The creation of the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre in 2008 is one the most important events since Poland gained its freedom 25 years ago. The home of GTS is not only the first purpose-built theatre to be completed in our country in the past 40 years, it is also an example of a remarkable partnership (one might say solidarity) between local and regional authorities and a non-governmental organisation – in what we call a cultural partnership. The partnership was came about in 2008 and its founders were the Pomoroskie Voivodeship, Gdańsk City Hall and the Theatrum Gedanense Foundation.
How did a place as exceptional as the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre come to appear on the cultural map of Gdańsk? To answer the question we must look back to the year 1610, the year when, to our best knowledge, a building known as the Fencing School was completed in mediaeval Gdańsk. As well as offering fencing tuition and hosting competitions, the school hosted regular theatrical performances. Its performers included the first professional actors to work in the city. As early as 1646 the Fencing School, expanded to seat nearly 3,000, hosted Gdańsk’s first opera in honour of a visit from Polish queen Lodovica Maria Gonzaga. In 1695 Catherina Velten, widow of German actor Johannes Velten, staged ‘Nero’ by Walenty Meder at the Fencing School, the first opera written in Gdańsk. In 1741 the wooden building was dismantled and roofed and heated Komediahaus (House of Comedy) took its place the, opened to the public in 1774. Gdańsk did not have a second theatre until 25 years later. The City Theatre opened in 1801 in Targ Węglowy (Coal Market Square), the present site of Teatr Wybrzeże.
The history of the site which today is the home of the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre confirms that it has been the cradle of theatre in Gdańsk and a former centre of cultural life of this rich, multicultural city. Archival materials, including maps and etchings, paint a clear picture of the wealthy theatrical tradition of Gdańsk, unequalled throughout the first Polish Republic.
The Theatrum Gedanense Foundation was established in 1991 to rebuild Gdańsk’s Elizabethan theatre. The theatre, which bore a striking resemblance to London’s Fortune Theatre, included many Elizabethan features. The architecture and interior configuration of the Fencing School were ‘Elizabethan’ as was its repertoire, performed by Englishmen. Actors from London playhouses staged plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, presenting the highest standards of acting and staging techniques commonly ascribed to the Elizabethan stage. The aim of the Foundation, continued today by the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre, was not a faithful reconstruction of the historical building of Willer’s etching, but a ‘reconstruction’ of the spirit of the place where, alongside Englishmen, theatrical companies performed from around the world.
The exterior of Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre is clearly an echo of the dominant element of historical Gdańsk: its brick gothic churches. But isn’t this supposed to be the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre? But that was a simple wooden building with no roof. What role did it play in the architect’s vision? To answer that question we need to understand that the exterior view is not the actual ‘theatre’. It is a box for a theatre. A box for a precious object, which in this case is the theatre, which is like a jewel that has been stowed inside. The box has a lid that opens (as does the roof) but its form is not a reference to the theatre from Peter Willer’s etching, but to the genesis of European theatre and the architecture of historic Gdańsk. The brick is also a reference, but its colour sets it apart, it signals that this is not a church. And so on entering we first encounter the box and only later the wooden theatre interior. We realise right away, immediately upon passing the west gate of the exterior wall, that the interior spaces are highly unconventional
In 2001 the Foundation obtained the rights to the land and commissioned archaeological excavations. The fragments of the former theatre uncovered by Dr Marcin Gawlicki in 2004 pointed the way for the design of the new building which was to occupy this historical space and gave the project a new dimension: it was to become part of the cultural heritage of the city. In 2004 an international architectural competition was announced under the patronage of culture minister Waldemar Dąbrowski. The Foundation gave the final decision to an independent, international panel of experts headed by Polish architect Stanisław Deńko. The results were announced in January 2005: the panel’s unanimous decision was that the best and most original design was that of professor Renato Rizzi of Venice.
Specialists in the history of Polish theatre see the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre as the oldest material relic of a public theatre and one of immeasurable value. The theatre symbolically rises from the foundations of its predecessor but is functionally and architecturally grounded in the 21st century.
The Grotowski Institute is a municipal cultural institution which combines artistic and research projects responding to the challenges laid down by the creative practice of Jerzy Grotowski as well as documenting and spreading knowledge about his achievements.
