The Konfrontacje Teatralne Festival in its modern form was brought into being in 1996.
The inspiration for its revival was the rich tradition of theatre festivals in Lublin. In the 1960s and 1970s a popular festival called Lublin’s Theatre Spring (Lubelska Wiosna Teatralna) was held here, followed by an extremely dynamic Confrontation of Young Theatre – an overview of alternative theatres associated with the student community around Chatka Żaka (cultural academic centre of the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University), to which the founders of “Theatre Confrontations” directly referred.
In January 1996 the director of Provisorium Theatre Janusz Opryński initiated the Program Committee of the new edition of the Festival. It included, besides Opryński, Cezary Karpiński (then director of the Juliusz Osterwa Theater in Lublin), Leszek Mądzik (creator of the Visual Stage of the Catholic University of Lublin), Tomasz Pietrasiewicz (creator of the NN Theatre), Włodzimierz Staniewski (creator of Centre for Theatre Practices Gardzienice) and Aleksander Szpecht (director of the Centre for Culture in Lublin). Janusz Opryński became the Festival’s director. The goal set by the Committee was to confront the achievements of the Lublin theatere community with the achievements of groups from other centres in Poland as well as the presentation of the most interesting trends in the world theatre. The first full name of the Festival was the International Theater Festival in Lublin “Konfrontacje Teatralne”.
For the first ten years of the Festival’s activity, the artists formed the Program Committee, chaired by the Artistic Commissioner with a one-year term. Thanks to this, in the following years the Festival gained a different artistic profile. Opryński emphasized the bond with theatres stemming out of student movement and socially involved. Włodzimierz Staniewski gathered groups concentrating on the anthropological trend and Leszek Mądzik invited to Lublin a representation of visual theatre.
Currently, the programme of the festival is created by Janusz Opryński. The programme focuses on the idea of confronting various forms and theatrical traditions, presenting the achievements of the most interesting theatrical personalities, finding new ways of understanding the theatre. In addition to the main programme, the festival is enriched with accompanying events including photographic exhibitions, film screenings, concerts and scientific sessions.
Starting from the fourth edition, the name of the Festival has been shortened to International Festival “Konfrontacje Teatralne”. From this year, the main thematic axis was the confrontation of theatres from the East and the West, and the programme was organized around mottos. They were, among others presentation of the Lithuanian theatre (2000), theatres of the “two powers”, ie. Russia and the United States (2002); in 2004, the Festival’s events were devoted to the celebration of the Gombrowicz Year; in 2008, theatres dealing with Jewish topics were invited.
Between 2009 and 2011, the program was co-created by Agnieszka Lubomira Piotrowska; at that time the programme included theatres from Russia and the former USSR republics (including Georgia, Ukraine, and Belarus). In 2010, on the occasion of the 15th edition of the Festival, theatres known from previous editions were invited again. As of the same year the name of the Festival Konfrontacje Teatralne was abridged again, and the main programme of the festival was supplemented with a “Lublin show case” – a presentation of the Lublin theatre community.
In the years 2013-2017, the festival’s curators were Grzegorz Reske and Marta Keil. They focused on the new language of the theatre and performative movement as well as presenting young Polish directors who pose questions about the roles and responsibilities of the artists. Among them were important artists such as Anna Karasińska, Weronika Szczawińska and Wojtek Ziemilski. Each edition was accompanied by a motto and related thematic trends, such as theatre / democracy, capitalism / postindustrialism or presentation of a group of New York performers.
In 2017, the Festival was part of the cultural programme celebrating the 700th anniversary of the City of Lublin, and the program included a strong representation of Lublin artists,such as Leszek Mądzik or Łukasz Witt-Michałowski.
Every year (up to the sixteenth edition), a poster for Konfrontacje Teatralne was prepared by a specially invited, outstanding artist. Among the authors were: Jan Jaromir Aleksiun, Leszek Mądzik, Jarosław Koziara, Jan Gryka, Aleksandra Laska, Robert Kuśmirowski, Mikołaj Smoczyński, the Russian group Blue Nosy.
Thanks to the cooperation with other Lublin institutions, theatre performances were presented not only in the venues of the Centre for Culture in Lublin (the seat of the Festival), but also at the Juliusz Osterwa Theatre in Lublin. Confrontations were the forerunner of open-air shows – performances at the end of the 90s were held on the streets of the city center, the squares of the Old Town, on the square and the grounds near the Lublin Castle. The festival has taken away many Lublin spaces, not theatrical ones, arranged especially for the needs of the Festival.. Most unusual locations serves as venue for festival presentation, including the basement of the Centre for Culture Culture, the Polmos vodka factory hall (today’s Stock), Lublin Horse Club grounds, the almost abandoned Lublin North railway station, the Railway Technical School in Lublin, the Theatre under Construction and its current incarnation, Center for the Meetings of Cultures in Lublin as well as the halls of the International Lublin Fairs. Thanks to such initiatives, performances such as “(A) Pollonia” by Nowy Teatr, “When the Mountain Changed Its Clothing” by Heiner Goebbels and “Square of Heroes” by Krystian Lupa from the Lithuanian National Theater in Vilnius were presented for the first time in Lublin.
In addition to the main programme, the festival has many accompanying events such as film screenings, performative readings, outdoor performances, concerts, scientific sessions and meetings. The festival conducts its own publishing activity, publishing books related to the subject of festivals, including works of Dragan Klaić or professor Cezary Wodziński. Konfrontacje are the co-producer of Polish and foreign performances presented as part of the Festival and all over the world. Among these productions was “Nasza klasa” by Tadeusz Słobodzianek / Dramatyczny Theatre in Warsaw and performances of international collectives: Gob Squad (Germany), She She Pop (Germany), Agrupación Señor Serrano (Catalonia) or Agata Maszkiewicz / Vincent Trimarche.
Over the years the Festival has hosted numerous big theatre names, including: Valery Fokin, outstanding Russian theatre director; Ellen Stewart, the founder of the famous New York’s theater La Mama; Richard Schechner, an American director and theatre critic; Daisuke Yoshimoto – master of butoh dance; Alexey Merkushev – actor and dancer from Russia; Eimuntas Nekrosius, the founder of the Vilnius theater group Meno Fortas; Oscar Korsunovas from Lithuania, one of the most prominent young European directors; Grzegorz Jarzyna, the director of the young generation associated with the Rozmaitości Theatre; Jerzy Grzegorzewski, the set designer and director; master Tadeusz Różewicz; actress Barbara Krafftówna; professor Allen Kuharski; a prominent contemporary playwright and director Tadeusz Słobodzianek and many other prominent artists and personality.