The Polish TEATR NARODOWY (the National Theatre) is one of the leading and oldest Theatres of Poland. It counts its activities since the performance of Y. Belyavsky’s comedy The Importunate on November 19, 1765, performed by the actor company under patronage of the King Stanislaw August Poniatowski in the building of so-called Operalna (Warsaw). Performances of this company gave start to the professional Theatre in Poland. Further on, performances were taking place on the premises of the Radziwills’ Palace. In 1799, the building was erected in the Commission Sq. The Teatr Narodowy name became permanent since 1807. W. Boguslawski directed the Theatre in 1790-1814 (with some breaks); be had established principles of the stage realism, which replaced the poetics of classicism. The Theatre was tightly connected with the public life of the country. Plays by W. Boguslawski, Y. Nemzevich, F. Zablozky, and other Polish dramatists, as well as compositions of world classic and modern drama were performed on its stage. L. Osinski directed the Theatre after Boguslawski, continuing traditions of the former. In 1833, Teatr Narodowy was moved to a new building constructed by architect A. Corazzi’s design (it was demolished in the years of Nazi occupation and restored in our days). The building was known as Teatr Velki; operas had been performed in the big auditorium of this Theatre, while dramas were shown in the smaller one. In 1829, by initiative of a part of the troupe, a “Rozmaitosci” branch was opened, which in 1836 was complemented by actors of Teatr Narodowy. The major Polish actors of the 19th – 20th century performed on the stage of “Rozmaitosci:” B. Kuddich, J. Krulikowsky, A. Zhulkowsky, H. Modzheyevska, L. Galpert, Y. Rykhter, B. Leszczynski, M. Frenkel, K. Kaminski, Yu. Vengzin, M. Tsviklinskaya.
In 1924, “Rozmaitosci” Theatre returned to the building built anew (after the 1919 fire) and got back its name of Teatr Narodowy. Prominent figures of the Polish Theatre took part in running the Theatre: Yu. Osterva, K. Kaminski, A. Slivinski, J. Lorentovich, E. Khabersky, L. Solski, A. Zelderovich. The list of the best productions included: My Quail Went Away from Me by Zheromsky (1924); Faustus by Goethe (1926); Pan Damazi by Blizinski (1927); Rich Men’s Confederates by A. Mickkiewicz (1929); Kordian and Maria Stuart by Slowacki (1930, 1934), The Marriage by Vyspyanski (1930), Revenge by Fredro (1934); Intrigue and Love by Shiller (1934).
Theatre’s activity, interrupted through the years of Nazi occupation, was renewed in 1949 (Director M. Meller, Artistic Directors W. Daszevski, W. Kraenovetzki). Among the most prominent productions were such performances as Yegor Bulychev and Others by M. Gorky (1949); Residents of Krakow and Hill People by W. Boguslawski (1950); The Inspector General by N. Gogol (1952); The Revenge by Fredro (1953), A Man with a Gun (1954); Germans (1955) by Kruchkovski; A Turbulent Duty by Lutowski (1955), Kordian by Slowacki (1956); Liberation by Vyspyanski (1958), Henry VI at Hunting by Boguslawski (1958), Fantasies by Slowacki (1960), The Twelfth Night (1960) by W. Shakespeare, The Living Corpse by L.Tolstoy (1960); A Story about the Good Resurrection of Christ by Mikolai from Vilkoveczk (1962); A Word about Jacob Szel by Yasenski (1962), etc. In 1949-52, Krasnowetzki was Artistic Director/Director of the Theatre; since March 1952, it was Meller again; B. Kozhenevski was the Chief Director. Further on, as Artistic Director/Director served: E. Axer (1954-57), W. Hozytca, (1957-59), W. Daszewski (1959-61). Since 1962, K. Dejmk had been leading the Theatre.
In 1997 – 2003, one of the best European directors Jerzy Grzegorzewski was at the head of the Theatre. He upgraded the company and brought in fresh forces. To a big extent thanks to the high level of his performances, Teatr Narodowy brought back its leading positions among the country’s stage sites. “Grzegorzewski, along with Khrystian Lupa and Jerzy Jarocki, is one of the most outstanding Polish directors. He is not only a director, but also a stage designer: he decorates his performances himself. He believes that the visual range is independent and autonomous in regards of the text; with that the text of his performances is often his own script based on a writing or compilation of several writings. Grzegorzewski has successfully produced Gombrovicz, Rozewicz, Witkacy, Shakespeare, Brecht, Chechov, Genet; he often would return back to earlier produced directions, creating new versions, each time in a new way. In the course of long time, collage was his favorite method on both textual and stage design levels. His Theatre destroyed cultural myths, including mythology of Polish romanticism; it played with the Theatre tradition. Appointment of Grzegorzewski at the post of the Artistic Director of Teatr Narodowy (1997) was rather skeptically appreciated by critics who believed that an academic by its gist stage was improvidently entrusted to an avant-garde by his gist artist. His productions, which many praise, remain hermetic and unappreciated by others. They remind of puzzles: a bunch of separate little pieces which are hard to assemble in one composition. Motives, associations, images, bits and fragments…” ("The Warsaw Melody "// «St. Petersburg Theatre Magazine» № 31, 2003).
Since 2003, Jan Englert has directed Teatr Narodowy. He has preserved in the repertoire all performances of his predecessor and continued to cooperate with him up until Grzegorzewski’s death in 2005. Jerzy Jarocki had also continued his work with the Theatre; he was famous for his productions after compositions of Polish classics of the 20th century, such as Witold Gombrowicz and Slavomir Mrozek.
Englert has significantly expanded repertoire of Teatr Narodowy; new by their form and style productions have appeared. Presently, directors of both senior and junior generations work at the Theatre; they produce performances of Polish authors and the world classics; traditions of neoclassicism and academy approaches juxtapose with modern experimental jobs. Teatr Narodowy presents a broad educational program and takes part in the everyday life. Since 2009, the Theatre is carrying out the Forum of National Theatres at which the leading European Theatres show results of their efforts.
Teatr Narodowy has not once become participant of the Alexandrinsky Festival.
Its performance The School for Wives was presented at the First International Alexandrinsky Theatre Festival on September 28 and 29, 2006.
In 2008, at the Third International Alexandrinsky Theatre Festival, two of Teatr Narodowy’s performances had been presented: Ivanov by A. Chekhov in Jan Englert’s production (September 24 and 25, 2008) and Phaedra (September 28 and 29, 2008) directed by Maiya Klechesky.
In 2010, at the Fifth International Alexandrinsky Theatre Festival, Teatr Narodowy brought to the festival its TANGO after S. Mrozek directed by Jercy Jarocki (September 18 and 19, 2010).
In 2013, at the Seventh International Alexandrinsky Theatre Festival, Teatr Narodowy will show two performances: Ananimous Deed by S.I. Witkiewicz (Witkacy) directed by Jan Englert (May 23, 2013, the Major Stage) and The Delhi Dance by I. Vyrypayev directed by the author (May 24, the New Stage).