Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Vened’

AN INTERVIEW WITH MYSELF: A Theatrical Memoir PART I

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013


AN INTERVIEW WITH MYSELF

A theatrical Memoir

By

Christopher Vened Szwaja

Table of Contents

Part I : My Theatrical Beginnings 1

Part II : Getting Into the Wroclaw Pantomime Theatre 23

Part III : Becoming an Actor-Mime 69

Part IV : Playing Dionysus 95

Part V : Defection 125

Part VI : Immigrating to West Berlin 138


PART I: MY THEATRICAL BEGINNINGS

INTERVIEWER: You began your career in mime theater. Is that correct?

ME: No. I began in musical theater.

I: Musical theater?

M: Yes.

I: You?

M: Yes!

I: Ha, ha, ha, I can’t imagine you in a musical.

M: Well…

I: It’s not true, is it?

M: Yes, it is. I started as a dancer and worked about two years in the ballet of the Wroclaw Operetta. Afterward, I joined the Wroclaw Pantomime Theater of Henryk Tomaszewski and became a mime.

I: That’s curious.

M: Yeah.

I: I suppose you had to go to ballet school prior to working in the Wroclaw Operetta?

M: No, I didn’t. When I started working there, I was entirely raw material and already twenty years old.

I: That’s incredible.

M: I was a late bloomer.

I: Does one often become a dancer without ballet school at such an old age?

M: No. In fact, it’s very rare. One is supposed to start at a young age. But there are some exceptional cases, as was mine.

I: How did it happen?

M: By chance.

I: Tell me.

M: It’s little bit convoluted.

I: Tell me anyway.

M: I was twenty years old at the time. I had just moved to Wroclaw, rented a room, and enrolled in college.

I: What kind of college?

M: The Business College of Foreign Trades.

I: You went to a business college?

M: Yes, I did.

I: I thought you hated business people.

M: Yeah, I know.

I: Did you want to become a businessman?

M: No, I did not.

I: So why did you go to business school?

M: It was just a temporary solution. I had no interest in business but enrolled in the school to avoid being drafted into the army.

I: Yes, it’s a little bit convoluted.

M: I need to explain something about the reality of socialist Poland in the seventies to make it clear.

I: Please, do.

M: You see, at that time the army was obligatory and lasted between two to three years. But it could be postponed or exempted or shortened to one year if you were a student in a college or university.

I: I understand that. But I still don’t understand why you chose a business school. Did you have other options?

M: I did, but under the circumstance, this one seemed the best.

I: What was the circumstance?

M: I wasn’t certain what I wanted to study and couldn’t make up my mind. My parents always wanted me to study at a polytechnic school to become an engineer. I wanted it too, so I had been focusing on science and technology. But with time, I lost interest in it, not because I stopped liking those subjects, but because I realized that those fields were backwater in socialist Poland. There was no exciting future in them but instead fraudulent stagnation, which meant compromised ambitions for the price of a mediocre career and small comfort. That was not good enough for me. So, I grew disheartened and my interests shifted to the humanities, such as literature and the arts.

I: That’s quite a shift, totally to the opposite pole.

M: Yes, it is. I was tempted to study literature but the problem was that I wasn’t ready for it yet. I always thought to become an engineer not a humanist. So, you see, I was in a period of transition, not to say confusion, and that is why I temporarily landed in the Business College of Foreign Trades. Of course, it was easier for me to get into it than to the University for literature. Besides, I had interest in foreign languages and that college offered three of them, English, German, and Russian. So my plan was to attend the business college for a year and in the mean time to make up my mind about what I really wanted to study — science or literature.

I: Did you finally decide?

M: No, never. I kept and studied both kinds of books. Common sense was telling me to stick with science, but my desires were tempting me toward the humanities. I kept hesitating, swaying as a pendulum: the more I leaned toward science, the more I desired literature and vice versa. It was an inversely proportional dynamic. Finally, I became exhausted from swaying in hesitation and my pendulum came to a dead stop in the middle. I was going nowhere, my fate hung in suspension, and I was stuck in the psychologically unbearable predicament of being paralyzed by indecision. In that moment, when my pendulum of fate had entirely stopped and it felt like the end of the world, blind chance knocked on my door and said, “There is a third option for you: the theater.”

I: And you went for it.

M: Without thinking twice!

I: How come?

M: The theater beckoned to me seductively and called, “Come and play! Come and play!”

I: Ha, ha, ha, ha.

M: Ha, ha, ha, ha.

I: And that was all you wanted, just to play?

M: Yes, I just wanted to have fun.

I: Nothing more?

M: Like what?

I: Like a serious motive or calling to do theater!

M: Come on, what’s a better motive to do theater than a desire to play and have fun.

I: There are many more profound ones than that. You, yourself, in your book on acting, In Character: An Actor’s Workbook for Character Development, said that a purpose of acting is to figure out human identity.

M: That’s right, I said that, but I said that as a mature man. I arrived at that after doing theater for twenty or more years. But in the beginning, when I was starting, I had no other agenda or calling than to play. It was my initial impulse in theater, and I’d better not forget it because there is something inspiring in it, something that still gives me a thrill.

I: What is it?

M: It is the homo ludens in us.

I: For clarity sake, what does it mean?

M: “Homo ludens” means in Latin “the playing human”.

I: Now, less in abstract and more in facts, can you tell me what was the “chance” that brought you to theater?

M: Yes, I can.

I: So?

M: One evening my roommate, Richard Gizowski, came home and said, “I am going to audition for the ballet of the Wroclaw Operetta tomorrow morning.” I thought it was a crazy idea (and totally unrealistic) and yet I got interested and decided to go with him.

I: Why?

M: For fun, no other reason – I was deadly bored with my studies at the Business College of Foreign Trades although I had been there for only two or three weeks. I was particularly bored the day Richard told me about the audition. I had spent long hours that day listening to very boring lectures. This was not only my impression; I looked around my classrooms and saw that almost all, if not all, students were falling into a morbid stupor. In addition, it was an oppressively stuffy day: fog and drizzle stood still. It got into me. When I came back to the rented room in the evening and tried to study, I could not make myself. I was not able to focus. That evening I was seriously in doubt if I would be able to stand that college for long. And when I was in such a foul mood, Richard showed up and told me about his plan. Hey, this idea sounded like a salvation, if only for a few hours. I wanted to go there just to break the monotony. Based on that experience, I may say that my motive to go into theater, if I had any, was generated out of boredom. I later found out that this is typical for many artists.

I: How was the audition?

M: It was quick and easy.

I: Tell my about it.

M: We had an audition at eleven in the morning in the Operetta’s Ballet Auditorium. Richard and I rode there by trolley. On the way, we passed the theater, which was in one of those grand, nineteenth century buildings on Swierczewski’s Street. Richard pointed at the windows on the second floor and said, “It’s there.” I didn’t see much but the upper bodies of two or three dancers exercising at the bar next to the large neoclassical windows, and yet it was enough to immediately impress me.

