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Jacek Braciak on the hypocrisy of the artistic environment: I am full of indignation

Jacek Braciak *: Not at all.

I am trying to determine what kind of director Jacek Braciak is.

I’ve always been a temperamental man, but this temperament no longer manifests itself in shouting and anger. We’re all at work. This is not a battle, it is a theater. I do not assume that any of the people I work with are lazy that they are here because they have to. I’m an actor myself, and I know how this kind of “motivation” affects me – when someone tries to manipulate me or yells over my ear.

How?

Allergic!

What is the most difficult part of a director’s job?

I have not come across things that would overwhelm me. Sometimes I didn’t know what to do next, but my very helpful group of people was very imaginative and inventive. I do not usurp the right to be omniscient. It doesn’t always have to be my way.

I would say that it is difficult to do theater in Poland today when attempts are made to guide the institutions according to the political key, to mention the Osterwa Theater in Lublin, the Słowacki Theater in Kraków, or, while remaining in Łódź, Teatr im. Stefan Jaracz.

You are absolutely right. A terrible division of our environment has taken place. Politics, at its worst, has become the subject of artists’ considerations. I am not and do not intend to be the head of any cultural institution in Poland, I avoid it instinctively. Besides, I am lucky that at the Powszechny Theater in Łódź, where I make my debut as a director, thanks to the fantastic director Ewa Pilawska I am free from pressures, including those of a political nature. I can only focus on my work. I am not involved in any games. Even the number of interviews I give has been very limited.

"Who Wants to Be a Jew?": a poster of Jacek Braciak's performance according to Marek Modzelewski at the Powszechny Theater in Łódź

Photo: Press materials

“Who Wants to Be a Jew?”: A poster of Jacek Braciak’s play according to Marek Modzelewski at the Powszechny Theater in Łódź

What does this environmental division result from?

For example, the fact that participation in the production of Telewizja Polska is perceived by some as an ideological declaration. They say speaking out there means “agreeing with that propaganda tube”. Of course TVP it is in fact, especially the journalistic parts, but this does not mean that all channels should be boycotted. I hear from my friends: “I play on TVN, but I don’t go to the public.” TVN also has a specific profile. I am very sorry that Polish television cannot be free from these simplest divisions. No, this does not only apply to TVP. I do not see any difference between the TVP series and TVN. The former, at least for now, does not make any propaganda series.

According to you, participation in TVP production is not a political declaration today?

It is not for me to judge. Actors make these and no other choices and should not be condemned. For those who judge them, I have one thing to remind you: the point of view depends on the point of sitting. They will not feed their colleagues without work by repeating clichés. These are very simple decisions – economic. Of course, I am indignant towards those who are making careers of being on the power bar. I am aware that in many cases it is not a question of survival, but of ambition and pride.

Conformism?

Sure. There are people in the artistic environment who will do any business in politics.

The article continues under the video.

What do you feel as father of a transgender sonwhen TVP talks about LGBT + people “ideology that threatens children”?

It’s disgusting. Like hitting refugees or justifying animal rights violations. But it should be noted that when it comes to LGBT people, it is not the parents who are the most important, but their children, these are their stories. I don’t want to go into the politically correct topics that everyone is talking about right now. My view on this is obvious. I would not like this topic to dominate our conversation today.

You mentioned TVP in the context of political declarations, so I could not help but ask about people tormented by Polish Television, which is directed according to the interests of the current government.

I see. But I will not repeat myself.

You are directing “Who Wants to Be a Jew?”, A text about hypocrisy and the double standards of the middle class.

We are interested in the so-called elites, and their image is to a large extent false, marked by high hypocrisy. When you scrape a little, the rust comes out. Marek [Marek Modzelewski, autor sztuki – red.], doctor and artist, writes about his environment. I appreciate him very much for this critical perspective. A little Marek, and I, and many other people, beat our breasts.

This is his art – “Shame”, known to the cinema audience as “In-laws” – after a long pause she attracted you to the stage [spektakl grany jest w warszawskim Teatrze Współczesnym].

Mark’s plays in an accessible way, which does not mean easy and popular, are a picture of what is happening in our country. They also have, in my opinion, a timeless dimension. This is an attempt to diagnose our times, not journalism. When the opportunity arises, it’s hard not to take advantage of the perceptiveness of these texts.

