1955 – 1971 Teatr Klasyczny (Classical Theatre)

In 1945, in the basements of a tenement house at number 8 Marszałkowska Street, a stage belonging to Municipal Dramatic Theatres started its activity. It functioned under several names, including Teatr Dzieci Warszawy (Theatre of the Children of Warsaw) and Teatr Młodej Warszawy (Theatre of Young Warsaw). In 1955, under the name of Rozmaitości (Variety Theatre), it was passed on as an affiliated stage to the newly established Teatr Klasyczny (Classical Theatre), located in the northern corner of the Palace of Culture and Science. Teatr Klasyczny regularly presented classical repertoire and plays for children and youth. Its subsequent directors were: Emil Chaberski (1955-1961), Jerzy Kaliszewski (1962-1964), and Ireneusz Kanicki (1965-1971).

In 2009, the documentation of Teatr Klasyczny was handed over to the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw.

1971-1982 Józef Szajna 

In 1971, Józef Szajna, a stage designer, theatre director, painter and theatre theorist, took up the position of Teatr Klasyczny General Manager. A co-founder and for many years managing and artistic director of the avant-garde Teatr Ludowy (the People’s Theatre) in Nowa Huta, and one of the most stylistically prominent artists of Polish theatre, Szajna decided to transform the institution into a studio stage, experimental in nature, and open to new formal solutions. At the beginning of 1972, the stage at number 8 Marszałkowska Street begun to function independently, under the name of Teatr Rozmaitości (Variety Theatre). Some of the troupe relocated there and played in the remains of the past season’s repertoire. New shows were created in collaboration with Teatr Satyryków STS (Student Satirical Theatre). On 1 February 1972, the stage in the Palace of Culture and Science was renamed to Teatr STUDIO (STUDIO Theatre).

Szajna’s characteristic style, consistently developed since his collaboration with Jerzy Grotowski on staging Stanisław Wyspiański’s Acropolis at Teatr Laboratorium 13 Rzędów (13 Rows Laboratory Theatre) in Opole, in 1962, situated Szajna’s original theatre at a verge of fine and performance arts. In plays he directed, Szajna often limited the role of words to bare minimum, searching instead for different forms of expression in a dynamic interaction between the actor’s body and the objects placed on stage. Thanks to this original approach, STUDIO established its strong identity from the very first season, in sharp contrast to that of Teatr Dramatyczny (Dramatical Theatre), located on the opposite side of Plac Defilad and led by Gustaw Holoubek, who focused on literary repertoire and psychological acting. Performances staged by Szajna, including: subsequent versions of his Replica (1972, 1973), Witkacy (1972), Gulgutier (1973), Dante (1974), Cervantes (1976) and Mayakovsky (1978), as well as Karol Irzykowski’s Dobrodziej Złodziei (The Benefactor of Thieves) (1975) and Witold Wandurski’s Śmierć na gruszy (Death on the Pear Tree) (1978) were ground-breaking artistic events. Presented during numerous international tours, including in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Norway, Finland, the United States and Mexico, they strengthened the high position of the Polish art abroad.

Other theatre directors who worked for the STUDIO Theatre include: Lidia Zamkow (For Whom the Bell Tolls  based on Earnest Hemingway’s novel, 1972; The Dream based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story, 1973); Helmut Kajzar (Sędziowie (Judges) by Stanisław Wyspiański, 1972; Kazar’s own play Rycerz Andrzej (Andrew the Knight), 1974), Stanisław Różewicz (Pandora’s Box by Frank Wedekind, 1976), Hanna Skarżanka (Medea by Eurypides, 1977), Andrzej Markowicz (Matuzalem by Yvan Goll, 1977; The Mountain Giants by Luigi Pirandella, 1979); and Henryk Baranowski (The Trial based on Franz Kafka, 1980). Remarkable and important characters were created by actors, including: Olga Bielska, Jolanta Hanisz, Leszek Herdegen, Jacek Jarosz, Ewa Kozłowska, Tomasz Marzecki, Wiesława Niemyska, Helena Norowicz, Antoni Pszoniak, Andrzej Siedlecki, Józef Wieczorek and, above all, Irena Jun and Stanisław Brudny.

