The Wojciech Bogusławski municipal theatre, Kalisz
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The Wojciech Bogusławski municipal theatre

Kalisz

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The Wojciech Bogusławski municipal theatre in Kalisz, erected in years 1920-1936 to the design of Czesław Przybylski, is one of the most picturesquely located theatres in Poland, its harmonious form reflecting in the waters of the Prosna river. Its interiors are distinguished by their exceptional simplicity and elegance, much like other theatre buildings designed by the same architect. From 1961 onwards, the Kalisz theatre serves as the venue for the Kalisz Theatre Meetings, the oldest drama festival in Poland. Many eminent actors have performed on the stage of the Kalisz theatre.

History

The history of theatre in Kalisz goes all the way back to the 16th century, when a students’ theatre operated alongside the local Jesuit college.

In 1800, Wojciech Bogusławski and his theatre troupe arrived in Kalisz for the first time, having just completed a successful series of performances in Poznań.

In 1801, the first theatre building was erected at Bogusławski’s initiative. Based on a timber frame, this theatre was designed for an audience of 500. It existed there until 1817.

The second theatre building in Kalisz stood on the axis of the Józefina Alley (currently known as the Freedom Alley) in years 1829-1858. It was also a wooden structure; in 1858, it was lost to the blaze. For nearly 40 years the city did not have a theatre of its own.

Finally, a new building, designed by Józef Chrzanowski in the Renaissance Revival style, was erected in 1890 and existed there until 1914. Lamentably, this building was then set on fire by the German forces on 16.08.1914 and was completely destroyed.

The existing Neoclassical building was constructed in years 1920-1936, based on the design created by Czesław Przybylski in years 1914-1923; a representative of the Modernist movement, his other well-known designs include the Polish Theatre in Warsaw, a theatre in Vilnius and the so-called “rounded house” on Krakowskie Przedmieście street in Warsaw.

Description

Kalisz is the oldest city in Poland, mentioned in the works of Claudius Ptolemy written in the second half of the 2nd century, located at the eastern edge of the Kalisz Upland, by the Prosna river. The first traces of human habitation here date back to the 8th century B.C., with the first fortified settlement in Zawodzie having been built back in the 10th century. The famous amber trial led through the city of Kalisz. The new city of Kalisz was founded on its current site by duke Bolesław the Pious around the year 1257. The city was founded at the junction of crucial trading routes and has always been the second-most significant city in Greater Poland, with only Poznań surpassing it in terms of both importance and size. It was here, for example, that Casimir the Great signed the “everlasting” peace treaty with the Teutonic Order. After 1793, the city was incorporated into the Prussian Partition, while in 1815 it found itself within the Russian territory.

The theatre on Bogusławski square is the fourth theatre building which was erected here over the 200 years of history of theatre in Kalisz. The Bogusławski square grew out of the final section of the Freedom Avenue (Al. Wolności), the history of which dates back to the year 1800. The theatre building, designed in the Neoclassical style, remains one of the main architectural features of the square. Built back in the 1930s, the building occupies the same spot as the two structures which preceded it and may therefore be considered to be an extension of the genius loci. It was named after Wojciech Bogusławski, since it is with him that the history of theatre in Kalisz has originally begun. The central entrance to the City Park, leading through the Theatre Bridge, is located right next to the building. The history of the park itself can be traced back to 1798. The Bogusławski Square is also the site of the National Bank of Poland building erected in years 1924-1926 based on the design by Marian Lalewicz and featuring some rather interesting architectural forms. Along with Freedom Avenue, the Bogusławski Square remains one of the most picturesque parts of the city of Kalisz.

The theatre itself is a brick building designed on a rectangular floor plan, featuring two side avant-corps positioned alongside the stage, with the one overlooking the Prosna river being preceded by a portico with two pairs of columns. The other avant-corps is adorned with decorative pilasters. The front façade is adorned by a semi-circular Ionic portico with four pairs of pillars. The rear façade also features an avant-corps with an arched window and a doorway, positioned on the axis of the entrance door. All façades are covered with plaster and adorned with Classicist architectural and ornamental detailing. Cornices and parapet walls with balustrades at the top of each façade provide a finishing touch. The windows, rectangular in shape, are embellished with decorative surrounds. The interior features a symmetrical layout and consists of the auditorium with an amphitheatrical layout, featuring three pairs of galleries and two balconies, connected to the vestibule by means of symmetrically arranged, independent staircases. The stage itself follows the proscenium layout. The body of the three-storey building is complex in shape, with an elevated middle section incorporating the stage. The roofs used for the individual sections of the building are either gable roofs or multi-hipped roofs, all clad with sheet metal.

With a tradition that can be traced all the way back to the year 1800, the Municipal Theatre in Kalisz went on to become a permanent fixture of the cultural landscape of the city and beyond. Its significance for the promotion of drama has a nationwide dimension. Two plaques have been embedded in the walls of the theatre building. One of them informs that on August 2, 1800, a troupe of actors led by Wojciech Bogusławski performed on this very spot (the plaque itself dates back to 1975); the second plaque commemorates the 200th anniversary of theatre in Kalisz and is intended to honour all actors who had the privilege to perform here. The Kalisz Theatre is a Cultural Institution of the Greater Poland Local Government.

The historic monument can be visited from the outside. Contact details: telephone - (62) 760 53 00 (02); e-mail: sekretariat@tear.kalisz.pl; website: http://teatr.kalisz.pl

compiled by Teresa Palacz, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Poznan, 20-10-2014.

Bibliography

  • Anders P., Województwo kaliskie, szkic monograficzny, Poznań 1983.
  • Łęcki Wł., Wielkopolska - słownik krajoznawczy, Poznań 2002.
  • Jonkajtys-Luba G., Architektura i architekci świata współczesnego. Czesław Przybylski, Warszawa 1996.
  • Architekt Czesław Przybylski (1880-1936), [w:] Architektura i Budownictwo, Rok. XII Nr 8-9-10, Warszawa 1936.
  • Kaczmarek A., Dzieje kaliskich ulic, Kalisz 2002.
  • Dzieje Kalisza, Rusiński Wł. (red.), Poznań 1977.
  • Strona internetowa: Dawny Kalisz. www.info.pl

General information

  • Type: public building
  • Chronology: 1920-1936
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: pl. Bogusławskiego 1, Kalisz
  • Location: Voivodeship wielkopolskie, district Kalisz, commune Kalisz
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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