Theatre and opera director, head and artistic director of TR Warszawa (Teatr Rozmaitości). Born in Chorzów on the 4/02/1968. Grzegorz Jarzyna studied philosophy at the Jagiellonian University, and also attended the Pontifical University of John Paul II in Kraków.
Table of contents: Debut | The young, more gifted of the Polish theatre | Re-interpretations of classical texts | Staging contemporary texts | TR Warszawa projects | Opera directing | Performances at festivals | Collaborations and TR co-productions | International recognition | Jarzyna's movie theatre: Other Woman
In 1993, he began his studies in the Drama Department at the Ludwik Solski State Drama School in Kraków. Since 1998, he is the artistic director of TR Warszawa (previously theTeatr Rozmaitości / Variety Theatre in Warsaw). Between 1998-2005, he was the theatre's artistic director, and since 2006, along with artistic director he is also the institution's head director. Over the years, Jarzyna was able to create one of the most progressive theatre stages in Warsaw, which has often been described as one of the most interesting in all of Poland. Starting in 1998 up until now he has worked as an art director at the TR Warsaw (earlier Teatr Rozmaitości) and between 2006-2012 he was the leading director of the said theatre.
In Drama School, he studied under Krystian Lupa, and was his assistant during the production of Hermann Broch's Lunatycy. Esch, czyli anarchia (Lunatics - Esch, or Anarchy) at the Stary Teatr (Old Theatre) in Krakow (1995). The performance was also Jarzyna's diploma piece.
The young and up and coming artist debut was the production of Bzik tropikalny (The Tropical Craze), based on Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz's Mister Price and Nowe wyzwolenie (New Liberation). The piece opened at Warsaw's Rozmaitości (1997), and the director appeared on the bill under the pseudonym: Grzegorz Horst d'Albertis. Signing his name under a different name became Jarzyna's practice, thus suggesting in this way the director's inclination to transform his creative persona with every project. The energetic and dynamic Bzik Tropikalny was one of the most renown theatrical debuts in Poland.
The performance takes the spectator into the absurd and grotesque, offering authentic despair and metaphysical unrest, described Piotr Gruszczyński. - Tygodnik Powszechny, 2 March 1997.
Jarzyna added a contemporary feature to Witkacy's drama, something that touched upon today's perplexity on the notion of existence.
Horst is not interested in clear articulation of meanings, he is more interested in what constitutes a 'transparent form' and that which creates an ambiguous and disturbing aura, noted Jarosław Kisieliński. The production's actual protagonist is 'the craze' itself, a slow manifestation of a collective madness, which at first (in line with the word's own connontation) is somewhat frivolous, almost operetta-like, to then, in the scene's from 'The New Deliverance' and the finale, reach the realm of an authentic insanity. - Teatr, Nr 4, 1997.
Krystian Lupa, the director's teacher, said that the production unveils the darker energy of a new primitivism, a new primordial energy that is now closed in a contemporary human-being
- Didaskalia, Nr 18, 1997.
In 1997, Jarzyna (as Horst Leszczuk) directed Witold Gombrowicz's Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda (Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy) at the Stary Teatr (Old Theatre) in Krakow. Not unlike Bzik Tropikalny, the production also became the embodiment of the grotesque. In this piece, Jarzyna
first and foremost manifests the distinctiveness of a stage reality, a reality that does not imitate any other, it does not represent realism or life's demeanor, writes Piotr Gruszczyński. His work has its own mystery confined within a defective cosmos of scenes, like a pip in a fruit's pulp within an undefined structure. And it is this mystery, almost like a puzzle that gives the stage actions it's impulses. The production's second characteristic feature is Jarzyna's use of signs and symbols taken from mass culture. Here, the culture's stereotypes and reflections of everyday schemes come face to face with the terror of the unknown and thus reveal their grotesque countenance.
- Piotr Gruszczyński, Ojcobójcy. Młodsi zdolniejsi w teatrze polskim / Patricide. The young, more gifted of the Polish theater, Warsaw, 2003.
Jarzyna has also realised another of Gombrowicz's works for Teatr Telewizji / Television Theatre (1999), scrupulously interpreting Historia (History), the author's unfinished drama from 1951.
In 1998, the director (as Brokenhorst) began work on a contemporary drama titled Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love by the Canadian writer Brad Fraser. Opening in Warsaw's Teatr Dramatyczny (Dramatic Theatre), the piece explored humanity's loss within a consumer society, where interpersonal bonds disappear.