Szajna’s great ambition was to create a space not only artistic in nature but also focusing on research and open both to formal experiments and theoretical reflections. In 1972, a modern art gallery was opened at the Theatre, followed by a stage design studio for students of the Warsaw Fine Arts Academy. There were plans to rebuild the big stage but the innovative project of Oscar Hansen never came to life. In 1976, in the former theatre set design workshop, a small theatre stage, the so called Malarnia [An Atelier], was inaugurated. Szajna’s consistent policy lead to yet another change of the institution name, which since 10 July 1980 was known as Centrum Sztuki STUDIO – Teatr Galeria (STUDIO Centre for the Arts - Gallery Theatre).

1982-1997 Jerzy Grzegorzewski

At the same time a conflict arose between the Theatre management and the actors, worried about their future in view of changes taking place. Szajna’s resignation, in December 1981, coincided with the martial law in Poland. Due to the political situation, a decision was made to split the management competencies. In early 1982, Waldemar Dąbrowski, Deputy Director of Warsaw City Culture Department, was appointed as the General Theatre Director. On Szajna’s recommendation, Jerzy Grzegorzowski became the artistic director. Grzegorzewski, a stage designer and dramaturgist, guaranteed that the high artistic level and experimental character of the Theatre would be preserved. Grzegorzewski’s initiative to name the Theatre after Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy) was his specific programme declaration. On 24 February 1985, the centennial birthday anniversary of the Pure Form concept author, STUDIO Art Centre was given the name of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz.

Fifteen years of Grzegorzewski’s directorship was the Golden Era for STUDIO. Grzegorzewski followed Szajna’s path, however he managed to leave on it an indelible mark of his sensitivity and imagination. The original character of Grzegorzewski’s theatre, which on the one hand played refined and usually hermetic games with the heritage of European Modernism and on the other imposed demanding requirements on the actors, made the STUDIO one of the most interesting Warsaw theatres in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Grzegorzewski staged several plays at STUDIO, among others: The Screens of Jean Ganet, 1982; Pułapka (The Trap) by Tadeusz Różewicz, 1984; Dziady – Improwizacja (The Forefather’s Eve - Improvisation) by Adam Mickiewicz, 1987; and Death of Ivan Iljic based on Leo Tolstoy, 1991 - to name just a few. Grzegorzewski also staged several own authorial performances, including: Powolne ciemnienie malowideł (The Slow Darkening of Paintings), 1985; Tak zwana ludzkość w obłędzie (So-called Humanity in Madness), 1987; Usta milczą, dusza śpiewa (Lips are Silent but the Soul Sings), 1988; Miasto liczy psie nosy (The Town Counts Dogs’s Noses), 1991; Cztery komedie równoległe (Four Parallel Comedies), 1994; La Boheme, 1995.

Grzegorzewski offered collaboration to artists representing formal theatre. Plays at STUDIO were directed by, among others: Henryk Baranowski (Despoiled Shores… by Heiner Müller, 1985), Jerzy Kalina (Pielgrzymi i tułacze (Pilgrims and Wanderers) by Jerzy Kalina, 1989), Mariusz Treliński (Lautréamont: Dreams by Isidore Ducasse, 1992), Ewa Bułhak – (The Victims of Duty by Eugene Ionesco, 1993; The Misanthrope by Moliere, 1995), and Zbigniew Brzoza (The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other  by Peter Handke, 1966). In 1992, Grzegorzewski invited Szajna to stage a new version of Dante. It is worth to highlight the collaboration with Tadeusz Łomnicki, which lasted for several years and resulted in a spectacular show Krapp’s Last Tape, staged in 1985. Other plays with Łominicki, namely: Comedy, 1985, Catastrophe, 1986, and Endgame, 1986, as well as monodramas featuring Irena Jun, Not I, Rockaby and  (Steps), 1985, all directed by Antoni Libera, are among the most important Samuel Beckett productions in the history of Polish theatre.

It is worth mentioning that it was STUDIO where the famous Tamara by John Kranz, the first strictly commercial show in the history of Polish theatre, was shown for the first time, in 1990, directed by Maciej Wojtyszko.

Grzegorzewski’s significant accomplishment was putting together one of the best actor’s troupes in Warsaw, after the breakup of Gustaw Holoubek’s Teatr Dramatyczny. Apart from actors collaborating with Szajna, the following appeared regularly or as visiting actors on the STUDIO stage: Mariusz Benoit, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Teresa Budzisz-Krzyżanowska, Stanisława Celińska, Anna Chodakowska, Józef Duriasz, Bogusław Linda, Olgierd Łukaszewicz, Krzysztof Majchrzak, Mieczysław Mielicki, Ewa Mirowska, Jan Peszek, Anna Romanowska, Zdzisław Tobiasz, Marek Walczewski, and Jerzy Zelnik. Stanisław Szymański, a legend of Polish ballet and a magnificent dancer, also performed at STUDIO. Zbigniew Zamachowski and Wojciech Malajkat, who soon became the audience favourites, played their first important parts here .

