of the staff’s words but also ulterior motives behind their passive attitude, I had to discover and comprehend the profound conflict between ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ – that is, between the ‘new’ management department and the ‘old’ department comprising craftspeople who work on stage design. The two groups held wildly divergent views on publicly funded theatre.

Suspecting that the Miniatura Theatre was not an isolated case, after the project came to an end, I searched for other theatres where resistance was encountered from their technical workshops to attempts at making the production model more flexible. I interviewed over eighty craftspeople and technicians, both active and retired, employed at publicly funded theatres including puppet and musical theatres. This group comprised metalworkers, carpenters, modellers, painters, costume makers, puppet makers, shoemakers, shoe-uppers makers, upholsterers, make-up artists, wig makers, as well as sound and light technicians, dressers, stage foremen, stage assemblers and prop masters. I also spoke to several technical directors who coordinate all workshop tasks within a theatre.

The study was conducted anonymously; in keeping with the personal-data protection act, I’ve left undisclosed the names of the individuals quoted. With one exception, names of artists mentioned by the craftspeople have also been left undisclosed, as is information about the interviewees’ workplaces. It needs to be emphasized that, though I endeavoured to choose theatres for this study that are diverse in terms of location, size and stature, I wasn’t guided strictly by the criterion of representativeness. I employed qualitative research methods, collecting and analysing data in keeping with the guidelines of grounded theory.4 As recommended by the theory’s proponents, I didn’t begin by formulating hypotheses or with an overview of the subject according to published sources – which are few and far between in Poland, in any case, and focus almost exclusively on technical aspects of craftsmanship in theatre, leaving aside social issues and questions of organisation.

Instead, I took data as my starting point. The data was assembled by means of unstructured interviews, observations in the workplace and of interactions between individuals in workshops. (Most interviews were carried out during the interviewees’ working hours and in their workplaces.) Issues and behaviours I came across during my visits were decisive in determining the direction of my research and its underlying theoretical perspective. At first, I followed an intuition that Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory may shed interesting light on the study of craft in theatre. Hence, I was interested first and foremost in how craftspeople approach inanimate matter, and in the role material processed by the team had to play in communication between different production departments. In time, however, this theme became less important: the data collected and the craftspeople very decisively pointed me towards issues of employment and manual-labour management.

The actual start of my work was practical experience gained at the Miniatura Theatre in Gdańsk in 2014. This was followed by study visits (then left unrecorded) to workshops of the National Theatre in Warsaw. During this period, I also interviewed retired craftspeople, graduates of the renowned State High School for Theatre Craft (1945–1968): these conversations were subsequently described in a piece of reportage for the Teatr monthly.5 I began recording interviews in theatre workshops in January 2016 – this phase of my study remains in progress. The present article is therefore not a ‘finished theory’ in the sense elucidated by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss.6 In a previous article, I claimed to have attained the so-called theoretical saturation; however, the fact is that at that time I understood the phenomenon too casually as a ‘repetition of describes events, actions and / or statements’.7 During successive interviews or chance encounters with craftspeople, I occasionally come across data revealing a new, important aspect more so than changing my established view of the matter: in Glaser’s words, ‘new properties of the pattern’8. Data included in the present article and their interpretations must therefore be taken as a report on a certain stage in the research process. I hope my study will both help identify systemic reasons behind tensions observed in Gdańsk and play a role in bringing to light a more complex image of publicly funded theatre in contemporary Poland.

In the 1920s, the actor, director and theatre founder Juliusz Osterwa resorted to an organic metaphor in an attempt to present theatre as human body:

I have, what’s more, come to the conclusion that those maintaining that the staged play is what matters in theatre and those who argue that actors are the most conspicuous personas on stage are equally wrong. Those who fancy that stage decor is all are likewise mistaken. Mistaken they all are, for the stage is a collective body, the stage is like a human body with the brain, heart, stomach – and entrails. All this comprises a living body, a living system. Debates about the essence and merits of the stage have, almost without exception, shown disrespect to – or rather continually ignored – stagehands and workmen. Now I have myself, independently of anyone, come to the conclusion that not just the technical aspect of the stage itself but above all labourers, the living representatives of that technical aspect, are as equally important, indispensable of an organ of the stage body as are the other organs. If a drama author can be compared to the brain in the human body, director to the heart, actors to the soul – the impregnating, vital force moving the body – workers must thus be compared to the entrails,the stomach and bowels of the stage body. Stage health depends on these organs functioning properly.9

When attempting to diagnose publicly funded theatre in Poland, therefore, one needs to conduct an institutional gastroscopy, thereby recognising craftspeople and stagehands as an equal subject of the institutional critique currently nascent within theatre studies. Thus this article counters prejudice against representatives of these professions, a prejudice ingrained in the minds of many artists and artistic directors. Negative opinions about the working environment expressed in workshops and technical departments are routinely downplayed as alleged manifestations of resentment-fuelled attitudes and the tendency to take things for granted. The sharp juxtaposition of flexible artists vs. technical staff who’ve worked for years at the same institution and are resistant to change has been alluded to recently in a particularly ominous form, as the founding conflict of the entire ‘new Polish theatre’ movement. Recalling his earliest days at the theatre he would in due course lead and rename TR Warszawa, director Grzegorz Jarzyna – a key figure in the generation that took Polish theatre by storm in the 1990s – constructed an image of technical staff as little short of subhuman, unwanted baggage left over from Communist times, oppressing young artists open to experimentation:

The institution was my opponent. Matter resisted, and this is how I came closer to what is essential to theatre: people, actors. When you’re under pressure from outside – all these technical departments, bookkeeping, cleaners and the brigade, you look around thinking: who here’s with me?10

An employment tribunal verdict which has recently come into force demonstrates just how managing director Jarzyna set about taming this, allegedly uncongenial, environment. The case concerned the number of hours technical staff at TR Warszawa (where Jarzyna was managing director) were expected to work being significantly in excess of the hourly norms permitted by law. The case was brought by one of the theatre’s sound and lighting technicians who was awarded compensation as a result of the trial. According to the verdict: ‘As new productions were being put on and rehearsals were taking place, technical staff arrived at work around 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning, and left late in the evening (between 10 pm and midnight), or even at night (3 a.m.) and started work at 8 o’clock the following morning.’11

The ambition of the present text is to overcome the unjust stereotype of a craftsperson or technician as a homo sovieticus, backward and hankering after the past. Instead of focusing on what the interviewees lack – the artist status – my interpretation of their statements emphasises assets they bring to theatre: above all, work ethics which depend on teamwork and frugality with materials. Another crucial context is the web of relations established between various human and non-human actors in the production process. According to art historian Suzi Gablik, ‘Whereas the aesthetic perspective oriented us to the making of objects, the ecological perspective connects art to its integrative role in the larger whole and the web of relationships in which art exists’.12 I follow Gablik and my interlocutors in assuming the ecological perspective. At the same time, after Andri Snær Magnason, I try to present ecological facets of the production process as inseparable from social and economic developments.

