Cieślak Ryszard

Ryszard Cieślak, fot. Maurizio Buscarino(1937–1990), actor and director. Having completed his secondary education in Kalisz, Cieślak studied at Łódź and Krakow Polytechnics before joining the Puppetry Department at the Kraków State Drama Academy (PWST). It was there that he became acquainted with Grotowski, who in 1961 (officially from 1 October) employed him at the Theatre of 13 Rows in Opole. Cieślak worked with this group until its dissolution in 1984. The first performance in which he featured was Kordian, playing the combined roles of the Madman 1, Mephistoles, Grzegorz, the Priest and Imagination. Following this, he played Esau and Hector in Akropolis and Wagner, Valdes and Benvolio in Dr Faustus, with a notable performance of the scene depicting Benvolio’s madness (the crazed protagonist turned over heavy wooden tables and dais, something which required both great strength and also precision in order to avoid injuring the spectators sitting close by). At the same time, as part of the Estrady Poetyckie (Poetic Stages) within the Journalistic Stages project, he created the performance Maski (Masks), which was constructed on the basis of texts from the volume Czerwone oczy (Red eyes, edited by Zbigniew Stolarek; premiere 3 January 1963). During work on Studium o Hamlecie (Hamlet Study) he served as assistant director to Grotowski while also performing the role which expressed, among other things, the question of the Father’s Ghost and Rosencrantz. Soon after completing this work, Cieślak and Grotowski entered a period of close and intensive collaboration connected with the role of Don Fernando in The Constant Prince. The outcome was a great, legendary performance which is considered the first realization of the total act. Presentations of The Constant Prince during The Laboratory Theatre’s foreign tours in the late 1960s earned Cieślak international fame and iconic status in contemporary theatre. Cieślak’s position was strengthened by his participation in workshops, courses and demonstrations led by Grotowski (for example in Nancy, 1–2 May 1965; Holstebro, 15–30 July 1966; London 1–10 August 1966 – this was a course for the Royal Shakespeare Company which at the time was working on US directed by Peter Brook; New York 6–30 September 1967 and Aix-en-Provence 15 April – 2 May 1968). The 1971 film Training at Grotowski’s Laboratorium in Wrocław (dir. Torgeir Wethal), made in Holstebro, presents a record of Cieślak’s workshop and training work. Between 1967 and 1969 Cieślak, together with the whole group, participated in work on Ewangelie (The Gospels), in which he created the role of The Beloved (Umiłowany), and on Apocalypsis cum Figuris which featured another legendary performance, this time in the role of Ciemny (the Simpleton). Following The Laboratory Theatre’s performances in the US in autumn 1969, Cieślak was declared the year’s best off-Broadway actor by New York theatre critics. In 1972 he became actively involved in paratheatrical work, gradually taking on the function of leading dramatic experiences prepared for larger groups, including outsiders, within what was initially known as the Large Special Project (the first activities under this title took place 20–30 November 1973 in Saint-Maximin in France, followed by Jackaroo Ranch near Dural, Australia, 23 May – 8 June 1974) before being renamed Special Project (the first ‘paratheatrical apprenticeship’ realised under this title took place between 20 September and 4 December 1974 in Brzezinka). As part of The University of Research of the Theatre of Nations in summer 1975, Cieślak led shortened, two-day versions of the Special Project (on 27–28 and 28–29 June and 6–7 July), as well as his own project Ule (Beehives; 19 June and 3 July). In December 1975, he worked in New York on the film The Body Speaks (dir. John Musilli), which comprises Cieślak’s interview with Margaret Croyden and his commentary on fragments of the film Training at Grotowski’s Laboratorium in Wrocław. Having been gradually sidelined by Grotowski from the experiments that were part of the Theatre of Sources, from the mid-1970s Cieślak began to lead both in Poland and abroad numerous training courses and workshops under the broad title of Acting Search. In 1977 he appeared in the feature film Rekolekcje (Spiritual retreat), directed by Witold Leszczyński (premiere 8 January 1978). Between 1979 and 1980 he was a member of the group within the Laboratory Theatre working on the project Tree of People [Drzewo ludzi]. In 1981 he was in charge of work on the collective piece Polish Thanatos [Tanatos polski] (open rehearsals began on 28 February 1981) – which was to be the Laboratory’s final performance. At the same time, Cieślak was collaborating extensively with European, US and Canadian theatres. From 1982 he worked mainly abroad, leading numerous theatre courses and workshops as well as theatre projects. He was also active as a theatre director, staging: Aleph: Impressioni da un Inferno (Pontedera, Centro per la Sperimentazione e la Ricerca Teatrale, 3 May 1983); Vargtid… (Ǻrhus, Teater Akademi, 5 September 1983), Desarraigo (El Teatro Municipal de Albacete, 8 September 1984), Ibsen’s Peer Gynt (Ǻrhus, Kimbri group, 26 December 1987), My Poor Fiedia, based on Anna Dostoyevska’s memoirs (Paris, Théâtre de l’Epée, performed between 9 and 11 April 1987) and Ash Wednesday, based on Gorky’s The Lower Depths (Experimental Theatre Wing New York University, 25 January 1990). From September 1984, having been invited by Peter Brook, he worked with the international company that was creating a performance based on the Mahabharata, with Cieślak developing the role of the blind ruler Dhritarashtra (premiere 7 July 1986). From September 1989 he was employed as a visiting professor at the New York University Tisch School of Arts. He died of lung cancer on 15 June 1990 in Houston. Many people believe that his premature death was a result of the psychological and physical devastation he experienced once he was no longer able to work with Grotowski. He is considered Grotowski’s model actor and indeed personified Grotowski’s creative approach to actors which exploits both their deep and active introspection as the basis for creating a precise structure of organic actions of a transgressive nature.


