A small theater, quite different from all the others. The words “A great theater in a small city” are not without meaning, because as to its size there can be no discussion here. And it is by no means about the building, but about the people who make it up. Wierszalin Theater is a three-time winner of the prestigious Fringe First award given at the Edinburgh World Theater Festival. Recognized by critics, loved by audiences.

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“Great art in a small town”.

When one tries to understand the cultural phenomenon that is the Wierszalin Theater, one cannot help but think of its connection to the place where it operates – Suprasl. It is a small town located in northeastern Poland, not far from Bialystok, in the Knyszynska Forest. Suprasl, distant both physically and mentally from major cities such as Warsaw and Krakow, has a decidedly small-town character. And it’s not about limiting reflexivity, but the opposite. The remoteness from fashionable cafes, bookstores and shopping malls allows for independent thinking and freedom of expression. References to independent folk culture can be seen here in the set design, costumes, and the intimacy that prevails on stage, which resembles a cramped chamber shrouded in twilight.

Wierszalin theater different than all

Wierszalin Theater is distinguished by its subtle modesty, which does not force viewers to persevere during performances lasting several hours, does not shock with provocation, does not manifest political or social views. Rather, the Wierszalin Theater is what the illustrious director Andrei Tarkovsky referred to: “I think that if one were to put together a concept of art, one must first answer another more important question: why does man exist? (…) Some believe that art should educate, just like any other intellectual and spiritual activity. I don’t believe in the possibility of education. (…) The purpose of art is to help man grow spiritually – to help him grow beyond himself through the use of his free will.

Wierszalin Theatre is distinguished by its subtle modesty
Wierszalin Theatre

Great art – Theater is the people

Wierszalin Theater is also distinguished by its soloist, Rafal Gasowski. His playing, means of expression, body and diction are perfectly consistent and perfect in their expression. The actor “unashamedlytouches all that is most tender and sensitive in the audience. He is the Man on stage in a meaty, authentic and unpretentious way. He reaches into the deepest recesses of his soul to show us, the audience, what humanity is – richness, struggle with inner conflicts, vulnerability, search for God and self.

The entire team of the Wierszalin Theater occupies an important place in Polish culture and has a significant, though not flashy, influence on that culture. Mention should be made of the theater’s co-founder and manager, Piotr Tomaszuk, or actor Tomasz Matys. An important and unusual member of the team is the music. Played live during performances, she can sometimes be an extra, hidden behind characters and sets, but at crucial moments she appears in lights and transforms into a full-fledged character.

The only thing we could expect from the theater would be more participation of women in its creation, and to show a female perspective, emotions, choices. Of course, if we’re talking about humanity, gender doesn’t matter and certain experiences are common to both men and women. Nevertheless, there is a strong female presence missing from the scene. Even when they are, they stand in the shadow of the men and act as companions, not soloists.


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