At the same time, I need to be aware of the perils of romanticizing craft. That romantic approach is partly due to theatres, specifically to their PR departments. In the wake of a new cultural trend manifesting itself in the marketable form of craft beer, craft ice cream or crisps, theatres use the image of a craftsperson as a vehicle for the ‘back to the origins’ utopia (promotional films and photo exhibits depicting the people ‘behind the scenes’13 are but random examples of this). In addition, theatres present workshop staff as their link with the natural world, in that craftspeople ostensibly come into immediate contact with matter. To avoid making a similar mistake, after I have presented findings of this study (largely made up of craftspeople’s critical views of institutions that employ them), I take a step back and offer perspective by placing their remarks within the horizon of expectations: ideal models of theatre which provide my interlocutors with an occluded, selective point of reference. These models frequently take the form of legends, passed on from generation to generation.

Promotional film featuring craftspeople, Arnold Szyfman Polski Theatre in Warsaw.

A non-learning organization

Most of the theatres I visited have undergone major refurbishment in recent years. If, however, those refurbishments did not extend to certain parts of the building, by design, they definitely did not extend to craft workshops. The result is a stark contrast between formal spaces, such as foyers, offices and guest rooms, and the workshops. Thus, before anything else, I asked my interlocutors about their working environment.

For years, the puppet maker A. has been sharing his workshop with a carpenter: ‘I would like to have a bit of room that is dust-free, noise-free. A carpenter sawing or sanding wood makes noise of up to a hundred decibels.’ Asked whether he informed the management of his need for a separate room, A. replies: ‘They told me to wear a mask and headphones for work, but that’s not me. I need to hear the chisel move against the wood, I want to smell the wood. When you carve, you must stay focused, stay in close contact with the matter’.

Costume Workshop at the German Theatre of Warsaw, 1943. Photographer: Jerzy Łuczyński / collection of the National Digital Archive.

If we take this statement as a source of knowledge about manual-labour management in theatre as an institution, it testifies to what sociologist Richard Sennett has described as one of the characteristics of Western civilization: an entrenched difficulty in making a connection between the head and the hand, and ‘recognizing and encouraging the impulse of craftsmanship’.14 To put it more bluntly: according to the respondent, his work is denigrated as one not requiring intellectual skills. The mistake could be easily rectified by means of simple observation and talking to the employee. A. recalls his early days at work, in a theatre managed for years by its founding director: ‘He would come to our workshop every day and ask: “What are you doing?” or “What will be the purpose of this or that?” He knew what we were talking about. These days, management don’t have a clue about our work, and they don’t want to know.’

A. is not alone in this view. Z., a modeller employed in a musical theatre, recalls a situation which shows that administrative staff have hardly any interests in the conditions in craft workshops:

The workshop was mouldy and rat-infested: not only were rats running all over the workshop, but they also made their way to the musicians’ dressing rooms. I made the bookkeeper come down to our workshop, so she could see. This was the first and only time she’d been there. That was when she gave us permission to buy fungicides, and paint for our room. I suggested that we scatter milled rock tiles underneath the floor, to drive the rats away, but the bookkeeper wouldn’t allow that.

For anyone attempting to argue that casual attitudes to the conditions craftspeople work in primarily has to do with inadequate space, and less with the mindset prevalent in managing departments, there is the counterexample of theatre buildings undergoing thorough modernizations and ignoring the needs of craft workshops in that process. In one institution included in this study, the size of workshops has been significantly reduced during refurbishment and reconstruction, to an extent that carpenters working there find it difficult to stay in the room when machines are in operation, as the noise is almost unbearable. What’s more, the room was not fitted with ventilation fans or other safeguards such as anti-skid flooring – though this type of flooring is mandatory in a workshop where power saws are used. How did the architect not make provisions for the necessary equipment? B. offers one answer: ‘I think that’s because people have little idea of what work in theatre is really like. Our manager took part in the consultation, that’s true, but there probably wasn’t enough of it, or it happened too late in the day.’ C., an employee at the same theatre, recalls what was supposed to be a consultation regarding the choice of a new machine:

This guy from the company came over, opened his catalogue and he says: ‘There are two machines, this one is better than the other one, and the other one is not available. Which one do you choose?’ So I stand there like an idiot and say: ‘The one that’s available, no?’

Another institution involved in the study moved to a new building several years ago. This time, workshop space was included in the design. According to workshop manager D.:

The new building is completely unsuited to our needs. The rooms may be interesting from an architect’s point of view, but none of the designers took any interest in the type of work that would be done here. Not a single ventilation fan across the whole floor, not even windows that open; and we’ve got glues and paints here, we spray, sand and polish. Windows were supposed to be replaced by air conditioning, but that’s good for an office, where there are no toxic fumes. Also, the walls between rooms are not insulated properly, and we use machines, so we disturb one another. And the thing that surprised us most was that each of these rooms had one power socket, or none at all!

The accounts of craftspeople substantiate the bitter assessment published by Prof. Jerzy Gumiński, an experienced theatre-technology designer:

I’m afraid we’ve got far too few outstanding designers – in fact, we’ve got far too few average designers. This has paved the way for all manner of pseudo-professionals, with the unfortunate   result that theatres and other arts buildings are often designed by dilettantes. The outcome is not difficult to imagine. The proliferation of sloppy designers is partly due to theatre managers themselves. Managers aren’t always able to defer to professionals who have the skills to offer a solid, honest assessment of designs – and so they often give in to the seemingly sound reasoning of advisers and pseudo-experts.15

D. asked why the management of the institution under consideration did not demand the designs be amended at the planning stage – given that they failed to meet basic health and safety standards – she replies: ‘I was unable to untie that Gordian knot: how did it come to this, why weren’t there any talks between designers, contractors, management and staff. In any case, for a long time we weren’t even sure if workshops would be preserved at all after the move’.

Low participation in the decision-making process by rank-and-file staff prevents many Polish theatres from becoming ‘learning organizations’16 – not because they fail to keep up with trends in management, or because they can’t afford the latest technological innovations, but primarily because they do not take advantage of knowledge available within the organization and essential for self-improvement.

