Between Encounter and Change of Reality, between Participation and Emancipation: Conversation about Challenges Facing Social Theatre | Adamiecka-Sitek | Polish Theatre Journal

ISSN 2451-2966


Agata Adamiecka-SitekElżbieta DeptaAgnieszka JakimiakMikołaj LewickiTomasz RakowskiAgata SiwiakIgor StokfiszewskiMirosław WlekłyKrzysztof Zarzecki

Between Encounter and Change of Reality, between Participation and Emancipation: Conversation about Challenges Facing Social Theatre

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The discussion that follows was recorded on 28 November 2015 at the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw. The occasion was the conclusion of the ‘Pop-Up’ project prepared by Agata Siwiak and Grzegorz Niziołek – an anti-theatrical installation where often-ephemeral actions took place in a purpose-built tent, located on the campus of the University of Economics in Kraków, in the public space of the city. The project lasted from 17 October to 15 November 2015. An important current presented within its framework involved artistic practices focused on interaction with various communities including Polish Roma (Romville, directed by Elżbieta Depta, performed by Martyna Peszko and others), children from the orphanage in Szamocin (Stay, Stay, directed by Michał Borczuch, performed by Krzysztof Zarzecki and others), and the Polish-Ukrainian community of Volhynia (Swarka, directed by Katarzyna Szyngiera, co-written with Michał Wlekły, performed by Martyna Peszko and others). These productions constitute the starting point for this discussion – with the event in the public space of Kraków entitled Spleen, organized as part of ‘Pop-Up’ by Wiktor Rubin and Jolanta Janiczak.

These works are important to Polish social theatre in recent years. This conversation had the goal of outlining broader perspectives of this current of artistic practice in Poland, therefore along with these ventures the panellists reference the three-year project ‘Wielkopolska: Revolutions’ (developed by Agata Siwiak in villages of western Poland), in which artists mentioned above had taken part, along with Agnieszka Jakimiak, who participated in the discussion and who collaborates with director Weronika Szczawińska. Another endeavour that is discussed is the anthropological-artistic project ‘Prologue’ carried out by the Kolektyw Terenowy (The Field Collective) under the supervision of Tomasz Rakowski in Broniów and Ostałówek, villages in central Poland. The discussion also touches upon Dorota Ogrodzka’s project Brides, produced as part of ‘Prologue’ (see Dorota Ogrodzka’s article in this issue of PTJ). Tomasz Rakowski also cites the action Tears Purchase by visual artists Łukasz Surowiec and Alicja Rogalska, carried out in Lublin as part of activities of the Socially Engaged Art Laboratory ‘Rewiry’, led by Szymon Pietrasiewicz.

These projects, of course, do not exhaust the subject of community-work oriented art or social theatre in Poland at present. The subject is complemented by focuses on other ventures which are discussed in articles published in this issue of Polish Theatre Journal. Meanwhile, problems outlined in this discussion seem to lie at the centre of current reflections on the place of art in emancipatory social activities in Poland; conclusions drawn from it also apply to problems and phenomena discussed in other articles in the present issue, focussed upon productions, actions and performances in the field of social culture.


Agata Adamiecka-Sitek

(1974), graduate in cultural studies from the University of Silesia. Author of the book Teatr i tekst. Inscenizacja w teatrze postmodernistycznym (“Theatre and Text. Staging in Postmodern Theatre”, 2006) as well as several dozen essays and articles published in the magazines Dialog, Didaskalia, Teatr, Notatnik Teatralny and collected volumes. Founder and editor of two publication series – Inna Scena and Nowe Historie – and editor of numerous books on theatre. Recently led the project and was on the editorial board of the first edition of Jerzy Grotowski’s Teksty zebrane (“Collected Texts”). Works at the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute, where she manages academic projects, including a programme of research on Polish theatre from a gender and queer perspective. Research on construction of gender and sexuality in Grotowski’s theatre was also the subject of the semester-long course which she designed in 2011 for the Jerzy Grotowski Institute. Worked with Marta Górnicka on the Chorus of Women project. Teaches at the National Academy of Dramatic Art, as well as gender studies at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences.


