At the Campfire

A Glance around the Polish TYA Part 2

by Agata Drwiega

Since I have been interested in contemporary dramaturgy for the youth, the beginning of September has become an important time in my agenda. At that time usually the new edition of 'Nowe Sztuki dla Dzieci i Młodzieży' ('New Plays for Children and Young People') edited by Zbigniew Rudziński is published. According to it, for a couple of years I have taken part in the professional meeting of people connected to contemporary dramaturgy which takes place in the old palace in Obrzycko, around 50 km from Poznań, Greater Poland. This year’s event was extraordinary for a number of reasons.

First of all, Obrzycko is a magic place: a complex of old palace buildings, which we sleep in, is situated hidden in the forest on the outskirts of the village. Every night we have the-all-night talks sitting around the campfire. There is no one beside the participants and all the circumstances cause a friendly atmosphere full of absorbing conversations, giving birth to great ideas and connecting people who are full of passion. All of them are somehow related to the Theatre Play Competition, which is organized yearly by Children’s Art Centre in Poznań and coordinated by Rudziński. Around the fire you will find the jury members, equally experienced playwrights as novices, theatres’ directors and admirers of contemporary playwriting. The fixed parts of every year program are: loud readings of the plays published in the newest edition of 'Nowe Sztuki' and discussions about those plays, workshops for the Competition’s authors, lectures about contemporary dramaturgy and speeches of the new puppet theatre’s directors in which they present their programmes. This year in Obrzycko we celebrated a couple of anniversaries: the 30th anniversary of the Competition (the first one was announced in 1986 and 17 authors were invited to take part in it); the 40th edition of 'Nowe Sztuki' (in which since 1992 200 plays written by 102 both Polish and foreign authors were published) and the 25th professional meeting.

How to develop New Plays for Children and Young People

As always the themes of the discussions were broad and many aspects of contemporary dramaturgy had been touched. This year a subject, which returned most often, was the comic quality in contemporary theatre and drama for youth. In her speech dedicated to this aspect in a general way Professor Dobrochna Ratajczakowa from Adam Mickiewicz University described a wide spectrum of comic varieties and claimed that funniness has many faces and trying to separate them is an impossible task. Nevertheless they appear in contemporary dramaturgy for youth in varied forms which are known both in historical and theoretical aspect. In Polish contemporary plays verbal jokes appear the most often but the situational one are also present, as well as grotesque, absurd, black humour, shallow humour etc.

The Competition has played a leading role in generalization of contemporary playwriting in Polish TYA. Thanks to it, many playwrights were discovered and their plays are staged in the puppet theatres in the whole country. There are some authors like Maciej Wojtyszko, Monika Milewska, Izabela Degórska, Liliana Bardijewska, Robert Jarosz, Michał Walczak, Marta Guśniowska and Malina Prześluga whose plays have shaped the contemporary Polish theatres’ repertoires. Plenty of the realisations are the outcome of the authors and the directors meetings in Obrzycko.There is one more important aspect to mention about the Obrzycko meetings and the 'Nowe Sztuki': Not only Polish authors are published and promoted there. Thanks to it, plays of varied well known foreign authors are staged in Poland – I will name only a couple of them: Pierre Gripari, Phillipe Dorin, Ulrich Hub, Holger Schober, Martin Baltscheit, Thilo Reffert or Suzanne Lebeau.

And professional meetings in Obrzycko are not the only activities dedicated to contemporary dramaturgy in Poland. About the others I will write in the next posts.