Magda Piekarska o tym, jak wirus zaatakował polski teatr i jakie skutki wywołał. Ale przede wszystkim o ujawnionych w czasie zarazy z wielką mocą problemach, zaniedbaniach prawnych i niepewnym statusie polskiego środowiska artystycznego. Dyrektor legnickiego teatru Jacek Głomb: "Najgorzej mają bezetatowcy", legnicki aktor Robert Gulaczyk: "Próbuję zorganizować aktorów". Tekst w języku angielskim (fragment) pierwotnie opublikował po polsku teatralny magazyn Didaskalia.


Jacek Głomb: Freelancers Have It The Worst

The decision of the Marshal of the Lubuskie Province to ban events in Zielona Góra and Gorzów Wielkopolski, taken on March 5, came one week ahead of the government’s restrictions. It surprised Jacek Głomb, who was then about to open his production, Aleksander Fredro’s Help! What’s Going On Here!, on March 7 at the Juliusz Osterwa Theater in Gorzów.

"In my response I stressed the need to be consistent and act across the board,’ he points out. ‘If such a decision is made by the government and applies across the country, it is right and necessary. But if a Marshal or Mayor rushes on ahead alone to score a few points in politics, that’s not OK at all. And I still think that shopping malls and churches, where many more people congregate, should be closed down just as theatres are. But no nationwide decision was taken back then. If we’re closed for two weeks, we can deal with it. And we won’t question it if the isolation is there to help fight the virus. We exist for our audience ‒ if they are scared, they won’t come anyway.’"

Hiatus means that a theatre’s budget is reduced by proceeds from ticket sales. We are talking about 100,000 PLN a month in the case of the Modjeska Theater in Legnica and an average of 590,000 PLN for Wrocław’s Capitol. It also means lower earnings for actors who get just their basic salaries which rarely exceed the minimum pay. The pay of salaried actors has two components: the fixed salary and a stage bonus which ranges from a few dozen PLN in the puppet theatres and the Wrocław Pantomime to 500 PLN at the Capitol to 1,000 PLN at some Warsaw theatres.

"One way theatres can help their full-time actors is by changing payroll rules and offering rewards,’ says Jacek Głomb. ‘Freelancers who work with us are at a disadvantage ‒ systemic solutions are needed. Grzegorz Wojdon and Maciej Rabski were due to make guest appearances in the Modjeska Theater’s latest production. What I can do in the present circumstances is pay them 25-percent advances, because rehearsals have already begun. The same applies to other artists working on the show, which will have to be rescheduled for next season.’"

The Modjeska Theater has suspended operations ‒ the secretary’s office and the ticket office are closed but you can return tickets by sending an email with ticket scans and your account number. Whoever can, works remotely, while others take their overdue days off. Rehearsals for Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, directed by Georgian Andro Enukidze, have been placed on hold with the opening postponed until next season. As part of #teatrnadaje, employees post short videos showing what they do in their pandemic-imposed free time. In the first episode, actor Mateusz Krzyk streams from his secluded lakeside hideaway where he spends his days fishing.

Robert Gulaczyk: I’m Trying to Recruit Actors

His colleague from the company, Robert Gulaczyk, is looking for actors willing to join the Polish Actors’ Trade Union.

"The hiatus may last until the end of the season, Director Jacek Głomb promised he will try to compensate us for the losses resulting from not playing,’ he says. ‘But how long will the theatre’s money last? And what happens if the problem recurs? Although the Polish Labor Code says that employees should be paid a ‘shutdown pay’ in the current circumstances, i.e. 100% of their average monthly salary, but there are certain financial limits and it may soon turn out that the theatre will just run out of money.’"

What does hiatus mean for a salaried actor? At the Modjeska Theater, Gulaczyk has a salary of about 1,800 PLN a month. One stage appearance earns him between 150 to 400 PLN pre-tax ‒ an average of 220 PLN.

"This month I’ll probably lose 14 shows, or two thirds of my earnings,’ explains Gulaczyk. ‘It’s hard to get through a month with only 1,800 PLN even if you don’t leave the house. Besides, all hopes for additional income are gone. I’ve been auditioning for commercials recently, but all production has stopped, as have film and television sets. There are no options to make some extra money. I know there are many people in a similar position, or even worse, also outside our industry, but now is a good time to start talking about our problems.’"

I don’t question the decision to close theatres ‒ the current situation is an extraordinary one and calls for urgent steps. What rankles me are periods of national mourning which close theatres, so we can’t play shows like Forefathers’ Eve, while cinemas, which are private enterprises, are happily screening comedies. We are treated as if we are holding a picnic on mourning day, which is not fair, because there is much more of the picnic going on in public spaces after theatres close, and theatres usually offer much more ambitious fare than farces.

Gulaczyk founded a branch of the Polish Actors’ Trade Union in Legnica and is trying to get his colleagues from other theatres on board.

"Our union has about 700 members at the moment, but we need a minimum of 1,500 to have a sound representation, a pressure force that will be taken seriously in negotiations with the Ministry of Culture,’ he says. ‘This will allow us to influence new rules that should be put in place as soon as possible. For now, we remain powerless in the face of crisis. I know that artists normally push aside the questions of looking after the industry’s interests. But then we suffer. When an epidemic strikes, you end up without a pot to pee in, as it turns out that nobody takes us seriously. A law on the status of the artist, which was meant to be adopted at the end of the previous term of the rule of the Law and Justice party, is not in place yet. The question of social and health insurance, which many freelancers cannot afford, has not been sorted out. And before we have all of that, the union is a must, if only because it will give us access to legal aid, which many of us cannot afford."



(Magda Piekarska, "CORONATHEATRE: Polish Theatre in the Plague Year. Part I: March and April 2020",, 10.07.2020)


Od redaktora @KT:

1. W drugiej części tekstu Magdy Piekarskiej, który powstał dwa miesiące później, opublikowanym 11.07.2020 o ministerialnym programie "Kultura w sieci" i zrealizowanym zespołowo przez legnickich aktorów pod opieką reżyserską Jacka Głomba "Nowym Dekameronie" wg Boccaccia, który sfilmowano w warunkach izolacji, zmontowano i emitowano w sieci. Tekst tej części artykułu jest TUTAJ!

2. Przedrukowany powyżej fragment @KT zamieścił za Didaskaliami w języku polskim 20 marca. Jest TUTAJ!