It is hard to overestimate the role of Waldemar Dąbrowski in forging the identity and establishing the position of the STUDIO Theatre. His contacts and diplomatic skills made it possible to extend and diversify the theatre’s activity. Gallery STUDIO’s collection had grown under the caring hand of Zbigniew Taranienko (former artistic advisor of Józef Szajna). In 1982, an artistic management company Impresariat was established, supervised by Władysław Serwatowski. In 1984, Sinfonia Varsovia, an orchestra founded by Franciszek Wybrańczyk (director of Polish Chamber Orchestra( and Yehudi Menuhin (a conductor), was given headquarters and rehearsal room at the STUDIO. At the same time, a Film Workshop of Jerzy Karpiński was organised, with the aim not only to document current artistic activity of the Theatre but also to create a video library. Nevertheless, the activity of all the units comprising the STUDIO Art Centre has not overshadowed the leading role played by theatre stage, and Grzegorzewicz had the total artistic control over the entire establishment, especially after Dąbrowski left in 1990 and Grzegorzewski took over.

1997 – 2006 Zbigniew Brzoza 

In January 1997, Grzegorzewski accepted the position offered  to him a year earlier and became the Director of the National Theatre, restored after the fire. When leaving STUDIO, Grzegorzewski took with him some of the actors. He handed the leadership of STUDIO to Zbigniew Brzoza (artistic director) and Krzysztof Kosmala (general director).

Under Grzegorzewski’s management, Brzoza established himself as an artist sensitive to the form. However, taking over the artistic management of STUDIO, he declared to change its profile. He focused on modern drama, especially Austrian (Finally Over), 1998; Love on Madagascar, 2000;  Passion, 2007 all by Peter Turrini) and British (Spoonface Steinberg by Lee Hall, 2001; Więź (Iron) by Rona Munro, 2004). The premiere of Bal pod Orłem (The Ball under the Eagle) (2003), based on the famous Jean-Claude Penchenat’s Le Bal, turned out to be quite a significant artistic event.

The only performances from that period that revitalised the avant-garde tradition of STUDIO are the Polish premiere of Zachodnie wybrzeże (West Coast) by Bernard-Marie Koltes, directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski (1998), and Prze(d)stawienie  by Agata Duda-Gracz, based on Merlin or the Wasteland by Tankred Dorst (2006).

Brzoza invited leading Lithuanian theatre directors to cooperate with STUDIO. In 1989, Oskaras Korsunovas directed Elizaveta Bam by Daniil Kharms and in 2001, The Hourglass Sanatorium by Bruno Schulz. In 2006, Rimas Tuminas staged Carl Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters. Brzoza established regular colaboration with Piotr Cieplak (Taka Ballada (My Ballad), 1999; Kubuś P. (Winnie the P.) based on A.A. Milne, 1999; Muzyka ze słowami (Music with Words), 2002). Regular repertoire items were poetic spectacles of Irena Jun which enjoyed great popularity (Dinner at Countess Pavahoke’s  based on Witold Gombrowicz’s short story, 2004; Filozofia po góralsku (A Goral History of Philosophy) based on Józef Tischner’s book with Wiesław Komasa playing a leading part, 2005). STUDIO also hosted recitals of its actresses - Edyta Jungowska (Gotujący się pies (Boiling Dog), 2000), Monika Świtaj (Różnie bywa (Ups and Down), 2001) and Ewa Błaszczyk (Nawet gdy wichura (Even if it Winds), 2006).

2007 – 2009 Bartosz Zaczykiewicz

Appointing Bartosz Zaczykiewicz as artistic director and general manager was an attempt to liven up STUDIO which in the last years under Brzoza’s management had significantly declined. Zaczykiewicz, contrary to common expectations, failed to repeat the success of Jan Kochanowski Theatre in Opole, which he had managed for the preceding 8 years.