Extinction Debt

In her comment, D. inadvertently touched on an issue fundamental to the ‘top-bottom’ relationship: craftspeople in theatre represent dying professions, providing the administration with a convenient pretext for failing to invest in these members of staff. As the Polish economy switches to the capitalist model, publicly funded theatres in the country, lacking a comprehensive vision of reform,17 make secret, uncoordinated attempts to adjust to requirements of the new post-Fordian system – including fragmenting production and outsourcing tasks to reduce staff. Since the beginning of the political and economic transformation in 1989, theatre management have been inconspicuously closing workshop posts, usually when craftspeople retire. Retired staff members are re-contracted for more demanding projects; some tasks are delegated to craftspeople from other theatres.

Many theatres no longer have a full set of workshops, and in most cases workshop staff numbers have been significantly reduced. Only two institutions included in the study have been able to keep all their workshops and a large number of jobs, thanks to the response from trade unions. However, even those two theatres failed to come up with a way of circumventing the market mechanism that restricts the in-flow of new employees who would fill jobs preserved for the future. In the past, the path into theatre led through private workshops where aspiring craftsmen learned the ropes of their trade – but the 1989 breakthrough, after which markets opened up and Poland was inundated with cheap clothing, brought about the downfall of traditional crafts such as millinery, shoe-making, corsetry and upholstery. Many tertiary schools of handiwork, whose graduates had filled the workshop ranks, were closed for the same reason. Regarding the few professions where institutional forms of education remain in place (secondary art schools, tailoring and electrical vocational schools, tertiary schools for make-up artists and sound producers), while theatres do admit students for unpaid apprenticeships lasting several weeks, few apprentices are willing to stay on, deterred above all by very low pay. Most theatres pay minimum salaries or little more than that. Many institutions have reduced jobs for craftspeople to a part-time basis, which in practice means monthly earnings of 700 zlotys [less than 200 euros].

Staff frustration is exacerbated by ever-widening earnings gaps between craftspeople and artists. The metalworker I. remarks: ‘Almost ninety people working in our theatre earn less than 2,300 zlotys of basic salary a month. A well-known stage designer can get a hundred times as much for a production, so the pay gap is huge’.

A few words of explanation need to be added here: not even the best-known stage designers in Polish theatre are paid as much as I. maintains. It is common knowledge in the theatre world that they are paid up to twenty times the monthly salary of a craftsperson – which is still a substantial disproportion. In his comment, I. was alluding to a specific artist who worked on the production in several capacities – stage design was one of them, and he was to be paid the amount cited for all his tasks. When they speak, craftspeople often resort to allusion: it enables them to point to a problem without naming names, protecting them from being accused of disclosing confidential information and acting to the theatre’s detriment.

Another reason for the lack of applications to work in theatres is their poor organizational culture: an absence of motivating systems, and no support for employees seeking to improve their skills. The acquisition of new skills enabling them to compete on the job market is an investment craftspeople have to make themselves. Given that most can’t afford that investment, after several years they are doomed, as it were, to theatre.

Zofia Mrozowska as Electra and an anonymous lighting technician. Records of a production of J.P. Sartre's THE FLIES, directed by Erwin Axer, set design by Jan Kosiński, National Theatre in Warsaw 1957. Photographer: Edward Hartwig. Collection of the National Digital Archive.

One result of the growing earnings gap and ever-greater disparities in employment forms – a full- or part-time job on one hand, single-job contracts on the other – is the breach in the unified front previously maintained by trade unions with a view to influencing employment politics. In the theatres included in this study, trade-union membership has shrunk as older members of staff retired: there is little interest in joining among newcomers. The fact that trade unions have become overly political (and poised too near the political right18) is usually given as the reason for not joining a union or for terminating membership. Another is that unions have next to no leverage concerning the staff’s working conditions.

The new post-Fordian production model, introduced in Poland after 1989, has hindered trade unions in Western Europe in their attempts to protect workers’ rights since the 1960s. According to economist Renata Pęciak:

The Fordian model of mass production and standardisation of production favoured homogenous pay relationships. Changing the paradigm of production – the result of ever greater competition, not least qualitative and innovative competition – has brought about a substantial pay gap and marked disparities in working conditions. [...] At the same time, fewer jobs were eligible for collective negotiations, and the flexible recruitment system limited staff negotiations, at times excluding them completely from the picture.19

Thus the absence of an organized, shared course of action aimed at saving a workshop is not simply a manifestation of the craftspeople’s passive attitude or the result of ideological division: it is also due to systemic change.

As they began to switch to the post-Fordian system, theatres became burdened with an extinction debt. This ecological term, for the extinction of a species that occurs some time after the factor causing that extinction began to operate, is apposite for describing the extinction dynamics in the craft professions. In nature, the extinction of a species caused by a disruption in the environment such as habitat destruction, climate change or invasive species, may take place up to a century after the new balance has been achieved.20 Although it seems at present that the process of cutting workshop jobs has come to a standstill, cut to the bare minimum, I would be inclined to argue that we are dealing here with a protracted extinction process which has in fact hardly been stopped at all. According to one technical director I interviewed, economic and social disparities between craftspeople will be the next stage in this process. Only a few professionals – the best qualified – will survive on the market as freelancers. The rest will be downgraded from craftspeople to working as stage-design technicians, undertaking small repairs on completed set aspects.

Early signs of this internal stratification are already noticeable, seeming to only lessen the pace of extinction. Theatres which no longer keep their own workshops are the primary source of extra work for craftspeople from other theatres. One could therefore argue that some craftspeople benefit from closing workshops, in that it enhances their position on the free market. One of Poland’s last remaining representatives of a certain theatre trade secures as much as 60 per cent of his monthly income through jobs for theatres in which his profession is no longer present on staff. Similar situations obviously play a role in the disintegration of professional craftspeople as a group: the benefits of being indispensable offer no incentive to work towards improving the situation, as that would mean breeding competition for oneself. And yet, the strategy of striving to become a monopolist might prove short-sighted: once the monopolist retires, that profession will cease to exist in theatre. It is true that the craftsman in question confessed he was looking for a successor so he could pass his work realm on to someone reliable, and maintain the monopoly. Still, there is significant risk that he cannot train a successor in time for retirement – not least because instead of looking for apprentices he spends his time doing extra jobs. One recalls the dog in the manger who keeps goods it does not want to himself so that others can’t benefit.

Two Opportunisms

Despite these early symptoms of internal stratification, raftspeople at theatres in smaller cities remain uniform as a group, both economically and in terms of status. They are a relic of the old, Fordian production model. At the same time, they are affected by implications of converting to the new model. One could therefore say that publicly funded theatres in Poland (and many institutions of the Polish state, for that matter) are hybrids combining features of the old and new production models. The result holds organizational dysfunctions galore. Relations between craftspeople and stage designers are the most glaring example of these dysfunctions.

