The Faculty of Stage Design

The Faculty of Stage Design of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw

 

Resultant from the resolution of the Senate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, the Faculty of Stage Design was established as the ninth faculty of the Academy, starting from the academic year 2013/2014. The Council of the Faculty of Stage Design elected dr hab. Paweł Dobrzycki, associate professor, the Dean, and dr hab. Marek Chowaniec, associate professor, and Marcel Sławiński, DFA, the Deputy Deans.

Since 2014 the Faculty of Stage Design has operated on new premises, located on the Vistula River, where appropriate working environment for students can be provided. At our disposal we have an auditorium for collaborative work with students of the Faculty of Directing of the Aleksander Zelwerowicz Academy of Theatre, a blackbox, a light studio, and an exhibition space.

The Faculty of Stage Design There has a long tradition and many predecessors, as it has continued the tradition of the studio of stage painting, ran in the interwar period by Professor Wincenty Drabik, a prominent stage designer. After the war, Professor Władysław Daszewski established the Chair of Stage Design and its first curriculum. First he ran a studio of stage design at the National Theatre for students and graduates, and then, in the years 1964-1969, he was the head of the Chair of Stage Design (where he educated a large group of designers, extremely important for Polish theatre, soon referred to as “the Warsaw School”: Andrzej Sadowski, Łucja Kossakowska, Zofia Wierchowicz, Zofia Pietrusińska, Ewa Starowieyska, Stanisław Bąkowski, Janusz Adam Krassowski, Wojciech Sieciński). Another great artist who taught stage design in accordance with his proprietary curriculum was Professor Józef Szajna, who established the Post-graduate Studio of Stage Design at the Academy of Fine Arts, for graduates of the Academy and architects from the Technical University. The Studio operated in the years 1972-1982. The following head of the chair, Professor Andrzej Sadowski, established foundations of the modern curriculum in the field of stage design. During his term the Inter-faculty Chair of Stage Design was launched. Powerful personalities of both great artists and educators formed the Chair of Stage Design and had a lasting impact on history and contemporaneity of Polish theatre, both through their designs and teaching legacy, and personalities of their students, now leading Polish stage designers (including members of the faculty today: Dorota Kołodyńska, Marek Chowaniec, Katarzyna Proniewska-Mazurek). After professor Sadowski’s retirement, the 2001 competition for the head of the chair was won by Dr. Paweł Dobrzycki, graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, an experienced stage designer and teacher – at present, the Dean of the new faculty and author of its curriculum. The immediate predecessors of the Faculty were stage design studies at the Faculty of Media Art and Stage Design.

The current curriculum continues a long, even pre-war tradition of the National Institute of Theatre Arts in training stage designers; it has also been based on teaching and artistic output of our predecessors: Władysław Daszewski, Zenobiusz Strzelecki, Józef Szajna, Andrzej Sadowski, and in recent years also Andrzej Kreutz Majewski. The curriculum is constantly being supplemented and reshaped to incorporate elements arising from the needs of students and the development of contemporary art and theatre.

With launch of the independent Faculty of Stage Design the educational profile and shaping of artistic attitudes among future designers have been redefined, to prepare them not only for work in theatre or opera, but also in film, television, media, various activities in public space, auteur theatre and performing arts. Soon the curriculum of the faculty will be enriched with new artistic specialisation tracks derived from stage design (e.g. lighting direction), but also ones related to new technologies in theatre and film (such as virtual set design). Currently our primary curricular premise is not only to equip the graduates with foundations of the future profession, but, above all, to form well-aware artists, with developed open-mindedness towards the world, people, art as a whole, a variety of aesthetic programmes, mind-sets and artistic concepts they are bound to come across and operate within.

In addition to professional training, studies at the Faculty of Stage Design also provide the students with necessary knowledge about the history and aesthetics of theatre and film, costume history and grand theatrical narratives; make them acquainted with the basics of anthropology, history and sociology of culture.

 

Study profile:

 

The Faculty of Stage Design conducts programmes in the field of stage, set and television design, in a broad sense. The specificity of the field of study and the curriculum has resulted from particular needs in terms of skills and knowledge related to artistic practice in the field of stage design, different from other fields of visual arts. Courses include design classes in design for theatre and musical theatre, various performances, film and television, including decoration and costume design, lectures from many areas related to performing arts in a broad sense, and seminars enhancing teamwork. Teachers of stage design major on regular basis strive to individualise curriculum for each student, taking into consideration their needs, predisposition and degree of artistic development. Ultimately, the student is required to prepare a theatre-based degree piece under tutelage of the supervisor – it has been a time-honoured tradition. It is both the ultimate test and the final stage in the teaching process. It allows the student earn recognition in the stage design “market” and start independent artistic work. It brings tangible results, almost all of our graduates work in the field.

