Ewa Wojciak, Director of Poland's Theatre of the Eighth Day, Fired by City Mayor
Director of Poland's Theatre of the Eighth Day, Ewa Wojciak, was fired by Poznan mayor Ryszard Grobelny on 28 July because she did not ask for permission to leave the city when she went to Yale and Princeton on 18 February.
The official reason given was that she did not ask for permission to leave the city between 18 and 28 February, when she visited Yale and Princeton universities, performing her touring duties as director and actress with the theatre. However, these trips were not sponsored by the local government, so it is hard to see why she would need permission from authorities.
Ewa Wojciak (actor, text selection and adaptation) - director of the Theatre of the Eighth Day, joined the group in the 1970s, co-authoring all the most important performances, such as Sale for Everyone, How We Lived in Dignity, Wormwood, and No Man's Land, and writing through numerous program manifestos the fundamental artistic and ideological credo of the Theatre. Wojciak was also a keen supporter of the Theatre taking to the streets, creating such successful outdoor shows as The Sabbath (1993),The Summit (1998), and The Ark (2000). She has always been convinced that creating art is a form of empathizing with the world and being responsible for the fate of others.
Theatre of the Eighth Day (Teatr Osmego Dnia) was founded in 1964 as one of the most original and most significant groups of the very animated student theater movement from which Polish alternative theater arose. Its name derives from the Polish poet Konstanty Ildefons Galczynski: "On the seventh day, the Lord God rested, and on the eighth, He created theater". But the theater's name carried yet another meaning - the "eighth day" symbolized a day of freedom that existed outside the official calendar. The theater's style was influenced mostly by the work of Grotowski, but the group developed their own acting method and their own approach to creating performances through group acting improvisations. Their independence and their willingness to speak with their own voice about the surrounding world and the individual's existence entangled in this world all got the group into trouble with the Communist state apparatus, even though it had never been intended as a political theater of opposition. Kept under surveillance by the secret police, plagued by the regular police, and accused of committing common crimes, the theater managed to create some of the most important Polish performances of the seventies, an example of extraordinary creative vitality and determination, both human and artistic: In One Breath, 1971; We have to Confine Ourselves to What has been Called Paradise on Earth...?!, 1975; A Sale for Everyone, 1977; Oh, Have We Lived in Dignity, 1979. During Martial Law (December 1981 and further into the eighties) the theatre was forbidden to present its performances in spaces other than churches (which at that time were one of the few areas more or less independent from the state authorities, and open to various activities that went beyond religious art, however defined, in their form and content). In 1985, part of the group, thanks to all sorts of subterfuges (among them fake marriages with foreign actors), left the country. One of them, Marcin Keszycki, barely managed to get out of Poland in May, 1988, after he had been refused a passport 23 times. The Theatre remained "emigre" until 1989, when they returned to Poland at the invitation of the first non-communist Minister of Culture. In the nineties the group became famous for their visually stunning, socially and politically engaged outdoor performances. They are now back in Poznan, one of Poland's most interesting centers of alternative culture, where along with presentations of performances of their own and of other theatres, there is much creative ferment in educational, artistic, and social fields.
Photo Credit: Bialysnieg via http://pl.wikipedia.org/