- June 2, 2023
It has happened: After 80 years, a Polish professional theatre is operating again in Vilnius
On 26 May 2023, by the decision of the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania Simonas Kairys, the Polish “Studio” Theatre in Vilnius was granted the status of a professional theatre.
Efforts started more than 10 years ago
– It has been a very long road, as it started back around 2012. You could say that the whole path of our development led to this. Professional actors and directors were coming out of our company. So it was obvious that we wanted more. But here wanting was not enough. Hard work and support of many people were necessary,” Lila Kiejzik, artistic director of the theatre, told “Kurier Wileński”.
It is worth noting that the status of a professional theatre is granted by the RL Ministry of Culture based on specific guidelines.
– First of all, we had to demonstrate a regular repertoire at a professional level, i.e. realised by actors and directors who had graduated from a theatre academy. Another requirement was to translate the performances and display subtitles in Lithuanian during the performances so that they would be accessible to Lithuanian-speaking audiences. We also had to revamp the website and bring our YouTube channel up to standards. Another requirement was also to have reviews of the performances created by professional theatre critics. It was a huge effort, very systematic and it required a constant raising of the bar,” explains Edward Kiejzik, the theatre’s administrative director.
Not only prestige but also greater opportunities
The professional status of a theatre is not only a matter of prestige, it is also a tangible benefit for theatres.
– The Minister’s decision opens us the way to apply for funds provided for theatres by the Lithuanian state. The most important benefits are the reimbursement of costs for renting halls for our performances and expenses for administration. The creation of an administrative structure is currently one of our most urgent needs, as we need professional facilities for further development. And of course – from now on we will be able to submit projects in competitions for Lithuanian theatres,” adds the interlocutor of the ” Kurier Wileński”.
– We will operate in two areas. The Polish “Studio” Theatre, which has been given the status of a professional theatre, will operate primarily with professional actors and directors. Alongside it, there will also be the Polish Theatre Studio in Vilnius, which will carry out the mission accompanying us from the beginning, namely the promotion of Polish literature and language among youth through theatre. I hope that we will also be able to intensify our cooperation with theatre academies in Vilnius and Warsaw. This is all a question for the future, but we will certainly have more opportunities now,” notes Edward Kiejzik.
Gratitude and a sense of having accomplished a mission
– We thank the Minister of Culture of Lithuania Simonas Kairys and the members of the Professional Arts Commission who believed in us and made this decision. We thank the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland and Minister Piotr Gliński, who supported our activities. We thank the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw and all the institutions and organisations that supported us in this process. A personal and most sincere thank you to our friend, Mr. Czesław Okińczyc, who oversaw the formal and informal process for several years – until victory. We would also like to thank the Polish Embassy in Vilnius, which has always supported us, and the Jan Olszewski Foundation “Helping Poles in the East”. I make no secret of the fact that it is since 2016, when Mikołaj Falkowski became the president of the foundation, that it has been much easier for us to pursue our goal. The chairman was and is personally involved in the affairs of our theatre, he supports us but also motivates us to take new actions. We could also count on the support of Orlen Lietuva, which made it easier for us to make ambitious plans. Cooperation with Vilnius TVP is also very important for us. This is not only an opportunity to show our plays to a wider audience, but also to work with very good Polish directors,” explains Lila Kiejzik.
– I am sure I will not mention everyone I want to thank now, but I am convinced that a great many people for whom the Polish language and Polish theatre in Vilnius are important, walked together on this path. I have the feeling of a fulfilled mission, and I am very emotional today. All day long I have been phoning the people who supported us on this path, with whom we started it. For those who founded this theatre with Mrs. Janina Strużanowska, for her daughter Hanna Strużanowska-Balsenė this is a great day,” the theatre manager adds.
Over 60 years of walking the road together
The Polish Theatre Studio in Vilnius was founded in November 1960 as the Polish Drama Troupe at the Communication Workers’ Club. It was the first artistic institution of its kind established in Vilnius after the war. To this day it remains a meeting centre for the Polish intelligentsia in Vilnius. The primary objective of the Theatre’s activities is to promote and popularise Polish theatrical culture in Lithuania and to promote the legacy of the Pohulanka Theatre and Juliusz Osterwa’s “Reduta” Theatre.
The status of the Polish theatre in Vilnius was one of the topics repeatedly raised by Deputy Prime Minister Professor Piotr Glinski in his talks with Lithuanian Minister of Culture Simonas Kairys. It was also the subject of discussion between the two ministers last Tuesday during the Lublin Triangle meeting in Krakow.
Over the years of its activity, the theatre has staged more than 90 plays and performances based on dramatic, poetic, and musical works. It also organises three international theatre festivals: since 1994 Vilnius Encounters of the Polish Stage, since 2012. MonoEast International Festival, and since 2020 the Trans/Mission Balticum International Theatre Festival.
The performances of the Polish Theatre Studio in Vilnius have been performed on many stages in Poland, Germany, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The theatre cooperates with many theatrical institutions in Poland and Lithuania, and since 2020 it has also cooperated with Polish Television, which has resulted, among other things, in 8 performances for the TVP Television Theatre realised jointly with TVP Vilnius, TVP3 Kraków, and TVP Kultura.
Translated by Jakub Teleszczuk within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.