 

General premises of the curriculum of the Faculty of Stage Design of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw:

 

The profession of stage designer is significantly different from other artistic professions – it requires interdisciplinary knowledge, numerous technical skills, effective operation within the framework of institutions such as theatre, TV, film, collaborative work in large teams, promptness, and above all, ability to pursue one’s own artistic visions under ever-changing and sometimes difficult conditions. This requires a different mind-set and a view of the world different from that of self-centred artists isolated in their studios and distant from mundane issues. So the curriculum should be conducive to re-shaping the student’s personality, to facilitate effective work: open-mindedness towards the world, people, art as a whole, a variety of aesthetic programmes, mind-sets and artistic concepts they are bound to come across and operate within.

It is also a matter of determining what theatre actually is.

Theatre can be defined as a purely intellectual activity, which using artistic means refers to the entire human experience. To paraphrase a beautiful thought by Herbert, for whom poetry was an instrument of compassion, we can say that theatre so far has always been an instrument of empathy, an insight into other man’s thoughts, feelings, existence, the meaning of life. There is no doubt that theatre (and along the way film, television production, etc.) is intrinsically more focused on issues related to men than other disciplines of art, if only for its major medium: the actor. The reality that surrounds us, with all its richness and complexity, is the point of reference, the scope, and the source of inspiration for theatre and film – thus also for stage design. In a popular view, of both creators and audience, it is supposed not only to bring aesthetic experience, amuse, move or teach, but also help – in the broadest sense of the word.

The fate and reception of a theatrical piece, as well as a film or television piece, although to a lesser degree, is fundamentally different from perception of other pieces: painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, or music can become appreciated centuries later, because they can live for centuries. A performance or a film, and its stage or set design along with it, lives as long as the audience want to watch it, and then disappears virtually without a trace – it belongs to the present time only, and time is unforgiving for its remnants. Hence the need to develop the skill of approaching the audience with one’s idea, thought, message, and make it clear here and now, without resorting to ever-present banality, kitsch or commercialism.

Therefore, in addition to development of talent in the field of visual arts, of utmost importance is development and shaping of student’s awareness: awareness of relationships between reality, literature, visual arts and theatre, film, or television.

It is the core of understanding one’s role as a co-author of all kinds of performances. The next step is to become aware of the needs of the audience, the ability to structure a clear message, express it using the matter of performance. It is the most important issue: awareness of what is being done, why it is being done, to whom it is addressed, what is supposed to result from it, what is its effect. The biggest problems, disappointments, defeats have not resulted from the lack of talent or ability, but from the lack of awareness and self-esteem of the artists. This can be seen clearly by the example of accomplishments of the young-generation artists – increasingly pieces are not intended for watching, but implicitly for admiration: of their creators, their ideas, scandalising provocations, flashiness. The need for contact and dialogue between the creator and the audience dies out, which is a sheer denial of the very essence of theatre.

The issue of awareness is crucial, as with growing importance of visual attractiveness of performances of any kind, the role of stage designer also grows. This is evidenced in changes occurring in stage design all over the world, presented at exhibitions such as the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design, at theatre, opera and film festivals. Also the scope of designer’s action has broadened: no longer it is limited to theatre, film and television, today it involves also various concerts, shows, one-time artistic, cultural, political or sporting events. Due to financial, artistic, and mental difficulties, in our young country which works its way up, this trend is not apparent and virtually inconceivable for decision-makers. This applies, of course, throughout culture in its broadest sense. We should hope that normalcy will come to us at last also in this matter, and students should be prepared for it in advance.

During the period of studies, the students in the first place should broaden their creative imagination, develop their abilities and talents. (Later, under brutal condition of contemporary theatre, film, television and similar institutions, they may not stand a chance to do it.) Hence an otherwise obvious premise – although often forgotten in a day-to-day practice – that each student requires an individualised course of studies – of course not in the respect of schedule, but with individualised assignments and search for aesthetics and means of expression the most appropriate for their development. The more so, that students have different backgrounds in terms of secondary and tertiary education, and each is prepared to take up stage design education in a slightly different way. Or, you should say that “…each is unprepared in a different way…” as more and more often we encounter shameful shortages in general education, knowledge of history and contemporaneity of art and culture.

Influence of television, film and visual culture distributed through the Internet, growing with every year, can be seen in students’ approach to thinking and expressing their ideas. Their imagery is more film- or television-wise, rather than theatre-wise. On the one hand, this trend should be taken into consideration and used, on the other, it needs to be countered. Progressive atrophy of theatrical way of thinking is worrying. The theatre, or theatrical sign with its imagery and symbolics, the sense of a living man, a unique synthesis of arts practiced by the humankind, is the foundation for activities in the field of film, television and the like. With no experience of paint, paintbrush and canvas, it is impossible to practice computer-aided art, without contact with picture one cannot understand its screen reproduction.