Bibliografia wypowiedzi Ryszarda Cieślaka, oprac. Zbigniew Osiński, [w:] tenże: Grotowski. Źródła, inspiracje, konteksty, t. 1, wyd. 2, Gdańsk 2009, s. 357–364.

Ryszard Cieślak: Wrocławscy twórcy kultury. Ryszard Cieślak, rozmawiała Zofia Frąckiewicz, „Słowo Polskie” 1969 nr 225, z 21-22 września, s. 5.

Tenże: Aktor – marzenia, myśli, rozterki. Ryszard Cieślak, rozmawiała Leonia Jabłonkówna, „Teatr” 1971 nr 14, s. 4–7.

Tenże: Aktor natchniony, rozmawiał Tadeusz Burzyński, „Gazeta Robotnicza” 1974 nr 74, z 28 marca, s.5. Przedruk [w:] Tadeusz Burzyński: Mój Grotowski, wybór i opracowanie Janusz Degler i Grzegorz Ziółkowski, posłowie Janusz Degler, Wrocław 2006, s. 31–37.

Tenże: Bez gry, rozmawiał Bogdan Gieraczyński, „Kultura” 1975 nr 11, s. 59–67. Przedruk [w:] Teksty, Wrocław 1975, s. 59–67.

Tenże: Desarraigo, tekst rozdawany publiczności na przedstawieniu o tym tytule (premiera: 8 IX 1984, Albacete, Hiszpania), oryginał w języku angielskim, przekład z hiszpańskiego tłumaczenia Danuta Kucała, opracowanie Piotr Rudzki, „Notatnik Teatralny” 1995 nr 10 (wiosna – lato), s. 123.

Tenże: Listy do żony, wybór listów Ryszarda Cieślaka do Ludmiły Cieślak z lat 1967–1974, wybór i opracowanie Teresa Błajet-Wilniewczyc, Zbigniew Jędrychowski, „Notatnik Teatralny” 1995 nr 10 (wiosna – lato), s. 48–64.

Tenże: Notatki reżysera, przekład i opracowanie Piotr Rudzki, pierwodruk Director’s Notes, tekst zamieszczony w programie do przedstawienia Ash Wednesday [Popielec] (premiera: 15 I 1990), „Notatnik Teatralny” 1995 nr 10 (wiosna – lato), s. 124.

Tenże: Szaleństwo Benwolia, wybór i opracowanie Zbigniew Jędrychowski, „Notatnik Teatralny” 1995 nr 10 (wiosna – lato), s. 40 – 47.

Tenże: Tańczenie w ogniu, rozmawiała Jennifer Kumiega, przekład Zofia Prele, „Notatnik Teatralny” 1995 nr 10 (wiosna – lato), s. 102–108.

Tenże: To jest moje, teraz i tutaj. Listy do Lucyny Pijaczewskiej, listy autora z lat 1984–1990, opracowanie Piotr Rudzki, „Notatnik Teatralny” 1995 nr 10 (wiosna – lato), s. 127–132.

Tenże: Górnicy, przełożyła z języka włoskiego Anna Górka, „Didaskalia. Gazeta Teatralna” 2006 nr 73–74 (czerwiec – sierpień), 98–99.

Ryszard Cieślak (1937–1990. Kalendarium życia i twórczości, opracowali Bruno Chojak i  Władysław Smolarczyk, „Notatnik Teatralny” 1995 nr 10 (wiosna – lato), s. 127–132.

Ryszard Cieślak. Aktor Teatru Laboratorium we Wrocławiu, katalog wystawy poświęconej aktorowi (21 marca – 15 maja 1991), Muzeum Historyczne, Ośrodek Badań Twórczości Jerzego Grotowskiego i Poszukiwań Teatralno-Kulturowych, Wrocław 1991.

Grotowski – Cieślak. Spojrzenia, redakcja Małgorzata Leyko i Maciej Michalski, Kalisz 2010.

Jerzy Grotowski, Książę Niezłomny Ryszarda Cieślaka. Spotkanie „Hommage á Ryszard Cieślak” 9 grudnia 1990, przejrzany i uzupełniony przez autora zapis wypowiedzi w trakcie wieczoru poświęconego Ryszardowi Cieślakowi 9 grudnia 1990 roku w ramach sesji „Secret de l’acteur” zorganizowanej przez Académie Expérimentale des Théâtres przy współpracy Théâtre de l’Europe w sali teatru Odeon w Paryżu, przełożyła Magda Złotowska i autor, „Notatnik Teatralny” 1995 nr 10 (wiosna – lato), s. 21–28.

Krzysztof Domagalik: Całkowicie wrażliwy. Rozmowa z Peterem Brookiem, „Notatnik Teatralny” 1995 nr 10 (wiosna – lato), s. 35–39.

Zbigniew Osiński: Ryszard Cieślak – dzisiaj. Niektóre ślady i inspiracje, [w:] tegoż: Grotowski. Źródła, inspiracje, konteksty, t. 1, wyd. 2, Gdańsk 2009, s. 79–118.

Maria Prussak: Czytanie znaków na wodzie, „Notatnik Teatralny” 1995 nr 10 (wiosna – lato), s. 29–32.

Thomas Richards: Ryszard Cieślak w Yale, przekład Grzegorz Ziółkowski, „Odra” 1996 nr 1 (410), s. 69–72.