Stage designer Wincenty Drabik (second from left) at a painter's workshop, 1925. Collection of the National Digital Archive.

Designs are the main field of contention between craftspeople and stage designers, with the latter being mobile freelancers, for the most part, a group peculiar to the post-Fordian model. Almost unanimously, craftspeople bemoan the absence or incompleteness of designs, accusing stage designers of unprofessional behaviour, at times even of plagiarism. Tailor F.: ‘Instead of making a design from scratch, they do copy-paste. They paste the actor’s face, add some dress from a fashion house or from the Internet, and draw an arm or leg as a finishing touch.’ Scenic artist W.:

All young ones do their stuff on computers these days. I understand that a stage designer will take ten things, but make one of their own – I can understand that. They have their own vision, they can look for inspiration. But the worst thing for me is when someone takes a completed thing from a fashion show, one to one. And all they say is: let’s do it in red, not in rainbow colours. To me that’s not a stage designer.

A Ministry of Culture and National Heritage directive from 15 September 2010 concerning health and safety regulation during the organization and staging of performances21 states clearly that, in the planning stages of a production, a stage designer is required to submit designs which include specifications of dimensions and types of materials, as well as descriptions of assembly techniques and of setting up and protecting items of stage decor. Today, theatre management often fail to enforce that rule. The metalworker I.: ‘More than once, an eminent stage designer would come to us with a drawing of a circle, and an arrow inside: that was supposed to be a part of the revolving stage. And then he would complain when things were bigger or smaller than he’d imagined.’

Asked what makes designers disregard or breach the rules of working with theatres, many craftspeople point to stage designers’ excessive workload and their mobility. It’s not unusual for designs to be received by email and discussed over the phone. Few theatres still hold project discussions during which managers of all craft workshops are present. Such discussions used to be compulsory, and enabled workshops to plan their spending on materials. Because designs are absent and the practice of discussing them together nonexistent, stage designers habitually exceed production budgets.

Communication problems resulting in wasting materials are also an issue. Again, the metalworker I.:

It often happens that we need to make alterations because someone got the wrong end of the stick. This costs the theatre a lot of money: our money, public money. To me that’s as if someone threw bread out the window. This would be unthinkable in Western theatres where, if a stage designer exceeds the budget, they pay out of their own pocket.

In the past, many theatres had their own stage-design workshops, mediating between stage designer and craftspeople and ‘translating’ fragmentary stage-design sketches into technical language. Today, workshop supervisors and craftspeople are obliged to adapt a design or to make it from scratch. Craftspeople feel they are being taken advantage of, asking why as part of their low-paid position they should do a stage designer’s job for her, when she is being paid to complete the design. One could reply to this question with another: why don’t craftspeople cite the law from the bill noted above, and demand a completed design? My interviewees agreed that protest in any form would only aggravate their situation: to management, maintaining good relations with the artist is the priority, so refusal to cooperate would be regarded as insubordination and could end in a formal reprimand. The scenic artist J. sums it up: ‘We need to do everything and accept everything in order to survive.’

Here we touch on the issue of ‘structural opportunism’ – the term comes from the curator Kuba Szreder22 – which craftspeople are forced to display when threatened and struggling for survival. This is because another reason craftspeople do not stand up in the face of exploitation is that they are enmeshed in a tacit pact with management, granting them permission to use theatre workshops for side jobs necessary for economic survival (few craftspeople can afford to own or rent a studio). The modeller X. reveals the gist of these pacts:

The people who used to be in charge of our workshop passed this attitude on to me: don’t go crazy, don’t get out of the line you’ve been assigned. Obviously the theatre salary is at the very end, and the [technical director’s] trust, that if you’ve got a job on the side, don’t report it, I trust you to do that job and [your job here], so I can safely put this or that on the table without causing a row. There is consent.

Asked whether he was a trade-union member, X. replied he couldn’t remember: ‘I honestly don’t know. No, I am, but [the fact that I can’t remember] tells you something: I can say that my situation is stable, that so far I didn’t need to ask for help, complain or go to court – but if that happens, it’s good that [the unions] are there.’ ‘That’ did happen to X.’s colleague from the same workshop: he was fired from the theatre by new management, though he was a trade-union board member – indeed, he was fired for that reason. He was only reinstated to his post following a court case, in accordance with the law which grants protection to trade-union members sitting on boards. Despite that, X. claims he is happy with the new management.

Another reason for opportunism is that stage designers play the crucial role of a link between craftspeople and the theatre milieu and the job market. Unlike the artistic department and stagehands, workshop staff seldom tour with the theatre during guest performances or festivals – which means, among other things, that their knowledge of workshops in other theatres is limited. Stage designers, being mobile freelancers, are a valuable source of this information and a potential employer. It pays to have good relations with a stage designer: through her, a craftsperson can be offered an open job at a different theatre, and thus be granted the privilege of mobility which entails being at least temporarily promoted to the ‘creative class’ (to use economist Richard Florida’s term).

Stage designers display uniquely Polish characteristics of that class: they are constantly pressed for time, as their pay does not balance the costs of self-employment and are insufficient to cover health insurance and pension contribution.23 When a stage designer works in several theatres simultaneously (and on sets for commercials and soap operas and photo shoots), one survival strategy is to delegate part of her tasks to craftspeople down the ladder. As an aside, the fact that management ignores the ministerial directive specified above demonstrates that the theatre production model is being subordinated to a work style peculiar to late capitalism – and that this process goes on in secret and outside the bounds of law. This new modus of work – eternally ‘in progress’ - allows a concept rather than the concept’s technical and artistic realization to be presented as proof that a job had been completed. Care and attention to detail are valued less than the ability to adapt swiftly and make low-cost adjustments.

This points us towards stage designers’ second survival strategy: replacing handmade objects with ready-made products bought at online auctions or second-hand shops. A craftsperson is only expected to adjust these products to what is needed on stage. The carpenter M. observes: ‘I get the impression that we do nothing but work on IKEA lately. IKEA pieces come in and we adapt them for the stage. We don’t do anything from scratch.’ W. remarks that the strategies of borrowing forms and ideas result in the decay of aesthetic diversity: ‘People used to go deep into a given kind of theatre, look for new forms of expression within a given convention – not like now, when they have a casual go at everything, and the result’s always the same’.

Given perpetual time shortages, though, this strategy is efficient in that it makes work on a production much quicker. For one thing, the theatre can do without a stage-design project (though it is still required by law); second, talks with technical directors become much shorter; the ‘trial and error’ phase – error being an indispensable feature of prototype stage design, that is, of design made from scratch – also shrinks significantly. It would seem that buying costumes in second-hand shops is at least true to the ecological approach. The shoemaker N. disagrees: ‘A stage designer buys ten pairs of second-hand shoes and tells the actor to try them on afterwards. This way, half of the bought costumes often end up in the warehouse’.

