Justice - interview with Michał Zadara





What has the idea of justice to do with the theatre?

From its very beginnings, theatre has examined the idea of justice. Aeschylus’ "Oresteia" is basically a dramatized lecture about where the Athenian court system comes from. It explains to the audience - really in a way that Spielberg would - what the origins of the European practice of bringing perpetrators to trial are, and why that’s better than letting the victims take revenge. Sophocles’ "Oedipus Rex" tells the story of a state suffering because long-forgotten crimes have been left unaccounted for.  In Poland, "Forefathers' Eve, Part III", by Adam Mickiewicz, talks about a completely unfair situation in which good people suffer while the bad ones celebrate – and Mickiewicz suggests that God, who arranged the world in an unfair manner, is therefore not God, but “you-know-who”. Theatre has always dealt with the idea of justice and has demanded justice.


Why is the Jewish emigration of the 1960s a topic for the theatre?

In Poland, we have a situation in which our country lost thirteen thousand citizens in whom it had previously invested, and who were members of this society. All that intellectual, creative and social potential was thrown away. Poland suffers the consequences of this purge to this day. So harm was done to the victims of expulsions, yes, but also to us, those who stayed or were born later. So the question for today is who is responsible for that harm and why no one has ever stood trial for any crimes related to the purges in the late sixties.


And why don't you deal with other unprosecuted Polish crimes? Killing fugitives from ghettos during World War II was much more horrible than the expulsions of the sixties. No one has anyone ever been sentenced for that either.

That's right. First of all, we cannot clarify all the old issues at the same time. Secondly, some perpetrators of the anti-Semitic campaign of 1968 are still alive.


What have you learned from your interviews with the victims of the mass expulsions?

My perspective is not the perspective of the victims. We do not speak (we cannot and do not want to speak) on behalf of those who were driven out of Poland. We speak as us: contemporary Poles who discover that, as a result of unlawful actions (because the very deprivation of citizenship of entire groups was unlawful, as already stated by the Supreme Administrative Court in 2005), we live in a poorer, less interesting, weaker country. We know that people acted in an unlawful way and harmed the country, and that these people were never tried. That’s what we want to change. We don't interview the victims to feel guilty or sad; we need them to give us information about the perpetrators.

more information about "Sprawiedliwość" ("Justice"): http://www.powszechny.com/spektakle/szczegoly.html






Michał Zadara (born in 1976 in Warsaw) – theatre and opera director, well known for his innovative approach to classic literature. He is the first director to ever stage all the uncut parts of Adam Mickiewicz's monumental "Forefathers' Eve" (Teatr Polski, Wrocław, 2016). Outside of Poland, he has worked in theatres in New York, Berlin, Vienna and Tel Aviv. He teaches rhetorical dramaturgy at the Theatre Academy in Warsaw, and in the academic year 2019/2020 is going to be an honorary distinguished professor of Theatre at Swarthmore College.


Michał Zadara studied theatre and politics at Swarthmore College, oceanography at SEA in Woods Hole and directing at the State Theatre School in  Krakow. During his studies, he assisted and worked with  Małgorzata Szczęśniak, Krzysztof Warlikowski, Kazimierz Kutz, Jan Peszek, Armin Petras and Robert Wilson.


Michał Zadara has created over 50 dramatic, opera and multimedia productions at such theaters as: Narodowy Stary Teatr in Krakow; Teatr Nowy, Teatr Narodowy, Teatr Powszechny, Teatr Studio, Teatr Polski, Teatr Żydowski, Opera Narodowa, Teatr Buffo, Warsaw Rising Museum, Museum of Modern Art, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw; Teatr Wybrzeże in Gdansk; Teatr Współczesny, Teatr Polski, Teatr Capitol and Opera Wrocławska in Wrocław; Teatr Współczesny in Szczecin; Maxim Gorki Theater and Komische Oper in Berlin; HaBima in Tel Aviv; Schauspielhaus in Vienna; Collective: Unconscious in New York; Teatr Polski in Bydgoszcz, Teatr Nowy in Łódź.


Michał Zadara has been awarded numerous prizes for his work. He is the laureate of the "Polityka" Passport in 2007 "for impressive creative activity and for productions which restore faith that theatre is a space of artistic freedom". In 2008, the Warsaw Theatre Festival devoted an entire week to a monographic festival at which 5 of his plays were presented. In 2014, he was awarded the Konrad Swinarski Prize for "The Robbers" by Schiller at Teatr Narodowy in Warsaw. In 2016, the quarterly "Notatnik Teatralny" devoted an entire issue to his work.  


In 2013, Michał Zadara founded the CENTRALA group, which stages productions of atypical artistic projects. CENTRALA's work has been shown in Warsaw at the Museum of Modern Art, the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Zachęta National Gallery of Art as well as in the USA (Boston and Philadelphia), Belarus (Minsk) and Russia (Moscow and St. Petersburg).


In addition to working in the theater, Michał Zadara is the author of several independent films and video installations. In 2012, the Warsaw Rising Museum commissioned him to make a mosaic of 31,000 stones commemorating the civilian victims of the Warsaw Rising. He is a political columnist for the journal "Krytyka Polityczna", co-initiator of the Obywatele Kultury (Citizens of Culture) movement and plays guitar in the All Stars dancing Band.

Teatr Powszechny
im. Zygmunta Hübnera
ul. Jana Zamoyskiego 20
03-801 Warszawa
tickets 22 818 25 16
22 818 48 19