Theatrical fruits of freedom

by Jacek Cieslak - abstract by Linda Bouws

All of the key national and international theatre festivals in Poland were created and developed as a result of Solidarity’s victory in 1989 and the political transformation thereafter. Today, these events provide Polish theatre with a  dynamic exchange of plays across Europe.

After decades of cooperation, the countries of Eastern Europe have lost contact with each other by shifting their attention to the West from which they had been excluded during the Soviet era.

In 1991 the KONTAKT International Theatre Festival was launched by Krysryna Meissner, the director of the Wilam Horzyca Theatre in Torun. The idea behind KONTAKT was to connect the East with the West: to prevent Poland from losing its chance to see what is most valuable in the theatre of the former Eastern Bloc and to give the Polish audience in Torun a better opportunity to explore the theatre of the former Baltic Soviet republics.

Meisssner’s experience was appreciated in Wroclaw where she had been in charge of the biennial Theatre Festival Dialog since 2001. The name refers tot he thousand-year history of Wroclaw and intercultural dialogue that had been going on in the city variously owned by Poland, Bohemia, Germany and finally regained by Poland.

The theatrical landscape of Wroclaw is supplemented by the Brave festival, wit hits subtitle Culture Against Expulsions, presenting theatrical roots and rituals from the remotest parts of the world. This is how the tradition of Jerzy Grotowski – who used to work in the city years ago- is being completed.

The EU funds have born fruit. Nowadays, the activities of the Polish festivals are being generated by new audiences hungry for new events and critical arts. However, note should be taken of everyday courage and broken historical taboos meeting with protests by the radical right wing promoting a cultural model closed to dialogue.

abstract of the article in Europe for Festival; Festivals for Europe. The Guide 2015-2016