A production or a film is developed as a result of work of many people, its shape and concept is born in a common effort, during numerous meetings, discussions, debates. It would not be possible to conceive a curriculum of a stage design major without multi-faceted collaboration with the Academy of Theatre, and especially its Faculty of Directing, providing the students with an opportunity to get to know the reality of work in theatre, to collaborate with a director, actors, to learn the idiom of theatre. Participation in a directing seminar consists in practice of one of the crucial skills: working with the director collaboratively in order to shape – through discussions, meetings, arguments – the vision of a production, which often is the vital part of stage designer’s work. And finally, and importantly, it is the only opportunity to enter the theatrical circles and find employment in the future. Equally important and fruitful is constant cooperation with the students of the Łódź Film School.

In addition, it would be worthwhile to establish contact – in a form of a series of meetings for students – with outstanding personas of theatre, not only for the matter of studies, but to let them enter the professional circles.

Last but not least – separate general visual arts training. As one cannot practice the profession of stage designer without mastery in realist drawing and painting, academic in a good sense. Proficiency in drawing of figures, drapes, various matters, interiors in perspective and including figures, architectural drawing – meaningful for all stage designer’s collaborators – consist the foundation of the professional skill.

 

The nearest future:

Without prejudice to classical stage design education – designing for theatre, opera, film, TV, concerts, etc., the Faculty of Stage Design prepares an extension of its curricular offer to include virtual stage design and film and television post-production, use of new media in performance arts, lighting design, and design in video games. Soon we will launch also post-graduate studies.

 

The faculty   

 

            Present shape of the Faculty of Stage Design, fully established in a new building of the Academy at Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie Street, has been formed by exquisite stage designers and teachers: leading Polish set designer professor Janusz Sosnowski, Academy Award winner professor Ewa Braun, winners of numerous film awards Katarzyna Sobańska and Marcel Sławiński, creator of the Visual Theatre Leszek Mądzik, Paweł Dobrzycki, active on Polish and foreign stage (mostly opera), great costume designer Dorota Kołodyńska, Marek Chowaniec, Krystyna Proniewska-Mazurek. In term of theoretical courses, they are supported by professor Magdalena Raszewska, Anna Straszewska, Agnieszka Koecher-Hensel, and in the field of visual arts in a broad sense, by Elżbieta Banecka, Tomasz Myjak, Piotr Jaworowski, and young artists who gradually gain recognition, such as Julia Skrzynecka, Zofia Lubińska, or Martyna Kander.

 

The Faculty of Stage Design and theatre and art education

 

            Both students and teachers from the Faculty of Stage Design take an active part in all important events conducive to their professional development and determination of artistic path. The teaching staff include both professionally active artists, stage designers, who combine teaching activities with development of theatre and opera (see www.e-teatr.pl), or film and television productions (see www.filmpolski.pl), as well as highly-aware participants of art discourse and exhibitions (e.g. international exhibition “COSTUME AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY 1990-2015”, Moscow), research conferences (CRITICAL COSTUME 2015 – International Conference and Exhibition of Costume – Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture (Helsinki) or Corps en scène: l’acteur face aux écrans (Bodies on Stage: Acting confronted by Technologies) in Paris, international industry meetings (Quadrennial in Prague), members of international creative (FIRT, AICT), professional (OISTAT), and expert associations (European Film Academy, American Film Academy).  Also students and degree candidates from the Faculty of Stage Design win prestigious prizes, e.g. at the International Stage Design Student Exchange Beijing in 2014. Twice the Faculty of Stage Design from Warsaw won full-house at the Festival of Young Stage Design, organised by the Centre for Polish Stage Design in Katowice. Photographers and graphic designers who teach at our Faculty win prizes on regular basis.

Over the last academic year teachers from the Faculty of Stage Design have produced stage and set designs for 49 films, operas, theatre and television productions, authored 23 publications, participated in 27 exhibitions and 13 competitions, won 12 prizes.

 

General principles of enrolment:

 

Numerous consultations provided by teachers of the Chair for those interested in educational offer, testify to great and still-growing interest in studies in the field of stage design. Requirements include artistic predisposition, documented by a portfolio containing examples of drawing and painting work, documentation of interest and activity in other fields of visual arts (photography, sculpture, design, etc.), interest in culture in a broad sense, and in particular in theatre, literature, film, and inherent need for conducting activity beyond traditionally perceived artist-loner.

The offer is targeted at high school graduates with artistic and intellectual predisposition, interested in theatre, film and performing arts, practice of art in this field, individuals who value collaboration with artists active in other fields.

