Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Teatralna im. Ludwika Solskiego w Krakowie (The Ludwik Solski State Drama School in Kraków)

an artistic higher education academy created in 1946 as Państwowa Szkoła Dramatyczna (State Drama School) following the closure of three drama studios that had been created in 1945. The first director of the Drama School was Juliusz Osterwa who, however, soon had to resign the post owing to severe health problems. In 1949, the school became a recognised higher education institution and was thus renamed Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Aktorska (State Acting School). In the 1950s, a Department of Directing was created (it functioned until 1962 and was reinstated in 1972) as was a Puppetry Section (which operated between 1954 and 1964, before being re-established in Wrocław in 1972 as a separate campus). In 1955, with the new departments in place, the school was renamed Państowa Wyższa Szkoła Teatralna (PWST; literally State Theatre School but its official title in English is State Drama School). Grotowski was associated with the Kraków school between 1951 and 1956, initially as a student of acting, then as a junior college teacher (from the third year of his studies). Following a break resulting from his trip to Moscow in 1955, he returned to his post as a college teacher and also became a student of directing. The State Acting School, as it was then known, operated in conditions typical of a totalitarian state, where an official monopoly of the socialist realist aesthetic was declared and subsequently protected. In the context of the practice of theatre education, this meant that a simplified and dogmatic interpretation of Stanislavsky’s ‘system’ was dominant and it was treated as an infallible method of psychologically realistic performance. Yet, in spite of the official dominance of socialist realism, the Acting School maintained the best traditions of prewar Polish acting. Members of the teaching staff included many professors who before 1939 had been connected to Reduta (Halina Gallowa and Józef Karbowski among others) or who had collaborated with Osterwa during his period as artistic director in Kraków between 1932 and 1935 (Władysław Woźnik). As was the case in all of the professional Kraków theatres, here too the professionalism and integrity of the acting craft was maintained, having become a recognisable feature of Kraków theatres since the 1870s (the Kraków school, as it was known, created by Stanisław Koźmian and his collaborators). Grotowski passed his entrance exams in September 1951. In the practical part of the exams, held on 6 September, he received one B-grade (for vocals), two C-grades (expression and clarity) and one D-grade (according to the examiners, he had speech defects). In spite of this, he was permitted to take the theoretical exam (7 September) and received an A-grade for his essay titled ‘In what way can the theatre contribute to the building of socialism in Poland?’ Thanks both to this and also the fact that he already possessed a diploma certifying his status as a pioneer of socialist education and labour, he was accepted conditionally as a student. Recalling many years later his time in education and his teachers, Grotowski mentioned Władysław Woźnik, Józef Karbowski, Władysław Krzemiński, Maria Bogurska and Maria Bieńkowska, a singer who led lessons in voice projection. He did not mention, however, Eugeniusz Fulde who tormented Grotowski as a student and claimed that Grotowski would never be of any use as an actor. In providing an overall assessment of the school at the time, Grotowski – while clearly indicating its naive and anachronistic sides, as well as stressing that it promoted an approach to theatre diametrically opposed to his own vision and experiments – admitted that it was ‘a good school thanks to its certain mix of solidity and liberalism, variety and acceptance of unfamiliar things, acceptance of students’ experiments’. These experiments, a way for the students to counter the contents of the official curriculum, were carried out as part of the activities of Studenckie Koło Naukowe (Student Academic Circle). In stories and diaries about this time, Grotowski (who by the third year of his studies was already a college teacher at the school) usually appears as both a reformer full of passion and youthful radicalism as well as a bold experimenter (he was therefore occasionally considered an eccentric and thus mocked). During the fourth year of his studies, in accordance with the curriculum, Grotowski participated in students’ diploma pieces. In a performance of Maxim Gorky’s The Philistines prepared under the supervision of Józef Karbowski (premiere 26 May 1955), Grotowski played Peter, with his work on this role providing the basis for his own theoretical diploma piece titled ‘O konkretności natchnienia’ (On the concreteness of inspiration; June 1955), which contained some of the first traces of the concepts that would be developed in the Laboratory Theatre. Grotowski had earlier assisted Władysław Krzemiński on the highly popular performance of Friedrich Schiller’s Intrigue and Love (premiere 17 January 1955). Years on, he recalled this collaboration fondly and with humour, considering it an encounter with a completely different theatre yet one that should be respected for its professional craftsmanship and its understanding of the audience (Jerzy Grotowski: ‘Do studentów i wykładowców PWST w Krakowie’ [To the students and lecturers at PWST Kraków], Didaskalia: Gazeta Teatralna, 29/1999, p. 2–3). Meanwhile, he assisted with the direction of a third diploma piece – a montage of excerpts from Słowacki’s dramas titled Sceny miłosne [Love scenes]. Grotowski returned to PWST on 1 October 1956 as a student of the Department of Directing while also serving as a college teacher (he assisted Jerzy Kaliszewski as director of Jean Anouilh’s version of Antigone; premiere 12 January 1957). During the 1957/58 academic year, he presented the heads of the School with a proposal for staging his own adaptation of Franz Kafka’s Trial and a version of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s Szewcy (Shoemakers). These proposals were rejected. During that year, Grotowski assisted Jerzy Kreczmar with work on Henri de Montherlant’s Port-Royal (premiere at Teatr Kameralny on 15 December 1957), and also worked with Kaliszewski on Michel de Ghelderode’s play Pantagleize (premiere 29 March 1958, also at Teatr Kameralny) and Halina Gryglaszewska on the diploma performance of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (performed in May and June 1958). He worked independently, however, on the diploma piece of the fourth year students of the PWST Acting Department: a staging of Prosper Mérimée’s A Woman is a Devil (premiere in June 1958). Grotowski received his diploma in directing from PWST on 10 October 1960, while already serving as artistic director of the Theatre of 13 Rows, on the basis of his diploma dissertation, ‘Między teatrem a postawą wobec rzeczywistości’ (Between the theatre and attitude towards reality) and his outline for a version of Aleksander Fredro’s Śluby panieńskie (Maidens’ Vows).


Jerzy Grotowski: Do studentów i wykładowców PWST w Krakowie, przemówienie na rok akademicki 1996/97 z okazji pięćdziesięciolecia PWST w Krakowie spisane z nagrania magnetofonowego (nie sprawdzone przez autora), nagrania dokonano w Pontederze 7 czerwca 1996, „Didaskalia. Gazeta Teatralna” 1999 nr 29 (luty), s. 2–3.

Zbigniew Osiński: Grotowski i jego Laboratorium, Warszawa 1980, s. 17–21 i 26.