2012-03-12
2019-10-30

Reduta

the theatre group considered to be Poland’s first theatre laboratory. It was founded in 1919 in Warsaw by Juliusz Osterwa and Mieczysław Limanowski, who together created Reduta’s ideology and led its work. The group’s main principle was studio work towards a fundamental artistic and ethical reconstruction of the Polish theatre scene thanks to which it would become capable of creating an original national theatre, derived from the works and projects of Mickiewicz, Słowacki and Wyspiański.

Reduta was the first to combine artistic work and education with multifaceted pedagogical activities, which were to lead to the formation of mature and conscious artists, with this in turn bringing about the creation of pioneering methods of work on oneself. The creation of Reduta was preceded by conversations held in Moscow in 1916 between the founders, which also included their joint visit to the First Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre, while Reduta’s direct predecessor was the Polskie Studio Sztuki Teatru im. Adama Mickiewicza (the Adam Mickiewicz Polish Studio of Theatre Arts) founded by Limanowski in Warsaw. As a result of observing the work of this group, together with his general disappointment in the lack of ideals characterising the theatre of a reborn Poland, Osterwa made efforts to create the conditions necessary to develop workshop activities with young actors. He was successful in gaining the assistance of the then artistic director of Teatr Rozmaitości (Variety Theatre) who, in exchange for Osterwa joining his company, agreed to ensure that he would enjoy the conditions necessary for fulfilling this project. It was also his suggestion that a chamber theatre should be created in the Reduta Rooms of Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki, while he also devised the new group’s name which, on the one hand, made reference to the nature of the rooms (they were created with masked balls in mind and known as reduty ) while, on the other hand, bringing to mind military traditions (a redoubt as an advanced military post) as well as the mythical redoubt of Ordon glorified by Mickiewicz.

Reduta’s activities were officially initiated on 29 November 1919 with the world premiere of Stefan Żeromski’s Ponad śnieg bielszym się stanę (Whiter than snow shall I be). During the first period of its activities (known as the first Warsaw Reduta), the group combined workshop-type work with the preparation of future performances, which were all based exclusively on Polish texts, while the work on them took place on the basis of a studio system, something that was a complete novelty in Poland (the long periods of analytical work led by Limanowski which aimed at turning the creative process accompanying the creation of a performance into an important personal experience). Another novelty was also the radical break with the anachronous traditions of nineteenth-century theatre (removing the prompter’s box, for example) and actions aiming at destroying the remnants of the star system (combining roles). The objective of these actions was the creation of a unified group while also generating such a level of experiencing events on stage that they become a transformational experience both for actors and also spectators.

In accordance with these principles, Osterwa and Limanowski worked towards creating a theatre that would fulfil the ideals of the Romantic theatre of transformation, beginning with experiments with the realist repertoire (W małym domku [In a small house] by Tadeusz Rittner, 17 February 1920) before gradually taking on the challenge of creating a ‘theatrical mystery’ through both stylisation (Fircyk w zalotach [The Dandy’s Courtship] by Franciszek Zabłocki, 16 October 1920) and also experiments of an avant-garde nature (Ulica dziwna [The strange street] by Kazmierz Czyżowski, staged by the painter Adam Dobrodzicki, 23 February 1922). The first successes in the field of the theatre of mystery and confirmation that the chosen direction was right came with the performance of Kazmierz Przerwa-Tetmajer’s Judasz (23 May 1922, with Stefan Jaracz in the title role) and Leon Schiller directing Pastorałka (Pastorale; 23 December 1922) and Wielkanoc (Easter) based on Mikołaj of Wilkowiecko’s text (2 April 1923).