The primary venue of the Grotowski Institute is the historical home of the Laboratory Theatre in Przejście Żelaźnicze in Wrocław’s Market Square (Rynek). The Archive of the Grotowski Institute and the Laboratory Theatre Space, Ludwik Flaszen Reading Room, Office and CaféTHEA are located here. Na Grobli Studio opened in April 2010 at 30/32 Na Grobli Street, in the former home of the Wratislavia Rowing Association. Brzezinka, the forest base of the Grotowski Institute, is an isolated building near the village of Brzezinka, close to Oleśnica, 40 kilometres from Wrocław. In April 2019, a new space, the Bakery, opened at 62–70 Księcia Witolda Street. This professionally set-up theatre studio space houses the Centre for Performing Arts.
The headquarters and primary venue of the Grotowski Institute is a historical home of the Laboratory Theatre in Przejście Żelaźnicze in Wrocław’s Market Square. There, the premiere of The Constant Prince (25th April, 1965) and the official premiere of Apocalypsis cum figuris (11th February, 1969) took place. Now it serves mainly as a base for the archival and documentation unit, as well as for the corresponding research activities, guest lectures, conferences on recent theatrical publications, and seminars. The Laboratory Theatre Space, Ludwik Flaszen Reading Room, and the Archiveof the Grotowski Instituteare located here. Since 2012, Przejście Żelaźnicze has also been home to CaféTHEA , which presents an independent programme of events, including talks for the general public, discussion panels, conferences and exhibitions.
Na Grobli Studio
Na Grobli Studio opened in April 2010 at 30/32 Na Grobli Street, in the former home of the Wratislavia Rowing Association. It houses the Studio Space, four rehearsal rooms, guest rooms and the riverside Summer Stage.
Brzezinkathe forest base of the Grotowski Institute, is an isolated building near the village of Brzezinka, close to Oleśnica, 46 kilometres from Wrocław. From 1971 to 1981 it was home to Grotowski’s Paratheatre and Theatre of Sources work. It is mainly used as a workshop space.
Bakery | Centre for Performing Arts
Located in the former building of the garrison bakery in Kępa Mieszczańska at 62‒70 Księcia Witolda Street, the Bakery houses the Centre for Performing Arts, set up at the instigation of the Grotowski Institute. The 600-square-metre studio space is well-served with professional theatre lighting, sound, multimedia and stage systems, including advanced video mapping equipment. In addition there is a 140-square-metre foyer area. With up to 400 seats, the versatile auditorium allows for multiple seating configurations so that up to three events, such as theatre performances, concerts (of classical music, jazz, etc.), conferences, lectures and industry events, can happen at the same time.
The Institute of Film, Media and Audiovisual Arts AMU and the Institute of Theatre and Media Art AMUhttp://international.amu.edu.pl/
Brief history of AMU goes back to the 16th century when in 1519 a Roman-Catholic Bishop Jan Lubrański founded the first of its kind Academy which back then boasted the status of a higher learning institution.
Shortly after, another institution of higher learning was established in Poznań, namely – the Jesuit College (1573) and it continued the academic traditions of its predecessor. The first rector of the Jesuit College – rev.Jakub Wujek – was the first scholar to translate the Bible into Polish.
On October 28th, 1611, King Sigismund III Vasa granted the Jesuit College the status of the first University-type school in Poznań.
The privilege was confirmed by king John III Sobieski and the university in Poznan lasted until 1773.
In the turbulent years of Polish history to follow, science and higher education have always been in one form or another vibrant in Poznań, until the present. Key role in that process was played by the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences which carried the academic legacy forward during the time of the Polish Partitions period all the way to the official re-establishment of a proper University of Poznan, following the end of the First World War, in 1919.
Ever since, the University of Poznań had flourished and it was only once more forced to go underground and provide its services in conspiracy during the Second World War under the name of a clandestine University of the Western Lands (1940-1944). Despite the Nazi German occupation it managed to educate and produce over 2,000 graduates with the help of some 300 academic teachers, risking their lives by offering university courses in Polish which was made illegal during the war.
In 2019 Adam Mickiewicz University celebrates it’s 100th Anniversary together with 3 other schools which were created as the result of splitting the University of Poznan into four independent higher educational institutions: Adam Mickiewicz University (AMU), Poznan University of Medical Sciences (PUMS), Poznań University of Life Sciences (PULS) and Poznań University of Physical Education (PUPE).