The ecological and social implications of these strategies thus have a corrosive effect on the body of the theatre, resulting in a waste of material and human potential. What’s more, stage design based on IKEA furniture and ready-made mass-produced goods confirms directors of theatres in their belief that they need not invest in their staff when it comes to the latest stage-design production technologies. Craftspeople, for their part, are gradually losing the skills they have acquired over the years. The implications of the stage designer’s work model for the entire ecosystem of theatre counter claims that there is such a thing as the ethos of the creative class – despite the assertion made by creative-class scholar Katarzyna Wojnar that creative professionals are prepared to invest in educating their subcontractors and hold in high regard the dedication and passion of their co-workers.24

While Kuba Szreder isn’t blind to opportunistic behaviour among contemporary artists – the result of being forced to ‘grab every opportunity as long as it helps you survive’25 – he is, in a way, inclined to excuse such behaviour: Szreder describes the readiness of the creative class to make sacrifices for the sake of their projects and ‘work beyond their capabilities’.26 In so doing, he overlooks those on whom the artists’ opportunistic attitude rebounds: their subcontractors. Szreder argues that ‘The more fiercely people working in art are forced to compete with one another, the quicker they adjust to the requirements of institutions, or people who regulate access to opportunities’27 – but is oblivious to the fact that institutions, too, adapt to freelance artists’ requirements by evading regulations and taking advantage of their own staffs. In theatre, the difference between the precarisation of the lowest earners and the self-precarisation of arts professionals – a distinction Szreder mentions – is that stage designers willingly consent to market laws, receiving in return their reputations or visibility. Asked about being forced to do a stage designer’s work, the carpenter K. remarks: ‘When a stage designer gets an award, I often wonder who the award is really for’.

Horizon of Expectations

The majority of craftspeople interviewed for this study hold a very low opinion of the aesthetics of contemporary Polish theatre: they view these aesthetics as derivative, citing as evidence the practice of adapting IKEA furniture, designs that plagiarise photos from fashion magazines, mindless imitation of stage design seen in other theatres regardless of the costs of labour and materials. Asked what kind of theatre appeals to them, craftspeople usually take their own experience of working on a given production as their initial reference point – in other words, they make no distinction between the aesthetics of a production and the production process, which includes interpersonal relations established between them and the other ‘actors’ in that process. In that sense, they don’t regard theatre as an autonomous value.

This is crucial from the point of view of psychology: by stressing that the value of their work depends on production methods, they curb the sense of alienation that is inextricably bound up with their work – work that is extremely low-paid, invisible and held in low regard. This is concurrent with the suggestion of Victor Turner and Richard Schechner that a positive feedback exists between the cultural and organizational aspects of a performance.28 If this aspect of Performance Studies were to be taken seriously, and our attachment wasn’t so strong to the utopian independence of theatre critics in the traditional understanding of the term, we’d be forced to concede that it is craftspeople and other actors in the production process that have the necessary expertise to offer a competent assessment of a theatre production.

Interestingly, one aesthetic-production-relational ideal that theatre craftspeople point to is the theatre of the director and artist Jerzy Grzegorzewski (1939-2005), remembered by my interviewees with great respect both as an artist and as a person. I. recalled:

He would never have drawings – just sketches or a painterly vision. I had to try to sense what he wanted, even though I don’t think he knew it all himself. But unlike stage designers today, he was always there, talking to us. I remember he’d often come over and say: ‘I say, you did it brilliantly, but you know what? Do it all over again because that’s not what I thought’. And you were furious because you’d made an effort and still missed the point. But he said it in a way that still made you feel respected. And besides, I knew I was taking part in a great thing, which would allow me to touch something I’ve never touched before. He was a thoroughly decent man, very emotional about his work.

I. is not alone in remembering Grzegorzewski in this vein; similar remarks go against the grain of the stereotypical image of a craftsperson as a traditionally minded individual in thrall to realism in theatre. On the contrary, most of my interviewees including those who had never worked with Grzegorzewski emphasise that what matters most in theatre is its creational aspect. Asked how she feels about contemporary stage design, Z. replies: ‘Theatre is an illusion. You only need to do enough to produce the right effect, that’s all. The audience needs an inner experience, not an absolute truth’. As for M., she makes this appeal: ‘A plain table – everyone’s got that at home. The world on stage needs to be unreal, like in a fairy tale. Let it be theatrical: strange, artificial, mysterious’.

It would be easy to take these words the wrong way, as a manifestation of escapism or childishness. More revealing is a statement which makes a close link between two models: aesthetic and production-based. M. offers her understanding of the alternative that theatre managers are faced with today:

If you are theatre-minded – you’ve got this vision of the whole and know that the workshop is needed to create a whole world [my emphasis] – you’ll keep the workshop. But if you’re an economist and see people sitting around doing nothing for two weeks because there’s a break in the production cycle – you’ll close the workshops down.

By juxtaposing a ‘theatre-minded’ attitude with the view of ‘an economist’, M. makes a distinction between two kinds of theatre: stage design recycling, or adjusting ready-made products to the requirements of the stage, and theatre as universe, with the work of highly qualified craftspeople at its core.

In defending their own raison d’être, craftspeople make an indirect reference to the theatre model introduced by the artists who inspired the birth of avant-garde theatre in Poland, particularly the director Leon Schiller (1887-1954). Schiller’s practice and theoretical work laid the foundations for an institutional model which included specialist craftsmanship workshops. In an attempt to integrate various means of expression in the 1930s, Schiller came up with the concept of neorealism, seeking to include every segment of his activity in it: monumental theatre, Zeittheater, farce and vaudeville.29 Along with Schiller, stage designers Władysław Daszewski30 and Andrzej Pronaszko also made substantial contributions to the new style, also known as synthetic realism. The work of designers who studied under those two men – Jan Kosiński, Teresa Roszkowska, Irena Lorentowicz, Otto Axer and Zenobiusz Strzelecki – granted the style a dominant position in Poland’s major theatres after 1955 and up to the 1970s. In an article that explores reasons for the proliferation of this style, I wrote:

Unlike the illusionist decorations of 19th-century bourgeois theatre, neorealist theatre proposed a highly original interpretation of a dramatic work. Certain rules were in place (central plan, strict division into stage and audience, respect for the principles of architecture) – but departure from the pattern was permitted in such fields as composition, choice of colour or fabric – all to ensure that the artistic side of things was as true as possible to the represented world. [...] There was no need for the stage designer to abandon the practice of setting her plot in a specific space and specific point in time – at the same time, she ought to strive towards synthetic form, eliminating all redundant descriptiveness.31

Crucially from the point of view of the present text, neorealism determined a specific production model. Because it recognised a variety of styles and conventions, neorealism required craftspeople specialising in different fields to work closely alongside one another, each of them capable of employing a variety of techniques and prepared to go beyond their specific field in order to create a joint, coherent work, in close collaboration with a stage designer whose status at the time was almost equal to that of a director.

