About us

More than theatre – the title of Aldona Jawłowska’s book from 1988 depicted the phenomenon on the verge of social and artistic activity. It’s more than movement and more than theatre1 – the author wrote about the students’ groups of the 70-ties, including Teatr Osmego Dnia, who has explored this borderland pointed by Jawłowska until today.
The story of Teatr Osmego Dnia reaches the year 1964, but its original formula differed from what the company later marked in the history of Polish theatre. It was founded at the Poznan Department of Polish Language and Literature as the Student’s Theatre of Poetry „The Eighth Day”, under the leadership of Tomasz Szymański. Its name was drawn from the Theatre „Zielona Gęś” („The Green Goose”) by Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński, who wrote down the history of the world in eight days:

THE EIGHTH DAY
(creation of theatre, premiere of Polish art, cosmic deficit, boredom, trumpets and the end of the world)2

In 1966, Zbigniew Osinski, who was an associate professor at the Poznan Department of Polish Language and Literature, joined in the company. As an enthusiast of Wroclaw’s Teatr Laboratorium, he introduced the fascination of the achievements of Grotowski. These fascinations were taken on by Lech Raczak who was supported by Teo Spychalski. The most important performances of that time were The introductions to and With one breath (the cooperators of these shows and their main actors were Marek Kirsche and Waldemar Leiser). The meeting with the artistic searching led by Teatr Laboratorium influenced the way creators of Osemki thought about acting and the art of theatre. However, what significantly shaped the ideological stance of the troupe was the reality outside the theatre – the events of 1968, and also the ensuing social and political situation, and the matter of interest for the artists was the contemporary man, living in the specific time and social context. The theatre began to be understood not only as the space for artistic searching, but most of all as the place where one can react to the surrounding world. This attitude was the source of polemics with Jerzy Grotowski. Years later, Ewa Wójciak explained:

We saw a man, so also an actor, who was heavily burdened by social responsibilities, social service, the duty to another man. The man of Grotowski was very much engrossed in himself, busy with self-analysis. We saw this difference as a definite contradiction.3

At the beginning of the 70-ties, a new group is formed with Tadeusz Janiszewski, who had his debut in With One Breath, Ewa Wojciak, Marcin Keszycki and Adam Borowski, who constitute its „core team” until today. The artistic director of Osemki and the creator of the ensuing performances was Lech Raczak (he took the position in 1968 after Tomasz Szymański left the group).
In the 70-ties, together with new people joining the group, there appeared a significant idea of monastery of brotherhood, which had a vital role in shaping the group. According to this vision, theatre „would not last within some specific time, but would constitute a whole, the idea for life in general, the space to exchange all thoughts and experiences” 4. Since then, the group was supposed to be a community of people responsible for one another and for the world brought to life in the ensuing performances. What became the foundation for creativity was the identity of views expressed by artists every day and in their theatrical work. The blearing of the border between art and life formed a characteristic for Osemki way of acting, in which the creation gives way to privacy, and the actor exposed his imperfections in the face of the audience. The original method worked out by the group, which was based on actors’ improvising and the collective creative act, was the fundament of performances such as We have to be content with what is called heaven on earth (1975), The sale for all ( 1977), Oh, how we lived in dignity (1978), More than one life (1981). These performances, according to critics, were part of the most significant theatrical achievements of independent, experimental theatre of that time.
A very specific understanding of the actor’s role was expressed in the manifest delivered by Ewa Wojciak in 1981, during the symposium „The Actor” organized by the Theatre:

The actor should be an anarchist, the worshiper of freedom, the idolater of freedom. […]
Thus, the actor is the hunter and the guardian of human rights, its singer – in which he or she is maybe more similar to those who gave their lives in the name of it, setting themselves on fire on the squares of victory, and also to those who in the act of despair shot the murderers of these rights.
The actor is the revolutionary and such is his or her motivation.
Only a man or a woman who was born a rebel can make an actor.5