In the case of postgraduate studies, the offer is targeted at all theatre and film lovers who graduated from any HEI and prove their proficiency in drawing and painting – through a portfolio and entry examination – and comply with the above-mentioned preconditions. (Our students include graduates of acting schools, psychology, philosophy, art history – usually they graduate with honours.)

All candidates must have the ability to communicate and collaborate well, the ability to explicate their ideas and concepts in a clear manner, and the basic skill in staging of theatrical situations, stage space and organisation of dramatics, on the example of theatrical events designed during the examination.

A list of readings preparing for self-presentation and stage design studies (this selection reflects basic information on the field of art for the candidates):

NOTE THIS IS AN OLD LIST, IT REQUIRES REVISION

 

  1. Axer Erwin – Z pamięci [From memory], Warszawa 2006;
  2. Bablet Denis – The Revolution of Stage Design in the 20th Century, 1975 (Polish edition: Rewolucje sceniczne XX wieku, Warszawa 1980);
  3. Bergman Ingmar – Laterna magica, Warszawa 1991;
  4. Fik Marta – Trzydzieści pięć sezonów [Thirty-five seasons], Warszawa 1982;
  5. Hűbner Zygmunt – Sztuka reżyserii [The art of directing], Warszawa 2014;
  6. Kott Jan – Kamienny potok [Stony Brook], London 1986;
  7. Nicoll Allardyce – Development of the Theatre, 1927 (Polish edition: Dzieje teatru, Warszawa 1977)
  8. Raszewski Zbigniew – Krótka historia teatru polskiego [Short history of Polish theatre], Warszawa 1977
  9. Strzelecki Zenobiusz – Współczesna scenografia polska [Contemporary Polish stage design], Warszawa 1983 (album) i 1984 (commentary)
  10. Przeciw konwencjom [Against the convention] – ed. by Marta Fik, 2nd ed., Warszawa, 1995;

 

As part of preparing for the interview, we suggest watching some interesting productions, films and concerts, on stage, in theatres, on TV or DVDs – we require general sense of the so-called cultural life in Poland and abroad.

[details can be found on the Academy’s website, in the “enrolment” section]

 

Graduate’s profile:

 

Ambition of the Faculty is to form a new type of graduate

– with awareness of an intellectual;

– with a wide knowledge of contemporary art, intellectual and artistic currents, and tradition

– knowledge of the idiom of culture in a broad sense;

-with a breadth of technical skill;

-capable of taking diverse artistic challenges;

-capable of establishing intellectual and artistic contact (also in foreign languages);

In education we place emphasis on:

-erudition and intellectual prowess and knowledge of the history of culture, informed observation of reality;

-dexterity at drawing and painting

– the basic way of artistic expression;

-extensive knowledge of implementation techniques;

-freedom and autonomy of artistic expression;

 

Studies:

 

The Faculty of Stage Design offers the following courses of studies:

– intramural three-year first-cycle programme (Bachelor’s degree)

– intramural two-year second-cycle programme (Master’s degree) for holders of a Bachelor’s degree earned in related fields.

– starting from the academic year 2015/2016 year “0” or a preparatory course

 

The faculty and courses:  

 

  1. major and general visual arts courses
  2. dr hab. Paweł Dobrzycki – Stage design for theatre and opera
  3. Professor Leszek Mądzik – Auteur theatre
  4. Professor Janusz Sosnowski – Film set design
  5. dr hab. Dorota Kołodyńska – Costume design
  6. dr hab. Katarzyna Proniewska-Mazurek – Stage design in puppet theatre
  7. dr hab. Marek Chowaniec – Basics of TV and film set design
  8. Marcel Sławiński – Stage design
  9. Katarzyna Sobańska – Stage design
  10. Ewa Braun – The history of custom and material culture
  11. II st. Edward Wojtaszek – Directing seminar
  12. Professor Elżbieta Banecka – Painting/drawing
  13. dr hab. Tomasz Myjak – Painting/drawing
  14. Professor Piotr Jaworowski –
  15. Mariusz Gajewski
  16. Jan Ciecierski – Practical idiom of theatre
  17. Ewa Kochańska-
  18. theoretical classes:
  19. Professor Magdalena Raszewska – History of theatre
  20. Anna Straszewska – History of costume
  21. Barbara Osterloff – History of dramatic theatre
  22. mgr Agnieszka Koecher-Hensel – History of stage design
  23. Monika Murawska – History of cinema, Philosophical concepts, Anthropology

 

  1. Courses provided by the Faculty of Directing, Academy of Theatre:

 

  1. Teachers from the Academy of Theatre who conduct directing seminars: Wojciech Adamczyk, Piotr Cieplak, Jarosław Kilian, Ryszard Peryt, Maciej Wojtyszko. 
  2. Professor Bednarkiewicz – introduction to directing
  3.   Z. Kośka – technique and technology of theatre
  4. and other courses, depending on the schedule

 

 

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