Mariusz Jakus, Agnieszka Suchora, Iza Kuna and Jacek Braciak in the performance "Shame" at the Współczesny Theater in Warsaw

Photo: Magdalena Hueckel / Contemporary Theater in Warsaw

Mariusz Jakus, Agnieszka Suchora, Iza Kuna and Jacek Braciak in the play “Shame” at the Współczesny Theater in Warsaw

Where are these double standards coming from? Do we like to think of ourselves better than we really are?

Maybe because of the conviction that our life seems to us shallow, ineffective? Everyday decency is not very effective – paying the tax, picking up a piece of paper, saying “good morning” to your neighbor. You can focus on doing the ordinary things neatly. Unfortunately, in all this push for “uniqueness” we stopped being “special” by doing and repeating the same thing.

Are you suspicious of the intentions of your colleagues?

I’m just wondering, why the hell are you honking about all this? When it comes to publicizing an important matter and encouraging others to help, it’s okay, but often the whole commitment of colleagues comes down to promoting yourself. Speaking of ridiculing the elite, I do not mean people who, with honesty and dedication, do something to help the weaker, the poorer, or our smaller brothers. But I watch people for whom going to the border is not enough, they absolutely need to announce it to the world.

What do you want to confront the audience of your performance with?

Our society is not particularly inclined to confront its own sins. I don’t want to impose on anyone what the performance is about. Someone will come out of the theater saying, “God, that’s funny.” And another one will say: “How sad!” And someone else that he is ashamed of his countrymen. Or: “These Jews are very good.”

When are you ashamed of Poles?

I am ashamed to see something primitive in Poland, I am ashamed of the lack of imagination, I am ashamed when others are not taken into account. We all live among people and too often forget it, focused on “individual space”. By focusing on our own comfort, we forgot about caring for the comfort of others.

Do you care about it?

I try not to think only about myself.

Are you ready for a harsh evaluation? We have many directing actors and actresses in Poland, those who do, much less.

That they would say: “The next actor started directing because he thinks it’s so easy”? I have been working in this profession for several years and I trust my taste. I do not direct a great production, but a small-cast play, an intimate psychological drama. I wanted to make a classical theater focused on the text, with a not very modern form. Will they criticize? Everyone has the right to do so.

What is the mobilization to re-debut when you have an established position? Reality? Especially difficult times?

What does “difficult times” mean?

Pandemic, refugee crisis, another war, economic crisis, populism in Europe …

When I got a directing offer, I checked where and with whom and I said, “Yes, let’s do it!” I do not plan any political demonstrations on the stage. I don’t feel empowered to be the tribune of society in any matter.

At the same time, a fairly clear portrait of society emerges from this text. Do you find hope in it?

My vision of society is rather grim. I am not an optimist when it comes to people in general. Faster than the end of Earth, we will finish ourselves. The earth will shake us off like a dog will flea. What is my hope to come from? From the fact that, as we have thought for hundreds of years, art will save us? That he would not allow evil done to our brothers, Jews? That he would stop the war? Nothing similar. It always ends the same, the lowest instincts win. Art is not the way to deal with frustration. It used to be a stick and a stone, and today it is a rifle.

Then why do theater?

Because you have to live, Mr. David! Because you need to find respite in all this. Because you have to find yourself in a different world for a while.

***

* Jacek Braciak – born in Drezdenko in the Lubuskie Voivodeship, a graduate of the PWST (currently AT) in Warsaw. Laureate of three Eagles for “Edi”, “Róża” and “Kler”. For his roles in Łukasz Grzegorzek’s “Daughter of a trainer” and “My wonderful life” – awarded at the Mastercard OFF Camera festival. After 25 years, he quit his job at the Powszechny Theater in Warsaw. He returned to the stage in “Wstyda” at the Współczesny Theater, and received the Aleksander Zelwerowicz or the Award of the Acting Art Festival. It could be seen, among others in the film “Let there be no traces”, which represented Poland in the fight for the Oscar 2022. Currently, he is making his debut as a theater director with the play “Who Wants to Be a Jew?” According to Marek Modzelewski – premiere at the Powszechny Theater in Łódź on October 1.

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