What was Reduta?
Reduta is the first Polish theatre laboratory. Active between 1919 and 1939 in Warsaw (1919–1924 and 1931–1939), and Vilnius and Grodno (1925–1929). The group inaugurated their activities on 29 November 1919 in the Reduta Rooms at Teatr Wielki in Warsaw, at the disposal of Jan Lorentowicz. The founders of Reduta, Mieczysław Limanowski and Juliusz Osterwa, created a modern chamber theatre, a disciplined theatrical group and a school comprehensively educating stage artists (the Reduta Institute, active from 1921 alongside the theatre). From the beginning, Reduta combined pioneering laboratory explorations with pedagogical activity and repertory theatre work. Over time, Reduta shifted towards touring activities (the Vilnius period, 1925–1929), as well as studio and pedagogical work (the Warsaw period, 1931–1939).
Reduta – banner by UnknownOriginal Source: The Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute
Over its twenty-year activity, Reduta was the space for some extremely bold experiments, a breeding ground of acting talent and a school, a home for theatre crafts, as well as a community of people characterized by their complete devotion to the art of theatre, good work ethics, and social engagement. In the post-war years, they helped shape Polish theatre and educate subsequent generations of artists.
Audience in Reduta Rooms by Saryusz-WolskiOriginal Source: "Tygodnik Ilustrowany" 1919, no. 47-49
The name "Reduta" literally refers to the theatre’s headquarters in the Reduta Rooms (i.e. ball rooms). Metaphorically, “Reduta” refers to a military base, a defensive fortification, and brings to mind the memory of the heroic "Reduta Ordona" [Ordon’s Citadel] from Adam Mickiewicz’s poem. A white room with thirteen rows of white seats in the stalls and one row in the dress circle could seat an audience of 292.
Reduta’s Founders. Juliusz Osterwa
Born Julian Andrzej Maluszek in Podgórze in Kraków on 23 June 1885. He came from a poor family – his mother was a midwife, his father a janitor in the municipality. He was orphaned early and by middle school was forced to become completely independent. Deprived of familial and financial support, he would either live with distant relatives, frequently moving homes, or would be taken in by strangers (including the Schillers). This however allowed him a great degree freedom and the opportunity to freely choose his path in life. At the age of eighteen, he decided to drop out of school before taking his final exams [matriculation] and to join a theatre company. He went to Lviv and applied for a job at the theatre run by Tadeusz Pawlikowski. When the latter turned him away, he returned to Kraków and tried his luck there. Eventually Kazimierz Gabryjelski, the managing director of the popular Ludowy Theatre [People’s Theatre], hired him. Not only did Osterwa learn the basics of the acting profession there, but he also made the acquaintance of actors who went on to become his lifelong friends and co-workers: Stefan Jaracz and Maria Dulębianka. During this period, his school friend Leon Schiller came up with his artistic pseudonym: Osterwa, as in the name of a peak in the Slovak Tatra Mountains. The budding actor performed with the Zielony Balonik [Green Balloon] cabaret at Jama Michalika, parodying his contemporaries, other dramatic artists, which didn’t win him the favour of his colleagues from the theatre. In 1905, Osterwa was employed by Teatr Miejski [Municipal Thatre] in Kraków, where he played supporting roles. He faced the animosity of the more established stars, and the style and the working style of the theatre annoyed him. Disenchanted, Osterwa left Kraków and performed in theatres in Poznań and Vilnius, where he was cast his first leading roles that ensured he was finally noticed and brought on his first successes. Thanks to his boyish charm, lightness of acting, subtlety of expression, and subtle looks he also gained public recognition.
Juliusz Osterwa (1885 – 1947) (1913) by UnknownTheatre Institute in Warsaw
Perfect for the parts of suitors and lovers, in 1910 Osterwa was employed in Warsaw by a farce company. However, two years later he moved to the Rozmaitości Theatre. There, he achieved recognition playing royal characters, such as Sigismund II Augustus in "Królewski Jedynak" [The Royal Only Child] and "Złote Więzy" [Golden Ties] by Lucjan Rydel, and as the Prince of Reichstadt in "L'Aiglon" [Eaglet] by Edmond Rostand. His fast moving career was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. In 1915, as a citizen of the Austrian empire, Osterwa was interned and transferred to central Russia. With his wife Wanda (née Malinowska), whom he had married in 1912, and their one-year-old daughter, Elżunia, Osterwa settled in Samara. Then in 1916, he went to Moscow where Arnold Szyfman has organised a Polish theatre company. There, he had an opportunity to meet Konstantin Stanislavski and see the work of the First Studio. Finally, he spent two years in Kiev (from August 1916 to August 1918). This "Eastern period" was an extremely significant time in Osterwa’s artistic life.