In his (Fraser's) dialogues, I discovered something real, explains the director, not unlike Witkacy or Gombrowicz, where you see that someone describes themselves not in order to impress, but in order to expose oneself. He is not interested in creating a form, but on expelling that which hurts.
- Piotr Gruszczyński, Ojcobójcy. Młodsi zdolniejsi w teatrze polskim / Patricide. The young, more gifted of the Polish theater, Warsaw, 2003.
With Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda and Historia, Jarzyna confronted the re-interpretation of a classical text within a contemporary spirit. He continued in this direction with the production of Magnetyzm serca (Magnetism of the Heart), an Aleksander Fredro text, shown at Rozmaitości Theatre in Warsaw (dir. Sylwia Torsh, 1999). With a slightly ironic tone, the performance revealed the nature of love subordinated under new forms and conventions. The piece became a journey in time. The first act taking place within the realities of the nineteenth century, whilst the last scenes spoke of a more contemporary reality.
The show was described as disquieting and defiant. A luscious costume drama, where the problem of love, clearly marked by a sense of eroticism, penetrates through the dialogue's rhymes of the epoch. Despite the costumes of this or other epochs, what is left is the timelessness of the love relationship. Janusz R. Kowalczyk suggested that
the director clearly shows whether the quality of these types of relationships has changed. Jarzyna's piece is interesting in that it proposes that behind the faith in the image of our epoch, there isn't always a sense of approval for the habits that it possesses. In effect, the surge of irritation that accompanies this performance is almost purifying.- Rzeczpospolita, 16 March 1999.
Jarzyna has also prepared two stage adaptations of prose. In 1999, in co-operation with Berlin's Hebbel-Theatre, he directed Tomasz Mann's Doctor Faustus (adaptation and direction by Das Gemuse) in Wrocław's Teatr Polski (Polish Theatre). The piece was specially created for the Berlin 'Theater der Welt' festival. Later in 2000, Książe Myszkin (Prince Myshkin, Teatr Rozmaitości in Warsaw, adaptation and direction by Mikołaj Warianow) based on Fiodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot was shown.
After theatrical adaptions of great prose, Jarzyna returned to work on contemporary texts. At Warsaw's Rozmaitości, he directed Thomas Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov's Festen (2001). The stage adaptation was based on the script of a film version of the story realised by the famous Dogma group in 1998.
The story of a family feast, during which the family’s hidden secrets come to light in all their atrocity, becomes a grim and authentic vivisection of a human psyche - at the bottom of which lay sleeping monsters waiting to emerge described Tomasz Mościcki.
- Życie, 8 June 2001.
A story about lies and the need to speak the truth which has a purifying effect, Jarzyna played out interestingly by bring out the meaning behind a family ritual.
I believe that 'Festen' has the possibility of highlighting several important social issues. It strikes at hypocrisy and hidden evil. It possesses the power to show us that Polish family structures are fractured, explains the director. Another thing that interests me in this text is the title 'celebration' ... this celebration is a giant clock.... a mechanism, that just cannot stop.
- Gazeta Wyborcza, 21-22 April 2001.
Jarzyna's next performance: 4.48 Psychosis, based on a play by british playwright Sara Kane, was created in co-production between Teatr Rozmaitości and Teatr Polski (Polish Theatre) in Poznań. This shocking story of a girl who inescapably, consciously and deliberately declines towards suicide, Jarzyna realised in an almost ascetic manner, placing particular attention on the poetic quality of the text. The staging was a success around the world, gracing the Edinburgh and Hong Kong theatre festivals over the years.
This is not about an interpretational game with literature, acting virtuosity, effective lighting, or crossing habitual borders, noted Roman Pawłowski. Its about facing human tragedy, shown without unnecessary ornaments, in one to one scale. The actors don't come out for applause after the show. Why would they? To get rewarded for somebody's pain and misfortune?.
- Gazeta Wyborcza, 25 February 2002.