Zaczykiewicz based his agenda mainly on the continuation of his collaboration with Marek Fiedor, which had started in Opole, (Bitwa pod Grunwaldem (Battle of Grunwald) based on a short story by Tadeusz Borowski, 2008; The Spell based on Hermann Broch’s novel, 2010). Single spectacles were also staged by young directors, including: Michał Siegoczyński (Holly Day based on Truman Capote, 2008), Michał Zadara Każdy/a (Everyman/woman), 2008), Paweł Aigner Captain Pantoja and the Special Service, based on a Mario Vargass Llosa’s novel, 2008), Wojciech Klemm (Yerma by Federico Garcia Lorca, 2009), and Tomasz Hynek (Nienasycenie (Insatiability) based on a novel by Witkacy, 2009). Zaczykiewicz himself directed only one play (Obrock based on Witkacy, 2008).

Zaczykiewicz managed to liven up the activities of STUDIO Gallery, appointing as its chief curator Krzysztof Żwirblis, who had earlier cooperated with the Academy of Movement. Nevertheless, termination of the agreement with Sinfonia Varsovia, which was about to get new premises, and the relocation of the film collection to the Zbigiew Raszewski Theatre Institute, and also the liquidation of the artistic management company Impresariat  led to a situation where it made no much sense to keep the Art STUDIO Centre. On 1 January 2008, pursuant to the resolution of the Council of Warsaw, the Art Centre ceased to exist, and the stage came back to its original name, and since then it has been known as Teatr Studio im. Stanisława Ignacego Witkiewicza (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz STUDIO Theatre).

In the face of the growing crisis in the Theatre, in the second half of 2009 Zaczykiewicz decided to resign.

2010 – 2012 Grzegorz Bral

In early 2010, the Theatre management was taken over by Grzegorz Bral (artistic director) and Maciej Klimczak (general director). Bral, the creator of an alternative theatre Teatr Pieśń Kozła (Song of the Goat Theatre) and director of the international Brave Festival, was expected to re-open STUDIO to experiment. However, the performances staged at STUDIO by Bral (Scenes from Ionesco, 2011; The Idiot based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, 2011; and August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, 2012) did not match to his former projects, presented on a guest basis, such as Macbeth or Szukając Leara (Looking for Lear). At the same time, Klimczak’s policy was leading STUDIO towards becoming a sponsored stage.

Out of the few premiers some stood out, for example Paweł Passini’s Artaud. Sobowtór i jego teatr (Artaud. Dopplegänger and his Theatre) (2011), and Grzegorz Wiśniewski’s stage version of Joseph and Maria by Peter Turrini (2011), with remarkable characters played by Irena Jun and Stanisław Brudny.

At that time, many workshops for actors were conducted by Grzegorz Bral and Krzysztof Majchrzak. There was also a single workshop for students of directing. In 2010, Jerzy Grzegorzewski’s Workshop was opened, coordinated by Mateusz Żurawski, and aiming to collect, edit and publish documentation of Grzegorzewski’s work, and to carry out projects on the history of STUDIO Art Centre. In the 2011/2012 season, at the Theatre’s Café several meetings were held of the Club of Unwashed Souls, headed by Janusz Majcherek (among others, a cycle of meetings on Witkacy and his oeuvre).

After Klimczak left in 2011, Roman Osadnik became Theatre General Director. Previously the director of the Polonia Theatre and the Och-Theatre, Osadnik in a short time managed to increase the number of performances as well as of the audience. Additionally, he extended the Theatre offer, organising cultural events, thanks, among other things, to opening the STUDIO to cooperation with NGOs.  Also, he initiated refurbishment works to gain new space for rehearsals and performances.

2012 – 2015 Agnieszka Glińska 

On 1 September 2012, Agnieszka Glińska, a director and actress, took over the artistic  leadership. She started by building a strong and diverse acting troupe, inviting actors from other Warsaw-based theatres to collaborate. In the first year of her management, Glińska was awarded by Gazeta Wyborcza (Co Jest Grane) the-so-called Wdecha 2012 in the category Men of the Year for ‘changes, that she already managed to make […], for promising new performances and for the full audience’ . At the inauguration of her first season, on 17 October 2012, a ceremony was performed at which STUDIO stages were named after  former directors – the Big Stage after Józef Szajna and the Gallery - after Jerzy Grzegorzewski.

