Ancient Plays on Stage in Communist Poland


  • Elżbieta Olechowska Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw



ancient drama, Polish theatre, devastation of theatrical infrastructure, control over culture


A recently published analytical register of all ancient plays and plays inspired by antiquity staged in Poland during communism, provided factual material for this study of ancient drama in Polish theatre controlled by the state and of its evolution from the end of WW2 to the collapse of the Soviet regime. The quasi-total devastation of theatrical infrastructure and loss of talent caused by the war, combined with an immediate seizing of control over culture by Communist authorities, played a crucial role in the shaping of the reborn stage and its repertoire. All Aeschylus’ plays were performed at various points during the period, four out of seven Sophocles’ tragedies – with Antigone, a special case, by far the most popular – about half of the extant Euripides’ drama, some Aristophanes, very little of Roman tragedy (Seneca) and a bit more of Roman comedy (Plautus). The ancient plays were produced in big urban centres, as well as in the provinces, and nationally, by the state radio and later television. The various theatres and the most important directors involved in these productions are discussed and compared, with a chronological and geographical list of venues and plays provided.


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Author Biography

Elżbieta Olechowska, Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw

ELŻBIETA OLECHOWSKA is a classical philologist (textual critic) and media scholar at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales,” University of Warsaw. She published editions of Claudian (E. J. Brill) and Cicero (Bibliotheca Teubneriana) preceded by a new examination of the manuscript tradition. She worked at the University of Geneva and spent a year at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. She later moved to Montreal and received an MBA at Concordia University while working as a journalist, manager, and trainer for almost three decades at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, where she there a six-volume series Challenges for International Broadcasting and a monograph The Age of International Radio: Radio Canada International 1945–2007. Since 2009, at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales,” she has been actively involved in research, conferences, and publications for two international programs, Classics & Communism and Our Mythical Childhood – the latter, an ERC funded innovative research project, is designed to study reception of classical Antiquity in children’s and young adult culture. Her own research within the project emphasizes reception of Graeco-Roman classics in contemporary audio-visual culture.