The context for the artistic achievements of Teatr Osmego Dnia in the 70-ties and the 80-ties was the escalating conflict with the state authorities of that time. The fact that the artists of Osmego Dnia signed the protest letter against the pro-Soviet changes in the constitution and that they were involved in the activities of Komitet Obrony Robotników (The Workers’ Protection Committee) triggered the intensification of repressions against the members of the group. The authorities began to deny permission for Teatr Osmego Dnia to travel abroad, the permissions to perform were suspended, and the censorship crossed out all the positive remarks about the Theatre, and for some time, also its very name. The performances The Ascent (1982) Report from the city under siege (1984), The Wormwood (1985) were played outside the censorship, also in the spaces of the Catholic Church, which was creating space for independent cultural movements. In the face of having fewer and fewer possibilities to perform in Poland during the martial law, the group made a decision to leave the country. The authorities, however, willing to break the team apart, issued passports to only a few of the actors. In this situation, in 1985, the Theatre was preparing a performance based on The Small Apocalypse by Tadeusz Konwicki. Those, who stayed in the country, still performed in Polish churches, where they had to struggle with the sacral space, often not especially supportive of the activities of protesting theatre. The actors who went abroad, performed Auto-da-fé (1985) in a couple of countries of Europe, and thanks to the help of Teatro Nucleo they found a permanent base in Ferrara.
Since July 1986, the Theatre worked solely in the Western countries. In 1989, it got an invitation to join the traveling festival Mir Caravan, which involved twelve European theatres going on a journey with performances from Moskow to Paris. During this tour, Teatr Osmego Dnia appeared in Poland for the first time after a couple of years. Short afterward, they came back having received the official invitation of the Prime Minister of that time – Tadeusz Mazowiecki and of the Minister of Culture – Izabela Cywińska.
The first performance realized after coming back to Poznan was No man’s land (1991), which reflected the group’s experiences of emigration. At that time, Jacek Chmaj began his cooperation with Theatre, who has been the creator of the scenography of all the ensuing performances and the author of monumental constructions used in outdoor shows.
In 1992, the situation of Theatre changed – it was granted a subsidy. Soon after that, changes occurred within the team itself – in 1993, a longstanding director of Osemki, Lech Raczak left the group in order to realize his own theatrical projects, among others, the ones of Theatre Orbis Tertius. Tadeusz Janiszewski became the managing director and Ewa Wojciak took the position of artistic director (later from 2000 to 2014 she was both the managing and the artistic director of Theatre).
The beginning of the 90-ties was a very specific moment in the history of alternative theatre – many critics predicted its end after the fall of the People’s Republic of Poland, for they associated it with the rebellion against authorities and saw the reason for its existence only in enslaved societies. The ethos of rebellion, however, was not only related to the opposition to the government but was also rooted in their nonconformity towards social injustice. Therefore, Osemki have always found the heroes of their performances in everyday reality.
Teatr Osmego Dnia began the 21st century with the outdoor performance The Arc (2000), which has been presented until today at the festivals around the whole world, and which has been inspired by the war at Chechnya and the Balkans. Then the Theatre started searching for new means of expression for their artistic comment on the reality with the performances such as The Sabbath (1973), The time of mothers ( 2006).

In 2007, Osemki for the first time reached for the formula of documentary theatre with the performance The Files, whose script was based on the materials found in the archives of IPN (The Institute of National Remembrance). It was later used again in indoor performances The paranoids and bee-keepers (2009) about the heroes of the every day and in To the great and just authorities (2012) on the basis of denunciations written by the Poles during the war and in our times.

In the outdoor activities, the artists of Osmego Dnia combine the experiences gained during the productions of performances which belong to the genre of documentary theatre, with their fascination of site-specific projects (which take into account the architectural, historic, social and political character of the places – the context without which it would be difficult to understand them). The realized: The second city (2010) at the district Srodka in Poznan together with the community of this deteriorating neighborhood, The Yard. Zgierska 38 (2013) telling a story of the inhabitants of a tenement building in Baluty in Lodz, and the Ceglorz (2013) on the basis of the stories told by the workers of the factory in Poznan. What has become an inseparable part of the outdoor shows are the multimedia video projections of Jacek Chmaj – they constitute one of the main means of expression in performances The Anger (2016) and The children of revolution (2017). They start cooperation with artist outside Theatre – with a group of young Croatian actors, performers and puppeteers from the Artistic University in Osijek (The Children of Revolution) and the illustrator and performer from Lodz – Pawel Hajncel, who whom they prepared the most recent indoor show on the verge of happening and performance act - Paragraph 196 KK (The exercises in terror).

Performances are just one of the forms of dialogue that Teatr Osmego Dnia has with its audience. For many years, in their home base, the artists of Osemki have realized educational projects, theatre workshops, meetings and discussions with independent artists, and also present and co-produce performances of young artists. Invariably, since the beginning of the 90-ties, Teatr Osmego Dnia has remained the center of the alternative culture realizing a consistent social and cultural program.

 

 

© 2017 Teatr Ósmego Dnia
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