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Poland: Eccentric Protest Against Theatre Director

Last week Joanna Szczepkowska, a well-known Polish actress, made a rather unconventional protest against the style of work used by Krystian Lupa, a director she worked with. During a stage performance at the Dramatic Theatre in Warsaw, Szczepkowska showed the audience her naked buttocks. The gesture was widely commented on in the Polish media and blogosphere.

Ms Szczepkowska said that government funds supporting the theatre are constantly wasted, and so is the actors’ time, as many plays never make it to the stage, despite months of rehearsals. ‘The protest was not just against the director himself – she says – it was against the theatre methods of work as a whole.’

The actress, now in her late fifties, is often perceived as controversial and a provocateur of the Polish art world. She was in the centre of media attention in 1989, when she publicly announced that ‘the communism era was now over’ during a live TV appearance and again in 2004 when her dispute with another well-known actress, Krystyna Janda, made Ms Janda leave the Dramatic Theatre and open her own playhouse.

The news, posted on all major Polish portals, generated hundreds of comments and forum threads, some of them very negative. The protest was seen by many as a marketing tool meant to bring media attention to the play. Many bloggers said the protest was inappropriate, bearing in mind the actress’s age and reputation.

Omnia says [PL]:

If she hadn’t showed her buttocks, no one would even know about the play. She knows how to advertise and get attention. You’d need to ask the audience, whether they liked what they saw […]. I think that she went too far.

Marek sums up a forum discussion [PL]:

If you have nothing else to show, you show your buttocks […].

Some bloggers, however, agree with Ms Szczepkowska and compliment on her fearlessness and the all-or-nothing attitude. A musician Jarek Szubrycht says on his blog [PL]:

I haven’t been there and haven’t seen her buttocks but I wanted to praise her lioness-like courage. Not every woman of her age – as, let’s face it, she’s not a teen anymore – would be brave enough to show her bum cheeks.

Jerzy Ogrodnicki, a theatre actor, shares his view on one of the forums discussing the protest [PL]:

I really appreciate your courage and desperation. You’ve managed to show that even respected directors can be narrow-minded. You have possibly just opened a new chapter in the Polish theatre. With best wishes.

An anonymous comment was also left on the film news website [PL]:

Ms Szczepkowska did the right thing protesting against the way the theatre works these days. It exists mainly for the artists, not for the audience (…)

Last Thursday the actress received a letter from Krystian Lupa saying that she will no longer be part of his team as she doesn’t put her heart into the character she plays. The actress announced that she was disappointed with the letter as it didn’t mention the protest. She believes that it was her buttocks that got her fired, not the lack of spirit or enthusiasm for the play.

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