The true masters of the theater are most easily found far from the stage. And they generally have no interest in theater as a machine for replicating conventions and reproducing clichés. They search out the pulsing source, the living currents that tend to bypass performance halls and the throngs of people bent on copying some world or another. We copy instead of create worlds that are focused or even reliant on debate with an audience, on emotions that swell below the surface. And actually there is nothing that can reveal hidden passions better than the theater.
Most often I turn to prose for guidance. Day in and day out I find myself thinking about writers who nearly one hundred years ago described prophetically but also restrainedly the decline of the European gods, the twilight that plunged our civilization into a darkness that has yet to be illumined. I am thinking of Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann and Marcel Proust. Today I would also count John Maxwell Coetzee among that group of prophets.
Their common sense of the inevitable end of the world—not of the planet but of the model of human relations—and of social order and upheaval, is poignantly current for us here and now. For us who live after the end of the world. Who live in the face of crimes and conflicts that daily flare in new places faster even than the ubiquitous media can keep up. These fires quickly grow boring and vanish from the press reports, never to return. And we feel helpless, horrified and hemmed in. We are no longer able to build towers, and the walls we stubbornly construct do not protect us from anything—on the contrary, they themselves demand protection and care that consumes a great part of our life energy. We no longer have the strength to try and glimpse what lies beyond the gate, behind the wall. And that’s exactly why theater should exist and where it should seek its strength. To peek inside where looking is forbidden.
“The legend seeks to explain what cannot be explained. Because it is grounded in truth, it must end in the inexplicable”—this is how Kafka described the transformation of the Prometheus legend. I feel strongly that the same words should describe the theater. And it is that kind of theater, one which grounded in truth and which finds its end in the inexplicable that I wish for all its workers, those on the stage and those in the audience, and I wish that with all my heart.
Translation: Philip Boehm
Supported by Theatre Communications Group and the U.S. Center of ITI
Krzysztof Warlikowski is one of the most prominent European directors of his generation, born in Poland in 1962. In collaboration with scenic designer Małgorzata Szczęśniak, Warlikowski creates outstanding theatrical images. Through his work process, he leads his actors to reach the deepest layers of their creativity. He has created a new way of staging Shakespeare, his body of work contains also subversive interpretation of Greek tragedies, but he is also well known for his staging of modern authors. His 2002 production of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed at the Festival d’Avignon and the Festival de Théâtre des Amériques in Montreal received wide acclaim. It was a turning point for Warlikowski’s international presence.
Since 2008 he has been the Artistic Director of Nowy Teatr (New Theater) in Warsaw, where he has so far directed four shows based on multilayers text adaptation: (A)pollonia (2009), The End (2010), African Tales by Shakespeare (2011) and Kabaret warszawski (2013). Now he is working on stage adaptation of In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. In Nowy Warlikowski created a very own thinking about the role and place of theatre in the society keeping on involving spectators into the debate. His headline for the theatre became: “Escape the theatre”.
Warlikowski’s theatre productions were presented at the most important festivals: Festival d’Avignon, Festival Prensa de Otoño in Madrid , Edinburgh International Festival, Wiener Festwochen, Next Wave Festival BAM in New York, Athens Festival, International Theatre Festival Santiago a Mil In Chile, International Theate Festival PoNTI in Porto, XXI Seoul Performing Arts Festival in South Korea, Festival BITEF in Belgrad.
A separate field of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s work involves opera. Warlikowski is directing in the greatest european opera houses including La Monnaie in Brussels, the Paris National Opera and Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich. In his attempt to “retheatralisation” of the opera he is perceived as one of the revolutionary opera director. He staged between others: Iphigenia in Tauris, The Makropulos Affair, Parsifal, The Woman without the Shadow, Medea, Lulu and recently Don Giovanni.
Krzysztof Warlikowski is a winner of numerous awards, including the Award of the French Theatre Critics’ Union, both in 2003 for production of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed, judged to be the best foreign language production to be presented in France during the 2002/03 season. In 2008 French critics awarded also Angels in America. He was honored by the Theatre Critics’ Section of the Polish branch of the International Theatre Institute for popularizing Polish theatrical culture abroad. In 2006 he received the prestigious Meyerhold Award in Moscow, and in April 2008, the X Europe Prize “New Theatrical Realities” in Thessaloniki, Greece. In May 2008 New York’s Village Voice gave Krzysztof Warlikowski its Obie Award for the direction of Krum by Hanoch Levin, presented at BAM’s 25th Next Wave Festival. He was awarded a prize “Golden Mask” for the best foreign performance shown in Russia in 2011 for Nowy Teatr production (A)pollonia. In May 2012 Nowy Teatr was honored by the international jury chaired by Gerard Mortier of The Diagilev Award in Perm for the performance African Tales by Shakespeare. In 2013 he received a high French distinction of Commandeur des Arts et Lettres.