I: What was your first impression?

M: That the dancers were beings without earthly gravity, as if they were from another much lighter world than ours and by that happier.

I: You thought that then?

M: I don’t remember exactly what I thought then, but I think that now. Then I was just looking and taking in. I saw something extraordinary up there, something that appeared particularly vivid in contrast to the mundaneness of the ordinary life on the street below, which wasn’t so appealing at that time in socialist Poland. But it was just a short moment that pricked my imagination. The trolley stop was a hundred yards or so in the distance. We got off there and walked back to the theater. At the gate, which was inside of the viaduct leading to the inner court of the building, Richard’s friend, Wojtek, was already waiting. He was surprised to see me. Richard laconically explained to him that I was going to the audition too. “Oh,” he reacted really surprised. “Is it okay?” Richard asked him. He took a moment to ponder and said directly to me, “I set the appointment for Richard and me, but I think that there should be no problem if you come along with us.”

I: Who was Wojtek?

M: Wojtek was Richard’s friend. They both were involved together with student theaters, and later on, they worked with Jerzy Grotowski. (They were in his second company that focused on paratheatrical research.)

I: What happened next?

M: We had a few minutes to spare, so we hung at the gate and then around eleven we went upstairs. The rehearsal spaces and offices for the Wroclaw Operetta were located on the second floor of the building. When we got there, we had trouble finding the ballet auditorium, so we dispersed in the empty hallway and began checking the signs on the many doors. A moment later, a blond- haired woman with a coffee pot in her hand burst out from one of the offices. She noticed us and became very suspicious about our presence there.

She stopped and asked with barely hidden hostility, “What are you looking for here, gentlemen?”

“We are looking for the ballet auditorium,” Wojtek answered.

“The ballet auditorium?!” the woman repeated with growing alarm. “What for?”

“We have an appointment with Professor Clara Kmitto,” Wojtek calmly said.

“You, you are here for an audition? Is that right?”

“Yes, that’s right,” Wojtek confirmed.

“That’s great,” she said suddenly becoming very friendly. “It’s there,” she indicated down the hall.

We followed here as she led us to a waiting room that was adjacent to the auditorium. As we entered the room, the woman pointed to some chairs and told us to take a seat. “Wait for Clara here, she is still in class – it’s running over,” she explained, “which is typical.” She slightly opened the door to the auditorium and took a short peek inside. “I believe it will be over soon,” she said. Then she wished us good luck and left.

So, we waited there listening to the music that came through the door from the auditorium. Then the music stopped, the door flung wide open, and the dancers started pouring out of the auditorium. They were dressed in leotards, tights, and ballet slippers, clothes so tightly fitted to their bodies that they looked almost naked. Seeing them stirred me up, I couldn’t stop staring at their shamelessly exposed bodies. There was something unnatural about it, something narcissistic. I wasn’t sure how to look at them, to look at them as sexual or aesthetic objects.

I: So how did you?

M: Both, and that was what was confusing.

I: Ha, ha, ha. It was all in your mind.

M: Partly, yes, but partly, it was out there.

I: I hope you didn’t shout, “The king is naked!”

M: No, I didn’t, but I was tempted to shout, “The dancers are naked!”

I: Ha, ha, ha. They are, or rather semi-naked, and that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

M: Yes, it is. And that’s what I realized only then, while gaping on the dancers leaving the auditorium. The whole company paraded in front of our eyes. What a display it was!

I: And then?

M: Clara Kmitto, the ballet master, appeared in the doorway and invited us in for our audition. She was a short-statured, slightly-getting-plump, middle-aged woman with dark, short hair and enormously high energy – very enthusiastic and driven.

“Do you have exercise clothes with you, gentlemen?” she asked.

“No, we don’t,” Wojtek responded.

“It doesn’t matter,” she assured us. “In this case, please, take off your shoes. It will be enough. I just want to check your anatomical predispositions,” she explained.

After we took off our shoes, she asked us to approach the bar and stand in the first ballet position facing the bar and to make a few battements tendus simples to the side. We, of course, had no idea what the first position was and didn’t understand what battement tendus simple meant. So, Clara showed us, and we repeated after her. Next, she demonstrated how to stand in all five basic ballet positions and do both plies and grand-plies without holding the bar. It looked easy when she did it but was hard to do when we tried. You can’t imagine how grotesquely clumsy we looked doing those exercises.

I: Actually, I can.

M: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,

I: What?

M: I recall the faces of my friends: Richard looked embarrassed; Wojtek, terrified. Both of them were stiff, inhibited, distorted, and wobbly, trying desperately to stay on balance.

I: And you?

M: I don’t know how I looked but I felt as to laugh.

I: Did you?

M: No, I did not. It would have been unbecoming.

I: How so?

M: Clara didn’t laugh at us.

I: She probably did later.

M: I don’t doubt it.

I: How was she?

M: Gracious. She didn’t let us know in any way how inadequate we were to the task but encouraged us when we became shy and consoled us when we were falling off balance. “Don’t worry, you are doing great, keep going, keep going!” she rushed us on. Before we knew it, we were done with the exercises. Then in the end, she tested if we had a sense of rhythm. She took a stick and tapped two rhythm combinations on the floor. Then she handed the stick to each of us, one after another, and asked us to tap the same rhythms. We did that and it was over. Directly after the audition, Clara Kmitto took me aside and offered me a part-time job as a ballet apprentice, starting immediately.

I: Wow!

M: Not really. I wasn’t that enthusiastic about it.

I: Why not?

M: I didn’t expect to be offered a job. It seemed unrealistic. So, when it came down to it, I wasn’t ready for it.

I: What did you expect then?

M: Nothing.

I: That’s absurd!

M: Seemingly so, but not really.

I: What do you mean?

M: When I went to the audition, I didn’t mean to take it seriously. I just went for fun, for the company sake, just to entertain myself for a moment, not for the whole life. So when Clara Kmitto offered me a job, I thought, what have I done? It’s a mistake! I didn’t really mean it. But I didn’t tell her that. How could I? Instead, I told her that I would be happy to take the job but on the condition that it didn’t interfere with my studies at college.

I: What did she say to that?

M: First, she frowned and said that it might be a problem. But after reviewing my academic schedule, she decided that she could get around it. So, I took the job.

I: Why was Clara Kmitto so eager to hire you?

M: I really don’t know, but it was nice to be wanted for nothing.

I: On which base did she hire you?

M: Clara said that I had very good natural predispositions to ballet.

I: What were those “natural predispositions”?

M: I was naturally athletic and a good mover.

I: But you had no dancing skills.

M: That’s not quite true. I had no ballet skills but I was a good ballroom dancer.