Juliusz Osterwa by UnknownOriginal Source: Theatre Museum, Materials from Szczublewski’s archive
Osterwa did not terminate his theatrical activity, organizing shows for Polish audiences in Samara – together with Wincenty Drabik, he staged "Betlejem Polskie" [Polish Bethlehem] based on the motifs from the drama by Lucjan Rydel, with excerpts from "Pan Tadeusz" [Master Thaddeus] and "Wyzwolenie" [Liberation]. In Moscow, he directed a number of plays: |Wesele" [The Wedding], "Fantazy", "Bolesław Śmiały" [Bolesław II the Generous], "Lekkomyślna siostra" [The Reckless Sister], and played parts in the great romantic and post-romantic repertoire – Fantazy and Father Piotr in "Wieczór Poezji" Mickiewicza [Evening with Mickiewicz's Poetry], Ślaz in "Lilla Weneda", the Groom in "Wesele" [The Wedding]. In 1918 in Kiev, he established an independent company in the “Ogniwo” Club, which can be regarded as the prototype of Reduta – actors shared both box office takings and duties, including administrative, economic and technical tasks; they did not respond to applause, decisions were taken collectively by the majority of votes. Common ideas and a desire to reform Polish theatre brought Osterwa closer to Mieczysław Limanowski, who was in Moscow at the time. After returning to Poland, together they founded Reduta in 1919.
Juliusz Osterwa with his wife, Matylda neé Sapieha (1940/1941) by UnknownTheatre Institute in Warsaw
In 1937, Osterwa married Matylda neé Sapieha, whom he involved in the theatre’s work: she took part in tours and supported her husband with organisational issues. During the war, which they spent mainly in Kraków and the nearby Sciborzyce, their daughter Maria was born. Under the Nazi occupation, Osterwa did not perform in official theatres. Instead he devoted himself to writing. In his notebooks, he drew up a new system of theatre terminology, replacing words of foreign origin with Polish equivalents. However, he failed to implement any of these projects.After the war, Osterwa briefly became the managing director of Kraków theatres – the combined Słowacki Theatre and Stary Theatre – and the headmaster of the National Drama School in Kraków. He also directed stage productions in Łódź, Warsaw and Kraków. Juliusz Osterwa died in Warsaw on 10 May 1947 and was buried in the Salwator Cemetery in Kraków.
Maria Niedzielska, Juliusz Osterwa, Stefan Żeromski (1925) by UnknownTheatre Institute in Warsaw
Osterwa headed Reduta until the outbreak of the Second World War, directing, playing the main parts, educating future artists at the Reduta Institute, leading tours, and often contributing to the maintenance of the troupe from his own income. He was simultaneously the director of the National Theatre in Warsaw (1924/1925), the director of the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków (1932–1935), and took part in touring productions throughout Poland. The death of Wanda Osterwina in 1929 coincided with the closing of Vilnius Reduta, financial collapse, and return to Warsaw.
"Trifler" by Jerzy Szaniawski (1923-01-12) by Jan BułhakOriginal Source: Theatre Museum
As Józef Szczublewski declared, Osterwa was “an all-round theatre man”: an actor, director, teacher, the creator of the idea of school theatres and theatre pedagogy, as well as a social activist, a “prophet” and visionary of the newly reformed theatre in Poland: theatre that should not pander to the tastes of audiences, the theatre of the live word (“Słowopełnia”, “Żywosłownia”), in which the actor is not a instrument, but a creator with high morale, work ethic and a level of craftsmanship allowing him to embody the words of great bards. Such theatre would not provide entertainment, but rather lead to the transformation of both the viewer and the actor.
Juliusz Osterwa (1926)Theatre Institute in Warsaw
Reduta’s Founders. Mieczysław Limanowski
Born in Lviv on 6 January 1876, the son of Bolesław Limanowski, a socialist activist, and a teacher, Wincentyna (née Szarska). After graduating, he studied engineering at the Lviv Polytechnic. In 1899, he moved to Zakopane for health reasons. He conducted geological research there, published his first scientific articles, and worked for the Tatra Museum. He also became a private teacher of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. In 1903, met a Swiss geologist, Maurice Lugeon, and soon left for Lausanne where he completed a doctor’s degree. At the same time he developed an interest in the theatre: he published reviews and drew up projects of productions (e.g. Norwid’s "Krakus" to be staged in a circus arena). In 1915, along with Aleksander Zelwerowicz, he became the managing director of the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw and staged Le Cide to little critical acclaim. Following the outbreak of the First World War, he was forced to leave for Russia. In Moscow, Limanowski became closely acquainted with Konstantin Stanislavski and worked with the First Studio. At that time he also got to know Osterwa better. After his return to Warsaw, Limanowski established the Adam Mickiewicz Polish Studio of Theatre Arts, where, along with other artists, including Józef Poremba and Halina Kacicka, he worked on "Dziady" [The Forefathers’ Eve]. Osterwa, who was interested in the activity of the group, suggested that they collaborate and, in 1919, they set up the Reduta together.