Elżbieta Depta

(1987) – student in the fifth year of the Faculty of Drama Directing in PWST National Academy of Theatre Arts. She graduated the psychology programme at the Jagiellonian University. Laureate of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Award for students of art schools, for her outstanding artistic achievements in 2014. Laureate of the Creative Scholarship of the City of Kraków in 2014.  She made her debut as a director in the Polski Theatre in Bydgoszcz, directing the play Romville written by Justyna Pobiedzińska and prepared as part of the ‘Interventions’ programme. It was performed during the POP-UP theatre festival in Kraków. As part of her diploma project, she staged the performance Wojna nie ma w sobie nic z kobiety [War’s Unwomanly Face], based on Svetlana Alexievich's reportage, and was awarded the prize of the channel TVP3 Kielce for directing this performance. Participant in international and Polish theatre festivals, finalist of the Space TR project 2015, laureate of the International Competition on as part of the Photography Week in Kraków 2013. She also develops social initiatives through her theatre. As part of her work for the Association for Roma People ‘Newo Dziwipen’, she conducted theatre and intercultural workshops for Roma children in the Polski Theatre in Bydgoszcz.


Agnieszka Jakimiak

dramatist, playwright and essayist. Graduate of the College of Inter-faculty Individual Studies in the Humanities at the University of Warsaw and a student at the Faculty of Drama Directing of PWST National Academy of Theatre Arts; theatre and film critic, winner of the 1st Prize Award of the Krzysztof Mętrak Competition. Author of dramatic production and texts for performances directed by Weronika Szczawińska: Geniusz w golfie [Genius in a Roll-Neck], Jak być kochaną [How to Be Loved], Re//mix Zamkow: 2 albo 3 rzeczy które o niej wiem [Re//mix of Castles: 2 or 3 Things I Know about Her] and Artyści prowincjonalni [Provincial Artists]. She has also collaborated with directors including Oliver Frljić, Radosław Rychcik and Katarzyna Szyngiera.


Mikołaj Lewicki

graduate of American Studies Centre, University of Warsaw, received his PhD degree from the Faculty of Philosophy and Sociology at the University of Warsaw; the topic of his dissertation was transformation processes from the point of view of the theory of social time; his research interests include studying cultural practices, cultural institutions and relations between social development and culture. For two years he has been involved in the research and seminar programme titled ‘Culture and development in the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw.


Tomasz Rakowski

assistant professor at the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Warsaw, collaborates with the university’s Institute of Polish Culture. Ethnologist, cultural studies scholar, he conducts research in Poland and Mongolia. A doctor and emergency-medicine specialist. Author of Łowcy, zbieracze, praktycy niemocy. Etnografia człowieka zdegradowanego [Hunters, Gatherers, Practitioners of Powerlessness: An Ethnography of  Degraded Man] (2009), for which he received the Józej Tischner Hestia and Znak Award and the Jerzy Giedroyć Award. With his team, he worked on the research and animation projects ‘Prolog Nierozpoznane wymiary rozwoju kulturalnego’ [‘Prologue: The Unrecognized Dimensions of Cultural Developments’] for the Mazovia Institute of Culture (2011), ‘Etnografia, animacja, sztuka’ [‘Ethnography, Animation, Art’] for the National Centre for Culture Poland (2012–2013) and ‘Oddolne tworzenie kultury: etnograficzne badania w działaniu (moduł Działanie w kulturze)’ [‘The Grassroots Approach to Creating Culture: Ethnographic Research in Action (Research Module Action in Culture)’] for the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Warsaw (2014–2015). He is now the leader of two grants from the National Science Centre: ‘Lokalne formy rozwoju Badania nad nowymi formami działań rozwojowych i samoorganizacji społecznej wśród Torgutów z somonu Bułgan w zachodniej Mongolii’ [‘Local Forms of Development: Studies on the New Forms of Development Activities and Social Self-Organisation among the Torghuts from the Sum of Bulgan in West Mongolia’ and  ‘Wyzwania etnografii twórczej. Wypracowanie naukowego warsztatu "badań w działaniu” uchwytującego peryferyjne aktywności twórcze i łączącego perspektywę intensywnych badań antropologicznych z animacją kultury i projektami z zakresu sztuki współczesnej’ [‘Challenges for Creative Ethnography: Towards the Development of the “Research in Action” Tools Recognising Peripheral Creative Activities and Combining the Perspective of Intensive Anthropological Research with Projects from the Area of Contemporary Art’].


