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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 18, 2009
ŁódĽ Region
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A Great Polish Theater in Lodz
November 18, 2009   
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This year marks the 120th birthday of the Stefan Jaracz Theater in Lodz. This, one of Poland's oldest theaters, offers a bold, intriguing repertoire, evolving constantly in tune with the changing demands of the audience. After a recent expansion, theater-goers can now also plan a visit to one of its four regional branches in Radomsko, Skierniewice, Sieradz and Piotrków Trybunalski.

Opened in 1909, the theater immediately engaged with issues central to the Polish national identity, broaching life's hardships in the midst of a complex political situation. Its first manager, Aleksander Zelwerowicz, was an outstanding stage director who gathered around him a team of skilled actors, including Stefan Jaracz, after whom the theater is named. At the time, the audience in Russian-occupied Lodz were given a unique opportunity to watch plays by some of Poland's greatest bards and playwrights, such as Stanisław Wyspiański, Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki. Under the patronage of Jaracz, which spanned several decades, the theater in Lodz drew a host of famous stage directors and actors, including Leon Schiller, Iwo Gall, Juliusz Osterwa, Jan ¦widerski, and Jerzy Grzegorzewski. The theater is famous for numerous groundbreaking productions which changed the history of Polish drama.

Millions invested in culture
Apart from references to tradition, the Stefan Jaracz Theater is also ready to meet new, ambitious challenges. The idea to create regional branches of the theater was born in 2003, but the move was not possible without EU funds. When these finally arrived, the project was launched in July 2007 and finalized last fall.

Each of the towns involved in the project had its cultural center thoroughly redeveloped to accommodate a professional theater with all the necessary equipment. The Stefan Jaracz European Theater Project is an example of effective cooperation between the regional capital and local government in other towns in the region. The total cost of the project was zl.31.6 million, with zl.5.3 million coming from EU funds, and the rest provided by the Marshal's Office of the Lodz Region (zl.5.3 million), and the city authorities of Piotrków Trybunalski (zl.6.8 million), Radomsko (zl.5.2 million), Sieradz (zl.4.4 million), and Skierniewice (zl.4.6 million). The new regional theaters will soon host Lodz Philharmonic Orchestra and actors from the Wielki Theater in Lodz. These professional facilities are also attracting growing interest from many theaters from all over Poland as well as organizers of prestigious events who are inundating the Jaracz's regional theaters with proposals to stage their shows.

Actors showered with awards
The Jaracz Theater stages nearly 500 plays annually. The three stages in Lodz have a varied repertoire based on both classical and contemporary drama from Poland and abroad. It engages audiences in dialogue about contemporary life with all its vital, thorny, and often painful, issues. Some plays use brutal language to describe a brutal world. Directors frequently decide to put on bold, controversial plays which use surprising forms.

This is possible thanks to effective team work by the actors, with big names and performers who are masters of their craft working alongside young actors to create unique and often poignant productions that are showered with awards at Poland's most prestigious theater festivals.

Only this month Rowerzy¶ci (Die Mountainbiker) written by Volker Schmidt and directed by Anna Augustynowicz scooped four awards -for the director and three actors-at the "Reality Presented" Festival of Contemporary Drama in Zabrze (the play was created in collaboration with the Contemporary Theater in Szczecin). Another great success was the monodrama Niżyński performed by Kamil Maćkowiak, which received the audience award at the 39th theater festival in Jelenia Góra. Maćkowiak was named best actor at the festival.

The theater owes its popularity in no small part to managing director Wojciech Nowicki and artistic director Waldemar Zawodziński, who have been successfully running the institution for many years.
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