Mieczysław Limanowski (1876-1948) by UnknownTheatre Institute in Warsaw
Limanowski became the group’s manager. From then on, he mainly conducted analytical rehearsals of the dramas that were to be staged, directed performances, managed the internal affairs of Institute, where he also held theoretical classes, and participated in Reduta’ tours. He was also the co-creator of Reduta’s programme and ideology; he prepared the talks delivered before performances, as well as promoted Reduta’s activity in polemics and features in the press. From 1921 to 1923, Limanowski was also a member of the board of the Association of Polish Stage Artists (ZASP). He did not neglect his academic work, holding lectures at the Faculty of Humanities at Free Polish University (Wolna Wszechnica Polska), and worked at the National Geological Institute in Warsaw. After Reduta’s move to Vilnius, Limanowski became professor of geography at the Stefan Batory University in Vilnius, temporarily suspending his collaboration with the group. When the company returned to Warsaw, he carried on living in Vilnius, but still took part in the work of the Institute, working on subsequent stage productions, including: "Intryga i miłość" [Intrigue and Love] 1932, "L'homme que j'ai tué" [The Man I Killed] 1932, "Betlejem Polskie" [The Polish Betlehem], 1934 and "Pierścień wielkiej damy" [The Grand Dame’s Ring], 1936.
Mieczysław Limanowski by UnknownOriginal Source: Theatre Museum, Materials from Szczublewski’s archive
In the 1930s he was a regular contributor to the Vilnius daily newspaper “Słowo”, writing reviews and the mentor of the Dramatic Society at Stefan Batory University with whom he staged several performances, including "Dziady" and a miracle play about St. George. In his work, Limanowski skilfully combined his two passions: during analytical rehearsals he used terms and examples derived from geology, whereas in his scientific work he often referred to literary works. In spite of having a ridiculous streak (his critics pointed out a certain negligence in the way he dressed, absent-mindedness and a tendency to grandiloquent speeches), he was a highly respected scholar and the author of original interpretations derived from esotericism (e.g. of "Wesele" or "Balladyna"). Osterwa held Limanowski in high esteem, always took his opinion into account and valued him as a partner in discussion, which is best evidenced by their correspondence (collated and published in 1987 by Zbigniew Osiński).
Mieczysław Limanowski with students from the Vilnius University (1936-09) by UnknownOriginal Source: The National Digital Archives
In Osterwa’s view, Limanowski was the epitome of Reduta’s spirit. Limanowski spent the Nazi occupation in Vilnius. After the Second World War, he was repatriated to Toruń along with other Vilnius professors, where he became a professor of geography at Mikołaj Kopernik University. He continued working with young people in the field of education, although he no longer dealt with theatre. Mieczysław Limanowski died in Toruń on 25 January 1948. He was buried in St. George Cemetery in Toruń.
Reduta on tour, Kobryń (1924) (1924) by UnknownOriginal Source: The Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences, The Wierciński collection
Limanowski’s contributions to creating Reduta’s working methods, text analysis and conducting analytical rehearsals are invaluable. He created an original, holistic and ecological vision of culture in which theatre was an element of a ceremonial cycle and played an important role as the centre of spiritual and social life. In the early 1990s Zbigniew Osiński edited and published two volumes of Limanowski’s writings: “Duchowość i maestria”. “Recenzje teatralne” 1901-1940 [Spirituality and Mastery. Theatre Reviews 1901–1940) (Warsaw 1992) and “Był kiedyś teatr Dionizosa” [Once upon a Time: the Theatre of Dionysus] (Warszawa 1994).
The ideological postulations of the company were set out by Eugeniusz Świerczewski in a feature entitled "Reduta", published in the third issue of the magazine “Scena Polska” in 1922. “The bases of the artistic ideology of the Reduta should not be derived from the influences of Stanislavski and his system of “experiencing”, which for Reduta is only one of the means to achieve its artistic goals. In fact, the bases of this ideology should be sought in Wyspiański’s concept of theatre. The dream of Reduta’s leaders is to bring to life his enormous artistic legacy. The way to achieve this is to implement the truths revealed in his book on Hamlet. As a matter of fact, what we find in Wyspiański’s works is the highest revelation of the Theatre of Truth that Polish artistic thought has ever achieved. Wyspiański’s ideal is “theatre preaching the truth, protected by the laws and judgements led by God’s hand.” The theatre is to become a space for “spiritual miracles”. Fort his to be possible, actors must undergo a transition and make an offering before the eyes of the viewer. For this, they must be adequately prepared – trained in the craft and spitituality.
National and Cultural Mission of Reduta by UnknownOriginal Source: "Światowid" 1926 No. 46
Following Norwid, Osterwa defined art “as the highest of the apostles' crafts and the angel’s most humble prayer.” The actor's work is to be not only a means, but also an end, “is to fit in with his own truth, struggle with his own issues” (Świerczewski 1922: 3). The actor must be aware of the responsibility that lies with him, the responsibility for the word, for the character, for its stage rebirth – “the truth of created things must become a matter of the actor's own soul” (ibid). This was to be achieved through practical exercises: working with the text (great emphasis was placed in Reduta on read rehearsals and analytical rehearsals often conducted in the presence of the authors and with their participation), the idea of teamwork, eliminating the cult of "celebrity", ensuring close contact with the actor, purging the sins of the theatre of old: the prompts box and intermissions, and breaking with coquettish behaviour towards the audience, which led to the actors not responding to applause.