Glińska build the repertoire basing, on the one hand, on reinterpreted classical texts (with special focus on Russian drama), and, on the other hand, on modern texts just being discovered for a larger audience. The performances which were enthusiastically received by the audience and appreciated by the critics included: The Wuthering Heights based on the novel of Emily Brone (directed by Kuba Kowalski, 2012), Marriage by Nikolai Gogol (directed Ivan Vyrypaev, 2013), Talented Mr. Ripley based on Mary Highsmith (directed by Radosław Rychcik, 2015). In 2013, Glińska’s collaboration with Dorota Masłowska resulted in an awarded stage version of Dwoje biednych Rumunów mówiących po Polsku (Two Poor Romanians Speaking Polish), and in 2014 in a very popular play for kids Jak zostałam wiedźmą (How I Became a witch). In 2015, the first performance intentionally accessing the avant-garde traditions of STUDIO was staged, namely Exercises in Style based on Raymond Queneau (directed by Maria Żynel, coproduction with Malabar Hotel Theatre).

Glińska’s artistic spirit and energy, joined with Osadnik’s marketing efficiency, in a short time brought STUDIO back to the theatrical map of Warsaw. STUDIO was not only an interesting theatre stage but it also became quite popular and trendy. Apart from the wide repertoire and numerous exhibitions at the Gallery (run by Agnieszka Zawadowska), several regular guest projects were launched, including The Met Opera HD (in 2012) and the STUDIO Dance Stage (in 2015). STUDIO begun, on a larger scale, to organise readings of plays, meetings, open lectures, and educational projects not just for children or seniors, but also for people with auditory and visual disability. Furthermore, the JG Workshop extended its activity, collaborating with the Theatre Institute and the National Theatre in publishing the original scripts of Jerzy Grzegorzewski. The first of two volumes edited by Ewa Bułhak and Mateusz Żurawski was awarded by the Critique Section of PO ITI as the Book on Theatre of the Year in 2013. In the same year, Grzegorz Lewandowski opened the STUDIO Bar, in the former Theatre foyer. Soon the bar became an important place for public debates and cultural events on the verge of various artistic fields. In 2014, the Plac Defilad project was launched, aiming to make use of public space (Wdecha 2015 award in Event of the Year category).

Since 2016, Natalia Korczakowska 

In April 2016, the artistic management was taken over by Natalia Korczakowska - a theatre director, whereas Dorota Jarecka, a critic and art historian, took charge of the gallery. On Korczakowska’s initiative, the name of the place was changed to reflect the avant-garde traditions of STUDIO Art Centre, and now it is STUDIO teatrgaleria (STUDIO theatregallery).

Some of the most important artistic endeavours of STUDIO during that period include collaboration (with theatres Nowy, Powszechny and TR Warszawa) in the production of the most awaited premiere in recent years, that is The Trial based on Franz Kafka’s novel, directed by Krystian Lupa (2017). Stage adaptations of the novels Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin (2017) and Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky, directed by Korczakowska, were very well received (2018), whereas radical interpretations of Stanisław Wyspiański’s Wyzwolenie (Liberation) (directed by Krzysztof Garbaczewski, 2017) and Juliusz Słowacki’s Sen srebrny Salomei (The Silver Dream of Salomea) (directed by Michał Zadara, 2018) gave rise to controversy. In 2018, Irena Jun came back on stage with a new monodrama entitled Matka Makryna (Mother Makryna) based on the texts of Juliusz Słowacki and Jack Dahnel. Performative reading of Powolne ciemnienie malowideł (The Slow Darkening of Paintings) by Jerzy Grzegorzewski, staged under the eye of director Michał Borczuch (2018), became also a remarkable event.

Putting into practice the idea of ‘theatregallery’, which is to create a space for free dialogue between various art forms and disciplines, STUDIO established a contact with the prestigious California Institute of Arts, which offers degree programmes in performing, media and literary arts. The effects of collaboration between students of the CalArts Center For New Performance and actors of the STUDIO theatregallery, under Trevis Preston’s artistic supervision, following the avant-garde traditions of the place, were presented at a mini festival CalArts STUDIO on Plac Defilad in Warsaw, in June 2018. The collaboration continues. Currently, a play drawn from the writings of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, entitled Metafizyka dwugłowego cielęcia (The Metaphysics of a Two-Headed Calf) and directed by Natalia Korczakowska is being staged as a co-production with CalArts. In September 2018, as part of a project Set design as an art form, Daniel Buren, a French artist and art theorist, created his work at STUDIO, entitled In Situ. 

STUDIO teatrgaleria is one of the most important experimental stages in Poland.