Part IV from
A Theatrical Memoir: An Interview with Myself
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
M: I could feel when I was on or not. Besides, Tomaszewski never failed to tell me how bad I was.
M: In this respect he was brutally frank.
M: But not with everyone.
M: With some actors he was more roundabout and diplomatic when they weren’t doing well.
I: I see!
M: But with me?
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.
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.
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: 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.
M: Yeah . . .
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?
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.
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.
“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?
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
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.
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.