Scenography for Mazepa (1926) by UnknownOriginal Source: The Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Osterwa wanted to simplify the set design and simultaneously give it a special meaning – for example, the actors themselves decided on the choice of props, giving them a personal touch. For this artistic commune, the process of creating the production was important – often, rehearsals that did not result in a show were conducted (e.g. Norwid’s "Krakus"), rehearsals were conducted in the open air, and field trips were conducted (the group's trip to Zakopane before working on Orkan’s "Pomsta").
From the work of the "Reduta" Theatre by UnknownOriginal Source: "Świat" 1925, No. 27
The spirit of collectivity was reached through common work, complete and selfless devotion to the idea, as well as the family atmosphere achieved by having meals and spending free time together, addressing others by their first name, coining and using new theatre vocabulary, mutual help and self-reliance.
Classes at the Reduta Institute by Stanisław BrzozowskiOriginal Source: Michał Orlicz “Polish contemporary theatre”, Warsaw 1935
The discipline imposed on Reduta’s members resembled that kept in religious orders (a ban on alcohol, respecting hours of silence before performances, wearing work uniforms- garments similar to monastic habits). The actors adapted to multitasking in the theatre (work in administration, help with props and sharing the tasks of the stage manager). All in all, the members of Reduta subordinated their private life to the theatre and its mission has become their common cause. As Zbigniew Raszewski put it, “Presumably Reduta’s most lasting achievement was its ethos” (Raszewski 1977: 207). The first Reduta laid the foundations of intimate acting style and created the model of modern theatre direction and modern organisation of a theatre company.
The impressive list of THE MEMBERS AND COLLABOTATORS OF REDUTA (1919–1939, 1946–1947) AND DAL (1946), published by Zbigniew Osiński in "Pamięci Reduty" [Memory of Reduta] includes hundreds of names of actors, set designers, musicians, fine artists, directors, writers, scientists, students of the Institute, administrative and technical staff – "since they were all Reduta members" (ibidem, 580). They didn’t all belong to one generation. The oldest Reduta members were born in the mid-19th century (actress Teofila Szymanowska in 1847, actors Józef Mikulski and Mikołaj Turczyński in 1849 and 1855 respectively), and the youngest – students from the Okop and the members of last Reduta Institute were born in independent Poland.
Leon Schiller, Juliusz Osterwa, Stefan Jaracz, Mieczysław Limanowski, Modlin (1923) by UnknownOriginal Source: The Theatre Museum
The age difference between the youngest and the oldest amounted was over seventy years. The youngest generation was decimated during the Nazi occupation – they were killed during the Warsaw Uprising, in concentration camps, or in guerrilla warfare. After the war, Reduta members gathered every year on 29 November in order to celebrate the anniversary of the Reduta, as well as to pay respects to the memory of late members of the company.
Reduta Institute (1924) by UnknownOriginal Source: The Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Around 1922, Osterwa drew up Reduta members’ creed: An actor of RedutaIs/ one who gives his spiritual and physical/ Strength to Reduta/ Selflessly and completely/ Mutual respect/ kindness (affection)/ cordiality (friendship)/ loving (love)/ are the stages of development of Reduta’s members hearts/ Our physical strength is rigour,/ Order is the fruit of respect/ Wisdom is penitence – the fruit of kindness/ Goodness is enthusiasm – the fruit of cordiality. […]The beauty of Reduta is spiritual purity./ Konradis our holy name./ "Forefathers’ Eve" and "Liberation”/ are the gospels of the New Testament [...]/ St. Wyspianski’s “Studium” is an apostolic letter./ written to us, dedicated to us... and we're to give an answer by an expression of our longing./ And our form of communication, the arrangement, the style and upbringing are/ Słowacki’s letters to his motherit's everyday speech – it's our own language at Reduta. […]/ There are some who look for a profession They’ll find it in Reduta soon enough, and they'll be disappointed./ Others are looking for work./ There is no place for them in Reduta./ Others still enter out of love – they may be students./ And when their instincts turn into awareness of their vocation – they will be our pupils./ Those who sacrifice themselves will form a team of friends, they're going to form Reduta./ Their fate will be consecrated – they will be the chosen ones/ There are no last names in Reduta, just names/ (Osterwa 1992: 60-61)
The inauguration of Reduta. The first Warsaw Reduta.
Reduta came into existence on 29 November 1919 – the first performance was the staging of Stefan Żeromski’s "Ponad śnieg bielszym się stanę" ["Whiter than Snow I Shall Become"]. Osterwa directed the performance and played the part of Wincenty Rudomski alongside Wanda Siemaszkowa as his mother. The author of the set design was Zbigniew Pronaszko. The story of a landowning family, set in a mansion in the Eastern Borderlands during the Russian Revolution, was played 225 times.
