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The theatre was established in 1977. Most unusually for the time, it was set up as an association in accordance with a 1932 presidential decree. Ośrodek Praktyk Teatralnych “Gardzienice” (“Gardzienice” Centre for Theatre Practices) became a state-owned cultural institution in 1990. The leader of the theatre is Włodzimierz Staniewski. During grueling firstfewyears, the company got by on donations from members and whatever assistance supportive people and institutions could spare. A dilapidated Arian chapel in Gardzienice, a small village near Lublin, made do as the Centre’s headquarters. At the beginning their theatre practices comprised Expeditions and Gatherings organized in local environments. The company has won wide recognition for its rigorous investigation of indigenous and ancient musical traditions, its physical and vocal techniques, its commitment to the creation of theatre in a natural environment and its emphasis on mutuality and musicality. “Gardzienice”, whose every performance has been directed by Staniewski, is today one of the most famous experimental theatres in the world.
Successive performances have been inspired by different cultural milieus. The traditions of Poland’s border regions provide the backdrop for Spektakl wieczorny (Evening Spectacle, 1977) and Gusła (Sorcery, 1981), Russian Orthodox culture for Żywot protopopa Awwakuma (The Life of Archpriest Avvakum, 1983) and mediaeval Europe for Carmina Burana (1990). In recent years, “Gardzienice” has been focusing on Ancient Greece as the cradle of European culture. This research has given rise to Metamorfozy (Metamorphoses, 1997), Elektra (Electra, 2004), and Iphigenia at Aulis, (2007). These works delve into the long lost acting techniques of Greek Antiquity as revealed by extant iconographical and literary sources, and relics of Ancient Greek music. The company wants to resurrect the art of tragedy through the spirit of music.