Jarosław Cymerman, Grzegorz Kondrasiuk (Department of Theatre Studies UMCS)

“Lublin Stage” is a series of open lectures devoted to the fascinating history of public spectacles, artists and theatrical performances in Lublin. The lectures are illustrated by unique, audio-visual, archive materials, and participated by invited artists

Throughout its history, Lublin was situated in the very centre of the Old Republic of Poland which for centuries organised the cultural, social and political life in this part of Europe. During the 700 years of the town’s development, Lublin’s self-reflexive “imaginarium” has grown considerably – the archives of stories, paintings, and events recording the changes of the city’s identity.

The documented work of actors from Wojciech Bogusławski’s team in Lublin took place shortly after the symbolic initiation of the National Theatre in 1765. Already in 1782, Lublin found itself in the elite group of Polish cities, alongside Lviv, Krakow, Poznan and Wilno, in which, at the end of the eighteenth century, public theatre started to function. Still though, the theatre of Lublin, as a phenomenon connected to the town’s social life (which unsurprisingly was extremely intensive in the royal town of Crown Tribunal – a city noted for its international exchange between Poland and the East), has its roots in earlier epochs. It is born out of unbridled vivacity and Jagellonian flourish, pious spectacles, festive atmosphere, but also of fuming, Sarmatian fuzz and of the mockeries of wandering jugglers taking a jibe at the Passion of Christ, as illustrated on the frescos in the Chapel of the Holy Trinity. This heritage was later confronted with the grim reality of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – the garrison era, the spirit of stale province, the victory of middle-class taste, and finally – the specter of PKWN (The Polish Committee of National Liberation) and the short period of “capitaldom” in 1944, or, more contemporarily, with the coexistence of official scenes and the activities of groundbreaking, often world-wide known, student and alternative theatres. It is no coincidence that Lublin was often called “theatre basin” or “Polish Edinburgh”. The notable achievements in the history of Polish theatre in the twentieth century include the creative output by the Provisorium Theatre, the Visual Stage of the Catholic University of Lublin, Centre of Theatre Practices “Gardzienice”, Scene 6 and Grupa Chwilowa Theatre. In the times when the mainstream theatre was frequently hermetic and limited to the region of Poland with regard to its reception, alternative groups travelled to hundreds of places in the world, transferring (both ways) artistic solutions and co-creating the premium quality of Polish culture. It is a shameful paradox that the centuries-old output of artists working in Lublin hasn’t been extensively written about despite their precious contribution to Polish culture at large.


The aim of the lecture is to present the relation between theatre and power: on the one hand, treating various types of spectacles as tools of influence on society and, on the other, trying to use theatre as a medium which can stage in public space uncomfortable subjects for the authority. Theatre is a phenomenon which, in order to function normally, must come into often difficult relations with the authorities. In this context, we will show moments when the theatre in Lublin “betrayed” and “collaborated” with the powers that be, but also attempted, more or less heroically, to defy the authorities by means of various artistic strategies. Thus, we will discuss in what ways the old theatre in Lublin omitted or, contrarily, smuggled uneasy subjects. How the tsar and his family were honored on the stage and by the audience in the nineteenth century, how the City Theatre and Lubelsko-Wołyński Theatre formed part of social and national politics of the Second Republic of Poland, practicing at the same time light and easy entertainment, how after 1944, theatres in Lublin used and toyed with the tradition of “the first stage of the Polish People’s Republic”, and finally how students from Lublin “repaid” the communist authorities for the supposed privilege of education.