ZAMEK Culture Centre

INTRODUCTION \ TO THEATRE GAMES WITH DISABILITY \ meeting with Justyna Wielgus

In Odzyskiwanie obecności. Niepełnosprawność w teatrze i performensie (Regaining Presence. Disability in Theatre and Performance), edited by Ewelina Godlewska-Byliniak and Justyna Lipko-Konieczna, the authors write:

“(...) We realize that the artistic work of persons with disabilities evokes powerful and ambivalent emotions. It is largely the emotionality and affectiveness which impact the perception of that art, leaving the viewer in two minds, as they ask whether what they see is by nature private or public. Is it an element of therapy or an independent, deliberately constructed artistic statement? Are those on the stage actors who build their roles or persons talking about themselves within the boundaries of their privacy? Can one judge what they see and which criteria should be applied? Theatre is a singular space which engenders that duality of seeing and this is whence it derives its potency.”


These and many other questions were addressed in the course of a meeting associated with CK ZAMEK’s Common Theatre Programme. This time, we had the pleasure of hosting Justyna Wielgus, co-founder of Theatre 21, Poland’s only, almost fully professional company whose actors are persons with disabilities.


Justyna Wielgus is an actress, author of stage movement, movement instructor and theatre teacher. Graduate of Polish Studies with a specialty in Cultural Animation from the Institute of Polish Culture, University of Warsaw, and two-year Theatre Instructor Qualification Course. Two-time recipient of the fellowship from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. She collaborated with Theatre Węgajty, creating performances, co-heading the Other Theatre School and co-organizing the Theatre Village Festival. She also spent four years learning contact improvisation in Berlin with Adalisa Menghini (Tanzfabrik), and took part in the project Beyond Constraints by Dagmara Lesiak. During her five-year stay in Albania (working on a documentary on illegal immigration of Albanians), she also did a year-long residency at the National Puppet Theatre in Tirana. For the last five years, she has been involved with Theatre 21 as the author of stage movement for performances and performative actions, director’s assistant, and co-author of concepts. Furthermore, Wielgus conducts workshops in contact improvisation, body awareness, alternative motor skills and dance ability. She collaborates with numerous institutions (e.g. Warsaw Centre for Education and Social Innovations and Trainings, Theatre Institute, Center for Citizenship Education, Studio Theatre) contributing to their projects and trainings concerned with theatre, art teaching as well as inclusive and social theatre. Wielgus also conducts classes in Applied Theatre as part of the post-graduate programme in Theatre Pedagogy, University of Warsaw, and cooperates with Lotte van den Berg in the collective undertaking Building Conversation and the most recent project entitled DYING TOGETHER/ORGY ALONE, which will premiere in October 2018 in Amsterdam.


The meeting with Justyna Wielgus was held as part of Common Theatre, an authorial performative arts programme run by ZAMEK Culture Centre in Poznań since 2016. It showcases performances created by persons facing inclusion due to their health or social status. This lecture-meeting, as well as the workshop conducted by Justyna Wielgus launched a series of educational events which enabled its participants to learn the basics of the theatre skill-set: artistic work with body and mind whilst fully allowing for the different motor and intellectual abilities. We have invited four outstanding theatre educators to join us, to benefit from their experience of working with groups of persons with disabilities.


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