Jarzyna's subsequent performances were created as part of the TR Warszawa project: Teren Warszawa. Here the director co-operated with a group of young writers, actors and directors. During the 2003/2004 season, the theatre housed a playwriting studio, as well as, an acting atelier. Participants of the project later showed eleven moving performances based on contemporary dramas. The pieces were presented in off-beat spaces, newly adopted for the purpose of the project. The essential part of the endeavor was to uncover new performance spaces, areas that would give birth to a fresh theatre that touch the problems of people 'here and now'. At this time, Jarzyna directed Zaryzykuj Wszystko / Risk Everything written by the contemporary Canadian playwright, George F. Walker (2003). The piece was maintained within a raw poetic style that the creator calls 'realness' and was performed at Warsaw's Central Station. A very interestingly performed piece with a gangster motif in the background. The piece looked at a group of four lost individuals, whose family connections and complicated emotional relations balanced on a border of comedy and drama. Jarzyna's next piece took on a somewhat different tone. Based on Neil LaBute's Bash (2004), and shown in an old printing factory, the performance showed three separate monologues/confessions of individuals responsible for death. The piece was played out simultaneously in three rooms, and the confessions took on a public exhibition, not unlike seen on a day-time television program.
Since 2005, Jarzyna runs the TR/PL project. It's aim is to examine dramatic forms for contemporary Poland, and it encompasses both playwrights and directors. As part of the project, five new pieces were shown, and the theatre published an anthology of the texts titled: TR/PL. Antologia nowego dramatu polskiego (TR/PL. Anthology of Contemporary Polish Plays, Warsaw, 2006).
In 2005, Jarzyna also took on the work of Shakespeare, and prepared a piece titled: 2007: Macbeth. The piece was played out within the context of a Middle East war, and the action took place over four levels of the abandoned Waryński's Factory in Warsaw. In 2006, a television version of the piece was made. Following showings of the performance in New York in 2007, The Village Voice has attributed to Jarzyna and TR Warszawa 'the best international theater New York still needs to see'.
Soon after, Jarzyna also debuted as an opera director. In 2005, he prepared Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Cosi fan tutte in the Teatr Wielki (Great Theatre) in Poznań. The action was once again played out within a contemporary context. The piece explored sexuality and was an attempt to speak about the nature of love and emotional emptiness within a framework of different styles and conventions. During the production, a documentary film was also made about the director. In the film titled: Zajarzyć Jarzynę (Mr. Veggie Dig'im) by Rafał Jerzak and Sławomir Moraczyński (2006), the artist speaks about his private life, his take on theatre and fascination with opera. The opera convention was also explored in his next piece based on Mozart's Don Giovanni and Molier's Don Juan (2006, Teatr Wielki (Great Theatre - National Opera in Warsaw). The performance of Giovanni was a combination of opera and theatre, and the piece was mostly performed by dramatic actors. Jarzyna sketched a portrait of a modern womaniser - alone, rich middle-aged man, aesthetician and lover of classical music, liberated, brutal, empty and disenchanted with life. The director is also the author of the libretto based on Witold Gombrowicz's drama for the Zygmund Krauze's Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda opera. The piece, directed by Kreuze and Jarzyna, premiered in 2004 at the Theatre Sylvia Monfort in Paris, and the Polish premiere, directed by Mark Weiss-Grzesiński was prepared in the Great Theatre - National Opera in Warsaw (2007, and earlier in 2006 the opera was shown for the first time as part of the International Festival of Contemporary Music Warszawska Jesień / Warsaw Autumn).
Jarzyna's performances were also shown abroad. Książe Myszkin was shown at the Avinion festival. Festen appeared at Avinion as part of the Wiener Festwochen at the Hebbel Theatre in Berlin. The piece was also later shown at Sadler's Wells in London, the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and in Jerusalem. Zaryzykuj Wszystko was invited to New York's St.Ann's Warehouse in Brooklin. On several occasions, Jarzyna has run projects outside of Poland. Together with the Polish premiere of 4.48 Psychosis, an alternative version of Sara Kane's piece was also created at the Schauspielhaus in Dusseldorf (2002). In 2003, the director prepared a version of Bertol Brecht's W dżungli miast (In the Jungle of the Cities) at Berlin's Schaubuhne. The piece considered the state of contemporary sexuality and it's illness, as well as, the degradation of the social system. In 2006, on the Kasino stage at Vienna's Burgtheater, Jarzyna presented Projekt. Medea for which he recieved the prestigious Austrian theatre Nestroy Preise award. In this piece, the director presented an original version of the myth. The script was written in collaboration with the playwright Michał Walczak. The action of the play takes place in modern Vienna between a Georgian woman (Medea) and a German man (Jazon). On the stage we experience the collapse of their relationship, betrayal and crime.
I am fascinated by the moment, says Jarzyna whilst working on the project, when the self-preservation instinct capitulates before aggression that also flows from within us. Death, or more precisely crime is a particular 'deadline' that changes the perspective, and forces us to ask the question up to what stage is a person free in their choices. This was my major question to Medea.
