Points of view of a philosopher actor. Krzysztof Wnuk tells about theater and about Napoli

Krzysztof Wnuk is an established actor and he works at the Teatr Witkacy in Zakopane (PL).

After high school he tried three times, before passing the exam, to enter the theater school and in the meantime he first studied Philosophy then Ukrainian Philology. When he was a philosophy student, he starred in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. He played one of the saved Jews and spent many days on the set, living the cinematic experience made of long waits. In 1998 he graduated from the Theater School. Immediately after performing at the Theater Schools Festival in Łódź, he received an offer to work at the Theater in Kielce, but he turned down the offer and went to Zakopane to look for work at the Witkacy Theater.

KW: “It was a decision that made my life the way it is. Now 24 years have passed in this unique place. Theater is the most important thing for me. Our theater is truly a very special place but I cannot describe it in one sentence.

Theater is his life, but that said, and beside some cinema gigs he has had other acting experiences, he also worked 7 years starring in a television documentary called Szpital (Hospital), in which he played the neurologist Dr Michał Morawski. Krzysztof is also a teacher. He teaches at the private acting studio Art-Play and he is also a theater director. In short, he is a talented actor with a long experience and a rich background culture. It’s not easy to find “complete” actors like him. This is why we have published some memories from his friend, in the previus page, along with the following interview that will surely be helpful to those who intend to take the acting career.

NAP. – What prompted you to undertake the acting career and to be so determined in the realization of your dream? –

K.W. – I’ ve had lot of plans about my future before “that moment”. I wanted to be a priest, a forester, a truck driver, a noble swordsman….But then when I was 14th I decided to join school theatre group. They were making short funny shows with hand puppets. And when I came to ask if I can sign up for them I had “that moment” when knowing literally nothing about it I felt 100% confident I want be an actor. This feeling was so deep and so strong that when I failed the Drama School exam I had no doubt I would have tried again. And so the third try was successful. –

Krzysztof Wnuk Photo©Witkacy Theatre
Photo©Witkacy Theatre

NAP. – You have been into Steven Spielberg’ movie Schindler’s List. From both points of views, professional and emotional, what can you say about this experience? –

K.W. – At the time for me there was no professional point of view. I was 19 with just few experience as extra for TV and movie. But being the part of big Hollywood production even on the lowest step of its ledders was fascinating! Not mentioning lifetime lesson: when you are on movie set the most important thing is patience! –

NAP. – You also have worked for many years on documentary “Szpital” as nerologist Dr Michał Morawski. Can you tell about it? –

K.W. – Professionaly it was very interesting experience. Scirpted-docu formula is so different than what I do at Theatre! Working with non-professional actors in very limited time is kind of challeng. The rythym of this work, short camera rehearsal than 2 or three shots, force you to be super-focused. The rule was we don’t stop shot until director says “Cut!” so whatever happens you try to save the shot. And of course there is tottaly different way of expressing things. However I liked those days, when morning and afternoon I spent on set and evening I was on stage in Theatre! –

NAP. – In terms of percentage, as an acting teacher, how much space do you give to talent and how much to training? –

K.W. – I will dodge and say: for 100% one must have talent; for 100% one must work on it; and one never has 100% guarantee that it will help to became an actor, painter, writer…Because for 100% one need a little bit of luck. To meet proper people, to be in a good place at the right time. –

NAP. – According to Grotowski, real contact between human beings is of enormous value and the way to develop meaningful connections for the actors is to be close enough to look at and listen to each other. He also presupposes an awareness of the actors

of their impact on other people. How do you feel about this thought? –

K.W. – In our Theatre real contact between people is very important. Our audience is always as close as possible to actors. We try to make spectators feeling that they are part of performance instead of just let them watch “some story”. One of first thing young actor must learn in our Theatre is to be “with” people in opposite to be hidden by “fourth wall” on stage. Very often audience is a part of decoration and we perform between spectators so you have to leave your safe space not disturbing people’ space. But according to what our spectator say, they love it. So do I. Breaking through your fear and people’s lack of trust and building this one evening unique community is something wonderful! –

NAP. – For many years now you have worked at Witkacy Theatre in Zakopane. What is the best part of your work there? –

K.W. – Witkacy Theatre is a very special place. 37 years ago it was created by 2 young directors and 7 young actors, who just graduated Drama School. It was born from nothing, with devotion, passion, honesty and huge amount of work. Those things are still important here. But I think that the most important is that we have here a group of very creative artists, who inspire one another, so it is perfect place to improve yourself. –