In the first period of activity the Reduta staged an exclusively Polish repertoire. It promoted works by Jerzy Szaniawski and Stefan Żeromski. Osterwa happily made the stage available to young playwrights (Kazimierz Czyżowski, Włodzimierz Chełmicki, and Bohdan Katerwa), as well as newcomers (Adam Dobrodzicki). As far as the older repertoire is concerned, the Reduta staged: Zygmunt Kawecki’s "Balwierz zakochany" [A Barber in Love], Tadeusz Rittner’s "W małym domku" [In a Small House], "Tragedia Eumenesa" [The Tragedy of Eumenes], Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer’s "Judasz" [Judas], Władysław Orkan’s "Pomsta" [Vengeance] and Michał Bałucki’s "Dom Otwarty" [The Open House]. Reduta was often criticized for staging lightweight, psychological and moral plays, and its realistic (or even naturalistic) style of acting and set design. Nonetheless, Osterwa was determined to avoid a romantic repertoire since he intended to use the initial years of the theatre activity to teach the craft to his actors in order to prepare them to perform verse dramas and Polish miracle plays. He believed the actor should first get a grasp of realistic repertoire and master the art of experiencing a part in order to be able to reach higher “levels of transfer” (such as a transition into the performed character, indispensable in Polish romantic repertoire) and ceremonialism (serving the word, typical of miracle plays). According to Osterwa, the actor should acquire means of scenic expression gradually, stage by stage. In any case, it is not true that Reduta “got stuck in a naturalistic rut”. Already during the first period of its activity, the theatre did not shy away from putting on religious plays – "Judasz", "Pastorałka" [Pastoral] and "Wielkanoc" [Easter] on the one hand, and bold, avant-garde experiments on the other ("Ulica dziwna" [Strange Street] and "Balwierz zakochany"), as well as musical shows – Aleksander Fredro’s "Nowy Don Kiszot" [New Don Quixote], and Leon Schiller’s "Dawne czasy w piosence, poezji i zwyczajach polskich" [Old Times in Songs, Poetry and Polish Customs] and "Pochwała wesołości'' [In Praise of Jolliness], stylised old comedies – "Fircyk w Zalotach" (The Dandy’s Courtship) – and shows for children ("Czupurek" by Benedykt Hertz).
The Reduta Institute
Working between 1921–1939, Reduta Institute emerged from Koło Adeptów established in October 1921. For the first few years, the Institute was managed by Osterwa and Limanowski, with Józef Poremba as the mentor. From 1924, the work of the Institute was managed by Edmund Wierciński. Lectures and classes were held by Eugeniusz Świerczewski (the history of theatre), Mieczysław Limanowski (text analysis), Iwo Gall (painting), Halina Gall (elocution), Eugeniusz Dziewulski (music), Michał Kulesza (choreography), Tacjanna Wysocka (eurhythmy and stage setting) and others. The Institute was a model, modern school combining theoretical classes with stage practice, work for Reduta and the ethical education of the actor. In the 1930s, Reduta limited the number of stage productions in favour of the work of the Institute that included several institutions: Touring Company, School Theatre, Okop (a theatre school), Radio Studio, an archive, a publishing press and a library. The Warsaw Reduta Institute (WIR) was a pioneering theatre institute whose work went far beyond preparing and showing performances. This activity was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War.
A holiday in Spała
In 1923, the members of Reduta stayed at President Stanisław Wojciechowski’s summer residence. During the holiday, Limanowski held rehearsals of "Krakus" by Norwid, whereas Schiller worked on "Nowy Don Kiszot" by Aleksander Fredro. Wincenty Rapacki and Honorata Leszczyńska joined the company there. As Iza Rowicka-Kunicka recalls, the day started with a workout in front of the house at 7a.m. and after that actors cleaned their rooms and had breakfast. After breakfast there were analytical rehearsals of "Krakus" in the dining room, followed by a walk to the River Pilica, sunbathing, dancing, and singing on the riverbank. At 2p.m. there was lunch followed by a two-hour siesta, then tea and vocal training led by Bronisław Rutkowski. After supper at 7.00 p.m. there were games, dances and parties, as well as nighttime rehearsals in the forest ("Pomsta", "Bajka o Bajce" and "Krakus"). The company also went on trips to visit the Romanesque church in Inowłódz and to Niebieskie Źródła [Blue Springs] in Tomaszów Mazowiecki. The atmosphere was “full of sunshine, creative stimuli and profound meaning” ("O zespole Reduty 1919–1939. Wspomnienia" About the Reduta Company 1919-39. Memoirs. 1970: 99). Following the holidays in Spała, Halina and Iwo Gall joined the company. The members of the Reduta returned to Spała in July 1924 and gave performances in nearby towns.