- Dziennik, 8 October 2007.
The performance received enthusiastic reviews.
Fascinating, suggestive images inspire the imagination, wrote Eva Maria Klinger about the piece. One of its advantages is that you don't need to explain the plot. Behind the laconic sentences there are hidden horrors: betrayal, infanticide, utter destruction.
- Wiener Zeitung, 2 October 2007 - www.e-teatr.pl.
In 2007, Jarzyna also collaborated with the Burgtheater on another production based on James Goldman's The Lion in Winter. The text was based on the life of Henry II, an English king from XII century who reigns the country and his family. In this piece, Jarzyna created a cruel psychological thriller played out in a modern exclusive apartment amongst tycoons. He showed the struggle for power, love and sex lined with cruelty.
At the center of his directing notes there are always inter-personal constellations, suspicious rituals and decadent visions of collectivity, remarked Łukasz Drewniak. Instead of God, Jarzyna presents us with a mystery. Instead of our real world, we see our imaginary visions, 'sketches' of dream ravings and alcoholic delusions. His performances are often a mixture of exploding hedonistic enthusiasm and ecstatic destruction, stimulated new experiences and weariness due to fast moving development.
- Przekrój, 21 September 2006.
The Polish director takes on Passolini's concept as his own, and becomes like Passolini who often spoke about the devaluation of words within our contemporary culture and signaled the value of silence, notes Jacek Kopciński, and at the same time he mimics his (Passolini's) poetic style, consciously strengthening thus the conventionality of the theatrical message. As a result, his performance becomes even more allegoric than the master's own film.
- Teatr, 2/2009.
The piece has been shown in Wellington, Dublin, London, Belgrade and at the UCLA Live festival in Los Angeles. In addition, Jarzyna received his second Konrad Swinarski prize for T.E.O.R.E.M.A.T. (2009; ten years earlier he received the award for his work on Gombrowicz's Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda and the Brad Fraser play).
In his next work, the director thought about the Polish reality, it’s national identity, complexes and aspirations. Over 2009, Jarzyna prepared a stage interpretation of Dorota Masłowska's Między nami dobrze jest (No Matter How Hard We Tried, co-production with the Berlin Schaubuhne am Lehniner Platz). The piece, which in certain moments looks almost like a comic farce, reveals serious tones without losing any of Masłowska's original use of language. Four years after its premiere on the TR Warszawa stage, Jarzyna directed a film version of the play.
Recently, the director has returned to Antiquity.
After 'Medea' at the Vienna Burghtheater, I felt unfulfilled, said the director, for me, the tragedies of the antiquity hold within themselves an unlimited range of themes that continue to resonate in our contemporary culture today. They contain, the archetypes of our attitudes and our behaviors, which have not changed over shifts in time, religion and civilizations. That’s why I don't want to leave antiquity. I want to explore it further.
- Rzeczpospolita, 21 December 2010.
In 2010, Jarzyna directed Areteira at the Schauspiel Essen (co-production with TR Warszawa; the piece was created as part of the Odyseja Europa (Europe Odyssey) taking place in the Ruhr region - 2010 European Capital of Culture). The performance was inspired by Homer's Odyssey and Stanisław Wyspiański's Powrót Odysa (Return of Odysseus), and explores Odysseus' relationship with his father and son. But foremost, it touches upon the religious aspect of an individual's life.
The theme of suffering and the inevitability of destiny are also conveyed by Jarzyna in his other brilliantly acted work based on Jean Racine's Phaedra prepared at the Amsterdam Toneelgroep (2010). The director's return to opera has also been marked as a success. At the Munich Beyerische Staatsoper, Jarzyna has prepared two single-act pieces: Maurice Ravel's The child and the Spells and Alexander Zemlinsky's The Dwarf (2011). Here, by playing with theatrical magic, he created a fairy-tale about the possibilities of the imagination.
His production holds within itself the air of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and not unlike the character's of the Bard's own comedy, there is a call to the audience to submit to the magic. And maybe then they will become, just for a moment, someone else, remarked Jacek Marczyński. Jarzyna is however not an idealist. He knows that dreams can end tragically, and that's what the second part represents. Also a fairy-tale, this time however, the subsequent experience is definitely more cruel.
- Rzeczpospolita, 1 March 2011.
In 2011 Jarzyna directed a production of Nosferatu, a theatrical exploration of humanity's fascination with fear and transgression, the transcendence of norms and limits, taboos and the body itself. The show premiered at the National Theatre in Warsaw in November, 2011. It continued its run in 2012 on the TR Warszawa stage and also enjoyed showings at London's Barbican in the autumn of 2012, and an Australian premiere at the Adelaide Festival in 2013.