By autumn 1923, however, Reduta was in crisis. This was caused partly by Osterwa becoming involved in running Teatr Rozmaitości (from 1924 it was renamed Teatr Narodowy [National Theatre]) and partly by the decision to turn Reduta into a touring company. The final Warsaw performance took place on 18 May 1924, following which the group, led by Limanowski, began a tour of 32 towns and cities, with performances including Pastorałka and Wielkanoc. During the 1924/25 season, only Instytut Reduty (The Reduta Institute) was active in Warsaw, while the group recommenced its activities in autumn 1925 at a new base at the Teatr na Pohulance in Wilno (Vilnius). Moving Reduta out of the Polish capital was to guarantee, in Osterwa’s view, greater concentration and improve working conditions. Unfortunately, the authorities’ unfulfilled promises, coupled with financial crisis, ensured that after a wonderful start (Wyspiański’s Wyzwolenie [Liberation] with Osterwa in the role of Konrad, 23 December 1925; Wyspiański’s Wesele [Wedding] directed by Limanowski, 19 January 1926; Calderón and Słowacki’s The Constant Prince in a monumental outdoor version, 23 May 1926), already during the second season serious conflicts emerged within the group (the departure of Edmund Wierciński and his group in June 1927), the principles of the group’s programme were broken, and, ultimately, financial collapse struck the group, with Osterwa working for several years to pay off these debts by designating the income from his guest performances to this end. Officially, the activities of the Wilno Reduta ceased on 26 November 1929. Following a break of several months, Reduta resumed its activities in Warsaw (known as the second Warsaw Reduta), this time primarily in the form of the Reduta Institute which led workshops and educational work, while also occasionally preparing public performances (including Cyprian Norwid’s Pierścień wielkiej damy [The Grand Dame’s Ring], 26 March 1936). The Institute was also responsible for keeping documents and artefacts by running a modern archive of Reduta (which was destroyed in the Second World War). Alongside the Institute there was also a touring company (whose performances included Stefan Żeromski’s Uciekła mi przepióreczka [My little quail has flown], 1938 and Powrót Przełęckiego [Przełęcki’s return] by Jerzy Zawieyski with Osterwa performing, 1939), a schools’ theatre [Teatr Szkolny] (a model theatre for children and young people) and Studio Radiowe (Radio Studio). For a long time, this period was considered the least interesting and least creative of Reduta’s existence given the almost complete lack of spectacular premieres. With the benefit of hindsight, however, we can see that it is indeed the studio work of the second Warsaw Reduta that has had the most lasting impact on the history of Polish theatre and it remains to this day a vital inspiration for many artists.

The great significance of Reduta is evident in the list of its collaborators and alumni, who include most notably – beyond Schiller and Wierciński, who have already been mentioned – Tadeusz Białoszczyński, Tadeusz Byrski, Zygmunt Chmielewski, Antoni Cwojdziński, Maria Dulęba, Eugeniusz Dziewulski, Iwo Gall, Halina Gallowa, Stefan Jaracz, Ewa Kunina, Zofia Mysłakowska, Stanisława Perzanowska, Józef Poręba and Stanisława Zbyszewska. Reduta’s activities were ended by the Second World War. Certainly, Osterwa did attempt to revive the group’s activities after 1945, but in light of the changed socio-political situation and also as a result of his ever worsening health, these efforts never got beyond an initial organisational stage.

The tradition of Reduta was one of the most important to which Jerzy Grotowski referred, with his comments concentrating primarily on the group’s work ethic and the perseverance involved in Reduta’s experiments, while always remaining careful to distance himself from its aesthetics and ideology. Grotowski nevertheless possessed a much more extensive knowledge about Reduta than it might seem, and this is something for which he owes great thanks to Halina Gallowa and the Byrskis. Many of the principles of the Theatre of 13 Rows and Laboratory Theatre can be considered to have been inspired by the principles that guided the work of Reduta, with both groups also sharing a vital relationship with the romantic tradition. A symbolic and public expression of the relationship of Grotowski’s theatre to Reduta came with the Laboratory Theatre adopting as its sign Reduta’s symbol at the end of March 1966, although Reduta’s ‘R’ was replaced with an ‘L’ situated within three linked bights symbolising infinity.

Bibliography: 

Jerzy Grotowski: Osterwa po ćwierćwieczu, wypowiedź podczas wieczoru poświęconego Juliuszowi Osterwie w dwudziestą piątą rocznicę jego śmierci, zorganizowanego przez Instytut Sztuki PAN w Warszawie 10 maja 1972 roku, „Dialog” 1972 nr 9, s. 115– 117.

Dariusz Kosiński: Polski teatr przemiany, Wrocław 2007, s. 273–350.

Mieczysław Limanowski, Juliusz Osterwa: Listy, opracował i wstępem opatrzył Zbigniew Osiński, Warszawa 1987.

Mieczysław Limanowski: Był kiedyś teatr Dionizosa, wstęp, wybór i opracowanie Zbigniew Osiński, Warszawa 1994.

Zbigniew Osiński: Pamięć Reduty. Osterwa, Limanowski, Grotowski, Gdańsk 2003.

O zespole Reduty 1919–1939. Wspomnienia, Warszawa 1970.

Juliusz Osterwa: Przez teatr – poza teatr, wybór i opracowanie Ireneusz Guszpit i Dariusz Kosiński, wstęp Ireneusz Guszpit, Kraków 2004.

Juliusz Osterwa: Raptularz kijowski, opracowanie Ireneusz Guszpit, Wrocław 2010.

Juliusz Osterwa: Reduta i teatr. Artykuły, wywiady, wspomnienia, 1914–1947, teksty zebrali Zbigniew Osiński i Teresa Grażyna Zabłocka, opracował i przygotował do druku Zbigniew Osiński, Wrocław 1991.

Józef Szczublewski: Pierwsza Reduta Osterwy, Warszawa 1965.