I: Really?

M: Yes, really.

I: How did you learn ballroom dancing?

M: I grew in a tourist town. Ballroom dancing was a way of life. Every evening, except Mondays, there was dancing in the local cafes and nightclubs in Międzygórze. If a boy wanted to get a girl, he had to first dance with her. It was the habitual way of getting to know each other.

I: So you learned ballroom dancing picking up tourist girls?

M: Yes, I did.

I: Did you do a lot of ballroom dancing then?

M: Yes. The tourist tours changed every two weeks.

I: And you had to pick up a new girl from each tour?

M: That was the routine.

I: I see.

M: Ha, ha, ha.

I: So you were a gigolo?

M: No, I wasn’t a gigolo, not at all.

I: Just having fun with girls.

M: That’s right.

I: You were just a natural dancer.

M: That’s right.

I: Was ballroom dancing useful or helpful for ballet?

M: On one hand it was because it gave me confidence to go for it, but on the other hand, it was more of an obstacle because I had acquired certain habits in ballroom dancing that were considered bad in ballet.

I: Like what? What were they?

M: Mostly my inclination to improvise. In ballroom dancing, improvisation is expected, but in ballet, it is forbidden. And that’s a major difference. Ballroom dancing is an art that is partly free in form. Although there are particular patterns of steps to follow, such as a waltz or a tango, the dancer can execute them freely in space, improvising. So, I was used to doing that. I could take a girl for a dance on a parquet floor and lead her wherever I wanted, and she would follow. At least many girls would (at that time, people still knew how to dance.) But in ballet, forget it, there is no room for improvisation. The dances are precisely choreographed, and the dancers are not supposed to change it.

I: It’s called professionalism.

M: Yes, it is. But I was an amateur dancer then, although a good one, the transition from being an amateur to a professional is a tricky one. It doesn’t necessary go in a straight line of progress from one to the other. Some say that it is like two different things, you are either one or the other.

I: How did you manage?

M: I had to restrict my natural impulses, my spontaneity, and learn how to submit to the rigor of form. Classical ballet is a theatrical convention that is entirely formalized. It’s a system of positions and movements that are precisely defined. Nothing is natural about it in a realistic sense. To dance in classical ballet one has to first master its technique, there is no way around it.

I: And that was a challenge.

M: Yes, it was, but I was not aware of it. It was not my but Clara Kmitto’s idea to make a ballet dancer out of me. I was just her guinea pig.

I: How did she imagine or plan to make a dancer out of a novice like you?

M: She created an additional ballet class only for the novices and the beginner dancers that she instructed every day for an hour between nine and ten in the morning. For a month, I attended only this class. It was great! I started everyday with a ballet class then went to college, which was conveniently located in the building next to the Operetta. But gradually I was getting more and more responsibilities in the theater. Clara introduced me to the company and let me exercise in the class with them that was held between ten and eleven in the morning. So, then I was doing two ballet classes per day. A few days later, Clara also started to work with me and three other novices on our first dance number. First, we rehearsed separately from the company in the afternoons, only with Clara, and then, when she thought we were good enough, we were allowed to rehearse in the presence of the company. From that point, I was introduced to more dance numbers and rehearsed longer hours. It was getting more and more difficult to do both college and theater. While scheduling the rehearsal times, there was often an issue about how to get around it.

I: Did it work out?

M: It did, but not for long.

I: How so?

M: After my probation passed, Clara Kmitto offered me a full-time job with a year contract. However, she was urging me to drop college and to make a full commitment to dancing. She said that getting around my academic schedule would be hard, if not impossible. Anyway, she couldn’t understand why I needed that college. “You are an artist now, not a businessman,” she would say half jokingly. So, I told her that I needed to be enrolled in college to be exempted from the draft. Then she enlightened me that I didn’t need to worry about that because I would be exempted from the draft as a stage artist as long as I worked in the Operetta (or any other state theater). Wow, I had no more reason to stay in that college that I found so boring.

I: When exactly did you work at the Wroclaw Operetta?

M: From October 1, 1972 until May 31, 1974.

I: So it was about two years.

M: It was twenty months, to be exact.

I: What was you work like in the Operetta?

M: In the first three months, I was introduced to all of the shows in the repertory – it was between four and six productions, I don’t remember exactly. Pretty soon, I performed basically every evening with the exception of Mondays. Twenty shows per month were obligatory for me. I never performed less, but usually more, something like twenty-four or five shows on average. My record was twenty-nine shows per month (it included weekend matinees.) The shows had four to eight dance numbers on average. I often was in all or almost all of them, plus some stage activities and movement in the ensemble.

I: What was your first dance?

M: A Snake Charmer.

I: What kind of dance was that?

M: It was, let’s say, a semi-Arabic dance, a sort of steamy, erotic fantasy transmuted aesthetically into a dance and allegorically disguised as a fairytale about a snake charmer and his beloved snake.

I: You don’t have to explain; it would be better if you described it.

M: Babula, who was a very charismatic dancer of Gypsy origin, dark, square in build, very masculine, performed the snake charmer. He looked like a pirate. In addition, he had acne scars on his face that were so deep that make-up could barely cover them. Lala Kołodziejczyk, a principal dancer, who was, in contrast to him, a blond and blue-eyed beauty, performed the snake. In the beginning of the number, she was hidden in a wicker basket, and he, as a magician, charmed her to come out. She emerged very slowly, first the hand and arm and then the whole body, in a sensual, sinusoidal, snake-like motion. Then he picked her up and rose into a ballet pose while looking at her with admiration. After that, he pulled her down toward his body and embraced her with passion and desire. And then they danced together in a duo that involved many beautiful poses and sensual embraces. One thing I particularly liked that he did was that he threw her around his neck several times, madly rotating her as a snake. It was spectacular.

I: And you? What did you do in that dance?

M: I was the assistant to the snake charmer. In fact, I was one of four assistants who were all, like me, novices hired by Clara at the same time, and for all four of us it was our first dance. Our task was to bring out the wicker basket with the snake in it, that was Lala Kołodziejczyk, and to place it in the middle of the stage. Then we were to withdraw, each of us to a different corner of the stage, in a choreographed motion that involved a long glide and a high jump while throwing our legs into arabesque. The point was to make the moves at the same time, heights, and distances – we never managed to do it right and it was a source of unending frustration. After the dance was done, our task was to take the empty basket off the stage. This part was easy because it didn’t involve any formal choreography.

I: What was your last dance in the Wroclaw Operetta?

M: My last dance was the Moonlight Serenade, a lyrical duo in the operetta L’Affaire Édouard (Opiekun Mojej Żony) by Georges Fedeau. This dance was to be my first serious dance as a soloist in duet with a principal female dancer. But it never happened because I left the Wroclaw Operetta and went to the Wroclaw Pantomime Theater. Nevertheless, I was already in rehearsal for that dance, my costume was made, and my name was already printed in the program.