In April 2012, Jarzyna's staging of Festen travelled to St.Anne's Warehouse theatre in New York City, after eight years of persistent efforts on behalf of the theatre's director Susan Feldman. Chief NYT Theatre Critic Ben Brantley likens Jarzyna's directorial approach to that of Hitchcock and Kubrik writing that the director "builds up and stresses tension and intensity, brings scenes into crescendo and then makes them crash just before climax, how he contrasts mass scenes with portraits".
In the summer of 2012, Grzegorz Jarzyna's performance 2008: Macbeth opened the Edinburgh International Festival as the first Polish production to begin the event to date. In Jarzyna's vision, military commander Macbeth unleashes a nightmare of carnage and destruction. With spectacular pyrotechnics, immersive video effects and an extraordinary, layered soundscape that plays tricks on the ear, Shakespeare’s web of politics, ambition and the supernatural is transformed into a contemporary, and highly physical, theatrical film.
Another of Grzegorz Jarzyna’s theatre productions which strongly refers to film is Other Woman, based on the screenplay to John Cassavetes’s Opening Night released in 1977. It is also the director’s commentary on the financial troubles of the Warsaw scene: - The subject of the play stems precisely from what has been happening to me, to us, for the last year - said Grzegorz Jarzyna in an interview for Newsweek.
I was constantly talking a lot about this place. The theatre was thoroughly scrutinised by a number of financial commissions. There was a time when officials and inspectors relentlessly occupied the site. We felt as transparent as glass. I thought that this transparency of the theatre could become an artistic asset. It will allow us to look inside the theatre and behind the scenes.
The creators of the Warsaw performance evoke the words of the Broadway actress played by Danuta Stenka: "Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone needs to be loved. The entire world. Everybody wants to be loved. When I was 18 years old, I could do anything. It was so easy. All my emotions were on the surface. Now it is getting harder and harder to communicate with people." In an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza Jarzyna comments:
Most people have encountered that proverbial wall, that point from which it seems that there is no way out. You build your career, you organize your life according to a comfortable scheme, while killing your genuine emotions. Victoria Gordon – the protagonist of our play - devoted her life to the theatre. She is a great actress for whom theatre is everything. She lives in a huge, empty apartment at a hotel. She consciously decided not to have family, children, husband in order to focus on what's most important to her, on what she is really good at. And it became a trap for her. She has devoted herself to these ovations, to that applause, to all those moments of happiness, a kind of mutual understanding with people in the audience who she does not know. She feels nothing – she repeats that many times. She doesn't feel her partner, love, kisses. She lost contact with other human beings. She wants to overcome that, she wants to break out of this.
The cast of the play includes Maria Maj, Agnieszka Podsiadlik, Danuta Stenka, Danuta Szaflarska/ Tomasz Tyndyk, Justyna Wasilewska, Jan Dravnel, Roman Gancarczyk, Rafał Maćkowiak, Dawid Ogrodnik, Lech Łotocki, Sebastian Pawlak, and Adam Woronowicz.
In 2015 Jarzyna staged Martyrs at TR Warszawa. The play was based on a drama by Marius von Mayenburg Märtyrer. In the times when people fear the Others who can ruin their values and believes, in the times when people fear radicals who want to control the lives of individuals and in the time when people fear economic crisis, Jarzyna's characters are turning towards the principles of faith that shortly become dogmatism. Jacek Wakar wrote in his review for Dziennik Gazeta Prawna Daily:
After watching Martyrs I am convinved that Jarzyna today has no use of any labels. It does not matter if anyone finds traces of a troublemaker he used to be, or on the contrary – calls him a modern classic, or defines him as conservative. Jarzyna follows his own path, more than ever resistant to external whispers or ideological attacks.
Witold Mrozek wrote:
Lidka from TR Warszawa has more of a mystic than of a crusade warrior. We watch her during her long and vivid prayers. Wasilewskia, one of the most interesting actresses of the young generation, with her subtle, but at the same time strong and intensive stage presence, looks like a saint on a gothic painting. Her role is much alike characters from Bruno Dumont's films. In his Hadewijch (2009), a girl from a cold, bourgeois family, is looking for God in a monastery, to finally join Islamic fighters. (Gazeta Wyborcza Daily, 18.03.2015)
Author: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, February 2004; updated in September 2016 (ND).
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