PERFORMANCE DESIGN OF THE POLISH PUPPET THEATRE
The collection of the Puppet Performance Department includes more than a hundred names of scenographers creating for puppet stages. The majority of the collection consists of theatre projects. There are almost 7 thousand of them. Theatrical and film puppets make up a small percentage of the collection, and there are about a thousand of them. However, the most important are projects. Puppets made by art studios of puppet theatres are very impressive, but they are only a more or less accurate representation of the artist’s idea. On the other hand, it is not theatre projects, but Polish puppet shows have been awarded on the world’s stages, winning the most important prizes at international puppet festivals. It is difficult to name them all here. Let the position of Polish puppetry be proved only by two related to the exhibition sector. In 1971, the Polish puppet exhibition for Leokadia Serafinowicz’s wooden, children’s toy-like puppets was awarded the Gold Medal at the Quadrennial of Performance Design in Prague. It is an exhibition of the achievements of world theatrical scenography organized in Prague every 4 years. In this field, for the second time, Polish puppets were also awarded the Gold Medal in 1979 for a group exhibition covering the puppet works of several Polish puppet performance designers: Ali Bunsch, Wanda Fik-Pałkowa, Tadeusz Hołówka, Adam Kilian, Wacław Kondek, Zygmunt Smandzik. The successes of Polish puppet theatre were certainly connected with the postulates of the first and second theatre reform, which were realized in the period after the Second World War, when the financing of the theatre was taken over by the Ministry of Culture and Art. This fact made it possible for puppet theatres to order art settings from the most outstanding Polish artists. At the same time, puppet theatres turned out to be an attractive place for stage designers, because here they could also design the perfect actor, which turned out to be a puppet. The whole performance, without the presence of a live actor, became a fine art, a visual performance, a living image animated by puppeteers.
Puppet theatre in Poland after 1945 was a theatre for children. That is why artists created a special puppet for this theatre: with an enlarged head and schematic facial features and most often characterized by a costume, whether folk or contemporary in fashion, of a child, man, or woman. In Polish puppet performance design in the second half of the 20th century and in the first decades of the 21st century there were several artistic trends, which artists used quite often. The first of these is child’s art from children’s drawings transferred to the theatre set. The art for children trend, the greatest recipients of the puppet theatre, ranks close to it. The third trend is inspired by Polish, European and non-European folk art. The fourth one referred to Polish and European historical costumes, and the fifth to contemporary fashion, and street fashion. Many artists also pursued their own artistic style in puppet theatres, to mention Kazimierz Mikulski, Lidia Minticz and Jerzy Skarżyński, who proposed the poetics of surrealistic dreams and fairy tales.
Selected examples of stage design projects do not cover the entire style of Polish puppet theatre. They are only small excerpts from the rich diversity of Polish theatrical art.
PERFORMANCE DESIGN OF POLISH PUPPET THEATRE 1
MAEŁ/EL-6532 – Escamillo; crayon on cardboard, 70×49.8 cm
Carmen – libretto by Prosper Merimee, set design by Maria Balcerek, TL „Arlekin”, Lodz 1995, Golden Mask, award of Lodz reviewers 1995.
The expressive silhouette of the protagonist, bent in the dance in the letter S, made in painterly bold red is complemented by a graphic, irregular ornament.
BALCEREK MARIA – painter, set designer, costume designer. Born in 1960 in Skarżysko Kamienna. A graduate of the Studio of Unique Textile under Janina Tworek-Pierzgielska and Aleksandra Mańczak, and the Painting Studio under Andrzej Szonert at the State Higher School of Fine Arts in Lodz. She works in various fields of visual arts and collaborates with the most important opera houses, music and drama theatres in Poland. She made her stage debut in 1992 at the S. Jaracz Theatre in Lodz with the play Czepurek. She created the set design for over 70 theatre and opera performances. Winner of many awards and distinctions. She willingly and with great success creates set designs for animated productions (14 awards at international film festivals) and puppet theatres (Warsaw, Olsztyn, Lublin, Szczecin, Lodz). Her most important productions: Carmen („Arlekin” 1995), Pan Twardowski („Baj Pomorski” 1997), Sen nocy letniej (Jaracz Theatre, 1998), Madame Butterfly (Grand Theatre in Lodz, 2012), Zwłoka (Jaracz Theatre, 2015).
In theatrical performance design, she embodies the poetic world of a painter. She boldly operates with intense painterly colours decorated with rich ornaments.