Reduta on Tour 1924–1939
Reduta set off on their first tour in May 1924 after being evicted from the Reduta Rooms in the Wielki Theatre in Warsaw. As the Na Pohulance Theatre in Vilnius, which was to become its new headquarters, was still being renovated, the seventy-person company went on tour around Poland while they waited for the building to be ready. During the first tour, between 21 May and 17 July, they visited thirty-four cities and towns, from Chełmno to Sandomierz, showing selected performances from their Warsaw repertoire, such as W małym domku by Tadeusz Rittner, "Dom otwarty" [The Open House] by Michał Bałucki, "Wielkanoc" [Easter] based on "Historyja o Chwalebnym Zmartwychwstaniu Pańskim" [The Story of the Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord], "Pastorałka" [Pastorale] edited by Leon Schiller and a music performance "Pochwała wesołości" [In Praise of Amusement]. From the very first tour the company played both indoors – in common rooms at schools, cinemas, town halls or in waiting rooms at railway stations – and outdoors, showing "Wielkanoc" in front of churches, in squares, against the background of historic buildings or ruins. Reduta went on tours every year, usually during the summer holidays, and often the actors split into several groups that travelled at the same time. For of example, for in the autumn of 1925, four groups travelled simultaneously around the Eastern Borderlands, going as far as Latvia. In 1927, there were three great tours: during the first, in May, the company showed "Śluby panieńskie", during the second Le Cide, and during the third, the largest, which started on 4 June and was led by Osterwa himself, the company presented "The Constant Prince". The shows of the latter accompanied the celebrations of the transfer of Juliusz Słowacki’s remains to his homeland.
"The Warsaw Negro" on the way to Lviv by UnknowOriginal Source: The Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute, Lubicz-Lisowski album
Reduta on tour, Baranowicze (1924-05) by UnknownOriginal Source: The Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences
The organization of tours was a logistical challenge. Osterwa meticulously noted all the details: the equipment needed, the most effective means of advertising, itineraries, repertoire, and the duties of participants. More evidence of everyday life on tours can also be found in the memoirs and letters of various Reduta members (including Edmund Wierciński, Bronisław Nycz and Stanisława Winiarska). They wrote about organisational difficulties, different artistic requirements of performances in the open air, their daily routine, conflicts during tours, as well as the great enthusiasm that accompanied their arrival at subsequent venues.
Everyday life in the train car by UnknowOriginal Source: The Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute, Lubicz-Lisowski album
Moreover, Osterwa imposed a detailed timetable, including time for rehearsals, artistic preparations, workouts, cleaning, rest, reading, and entertainment. In places of historical interest, the company went on sightseeing trips, before which the managing director recom mended reading appropriate literature (dramas by Słowacki in Krzemieniec, Mickiewicz in Vilnius and Wyspiański in Kraków).
Reduta on tour (1927) by UnknownOriginal Source: The Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences, The Wierciński collection
Shows usually took place at 20.00 (though sometimes there were also matinée shows in the afternoon) and finished after 23.00. The next day there was a performance at a different location. Tours lasted up to two or even three months, obviously requiring a lot of effort, perfect organisation, the division of tasks and discipline (a ban on alcohol, keeping silence in the cars). Osterwa noted in his diary that participants were obliged to show mutual respect, kindness, and friendliness.
"The Wedding" by Stanisław Wyspiański (1925-11-04) by Jan BułhakOriginal Source: The Theatre Museum
The purpose of the tours was to popularise Polish classics, to break with the elitism of the theatre and to reach places deprived of a permanent theatre. A great advantage of the tours was that they were held on a regular basis and the company returned to the same places with their new repertoire. Over the first four seasons of its activity (1925-1929), the Reduta gave over 1800 shows in villages and small towns all over Poland, and in subsequent years this number increased by thousands.
By the outbreak of the war, hundreds of thousands of people had an opportunity to watch Reduta’s performances. It was a long-term, methodical programme on an unprecedented scale. In fact, Józef Szczublewski noticed that Reduta is the best touring theatre company in the history of Polish theatre, whereas Zbigniew Osiński added that it would be difficult to find a phenomenon of similar artistic value, organisational momentum and social range anywhere in the history of world theatre.
Reduta on Tour with "The Constant
The Open air shows of "The Constant Prince" by Calderon/Słowacki premiered in the Piotr Skarga yard of Stefan Batory University in Vilnius on 22 May 1926. Between May and August 1926, the Reduta showed this monumental staging nineteen times in ten cities. The following year, between June and September, marking the occasion of transferring Juliusz Słowacki’s remains to his homeland, there were sixty-two shows in sixty cities and towns. The shows were held in vast empty spaces (on hills, in sports grounds, town squares and markets) or against the background of historically significant architecture (in the yard of the Royal Castle in Wawel, in the yard of the Cadet School in Łazienki Park in Warsaw, in the Krzemieniec Lyceum, and in front of churches: the Dominican church in Lviv, the Bernardine church in Pinsk, the former Jesuit church in Poznań and the Kielce Cathedral). For the second tour, Iwo Gall designed a moving stage setting in the shape of a stylised organ, which became an altar – the place of Don Fernando’s sacrifice – and as such the central point of the show. This monumental religious play required the participation of extras recruited from among the scouts, army, or the fire brigade (playing the Portuguese and Moorish troops), as well as horses. The live music was performed by an army band trained by Eugeniusz Dziewulski; the actors used torches, as well as fire burning in pitch barrels. The audiences were particularly impressed by battle scenes and the funeral procession in the final scene, when the coffin of the Infante was carried in a long, lit procession (reminiscent of Juliusz Słowacki’s reburial). Osterwa usually played the eponymous Portuguese Prince, alternately with Edmund Wierciński and Kazimierz Vorbrodt. This attractive “mystery play”, performed in the open air, attracted audiences of thousands (up to 15,000 in Krzemieniec and 11,000 in front of the Jasna Góra monastery in Częstochowa).