Students at the State School for Theatre Technique majoring in decorative painting, in front of their graduation work, 1960s. Collection of Tadeusz Stawicki.

There is scarcely any record of the interdependence of neorealist aesthetics and production models then determining specific forms of employment. What is available amounts to anecdotal evidence, only recorded when the once-powerful trend was already in decline. In 1967, stage designer Jan Kosiński wrote:

Stage design is now past its prime – for there can be no doubt that it did come into its prime, and recently. [...] Inevitably, theatre entered the ‘small stabilization’ phase, several directives came into force and, before we knew it, we are in a situation where nothing matters any more. The directives and the resulting practice have served to further loosen the already feeble ties between the fine artist and theatre, to undermine his position, to axe stage design positions in numerous theatres, to meet the norms and do hack jobs which may have their artistic merit, but are no longer rooted in the production – in fact they are so irrelevant to it that they lose their significance as a contribution to the work.32

Kosiński’s words have a very contemporary ring to them indeed, hinting at the fact that – received opinion notwithstanding – the precarisation of artists and other theatre makers did not begin with the political transformation of 1989, an observation recently (and very lucidly) made by Paweł Płoski.33 A change for the worse in Kosiński’s day in recruitment policy for stage designers (which he mentions) was concurrent with an increasingly hard-line approach by then First Secretary of the Communist Party Władysław Gomułka. The outcome was a turn towards naturalism. As Zenobiusz Strzelecki writes of Polish theatre in the 1970s: ‘once again the rooms have three walls, and even doors leading to the next room (bathroom or lavatory)’.34 Nevertheless, the model proposed by Schiller survived in the form of its legend, passed on to subsequent generations of craftspeople, not least by the elite group of State School for Theatre Technique graduates, where Schiller’s and Wincenty Drabik’s student Irena Lorentowicz was a faculty member. For years, many of these graduates held senior positions in theatre workshops across the country. A mention of the formative role of the State School for Theatre Technique completes the picture: graduates of the school went on to become not just craftspeople, but also actors and directors. Film director Krzysztof Kieślowski, who graduated from the school specialising in decorative painting, owed his acute awareness of craft’s low standing in the exceptionally rigid and hierarchical institution that was theatre, not just to the school, but also to Irena Lorentowicz, who had been his class teacher. These experiences have fed into Kieślowski’s 1975 quasi-documentary Personel [Staff], where Lorentowicz was cast as herself – a stage designer at Wielki Theatre (today the Wielki Theatre-National Opera), an embodiment of the kind of theatre that was becoming a thing of the past in the mid-1970, after the State School for Theatre Technique had been closed by the communist authorities. The daughter of Jan Lorentowicz - friend to the visionary painter and playwright Stanisław Wyspiański, and managing director of several theatres in pre-war Warsaw – Irena, the author of stage design for the 1936 Paris premiere of Harnasie, a ballet by the eminent Polish composer Karol Szymanowski, was thus remembered by another of her students – theatre and film director Maciej Wojtyszko: ‘She was an eccentric, but she was also a great stage designer and a lovely person. She believed theatre must be made from scratch, that it’s always about creating a prototype. She would have been very unhappy to see, say, a shoe that was bought in a shop, rather than handmade by a craftsman. Her theatre was all about creation. Then again, she worked mainly in opera, and back then it wasn’t as it is today, when operas are made hastily, as if in the anteroom.'35

Student Krzysztof Kieślowski at the State School for Theatre Technique sculpture workshop, late 1950s/early 1960s. Collection of Bogdan Kąkol.

I hope that this glance to the past will show with sufficient clarity that criticism levelled by craftspeople at the current production model takes as its point of reference not a utopian figment of the imagination but the actual aesthetic-production model which had been dominant in Poland’s post-war theatre for several decades (particularly in Warsaw). In that model, the artistic effect depended on the involvement of a diverse group of specialist craftspeople and on the stage designer being ‘firmly rooted’ in the production – hence the predominance held today by the director was to a large extent diversified.

The model outlined above must not be dismissed as the product of bygone days: it seems relevant to the demands and practice of at least one contemporary theatre maker, Heiner Goebbels. As evidenced by his productions and writings, Goebbels is opposed to the idea of the director having totalitarian power and in favour of a ‘strong stage designer’ and the autonomy of other co-workers. Goebbels argues that an anti-illusory, stylistically heterogeneous production is the likely outcome of that model – stylistic heterogeneity, for its part, carries a subversive political message: ‘The established hierarchy can only be disrupted if individual plays merge structurally with one another’.36


This study suggests that theatre ecosystems disintegrate and their internal diversity is on the wane. Craftspeople cite several reasons for this: neglect of working conditions; inadequate self-knowledge within the organization; lack of consultation; budget administration which antagonises staff and corrodes trade-union structures; and, finally, a mindless acceleration of the production processes, which leads to a rise in opportunistic behaviour and causes waste of money, materials and human resources. Inner resistance to decisions which deprive craftspeople of fulfilment in the field that is common to all employees around the world – the need to have agency and to be creative – is echoed in their critical comments. And it seems that resistance is well justified.

Asked about the craftspeople’s negative attitude to second-hand costumes, a theatre director bridled: ‘Oh, they’d all like to be artists’.37 The disdainful tone of her comment indicates that, although directors aim to transform theatres into flexible, efficient institutions, they remain the product of former days, when it comes to hierarchy and social relations. As social analyst Katarzyna Abramczuk has rightly pointed out: ‘some psychologists attribute Poland’s low levels of satisfaction with democracy to attitudes of expectation, of taking everything for granted. [...] But analysing these authors makes it clear that satisfaction level are simply a function of how democratic institutions operate.’38 Similarly, the level of criticism among theatre craftspeople may well be directly proportionate to the dysfunctionality of the institution that employs them – however, a more in-depth empirical study would be needed to give substance to such a claim. What is certain is that their criticisms stem from tension between a historically shaped horizon and the quotidian experience of working in institutions – which doesn’t make their criticisms any less significant. Bitterness displayed by craftspeople refers us back to a model of theatre which has been abandoned, and whose preferred aesthetic values sanctioned the existence of craft workshops as a vital element of building a diverse world on stage.