Agata Siwiak

(1974), PhD, theatre curator and producer. Graduated in cultural studies and cultural institution management from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. In 2008 and 2009 joint director (with Grzegorz Niziołek) of the Łódź of Four Cultures Festival. Curator of the Trickster 2011 project – the performance programme of the prestigious European Cultural Congress in Wrocław. Teaches a specialisation for theatre curators at the Department of Theatre, Drama a­nd Performances of the Adam Mickiewicz University. In 2012-2014, she was invited by the Wielkopolska Regional Government to curate the 'Wielkopolska: Revolutions' programme.


Igor Stokfiszewski

(1979), activist, dramatist, researcher, participant and initiator of actions in the areas of political and social theatre, community theatre and engaged art. He has collaborated with the Łaźnia Nowa Theater (Nowa Huta, in Kraków), the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards (Pontedera, Italy), with the German collective Rimini Protokoll, and with artists Artur Żmijewski, Paweł Althamer and Katarzyna Górna. In cooperation with directors Wojtek Klemm, Bartosz Szydłowski and Agnieszką Olsten, he has staged performances based on plays by authors including Bertold Brecht, Heiner Müller, Sławomir Mrożek and Olga Tokarczuk. Author of Zwrot polityczny [Political Turn] (2009), co-editor of the collections Jerzy Grotowski – Teksty zebrane [Jerzy Grotowski: Collected Papers] (2012) and Built the City: Perspectives on Commons and Culture (2015). A member of the Political Critique team and an activist in the trade union Workers' Initiative. Since 2013, with Jaśmina Wójcik and others, he has been conducting social and artistic actions in post-industrial spaces of the Warsaw district of Ursus.


Mirosław Wlekły

(1978), reporter for ‘Duży Format’ (Gazeta Wyborcza), graduate of the University of Wrocław and the Polish Reportage School, member of the reporters association ‘Rekolektyw’. Author All inclusive. Raj, w którym seks jest bogiem [All Inclusive: A Paradise in which Every Sex Is a God] nominated for the Beata Pawlak Award, and the e-book Skąd się wziąłeś, FranciszkuReporterska podróż do kraju papieża [Where Did You Come from, Francis? A Reporter's Journey to the Pope's Country]. He has also published in anthologies (Grzech jest kobietą [Sin Is a Woman] NieObcy [NotAlien], Obrażenia. Pobici z Polską [Injuries: Battered with Poland]) and in the international press (including Portugal, Germany and Angola). He is co-author of non-fiction pieces which inspired the staged reading Listy na wolność [Letters for Freedom] (Nowy Theatre in Poznań) and the performance Swarka (Polski Theatre in Bydgoszcz). He is currently working on a reporter's biography of Tonu Halik and another non-fiction performance for the Polski Theatre in Bydgoszcz.


Krzysztof Zarzecki

Theater, film and television actor. He collaborates with theaters: Narodowy Stary Teatr im. H. Modrzejewskiej in Kraków,Teatr Łaźnia Nowa in Kraków, TR Warszawa, Teatr Dramatyczny im. J. Szaniawskiego in Wałbrzych, Teatr Polski in Wrocław.