I: What did it look like?

M: What?

I: Your costume.

M: It was made of a semi-translucent material in a bluish-violet color.

I: How did you look in this costume?

M: I don’t really know.

I: Did you try it on?

M: Yes, I did but only once. A tailor brought the costumes (that were almost finished but not quite) to the rehearsal room while my partner and I were working on the Moonlight Serenade. He asked us to put the costumes on and to rehearse the number, so they could see how they fit while in motion. So we did. When we put the costumes on and danced our duet, we got good reactions from the dancers in the company. We could tell that they liked our costumes. Their faces flushed with excitement, they made big eyes, and they applauded the tailor. Then the tailor marked the costumes with a piece of chalk for eventual alterations and took them away. It all happened so fast and there was so much fuss around that I never had a chance to really look at myself in the mirror and see how I looked in the costume. Oh well, it wasn’t meant to be.

I: What was the last moment you remember in the Operetta?

M: That was the moment. That was it.

I: What was the most valid thing you got from working in the Operetta?

M: The most valid thing I got was professional training and stage experience. Besides, I have very pleasant memories from that time. I liked those people and they treated me very well. I can’t complain. In fact, I am amazed how great it was.

Playing Dionysus

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

7,158 words

PLAYING DIONYSUS

Part IV from

A Theatrical Memoir: An Interview with Myself

written by

Christopher Vened

Biographical Note:

Christopher Vened is a Los Angeles-based writer and theater director. He is the author of the acting book In Character: An Actor’s Workbook for Character Development. In 1974-1981, he was an actor-mime in the Wrocławski Teatr Pantomimy Henryka Tomaszewskiego [Wrocław Pantomime Theater of Henryk Tomaszewski] in Poland.

Abstract:

“Playing Dionysus” is a fragment of my memoir on the Wrocław Pantomime Theater. It is about my experiences as an actor-mime working on the leading dual-role of the Guest and Dionysus in the famous production of Przyjeżdżam jutro [Arriving Tomorrow] that dazzled the world in the seventies. Those experiences were precious. The older I become, the more I realize how special they were. So I write about them to better understand them and to pass this knowledge to the reader.

I explore certain acting and movement techniques in this paper, which shall be particularly educational for theater professionals. I also analyze in depth the main theme of Arriving Tomorrow, which was about the Dionysian frenzy, arriving to an existential message with a moral open to interpretation. In short, the message is that the Dionysian frenzy can take possession of anybody. So be aware. It can happen to you too.

Introduction:

The Wrocławski Teatr Pantomimy Henryka Tomaszewskiego [Wrocław Pantomime Theater of Henryk Tomaszewski] was a famous avant-garde theater that is credited for creating the Polish school of mime. Its phenomenon was to show human drama entirely in movement without words, the way it happens in the imagination, not reality, as if it were a dream or nightmare. The founder of this theater, Henryk Tomaszewski, said, “I build my theater on three elements: vision, movement, and change.” This simple and yet to-the-point statement shall be considered Tomaszewski’s artistic credo and the fundamental creative principle of his theater that was, as I may define it, a total movement theater.

Henryk Tomaszewski founded the Wrocław Pantomime Theater [WPT] in 1956 and was its artistic director until the end of his life in 2001. During that span of time, the Wrocław Pantomime Theater produced 24 original productions, and Henryk Tomaszewski directed almost all of them. He was, no doubt, the main creative force and the author of this theater. And yet, he was only able to realize his ideas and visions with the ensemble of very well trained, virtuoso-like mimes that were the actors of the Wrocław Pantomime Theater. After Tomaszewski’s death, his theater has still produced shows directed by various guest artists and actors from the company.

PLAYING DIONYSUS

Interviewer: What was your most significant role in the Wrocław Pantomime Theater of Henryk Tomaszewski?

Me: The dual-role of the Guest and Dionysus in the production of Przyjeżdżam jutro.

I: How would this title be translated into English?

M: Arriving Tomorrow.

I: What was the character of the Guest?

M: He was a mysterious stranger who visits a bourgeois family and seduces all of its members, driving them into a Dionysian frenzy.

I: How seventies.

M: You bet.

I: What was the Guest’s power? Why did all of them fall for him?

M: He had the irresistible divine presence of a god. They couldn’t help but adore him and fall madly in love with him.

I: How did you pull off that trick?

M: It’s a secret.

I: Come on. There are no secrets anymore in art. Tell me.

M: If I were to reveal to you my Dionysian secret, you would burn alive in the heat of mad passion and desires.

I: That’s what it was about?

M: Yes. It was about the Dionysian frenzy that drives people mad.

I: What was the payoff for the characters that were seduced?

M: A moment of divine happiness with the Guest. But then he abandoned all of them, and they suffered terribly from being unable to find happiness again.

I: Like abandoned lovers.

M: Yes.

I: How did you get the dual-role of the Guest and Dionysus?

M: Originally they were not a dual-role but two separate parts performed by two different actors. First I took over the part of the Guest from Wiesław Starczynowski. It was in August 1975.

I: Why did he leave the company?

M: I don’t know for sure.

I: What do you know?

M: I know that he married a girl from Vancouver, Canada, and emigrated there.

I: And what about Dionysus? When were you cast in that role?

M: One year later.

I: How?

M: It was the result of the misfortune of my predecessor, Zbyszek Papis, who injured his spine and wasn’t able to perform Dionysus anymore.

I: How did that happen?

M: An actor jumped on his back at the wrong moment, much earlier than his cue, and Zbyszek didn’t expect it, he wasn’t ready, and it happened. It was an accident.

I: How serious was the injury?

M: It was very serious. Zbyszek was in a cast for a few months but never entirely recovered from that injury, became partly disabled, and never fully returned to the mime profession. He still acted but in, so called, walking parts that didn’t require difficult physical skill or effort. That was a pity because Zbyszek had a rare talent for reinforcing his mime-acting with acrobatic elements—after that accident, no more. Later on he became a choreographer-director.

I: How long were you playing the roles of the Guest and Dionysus, and how long were your predecessors?

M: Arriving Tomorrow was in the WPT repertory for four years. Wiesław Starczynowski performed the Guest for one year, I performed it for three; Zbyszek Papis performed Dionysus for two years, I performed it for two years as well.

I: Why did you play both the Guest and Dionysus when before two different actors played them?

M: I don’t really know.

I: Was there a connection between those two roles?

M: The Guest was a modern version or manifestation of the mythological god Dionysus.

I: But were they two separate parts?

M: Yes, they were. In Arriving Tomorrow there was a mythological prologue about the myth of Dionysus set in ancient times. Otherwise the play was set in modern times.

I: What was the literary source of Henryk Tomaszewski’s pantomime Arriving Tomorrow?