Krzysztof Wnuk Photo©Witkacy Theatre
Photo©Witkacy Theatre

NAP. – You are a theater director as well. Do Krzysztof actor and Krzysztof director get along? –

K.W. – Great! Perhaps because I don’t perform when I direct. The perspective of an actor is completely different than directors… –

NAP. – What do you believe is the most challenging aspect of being an actor? –

K.W. – I would say about three of them. Random order, cause I believe all are equally important… Do not fall into a routine. Always try to improve your role (possible in theatre only) and try to find new forms of expression in new parts so you won’t became boring “actor of one face”. Do not mix Your artistic life with private. I do belive in this sentence “To be an artist, firtst You have to be a human”. So even on premiere day, drive kids to school, make a diner, or whatever you do everyday. Actors are judged every evening, so you really need to keep a distance to yourself equaly having self-confidence…sounds difficult? Yes, I know it is.

NAP. – How would you describe Krzysztof as an actor as well as a person? –

K.W. – Tricky question for beginning… Well, Krzysztof as an actor uses all of “Krzysztof as a person” during work. All of emotions, skills and a lot of energy…On the other side Krzysztof as a person does everything he can not to use any of “Krzysztof as an actor” when he comes back home and do all of “regular” thing we all do. –

NAP. – And how about you as an acting teacher? –

K.W. – I’m trying to be unpredictable. No routine. I try to surprise students, so they won’t be prepared and have chance to surprise themselves that things might be done so different way that they used to. –

NAP. – Theater a part, what are your other interests? –

K.W. – I listen a lot of music. Various music. So various that I’m sometimes surprised. I also love to read. I like fantasy, crime, science fiction. Big part of holidays luggage are books cause I can’t read from e-books. It is the same with learning part. I can’t learn from phone, tablet or laptop. I mean, I can but it takes ages. When I have it on paper it takes couple of minutes instead. –

NAP. – Someone claims that thanks to the internet everyone knows everything. What do you think? –

K.W. – It is an illusion. You can see picture of some fruit from different country. But if you can’t smell, taste and touch it what do you know about it? Besides who wants to know everything? And what to do with this knowledge? –

NAP. – Do you think that online performance can replace live performance? –

K.W. – Not a chance! Even if one will dress up elegantly, turn of phone still will be “alone” at home, smelling the last dinner, siting on usual place on sofa. Theatre is not only about actors, music and decoration. Most of all it is about emotions one share with plenty of alien ones! The community that last couple of hours and emotions one can’t experience elsewhere, aspecially in everydays living. “All the senses involved! Theatre only!” –

NAP. – During youth you have visited Napoli, in Italy. What were your impressions and your memories about the culture and the city? –

K.W. – It was 1991. Poland was just two years after Round Table that started bringing back our country from gray, sad, eastern – socialist to western standards. It was just beginning of this road. So when we, taken from this reality, found ourselves in city of energy, joy, laughter, color, singing on streets, dancing it was like a dream! I remember my friend’s father’s Alpha Romeo. Back home a car was like the temple for its owner. And in Napoli? My friend’s father’s car got lot of scratches. The front lights didn’t work properly. The left one directed up in the sky and the right one lighting to much to right, illuminating the branches of trees. It seemed to me so weird! When you own a car you are supposed to take care about it much as you can. Therefore I couldn’t understand it. My Neapolitan friend’s father gave me good life attitude lesson as his thought was “car is just a car”. I remember my first morning espresso, strong and sweet. My first visit to restaurant with teenagers like me without parents! Old men listening to the radio coverage of the soccer match from reciver put on top of their cars. So many impressions! Everything was so new, so revealing! I remember Museo di Capodimonte ( Museum of Capodimonte). We were running for some ceremony and suddenly and unexpectedly I saw my beloved painting The Blind Leading the Blind by Bruegel…My friends had to pull me away…I realize that those memories are chaotic but this is how I remember Neapol (That is how we call Napoli in Polish). Above the beauty of city itself I remember happy and full of energy people crowded in narrow streets, in the squares, by the fountains and was so happy that I could for this short moment share their joy! I must also admit embarrassed, that it was my first and so far last visit in Napoli. But who knows what future will bring?!

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