If one sought to verify craftspeople’s views, it would not be enough to confront them with the opinions of managing directors of theatres. As public debate on the future of craft in theatre has shown, institution directors will most likely be inclined to point to the ‘top’ – that is, to blame the state of affairs on the state allocating insufficient funds to the arts and forcing directors to cut jobs.39 If, on the other hand, one were to ask them about specific irregularities in matters on which they have the final say, one may run the risk of exposing (or at least hinting at) the identity of the informant, which may affect that informant’s subsequent relations with her superiors. Thus one would be better off assuming the role of a participating researcher, bearing in mind difficulties this inevitably entails. My experience tells me the presence of a theatre scholar as an evaluator participating in the process can at times be very undesirable indeed.

During the Blue Planet project in Gdańsk, mentioned at the outset of this article, I was assigned additional responsibilities without my consent and chose to renegotiate my contract with the theatre. To my surprise, the management granted my request, presenting me with an appendix to the contract. As it turned out, apart from the clause about additional remuneration, the appendix included a new section obliging me to maintain professional secrecy and:

not to distribute, without the Employer’s consent, in any form, any information available to the Contractor and pertaining to the Employer, which the Contractor will access in the course of carrying out her duties, and which are not intended, by the Employer, for public circulation, both during the course of this Agreement and after its termination.

This had been added without consulting me. I took it as an attempt to preventively censor the future text, an analysis of the rehearsal process to be produced as a result of my collaboration on the project. I suspect that the management feared I would leak information about relations within the theatre. When I refused to sign the appendix in the form presented, the theatre removed the confidentiality clause. Still, censorship took another, more subtle form: though commissioned by the theatre, my text has never been published on their website or made available to any member of the Polish team: actors, craftspeople, stage designer. It has, however, been translated into English, so that Erling Jóhannesson, our Icelandic director, could read it when he returned home and recovered from culture shock...

Translated by Joanna Błachnio


Abramczuk, Katarzyna, ‘Zaufanie do instytucji polskiego państwa’, in Instytucje: konflikty i dysfunkcje, ed. Maria Jarosz (Warsaw: Oficyna Naukowa – Instytut Studiów Politycznych PAN, 2012)

Charmaz, Kathy, Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide Through Qualitative Analysis (London: Sage, 2006)

Cools, Guy and Gielen, Pascal (eds.), The Ethics of Art: Ecological Turns in the performing Arts (Amsterdam: Valiz, 2014)

Gablik, Suzi, The Reenchantment of Art (New York: Thames Hudson, 1992)

Goebbels, Heiner, Przeciw Gesamtkunstwerk, trans. by Anna R. Burzyńska, Sławomir Wojciechowski and Joanna Derdowska,ed. by Lukáš Jiřička, (Kraków: Korporacja Ha!art, 2015)

Gumiński, Jerzy, Przemijają lata, zostają teatry, (Łódź: self-published, 2006)

Kuussaari, Mikko, et al., ‘Extinction Debt: A Challenge for Biodiversity Conservation’, Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24:10, 2009, [accessed on 1 February 2017]

McKenzie, Jon, Perform or Else: From Discipline to Performance (London, New York: Routledge, 2001)

Kosiński, Jan, Kształt teatru (Warsaw: PIW, 1984)

Osterwa, Juliusz, Przez teatr – poza teatr. Wybór pism, eds. Ireneusz Guszpit, Dariusz Kosiński (Kraków: Towarzystwo Naukowe ‘ Societas Vistulana’, 2004)

Pęciak, Renata, ‘Interpretacja fordyzmu i postfordyzmu w teorii regulacji’, Studia i prace Wydziału Nauk Ekonomicznych i Zarządzania, 35.2, 2014

Płoski, Paweł, ‘Albo próby – albo obsada’, in Struktura teatru a struktura spektaklu. Wpływ systemu organizacji instytucji na estetykę przedstawienia w wybranych krajach europejskich, eds. Anna Galas-Kosil, Piotr Olkusz (Warsaw: Instytut Teatralny im. Zbigniewa Raszewskiego, 2016).

Płoski, Paweł,‘Reforma! Reforma!’, delivered at the second congress of the Polish Association for Theatre Studies in Bydgoszcz in 2015. [accessed on 4 February 2017]

Raszewski, Zbigniew, ‘Wstęp’, in Leon Schiller, Teatr ogromny, ed. Zbigniew Raszewski (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1961)

Senge, Peter, ‘The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization’ (New York: Doubleday, 1990)

Sennett, Richard, The Craftsman (New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2008)

Smolarska, Zofia, ‘W służbie teatru-prototypu. Przyczynek do dziejów Państwowego Liceum Techniki Teatralnej’, in Rzemiosło teatru. Etos – profesje – materia, eds. Agata Dąbek, Wanda Świątkowska (Kraków: Teatr Łaźnia Nowa, Księgarnia Akademicka, 2015)

Strzelecki, Zenobiusz, Polska Plastyka Teatralna (Warsaw: PIW, 1963)

Strzelecki, Zenobiusz,Współczesna scenografia polska (Warsaw: Arkady, 1983)

Szreder, Kuba, ‘W obiegu. Strukturalny oportunizm jako sposób urządzenia pracy i życia uczestników artystycznej cyrkulacji’, Czas Kultury, 3, 2016, ‘In Circulation. Structural Opportunism as a Method of Organizing Work and Life of the Participants of Artistic Circulation’, trans. by Justyna Chada [accessed on 12 August 2017]

Wojnar, Katarzyna, Polska klasa kreatywna (Warsaw: Narodowe Centrum Kultury, 2016)

1. Zofia Smolarska, ‘Towards Sustainable Change. Craftsmanship in Polish Puppet Theatres – an Ecosophical Perspective’, in Puppet Theatre in the 21st Century, eds. Karol Suszczyński, Marzenna Wiśniewska (Warsaw: Akademia Teatralna im. A. Zelwerowicza).

2. Dyrektor miniatury nominowany w plebiscycie osobowość roku 2015, [accessed on 3 January 2017].

3. Jóhannesson was founder and for fifteen years managing director of Iceland’s first professional independent theatre, the Hafnarfjörður Theatre, which gained international renown.

4. Thanks are due to the sociologists Prof. Małgorzata Melchior and Błażej Prośniewski, for pointing out similarities between my research methods and grounded-theory methodology.

5. Zofia Smolarska, ‘Uczeni rzemieślnicy’, Teatr 7–8/2015. [accessed on 2 May 2017].

6. Kathy Charmaz, Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide Through Qualitative Analysis (London: Sage, 2006), p. 7.