M: There were two sources: The Baccae (The Bacchantes), a play by Euripides, and Teorema, a novel and film by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

I: How did it translate into mime?

M: It didn’t really translate, in the sense that mime doesn’t illustrate words, but it showed what is beyond words.

I: What is beyond words? If I may ask such an unsophisticated, direct question?

M: A primary vision of human imagination, which is dream-like or a nightmare. If literature describes or at least insinuates this kind of vision, it’s good material for pantomime.

I: That’s interesting. But I’m not sure that I understand it.

M: No one really does unless you see it.

I: Oh great, that’s explains everything.

M: If it were possible to easily explain in words there would be no justification for making pantomimes. Henryk Tomaszewski’s pantomimes, in particular the best ones, showed what words couldn’t explain. That’s the whole point.

I: As in fine art?

M: Yes, you can find an analogy between pantomime and fine art, the difference is that the former is a vision in motion, the latter is still.

I: But why not use words, if you can?

M: You cannot.

I: Why?

M: Some things happen only in dreams. And a mime performance is a simulated dream. To use words in a mime performance would destroy the illusion of that dream for the audience, which receives it through the senses not the intellect.

I: I see.

M: Mime does not like words. It is an art of silence. I am talking in particular about the mime art of the Wrocław Pantomime Theater. Because, of course, there is mime that is used in verbal drama quite successfully, for example, in commedia dell’arte, but it is a different type of mime and a different subject.

I: Coming back to Arriving Tomorrow, which part did you prefer to perform, the Guest or Dionysus?

M: I liked to perform them both, each for different reasons. The Guest was more of an acting-mime type of role while Dionysus was more of a dancing-mime type, but both were spectacular roles. I found fulfillment in both. But I can tell you that the part of the Guest was much more difficult for me both to acquire and to perform than the part of Dionysus. At least that was the case in the beginning. But later on I handled it.

I: I wonder why?

M: Maybe because I was less experienced when I started to work on the part of the Guest, but also because they were different types of parts.

I: So you had problems with mime?

M: No, no, with acting.

I: With acting?

M: Yes.

I: How so? One would think that acting is much easier than mime.

M: In some respects it is, in others it is not.

I: So what was your acting problem?

M: In the beginning, when I was still in rehearsals, I had a problem with expressiveness. It‘s a common problem for the beginning actor; I internally experienced the role of the character but barely made it visible because I didn’t know how to sufficiently externalize it. After about one week of rehearsals, Tomaszewski began to worry if I was going to get it, so he double-cast the role. He cast Jerzy, a more experienced actor than I was who had no problem with expressiveness, whatsoever. In fact he was inclined to overact, to over-express. Nevertheless, seeing how he did it helped me. I got it. I understood what was lacking in my performance.

I: Nothing is more motivating than a little competition.

M: No doubt. I almost lost the part. Jerzy already had a costume made. But I began to make quick progress and Tomaszewski saw it. So he dropped Jerzy and went only with me.

I: That had to be a trial for you.

M: It was. But that wasn’t all of it.

I: What else?

M: I also had a problem with consistency. Throughout the first few months of performing, almost every other performance sucked. I had drastic ups and downs: one day I was very good, the next day very bad.

I: And you knew it?

M: Oh, yeah.

I: How?

M: I could feel when I was on or not. Besides, Tomaszewski never failed to tell me how bad I was.

I: Really?

M: In this respect he was brutally frank.

I: Ouch!

M: But not with everyone.

I: No?

M: With some actors he was more roundabout and diplomatic when they weren’t doing well.

I: I see!

M: But with me?

I: Yes?

M: He would burst into my dressing room after the performance and scream, “What the fuck have you being doing out there? It was terrible!”

I: How rude!

M: The worst thing about it was that he was right.

I: How did you take it?

M: I didn’t mind. In fact I appreciated it because it was an honest response, even if it wasn’t flattering. Besides when I did well, Tomaszewski never failed to tell me how good I was. And when he really liked it, he would show it.

I: How?

M: He was euphoric . . . as if he’d seen a miracle. I tell you, he knew how to admire the actor.

I: You felt appreciated.

M: I did.

I: How did you finally overcome your inconsistency?

M: I realized that one of my mistakes was that when I had a good performance one day, I tried to repeat it exactly the next day. But it doesn’t work that way.

I: Why not?

M: Acting is a live process; even though each performance is formally a replica of the others, emotionally and/or spiritually each performance needs to be performed as if anew, as if for the first time.

I: How do you do that?

M: By re-experiencing, not merely repeating.

I: Why did you have problems doing this in the part of the Guest but not in other parts that you had performed earlier, when you were even less experienced?

M: The Guest was basically built on the presence of the character in the moment, without clearly, if at all, defined drives, and that was different than the other characters I had played. The Guest is a mysterious stranger who appears from nowhere. He has neither past history nor future objectives. He just is, here and now. And that was the most difficult thing for me to figure out—how to just be in the moment, on a moment-to-moment basis, with seemingly no other purpose but being.

I: It seems simple.

M: That’s what I thought.

I: But it wasn’t?

M: No, it wasn’t.

I: What was the problem?

M: I was becoming self-conscious and stiff.

I: How were you supposed to behave?

M: I was supposed to . . . well, first, I was supposed to be relaxed and yet enticing. But, also, Tomaszewski wanted me to play the Guest as innocent.

I: Why?

M: Nothing is more seductive than innocence.

I: That’s right.

M: But you see it was tricky because the “innocence” was only on the surface; it was like a bait, but underneath there was supposed to be a hook. The Guest had Dionysian duality. He appeared seemingly innocent, but actually he was seductive and dangerous.

I: He was like forbidden fruit?  Whoever fell for him had to fall?

M: That’s right. It was a game.

I: So how did you fix your problem with presence?

M: Henryk Tomaszewski wanted me to have personal but neutral presence. In order to achieve presence he once advised me to simply say to myself, “I, Krzysztof Szwaja, am here and now, and everything that surrounds me affects me on a certain level.” He also said to me, “Imagine that you are the focal point on which or, rather, in which everything focuses and then begins anew, transformed.” It was his magical formula about what presence is. I didn’t know how to exactly understand it but for sure it acted on my imagination. It helped me to put myself in the center of things and events and to experience them on my own. Yet it wasn’t enough to achieve a powerful presence. It was too vague to really intrigue the audience. I sensed that something more was needed, something specific but not revealed, something mysterious. So I started to play that I had a secret and it worked. The audience became intrigued. Then I learned how to radiate my presence on a strictly technical basis and achieve a hypnotic effect on the audience.

I: How do you radiate presence?

M: By sending energy into the entire theater—it’s a tangible process, you can feel that the entire audience focuses on you and you have a hold of them, as if you had hypnotized them.

I: By mere radiation of presence you can hypnotize the audience?

