Profanations: Jerzy Grotowski versus Polish national drama

TAPAC and the Grotowski Institute invite you to two lectures by Professor Dariusz Kosinski on 8 and 9 March 2017, in partnership with the European Theatre Research Network at the University of Kent and London Theatre Seminar.

All are welcome.


Jerzy Grotowski (1933–1999) is well-known as the creator of a kind of ‘theatre of ritual’ and of new approaches to acting. These achievements in the later stages of his work on productions at the Laboratory Theatre have overshadowed his earlier practice as a radical director and dramaturg. Even in Poland, the performances he created in the company’s initial phase of work in Opole in the early 1960s were long interpreted only as intermediary stages along the road towards his renowned ‘poor theatre’.

This lecture will attempt to challenge this view, by analyzing three early performances by Grotowski and what was then known as the Theatre of the ‘13 Rows’ that were based on three canonical texts of Polish drama: Dziady (Forefathers’ Eve) by Adam Mickiewicz (premiere 18 June 1961), Kordian by Juliusz Slowacki (14 February 1962), and Akropolis by Stanislaw Wyspianski (10 October 1962). Each of these productions was radical, both in the relationship to its source text(s) and in the particular theatrical environment established by Grotowski and his collaborators (especially the architect Jerzy Gurawski). However, the main thread that this lecture will follow is the way these works attacked Polish national myths, not only through acts of ‘blasphemy’ (as Grotowski later saw them) but through acts of profanation (in Giorgio Agamben’s sense of the term).

In the specific historical context of the early 1960s, these profanations were more political than anthropological or ritualistic. This largely forgotten or overlooked political aspect of the performances will be addressed alongside core aspects of Grotowski’s dramaturgy and mise-en-scene.

About the speaker:

Dariusz Kosinski is a professor in the Department of Performance Studies at the Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland. His major publications include Polish Theatre of Transformation (Polish edition 2007, English edition 2017), Grotowski: A Guide (Polish edition 2009, English edition 2017), and an alternative history of Polish performance Teatra polskie. Historie (Polish Theatre Histories) (Polish edition 2010, German edition 2012). From 2010 to 2013, he was Programme Director of the Grotowski Institute in Wroclaw, and he also served as a member of the editorial board for Grotowski’s Teksty zebrane (Collected Texts, 2012). Since 2014, he has been Research Director of the Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw. His most recent publications include a monograph on Polish performances after the presidential plane crash in Smolensk, titled Teatra polskie. Rok katastrofy (Polish Theatres: The Year of the Catastrophe, 2013), and a book on Grotowski’s early performances, Grotowski. Profanacje (Grotowski: Profanations, 2015).

Dates and venues:

Wednesday 8 March 2017, 5–7 pm
Jarman Studio 2, School of Arts, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7UG

Thursday 9 March 2017, 6:30–8:30pm
London Theatre Seminar, Senate House, University of London, WC1E 7HU


Supported by:


In partnership with:

London Theatre Seminar and the European Theatre Research Network (ETRN)