PERFORMANCE DESIGN OF POLISH PUPPET THEATRE 2
MAEŁ/EL-5660 – Cat, cardboard, pencil, watercolour, 29×42 cm
Pinocchio – Aleksander Maliszewski based on Carlo Collodi, set design by Stanisław Byrski, TL „Pinocchio”, Lodz 1957.
The human silhouette with the head of the cat is characterized by the charm of a model at the Paris fashion show.
BYRSKI STANISŁAW (1911-1966) – set designer, painter, theatre director. Born on 24 November 1911 in Warsaw, died on 3 January 1966 in Lodz. He first studied at the University of Warsaw and then at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. He received his diploma in 1939 from Professor Mieczysław Kotarbiński at the Faculty of Painting. In 1946-1962, he was associated with the „Pinocchio” Puppet Theatre as an art manager, in 1946-1957, and in 1957-1062, he acted there as a director and artistic manager. From 1958 until his death, he headed the Painting Department at the State Higher School of Fine Arts in Lodz. He made his debut at TL „Pinocchio” in Lodz in 1946 with the set design for the play O Żaczku Szkolaczku (together with Wanda Byrska). More important productions in „Pinocchio”: Pieśń Sarmiko (1951), „Pinocchio”. (1957), Dziadek Zmróż – Oczko (1959), Bajka chińska (1960). He also collaborated with the Warsaw-based „Baj” and the Szczecin-based „Pleciuga”.
Stanisław Byrski designed painting sets for puppet theatres, using the technique of colourful planes and giving his characters costumes inspired by folk art and fashion of the 19th century.
PERFORMANCE DESIGN OF POLISH PUPPET THEATRE 3
MAEŁ/EL-6053 – man in tiara; paper, pencil, ink, watercolour, 41.5×29.5 cm
Testament – Francois Villon, set design by Wiesław Jurkowski, Białystok TL, 1988.
A man’s silhouette painted with paint spots on a pencil sketch. Dress and crown decorated with white and gold ornaments characterizing a dignitary. A face with rough carved-like features.
JURKOWSKI WIESŁAW – set designer, painter, graphic designer. He was born on 4 May 1939 in Oleszków. In 1958-1964, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. He graduated from the Faculty of Painting under Prof. Stanisław Teysseyre in 1964. From 1964 to 1970, he was a teacher at the High School of Fine Arts in Supraśl. He made his debut as a set designer in 1970 at the Białystok Puppet Theatre with projects for the play Królewski statek. In the same year, he took over the position of set designer in this theatre, where he made 57 premieres. In total, he is the author of 89 stage design premieres in Poland and abroad. His most important productions at TL Białystok’s TL: Niech żyje Punch (1973), Słowik (1979), Nim zapieje trzeci kur (1983), Testament (1988), Krzesiwo (1990); TL Olsztyn’s Baśń o piękniej Parysadzie; TL Wałbrzych: Car Maksimilian (1979). Since 1974, he has been a lecturer at the Faculty of Puppetry Art of the State Higher School of Theatre in Bialystok.
In the set design for the puppet theatre, he is inspired by Polish folk art, European and exotic art, especially folk sculpture. On stage, he creates a painter’s world full of colour.
PERFORMANCE DESIGN OF POLISH PUPPET THEATRE 4
MAEŁ/EL-2983 – Knight on horseback, parchment, pencil, crayons, 50×35 cm
Ballada gdańska – Franciszek Fenikowski, set design by Adam Kilian, TL „Pinocchio”, Lodz 1968.
A puppet designed using graphic technique: a line with a rich ornament, painted with strong pastel colours. The knight and the horse form a compact, single silhouette.
KILIAN ADAM (1923-2016) – set designer, graphic designer, theatre director. He was born on 13 March 1923 in Lviv and died on 25 June 2016 in Warsaw. In 1945-1948, he studied at the College of Crafts and Arts in Nottingham (UK). From 1948, he joined the „Lalka” Theatre in Warsaw as director between 1948 and 1950, then as artistic director between 1950 and 1988. He made his debut (together with Zofia Stanisławska-Howurkowa) in 1949 with set design for Cinderella. From 1959, he collaborated with drama theatres, including those in Szczecin, Warsaw (Wesele, Teatr Powszechny, 1963), Krakow (Krakowiacy i Górale, Słowacki Theatre, 1963), music theatres, and television, also with animated film since 1954. He has authored over 300 set designs, including over 170 in puppet theatres. His most important productions: Lalka” Theatre: Guignol w tarapatach (1956), O Zwyrtale Muzykancie (1958), Beauty and the Beast (1994); TL „Pleciuga”: Rzecz o Jędrzeju Wowrze (1983); in the Białystok TL: Dekameron (1986) and others. In 2008, he was awarded the Gold Medal „Gloria Artis”. In 1979, he won the Gold Medal for his Polish puppet exhibition at the Prague Quadrennial (together with other set designers).