The route of "The Constant Prince" tour (1927) by UnknownOriginal Source: Ludwik Simon, “List of performances by the Reduta team”
It is estimated that over the course of 1926 and 1927, the Reduta familiarized half of the population of Poland with Słowacki’s drama (Frankowska 1970: 426). The Reduta’s performance of "The Constant Prince" combined the spectacle of collective scenes and battles with an insight into the internal drama of an individual and various stages of “sacrificial ecstasy” (“Kurier Warszawski”, 18.08.1926). The natural environment, the architectural background, as well as the real fire used in the performance added to the pathos of the Prince’s drama, but at the same time set his story within real space and time, transforming it into the actors’ and spectators’ common experience and stimulating collective emotions, as well as a feeling of co-participation.
Calderon / Słowacki's "The Constant Prince" in the courtyard of the Officer Cadet School in Warsaw (1926-08-18) by W. PikielOriginal Source: "Tygodnik Ilustrowany" 1926, no. 35
The company usually travelled on Pullman carriages rented from the railway company and attached to scheduled trains. Decorations were transported in a separate freight car. During the "The Constant Prince" tours, they also had a flat wagon that transported the truck in which they prepared and had meals. When there was no kitchen, they ordered meals in advance in the town they were visiting. There were teams responsible for supplies, hygiene, postal services, publicity and ticket sales.
The Reduta in Vilnius 1925–1929
In 1925 the Reduta moved to Vilnius and performed in the Na Pohulance Theatre; from 1926 it also gave shows in Grodno. The theatre inaugurated its activity with "Liberation" by Wyspiański, newly edited by Osterwa and with his splendid performance in the role of Konrad. In this period, the Reduta gave as many as five premieres of Wyspiański’s dramas (in addition to "Liberation", it showed "The Wedding", "A November Night" (Noc Listopadowa), "Le Cide" (Cyd) and "The Judges" (Sędziowie). Plays by foreign authors (such as Maeterlinck, Molière, Zorrilla, Ibsen, Pirandello and Wilde) also appeared in the repertoire, often staged on the occasion of guest appearances of stars. What prompted Osterwa to leave the capital was to improve working conditions, to enable the company to concentrate on their artistic goals and to bond the group more closely together. Nevertheless, poor living conditions, the frequent absence of the leader, as well as the position of a repertory municipal theatre all provoked conflicts in the group and finally led to many members leaving the company. These included Edmund Wierciński (following a conflict around the experimental "Sen" [Dream] by Felicja Kruszewska he moved to the Nowy Theatre in Poznań with a significant number of other members) and Mieczysław Limanowski (who took over the Department of Physical Geography at the Stefan Batory University in Vilnius). The most remarkable achievement of the Reduta in this period was the regular tours and open-air shows of "The Constant Prince" by Calderon/Słowacki.
Reduta management in Vilnius: Mieczysław Limanowski, Jerzy Kossowski, Iwo Gall (1925-05-01) by Jan BułhakOriginal Source: The National Digital Archives
"The Judges" by Stanisław Wyspiański (1927-11-28) by UnknownOriginal Source: Michał Orlicz "Polish contemporary theatre", Warsaw 1937
The second Warsaw Reduta 1931–1939
Once back in Warsaw, the Reduta returned to laboratory work on the acting method, direction and staging, and concentrated on educational activity. At that time, the theatre changed its name to the Warsaw Reduta Institute (WIR). The headquarters was located in the basement of the building housing the General Mutual Insurance Company at 36/40 Kopernika Street. The company still regularly held tours, but gradually reduced the number of public shows, whereas the process of creating the performance, not necessarily crowned by a public show, increased in value. This “underground laboratory” staged few premieres, including "Sprawa Moniki" [The Case of Monika] and "Milcząca Siła" [The Silent Force] by Maria Morozowicz-Szczepkowska (1932 and 1933) respectively, "Teoria Einsteina" [Einstein’s Theory] by Antoni Cwojdziński (1934), "Pierścień Wielkiej Damy" [The Grand Dame’s Ring] by Cyprian Kamil Norwid (1936), as well as "Haneczka i duch" [Haneczka and the Ghost] by Adam Bunsch (1939). Moreover, the Radio Studio held a reading of "Don Miguel Mañara" by Oskar Miłosz (1938). They were described not as performances but as “shows” for which no tickets were sold and invited guests paid at their discretion. The institution that Osterwa created was not a professional theatre, complying with the rules of the economy, but rather a theatre institute where study and pedagogical work could be conducted. “What I mean by the Reduta is sheer, serious “monasticism”, obviously in the area of Art and in work organisation” – wrote Osterwa in a letter to Stanisława Zbyszewska in 1930 (Osterwa 1968: 132). There were several institutions working under the auspices of WIR: the School Theatre, the Radio Studio, WIR Tour Shows, “Okop” (a theatre school, educating not only actors, but theatre people in general), scenic-artistic workshops, a theatre museum, an archive and a library. However, the building on Kopernika Street was first and foremost a workshop of acting art and a pedagogical centre. In September 1939, the building was devastated during air raids, and priceless documents and mementoes were permanently lost.