M: In the seventies you could.

I: No joking.

M: Well, Arriving Tomorrow was a big hit. And the Guest was an iconic figure that had an enticing power over the audience.

I: Iconic of what?

M: Iconic of the seventies’ spirit.

I: What was it?

M: It was the spirit of liberation.

I: Liberation from what?

M: Jesus, from everything, from all these restrictions that oppressed men and women throughout the centuries.

I: And that was Dionysian?

M: Yes, the spirit of liberation in the seventies was Dionysian.

I: Doesn’t it mean orgiastic?

M: According to some dictionaries, yes.

I: Was it?

M: What?

I: Orgiastic.

M: I prefer the term “liberating.”

I: Was it both perhaps?

M: Yes it was. And that was one of the dilemmas in Arriving Tomorrow. The Dionysian spirit is both liberating and/or orgiastic.

I: Why “and/or”?

M: Because it’s not clear, the Dionysian spirit is deceptive; it’s hard to draw a clear line between what’s liberating and what’s orgiastic.

I: But there is such a line?

M: I hope so.

I: What is it?

M: It’s a taboo.

I: So what was the moral message of Arriving Tomorrow?

M: The message was: if you cross the line you are doomed. But, you know, it was a message that no one heard, no one received: neither the characters in the play nor the audience. The appeal of Arriving Tomorrow was crossing the line of taboo. That’s why the audience came. That’s why the show was so popular.

I: Was it so popular because you performed naked on the stage?

M: Come on, let’s not exaggerate with that nakedness. Altogether I was on the stage for one-and-a-half hours and stark naked for only one-and-a-half minutes—twice, once as Dionysus and once as the Guest.

I: Still it was new for people. They had never seen entirely naked people on the stage before.

M: That’s right; Arriving Tomorrow was the first play in Poland that had naked actors in it.

I: Who else was naked in Arriving Tomorrow besides you?

M: The two actors playing the characters of the father and the mother. In fact, the mother, who was played by Danuta Kisiel-Drzewińska, was only half-naked in a scene with me.

I: Why was she half-naked with you?

M: She let herself go with the Guest. It was an erotic act.

I: Liberating, of course.

M: When we performed the scene the audience was so transfixed that no one even dared to breathe.

I: So it had a strong impact on them?

M: Yes, it did.

I: How was it for you personally to perform the dual-role of the Guest and Dionysus?

M: It was an extraordinary experience . . . as if not from this world.

I: How so?

M: People identified me with the roles of the Guest and Dionysus and idolized me.  It was great. Suddenly I was so famous and had many admirers. But it was also strange because some of my admirers were so infatuated with me, or rather with my stage persona, that they lost their heads and did a variety of crazy things to be near me.

I: Like what?

M: For example, one day when I was leaving the theater after a morning rehearsal, this girl approached me. She introduced herself as a student of literature and theater, told me that she was working on an essay about our production of Arriving Tomorrow, and asked if she could talk with me about the roles of the Guest and Dionysus.

“Sure you can,” I said, “but not now because I’m in a hurry and have to go.”

“Oh, no!” the girl exclaimed.

“Come another time,” I said and walked away.

But the girl followed me and said, “I live in Opole [that’s another town] and don’t know when I’ll have another opportunity to come to Wrocław.”

“What can I do about it?”

“Can I at least walk with you to wherever you’re going and talk?”

I thought, why not and said, “Okay, you can walk with me for a little bit, but we have to walk quickly because I’m really in a hurry.”

“Okay,” the girl said and we walked and talked. It came out that she had a train to Opole departing soon and intended to take it. So, since the railway station was on my way, we decided to walk together till that point and then depart.

Soon we came to the station, so I told her goodbye and wanted to go on my way, but she figured she still had some time to spare and decided to walk with me another block or two. So we continued. We passed one block and then another and she still kept walking with me.

I prompted her, “You should go back. You’ll miss your train.”

“So what?” she said. “There is another one in an hour or two”

At that moment I became slightly alarmed and thought, ‘How am I going to get rid of this girl?’ But she kept walking with me till the gate of my apartment building, which wasn’t far, just a few more blocks. There I decisively said goodbye, but it was clear to me that she wanted to be invited into my home. I won’t pretend that I didn’t consider it, but I was really in a hurry and gave up on that option for a date.

Then I forgot about the girl.  But five days later her mother called the WPT and inquired about her daughter, who had been missing all that time. First she talked with the people in the administrative office, but they, of course, knew nothing about the girl. Then the mother asked to talk with me because she had found out that her daughter was infatuated with me and had gone to Wrocław specifically to see me.  But it was only nine in the morning, and I wasn’t in the theater yet. The moment I arrived, the people from the office came out to tell me all about it and to say that the mother was going to call soon to talk with me. All of them were so stirred up. They smelled a scandal and possibly a criminal case because it came out that the girl was not, as I had assumed, a college student but only in high school, sixteen years old. “Do you know the girl? Do you know where she is?” they asked me. But their emotionally flushed faces were saying, “Have you slept with that girl? Is she still in your apartment? Do you know that she is under age?”

I: What did you tell them?

M: I told them what I knew and that wasn’t much. Then her mother called again, and I talked with her on the phone. I told her that I briefly met her daughter five days ago and that she was planning to train back to Opole that day. Her mother, of course, was worried. I asked her if she had notified the police. She said that she hadn’t because she didn’t want to ruin her daughter’s reputation. She thought that the police would investigate or notify the girl’s school. I was surprised to hear that her daughter’s reputation was more important to her than her daughter’s safety. So I urged her to notify the police right away.  She told me that she was going to wait till the next day to notify them.

I: Did you finally find out what happened to the girl?

M: Yes I did. When I came back to my apartment that evening, I found out that the missing girl had been living in my apartment for five days. During that time, I had been out of town performing for a few days, and then when I returned to Wrocław, I had been staying with my girlfriend, Małgosia.

I: How did the girl get into your apartment?

M: She somehow convinced my landlady that she was my girlfriend and madly in love with me. My landlady, moved by the girl’s story, let her stay in my apartment and wait till I returned. It so happened that I was not to return for five days, and the girl kept waiting.

I: That’s creepy.

M: It was.

I: Didn’t your landlady know better?

M: I wondered myself. She told me that she felt for the girl because she seemed to be so genuine and so desperately in love with me that she didn’t have the heart to kick her out. But when she found out the truth, she couldn’t believe that she could be so stupid to fall for it.

I: What did the girl say to you when you found her there?

M: When I entered my apartment, I saw someone dart through the door into the next room. I knew it was a girl because I caught a glimpse of her dress trailing behind her. I followed her into the room and found her cowering and hiding from me.

“What the hell are you doing here?” I confronted her.

“I am waiting for you.”

To that I got pissed off and coldly asked her, “How did you get into my apartment?”

