by Agata Drwiega
Theatre for young adults is not as popular in Poland as it is in Germany. In the 90’s, as it had happened in other European countries, Polish authors have begun to write plays whose aesthetics was called 'nowy brutalizm'', what could be translated as the 'new in-yer-face theatre'' (analogous to British 'in-yer-facetheatre'). The dramas were full of brutality, sexuality and hopelessness, their language was vulgar and their topics concentrated on drugs, sex, alcohol and suicide. The relations between friends, lovers, colleagues or family members were shown as pathological and full of violence. The first Polish dramas dedicated to young adults were deeply committed to this aesthetics, which until now dominates the contemporary playwriting for teenagers.
Nevertheless, we are looking for new ways to get in touch with teenage spectators. In 2014 the first meeting 'Co nowego?' (What’s new?) took place in the Miniatura Theatre in Gdańsk. Although the meeting was dedicated to documentary theatre for young audiences, the absence of various theatres for young adults turned out to be the most burning issue. Therefore, between the 14th and 17th October 2016 we met in Gdańsk to continue the discussion of this question. The programme contained a presentation of work in progress of Taśmy gdańskie from ‘Miniatura' and three performances from Poland and abroad for young adults: 'Chuda' from the amateur theatre R. Bezimienni in Toruń, 'Flex' from Junges Theater Basel and 'Einsneunzig oder Die Augen von Stella Maraun' from Comedia Theater Köln. These three performances presented various ways of making theatre for young audiences.
Both adults and teenagers enjoyed the proposition of Junges Theater Basel the most. Although German theatre pedagogy and its method of working with amateurs is already well-known in Poland (thanks to Justyna Sobczyk, who graduated at Universität der Künste in Berlin, now a collaborator of the Theatre Institute in Warsaw and a founder of the Teatr 21, a theatrical collective of people with Down Syndrome), working with pupils as if they were professional artists was surprising for the Polish audience. What is more, the performance – played by very young women and dealing with women’s rights and their sexuality – turned out to be hard to imagine in the contemporary political context of a conservative backlash in Poland.
Apart from the presentations of these performances, three round tables were organized. In the first one Christopher Haninger, Uwe Heinrich and Wojciech Zrałek-Kossakowski discussed two different ways of making theatre for young adults, namely with teenagers as actors or with professional artists only. After watching 'Flex', the audience seemed to find the first option more convincing, thus a major part of the discussion concentrated on various aspects of the work scheme at Junges Theater Basel. The next panel analyzed the dominant way of making TYA in Poland, i.e. the production of performances for adults, suitable for teenagers as well. Katarzyna Krajewska, Romuald Wicza-Pokojski and I tried to describe our expectations for this field. We dream of young people reaching the theatres by their own, not accompanied by their teachers as it usually happens now. A topic of the last panel was research and collaboration with the young audience. All of them were transmitted online and are available on the theatre’s website.
Personally, I found in Gdańsk a lot of inspiration for the development of the Polish TYA. The most rewarding issue was that we had the opportunity to discover how artists from abroad deal with the topic, as well as confront it with our own experiences. Directly from Gdańsk I went to Wałbrzych, where the meeting with German dramaturgy for young adults 'Z ogniem w głowie' ('With Fire in the Head') took place. My next note will be dedicated to that event.