Aftermath 1939 – ...
The ideas planted by Reduta during the interwar period sprouted in the post-war theatre through the traditions passed on by former Reduta members and the ethos of the company. These ideal were promoted by former Reduta members and alumni who ran institutional theatres, established their own companies, or taught in theatre schools (including Irena Byrska, Tadeusz Byrski, Halina Gall and Iwo Gall, Stefan Jaracz, Stanisława Perzanowska, Edmund Wierciński, Maria Dulęba, Tadeusz Białkowski, Zofia Mysłakowska and Jacek Woszczerowicz). The tradition was mostly handed down by word of mouth and through personal contacts – it was not until the late 1960s that writings by Limanowski and Osterwa, as well as letters and memoirs of the former Reduta members began to come out. One of those inspired by the Reduta was Jerzy Grotowski, who reached for the Reduta’s tradition thanks to his friendship with the Byrskis and contacts with Halina Gall. What he appreciated in the pre-war activity of the company was the ethics of work and the laboratory research method. However, he distanced himself from Reduta’s aesthetics and ideology. In 1966, as a sign of continuity, the Laboratory Theatre adopted the Reduta’s logo, replacing the “R” at the centre with “L”, whereas Piotr Tomaszuk, the leader of the Wierszalin theatre company, did the same using the letter “W.” Reduta’s legacy was also continued in the work of the Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices, the ZAR Theatre, the Chorea Theatre, the Song of the Goat Theatre (Teatr Pieśni Kozła), as well as in some studio initiatives.
After the performance, Theatre Poland (2016) by Wojciech ZiemskiTheatre Institute in Warsaw
What is more, the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute came up with its “Theatre Poland” initiative, which refers to Reduta’s tradition of touring, and encourages institutional theatres to go on tours with their repertory performances, presenting them in Polish towns during the summer months. The patrons of all these theatre groups and initiatives are Osterwa and Limanowski, because they go “through the theatre – beyond the theatre”.
50th anniversary of the funding of Reduta (1969-11-29) by UnknownOriginal Source: The Theatre Museum
On the anniversary of the Reduta’s foundation (29 November) and on the anniversary of Osterwa’s death, gatherings of Reduta members took place. Nonetheless, after the war and the death of its founders, the company failed to be re-established. Reduta’s ideas and working methods still arouse vivid interest due to the publication of the memoirs of the company members, Osterwa’s manuscripts, Limanowski’s notes, the published correspondence, as well as studies of theatre historians.
,Mieczysław Limanowski, Juliusz Osterwa, „Listy”, oprac. i wstępem opatrzył Zbigniew Osiński, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warszawa 1987; Bożena Frankowska, „Teatr napowietrzny Juliusza Osterwy”, „Pamiętnik Teatralny” 1970, z. 4; Michał Orlicz, „Polski teatr współczesny. Próba syntezy”, Drukarnia Współczesna, Warszawa 1935; Zbigniew Osiński, „Pamięć Reduty. Osterwa, Limanowski, Grotowski”, Wydawnictwo słowo/obraz terytoria, Gdańsk 2003; Juliusz Osterwa, „Listy”, red. Edward Krasiński, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warszawa 1968; Juliusz Osterwa, „Reduta i teatr. Artykuły, wywiady, wspomnienia 1914–1947”, oprac. Zbigniew Osiński, Wydawnictwo „Wiedza o Kulturze”, Wrocław 1991; Juliusz Osterwa, „Z zapisków”, wybór i oprac. Ireneusz Guszpit, Wydawnictwo „Wiedza o Kulturze”, Wrocław 1992; „O Zespole Reduty 1919–1939. Wspomnienia”, Czytelnik, Warszawa 1970; Zbigniew Raszewski, „Krótka historia teatru polskiego”, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warszawa 1977; Ludwik Simon, „Spis przedstawień zespołu Reduty w ciągu dziesięciu lat 1919–1929: repertuar”, nakł. zespołu Reduty, Wilno 1929; Eugeniusz Świerczewski, „Reduta” „Scena Polska” 1922, nr 3; Józef Szczublewski, „Pierwsza Reduta Osterwy”, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warszawa 1965; Józef Szczublewski, „Żywot Osterwy”, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warszawa 1973
Exhibition scenario: Wanda Świątkowska
Translation: Joanna Figiel
Photos and cooperation: Janusz Legoń
Coordination and collaboration: Weronika Stosik, Klaudyna Desperat