“I knew it, I knew you were going to be angry,” she said and started to cry.

I: So you were moved and consoled the girl.

M: Not so quickly. But I didn’t see any reason to be cruel to her. I saw that she was emotionally lost.

I: What did you do with her?

M: I walked her to the railway station, bought her a train ticket to Opole, because she had spent all her money while staying in Wrocław, and then I put her on the train. I also waited till the train departed to make sure she really went home.

I:  Did you call her mother?

M: I wanted to, but the girl begged me to spare her the humiliation. So I didn’t.

I: Did she harass you again?

M: No. That was the last time I ever saw her.

I: Have you had other stalkers?

M: No, at least not another one who succeeded to get into my personal life.  But I had many admirers.

I: What is the difference?

M: Stalkers harass you; admirers adore you; but both want to go to bed with you.

I: Ha, ha, ha. Really?

M: Really. Ha, ha, ha.

I: Aren’t admirers potential stalkers?

M: No. I wouldn’t say so. But you can never know for sure who is the stranger waiting for you after the performance at the back door of the theater, with a bouquet of flowers.

I: Yeah?

M: Yeah . . .

I: What?

M: Ah, there was a girl who used to regularly send me flowers backstage with perfumed love letters attached to them.

I: How sweet.

M: She wanted to meet with me.

I: Did you?

M: No.

I: Why not?

M: She was too much for me.

I: What do you mean?

M: Her letters were passionate yet very exalted; it was unreal for me.

I: She was in love with you.

M: She was in love with Dionysus, not with me.

I: Was that a problem?

M: No, it was not a problem that she was in love with Dionysus—falling in love with the character is what the audience does. But she didn’t see the difference between Dionysus and me, the actor who performed it, and that was a problem. She mistook me with the role I was playing on the stage and wanted to have a date with me. But I was not into performing Dionysus and the Guest in real life for my exalted admirers.

I: Did she harass you?

M: No, not by any means. Although she was very persistent in pursuing me, she never imposed herself but only made herself available.

I: How?

M: After sending me flowers with letters, in which she entreated me to meet her after the show, she would wait for me near the back door of the theater, standing at a distance of fifty to a hundred yards in some dark spot in the alley. Curiously, she would never approach me or cross my path when I was coming out of the theater, but instead she waited for me to approach her.

I: Could you see what she looked like?

M: I could see her shadowy figure, but not her face. She used to wear strange, stylish hats with brims that cast an additional shadow on her face. And, once or twice, I saw a veil on her face when I passed by her at a closer distance.

I: How mysterious.

M: It was her style.

I: Was it intriguing?

M: Theatrical rather.

I: So you never found out who she was?

M: Yes, I found out, but not till twenty-seven or twenty-eight years later.

I: How did it happen?

M: It happened during a visit to Poland while I was attending the opening of the Salvador Dali drawing exhibition at the City Hall Museum in Wrocław. Suddenly a stylishly dressed, middle-aged woman approached me and said, “It was me who was sending you flowers during Arriving Tomorrow.”

To that I answered, “There were many girls and women who sent me flowers at that time, which one were you?”

I: What did she say to that?

M: She playfully made a face and said, “I was the one who, altogether, sent you twelve bouquets of flowers with perfumed letters. Do you remember now?”

“I think that I remember now,” I said.

“I also sent you a cactus to the headquarters of the WPT. Do you remember the cactus?” she asked.

“I do.”

“The cactus was supposed to be for goodbye,” she explained.” “I sent it in anger because you didn’t want to meet with me. But then I couldn’t help myself and sent you some more flowers.”

“I know,” I said.

Then she formally introduced herself, “My name is Małgorzata. I am a glass artist” and so on. She invited me to her exhibition that was being held at the same museum but on a different floor.

I: Did you attend it?

M: What?

I: Her exhibition.

M: Yes I did.

I: How was it?

M: Her glass was very beautiful. She is a very talented artist.

I: Do you keep in touch with her?

M: Yes, I do. We became friendly and wrote letters via email to each other.

I: Did you ask her why she wanted to meet with you during Arriving Tomorrow?

M: Yes, I did.

I: What did she say?

M: She wrote me a passionate letter about it and told me everything.

I: Can you read her letter for me?

M: Certainly, I can. I already asked Małgosia (Małgorzata’s nickname) for permission to print her letter in an English translation in this interview and she agreed.

I: How so?

M: She said, “I am little bit ashamed of my youthful raptures, but what the heck—I agree. After all it was such a beautiful thing.”

I: Please, read her letter.

M: Here it is:

Małgosia’s Letter Translated into English

Hi Christopher,

How are you coping with your flu? I hope you feel better because you will need a lot of strength to take what you asked for. But you want it, so you deserve to get it.

This letter is a present that I lay under your Christmas tree. It is my honest recollection, though it may not be quite accurate because a lot of time has passed, but it is certainly sincere. It will, doubtlessly, feed your vanity.

In 1977, I enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław to study glass. At that time I was a so-called girl from a good home, who was well mannered and diligently educated. I was knowledgeable and felt I had enormous potential. I received the highest score of all incoming students on my entry exam into the Academy, and I did it without any stress because I was confident that I would do well. At that time I knew that a new chapter in my life was opening, and I intended to only fill it up with revelations.

After the summer vacation, I arrived in Wrocław a month before my first academic semester started and was working in a factory doing the obligatory “working class practice for students” [It was a communist invention for future intelligentsia to teach them a lesson about working class hardships. Trans.] Immediately—without wasting time—I decided to take advantage of what the city had to offer and went to see the Wrocław Pantomime Theater’s production of  “Arriving Tomorrow.”

What a spectacle it was! The strange spell of this production disturbed the peace of my soul for a long time. Mystery, dark eroticism, and the tragedy of the heroes emanated from the performance. There was an enchanting prologue. Even the program was great: it had concise descriptions that grasped but never over-explained the essence of the show (for example, the first line started: “The Harlequin, a symbol and animator of the theater opens the show with participation of . . . ” and so on.) All that impressed me enormously. On top of it all, there was this charismatic actor who was cast in the leading dual-role; he first appeared in the prologue as Dionysus and then in the modern part of the show as the mysterious Guest, who was the perpetrator of all that is wonderful to experience in the present but proves devastating in its consequences later on. The entanglements and infatuations of the characters were already demonic, but, in addition, there was this incredible man with distinct, slightly sharp and rapacious facial features. He had an insanely beautiful, proportional body, a warm complexion of the skin, and supremely well-chiseled muscles. This man was you. Apparently for me, you were a living perfect cannon of male beauty. Besides this, what was affecting my senses strongly was your similarity in facial features to the figures of the Pre-Raphaelites’ paintings and the shameless secession graphics of Aubrey Beardsley. All these impressions affected me at once during the performance. Afterwards I went home in shock and total astonishment.