He created the poetics of an artistic puppet theatre, a theatre of animated art, works of art in motion. His inspirations include art for children, Polish folk art, especially in the Podhale region, and European and non-European culture in its broadest sense.
PERFORMANCE DESIGN OF POLISH PUPPET THEATRE 5
MAEŁ/EL-431 – Bird; cardboard, pencil, water colours, 50×70 cm
Fregata Oronga – Wanda Markowska and Anna Milska, set design by Lech Kunka, TL „Arlekin”, 1971.
A fairy-tale yellow bird with a decorative tail and comb, with a visible structure of red circles in different shades of yellow.
KUNKA LECH (1920-1978) – painter, draughtsman, set designer, author of wall painting and outdoor spatial forms, academic teacher. He was born in 1920 in Pabianice and died in 1978 in Lodz. Before the war, he attended the private Cyprian Kamil Norwid School of Fine Arts run by Witold Dobrowolski. In 1945-1951, he studied at the State Higher School of Fine Arts in Lodz. He obtained his diploma in 1951 at the Faculty of Textile under Władysław Strzemiński. During his studies, between 1948 and 1949, he was on a scholarship at Fernand Léger’s Parisian Akadémie Moderne. After graduation, he was a researcher at his university, holding positions ranging from assistant to vice-rector. Parallel to his painting work, he was involved in film and theatre set design. He collaborated with the 7.15 Theatre in Lodz. In 1979-1974, he made stage designs for the „Arlekin” Theatre: Tangali córka nieba 1969, Fregata Oronga z wyspy Ahu 1970, Dżamil i róże 1972. He also made stage designs for Tadek Niejadek (1957) and the feature films Milcząca gwiazda (1960), O dwóch takich co ukradli księżyc (1962).
Lech Kunki’s stage design projects are characterized by arrangements of colourful semicircular forms characteristic of structural painting. In the puppet theatre, he created a colourful world of a painter.
PERFORMANCE DESIGN OF POLISH PUPPET THEATRE 6
MAEŁ/EL-5775 – Poppy King; paper, ink, crayons, 49×31,5 cm
Najdzielniejszy z rycerzy – Ewa Szelburg-Zarembina, set design by Jan Zieliński, TL „Tęcza”, Słupsk 1990.
The Poppy King made with a graphic line, painted with bold colours laid out in a graphic manner. A figure from the poetics of children’s room toys.
ZIELIŃSKI JAN (1946-2018) – painter, graphic artist, book illustrator, satirist, set designer. Born on 2 June 1946 in Lodz, where he died on 1 August 2018. In 1965-1971, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz. In 1971, he received his diploma at the Faculty of Clothing Design under Professor Lech Kunka. In 1970, he made his debut as a set designer and graphic designer for the play Wujek Bum at TL „Arlekin” in Lodz. He cooperated with all Polish puppet theatres, including those in Lodz (Doctor Ojboli, TL „Pinocchio”, 1960; Baśnie zamorskie, TL „Arlekin”, 1975; Little Red Riding Hood, TL „Arlekin”, 1994); Warsaw (Puss in boots, TL „Guliwer”, 1994; Olbrzym, Teatr „Lalka”, 1994), Jelenia Góra (Little Mermaid, 2005; Leśnie przygody Tymoteusza, 2008); Lublin (Tymoteusz i psiuńcio, 1992; Puss in boots, 1996); Olsztyn (Krawiec Niteczka, 2005); Poznań (Cinderella, 1989; Tymoteusz w lesie, 1993); Krakow (Tygrys i kapitan Morgan, 2004); Słupsk (Winnie the Pooh, 1999; Igraszki z bajką, 2012; Beauty and the Beast, 2015).
Jan Zieliński’s unique, graphical, theatrical art, as a matter of principle, refers to the children’s perception of reality, children’s art and art for children.