7. Charmaz, Constructing Grounded Theory, p. 113.

8. Charmaz, Constructing Grounded Theory, p. 113.

9. Juliusz Osterwa, ‘Przemówienie do pracowników technicznych Teatru Letniego’, in Przez teatr – poza teatr. Wybór pism, eds. Ireneusz Guszpit, Dariusz Kosiński (Kraków: Towarzystwo Naukowe ‘Societas Vistulana’, 2004), pp. 98–100.

10. A statement by Grzegorz Jarzyna during the debate ‘Rewolucja? Jaka Rewolucja?’', on 16 January 2017 at the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw, moderated by Roman Pawłowski and Dariusz Kosiński.

11. See Anna Gmiterek-Zabłocka, Znany warszawski teatr nie płacił za nadgodziny. Przegrał w sądzie. Ratusz nic o tym nie wiedział, Tok FM, 4 lipca 2017, accessed on 18 lipca 2017.

12. Suzi Gablik, The Reenchantment of Art (New York: Thames Hudson, 1992), p. 8.

13. See the 'Ludzie Teatru' outdoor exhibition on Royal Łazienki Park in Warsaw, featuring photos of theatre craftspeople and other ‘invisible’ staff members of the Wielki Theatre–National Opera; the film referred to shows the centenary of the Polski Theatre in Warsaw: [accessed on 2 May 2017].

14. Richard Sennett, The Crafsman (New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2008), p. 9.

15. Jerzy Gumiński, Przemijają lata, zostają teatry (Łódź: self-published, 2006), p. 107.

16. Peter Senge’s term. See The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (New York: Doubleday, 1990).

17. Paweł Płoski, ‘Reforma! Reforma!’, a speech to the second congress of the Polish Association for Theatre Studies in Bydgoszcz in 2015, [accessed on 4 February 2017].

18. In 2015, the Solidarity trade union officially announced it would be supporting presidential candidate Andrzej Duda, and many union activists were parliamentary candidates from Duda’s Law and Justice party. In addition, Solidarity joins forces with the Polish nationalist movements in organizing marches and picket lines: for example protests against the climate summit.

19. Renata Pęciak, ‘Interpretacja fordyzmu i postfordyzmu w teorii regulacji’, Studia i Prace Wydziału Nauk Ekonomicznych i Zarządzania, 35:2, 2014, pp. 176–177.

20. Mikko Kuussaari, et al., ‘Extinction Debt: A Challenge for Biodiversity Conservation’, Trends in Ecology Evolution, 24.10, 2009), [accessed on 1 February 2017].

21. Dziennik Ustaw nr 184, poz. 1240 [Polish Journal of Legislation no. 184, item 1240].

22. See Kuba Szreder, ‘W obiegu. Strukturalny oportunizm jako sposób urządzenia pracy i życia uczestników artystycznej cyrkulacji’, Czas Kultury, 3, 2016, English version available: ‘In Circulation. Structural Opportunism as a Method of Organizing Work and Life of the Participants of Artistic Circulation’, trans. by Justyna Chada, [accessed on 12 August 2017].

23. Katarzyna Wojnar, Polska klasa kreatywna (Warsaw: Narodowe Centrum Kultury, 2016), p. 206.

24. Wojnar, Polska klasa, p. 175.

25. Szreder, ‘In Circulation. Structural Opportunism’, p. 20.

26. Szreder, ‘In Circulation. Structural Opportunism’, p. 21.

27. Szreder, ‘In Circulation. Structural Opportunism’, p. 21.

28. See Jon McKenzie, Perform or Else: From Discipline to Performance. (London, New York: Routledge, 2001), p. 91.

29. See Zbigniew Raszewski, ‘Wstęp’, in Leon Schiller, Teatr ogromny, ed. Zbigniew Raszewski (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1961), pp. xiii–xiv.

30. Zenobiusz Strzelecki identifies a 1930 production of Victory by Joseph Conrad (adapted by Schiller, with stage design by Władysław Daszewski, at the Rozmaitości Theatre in Lviv) as the earliest example of neorealist theatre. See Zenobiusz Strzelecki, Polska plastyka teatralna (Warsaw: PIW, 1961), 3, p. 399.

31. Zofia Smolarska, ‘W służbie teatru-prototypu. Przyczynek do dziejów Państwowego Liceum Techniki Teatralnej’, in Rzemiosło teatru. Etos – profesje – materia, eds. Agata Dąbek, Wanda Świątkowska (Kraków: Teatr Łaźnia Nowa, Księgarnia Akademicka, 2015), pp. 57-74.

32. Jan Kosiński, ‘List do redaktora Grenia, czyli De scaenographia nostra nihil bene’, in Jan Kosiński, Kształt teatru (Warsaw: PIW, 1984), pp. 56–57.

33. Paweł Płoski, ‘Albo próby – albo obsada’, in Struktura teatru a struktura spektaklu. Wpływ systemu organizacji instytucji na estetykę przedstawienia w wybranych krajach europejskich, eds. Anna Galas-Kosil, Piotr Olkusz (Warsaw: Instytut Teatralny im. Zbigniewa Raszewskiego, 2016).

34. Zenobiusz Strzelecki, Współczesna scenografia polska (Warsaw: PIW, 1983), p. 14.

35. Director Maciej Wojtyszko in conversation with the author, 16 March 2015.

36. Heiner Goebbels, ‘Przeciw Gesamtkunstwerk. Ku różnicy sztuk’, trans. by Anna R. Burzyńska, in Goebbels, Przeciw Gesamtkunstwerk, ed. by Lukáš Jiřička (Kraków: Korporacja Ha!art, 2015).

37. Private conversation, unrecorded.

38. Katarzyna Abramczuk, ‘Zaufanie do instytucji polskiego państwa’, in Instytucje, konflikty i dysfunkcje, ed. Maria Jarosz (Warsaw: Oficyna Naukowa-Instytut Studiów Politycznych PAN, 2012), p. 275.

39. A statement made during the 2013 panel ‘ROZMOWA NIE-KONTROLOWANA – Pracownie, won z teatru!’, moderated by Olga Byrska at the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw, [accessed on 4 February 2017].

Zofia Smolarska

(1987) graduated from the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw, where she now works as a lecturer at the Department of Theatre Studies. Deputy chair of the Polish Association for Theatre Studies and member of the journal Teatr’s editorial team. Along with the present journal, her articles have appeared in Didaskalia, Dialog, Performer, on, in Svet a Divadlo, Yorick, Rzut, Art & Business and in academic monographs. The participatory aspect of the creative process is among her main interests (practical as well as research). An urban performer and author of urban social projects, she has collaborated with the Rimini Protokoll collective and with Edit Kaldor on participatory theatre projects. She has worked as an assistant for director Erling Jóhannesson. She is working on a doctoral dissertation about the current situation of craft in theatre.