I described my impressions of the show to my two girlfriends, and I told them about this stunningly extraordinary-looking actor with whom I had become completely possessed.

One of my friends, Małgośka, advised me to send you flowers (behind the wings) and to wait for you at the back entrance of the theater after the performance. So I did as she advised me. In fact, she delivered my first bouquet of flowers to you. And I attached a perfumed letter to the bouquet. (Have you noticed that the letter was fragrant? Anyway, so were all the others that I sent later on.)

After the show I was waiting for you, ready to approach. But you came out in the company of a beautiful brunette with long hair who was holding a bouquet of sweet peas. Oh, my God! How awful—it was the bouquet I had sent you.

All hope to win you over left me, but I couldn’t resist the pleasure of seeing “Arriving Tomorrow” again. Of course I sent you flowers once more, but this time I sent them through an usher, and after that it became my permanent habit.

The show was really a masterpiece, and I liked to watch it more each time I went. YOU TOO. It was hard for me to restrain a growing wild passion and desire to be with you. I went to see many shows and the compulsion to see it over and over again became something like a narcotic addiction.

I was hooked! I wanted you so intensely but did not dare to speak to you because I was shy and had a low esteem of myself. However, I was not able to quit this strange ritual of offering flowers to my chosen man. You were supposed to be my first man; I had chosen you. Of course I loved you and how much! I loved you wildly, passionately and hopelessly. I was mad at you because of your lack of intuition to figure out that this eccentrically dressed woman, whom everyone else noticed because of her shocking and creative dresses, standing at the back door of the theater, was waiting for you. But you were passing by me, not stopping. Sometimes you would glance over at me and a slight smile flickered across your face. I was observing you, receptive to even your slightest gestures. I remembered that you have green eyes—is it true? I did not verify all those recollections when we suddenly met in September in the museum, and I simply started talking to you. It was so nice to talk with you that I forgot that you have any physicality. But then, in the past, your physicality was terribly important to me, as well as your acting, which had a very strong impact on me. And yet I didn’t even know how to try to reach you, and my unfulfilled desire became only an utter torment for me.

At that time there was a boy who used to pursue me. He was a fifth-year student in the Fine Arts Academy. He rode a Harley, which gave him an expressive pose. While I was waiting for you after the show, he, in turn, was waiting for me. One day, it was winter—I remember it exactly—he was also waiting. Of course, that evening I had again sent you a bouquet of flowers and was waiting for you at the back door of the theater, thinking that maybe by some miracle you would happen to notice me, but it did not happen. So, I went with that boy to his dormitory, got drunk . . . and in that way, you irreversibly lost the chance to become my first lover. When he fell asleep, I ran away from him, losing an earring made from a peacock feather in his bed. Later he hung that earring above his writing desk. I didn’t want to see him anymore. However, many years later we met and got drunk together, just for fun. He married one of my girlfriends who, till this day, doesn’t know anything about my affair with him.

But coming back to the story, after that episode, I still continued to go see the show and nothing changed in my feelings toward you. But I began to realize that this love could not be fulfilled the way I saw it in my dreams, and it was burning me up. I decided to fight it in myself, so I sent you a cactus with a letter attached in which I informed you that I would no longer be waiting for you. Nevertheless, the moment I left this cactus with Irena, the secretary in the office of the Pantomime Theater, I still felt unbridled passion for you. If I had touched you then, I would have burned up with the flame of passion that could take me over at the mere thought of you.

This story has subplots: although you are not aware of the influences you had on my life, there are many both beautiful and terrible things that have happened because of you. My life has been full of wild passions and emotions, uplifting moments and falls, happy moments, and even, unfortunately, moments of cynical cruelty. But probably you don’t want me to write a book for you now, though I certainly would be able to.

Instead I have written about the hub and the source of my, already-long-enough, life story in which you appeared without my will and left an everlasting mark on it. Till today the recollection of that love is not indifferent to me and certainly never will be. Knowing you is only joyous for me.

And what do you think about this story? Were you ready for it? Have you expected it? I know, I know, you were expecting it and were wondering to which extent I would have courage to confess it. I have enough courage for everything.

Have you decorated your Christmas tree yet? Take my burning confession and put it gently under your Christmas tree. Let it warm up your holidays while you think warmly about me during this occasion.

Keep well—I wish you always to stay strong as a superman.

Małgorzata (I am wearing a newly bought perfume that is                                                                        suitable to this confession called “Madness”.)

I: What do you think about Małgosia’s letter?

M: I think that it’s a wonderful letter to receive from a spectator. It’s very flattering.

I: Does it feed your vanity as Małgosia suspected?

M: When I think of it, it does, but only a little bit. Małgosia’s letter reminds me that I had a magnetic power over the audience, and I can’t help but enjoy it. I take that as vanity on my part.

I: Certainly, it is.

M: And yet I’m also disturbed by this letter.

I: How come?

M: It’s the story of a teenage girl who falls madly in love with an actor who refuses to meet her in person. And then she’s not able to get over it throughout her entire life. It stays with her as an obsession although she knows she would never be able to fulfill it.

I: It’s a paradox.

M: It’s also tragic.

I: Why?

M: Because unfulfilled dreams and desires produce disappointments in life.

I: What’s the remedy?

M: Not to cross the line between the audience and the stage. It’s a taboo. This line is a symbolic barrier that distinguishes fiction from reality. And those are two different worlds that shall not be mixed.

I: Tell her that.

M: It’s too late. She crossed the line a long time ago and now has to suffer the insatiability of desires for perfect love that can never be fulfilled.

I: It’s cruel.

M: She knows that.

I: So why does she do it?

M: She can’t help herself. She is an artist.

I:  Why do you think she wrote this letter?

M:  To get it off her chest. She was in love not with me as a real person but with a theatrical image of me, a phantom that had dwelled in her imagination for more than twenty-five years by the time she wrote that letter. It is a case of both obsession and possession. She probably had a need to confront this phantom with the real person and by that to rid herself of it. You know, when you confront your illusions with reality, the former must give way to the latter.

I: Was Arriving Tomorrow the biggest hit of the WPT?

M: It was, for sure, during my time in the company there was no bigger hit with the audience, in the sense that none of the other shows made such a stir as Arriving Tomorrow. It had the power to affect the audience directly to the core of their existence. It seemed that everyone related to what was happening on the stage.  The reactions, the responses were always hot. This show had the power to wake up passion in people, to stir their desires. It was also disturbing. I never met anyone who was indifferent after seeing this show. It apparently changed them, some of them probably forever.

I: As Małgosia?

M: Yes. They felt personally affected and had to reckon with themselves.

I: About what?

M: About their own happiness, or rather lack of it. Arriving Tomorrow provoked people to go on the quest for their own happiness with no compromise.

I: Dangerous.

M: Very.