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Grodzki Theatre, although it has no stage of its own, has been inspiring and developing various forms of art since 1999 with the help of theatre enthusiasts of all ages.

Our "speciality" is creative work with people who normally have no access to cultural assets. But when we give them the conditions and the opportunity to work they turn out to be great actors, puppeteers, and stage designers. They can enchant the audience and talk from the stage with their own voice.
The history of Grodzki Theatre is a history of many people "infected" with theatre, many theatrical groups that work in our partner organisations, and many theatrical projects (including international ones). Here we present only a fragment of this history which continues to grow in more chapters and achievements.

Our cooperation with the Catholic Centre of Education and Youth Therapy in Bielsko-Biała dates back to the beginnings of the association. Theatrical activities were included into the programmes that targeted the development of interests in the charges of the centre and proved useful in the process of youth therapy and re-adaptation.

When we first started our workshop programme in this special place we weren't thinking about the therapeutic functions of art – we simply wanted to offer the charges of "Nadzieja" the opportunity to participate in a shared theatrical production. The first plays that we managed to create and perform after overcoming many difficulties began to show us new value in theatre which we hadn't noticed up to that point. The creativity developed in a community of people affected by dramatic hardships and who remained isolated is very specific. It is deeply marked with a need for expressing difficult feelings, fears, and longings. It serves to establish a relation with the world, the world one no longer has a social or family connection to. They have to find themselves anew in this world, and this is an extremely difficult challenge. Theatre makes it possible to experience the power of success, acceptance, and joy of achieving a goal. Sometimes theatrical activity simply allows us to forget about problems which seem unsolvable. It fills the void, and gives new perspective for thoughts and emotions.
In our theatrical enterprises we used diverse literary inspirations, and real-life subjects of varied emotional temperature and extremely contrasting contents.  We also used various methods of expression, most often referring to the visual medium and limiting the role of words. Image, artistic vision, or movement activities were usually a very important complement of verbal narration. More often than not we were also able to convince the workshop participants to incorporate elements of puppeteering.
The most memorable play of the group, which was renewed twice with new casts, was Sztuka Latania (The Art of Flight) (2001-2003). The play was based on Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and told a tale of loneliness, rejection, and the difficult path of following ideals. For the purpose of the play a figure of a giant bird was built out of trash: plastic bottles, foil, and scraps of fabric.

The plays of Fundacja Nadzieja – Teatr were presented to the audiences of Bielsko-Biała several times, and also in Kielce (Polish Nationwide Conference Zdrowie młodzieży), Warsaw (National Forum of Polish Non-Governmental Organizations' Initiatives), Łódź (Terapia i Teatr Biennale), Katowice (Clean Air Day), and in Dolny Kubin in Slovakia. The group also took part in a live educational programme on Cracow TV and a 4-way youth exchange in Greece (2006).

Adam Kasprzyk, manager of "Nadzieja", described the effects of our work:

As I was watching the rehearsals and plays I saw the youths transforming on stage. It was fascinating. Then I took part in the workshops myself and felt that you can be a different person on stage. I began wondering how to combine therapy with theatrical work. This is the origin of my interest in psychodrama which I try to incorporate into therapeutic methods in the theatre. By playing roles you reach the core, the truth which you can't hide on stage. Young people's experiences from theatrical activities return during individual therapy. When we talk, people sometimes recall their on-stage experiences. Someone who played themselves from the past – an addict – was terrified by what they experienced on stage and what they saw from the new, sober perspective. In contrast, someone else realized they still can't live without doing drugs.  And this is also an important starting point for conversation and self-improvement. And yet another valuable experience is to play a completely new role, to touch something one never had in real life. And to discover that it's good to be a person like that, that it's worthwhile to look for new paths.

The programme of theatrical activities encompasses two specialist institutions in Bielsko-Biała: Subregional Centre of Psychiatric Treatment "Olszówka" (since 1999) and Community Self-Help Centre for People with Mental Disorders "Podkowa" (since 2001). People from both institutions are engaged in stage work with great passion and their own ideas. Theatre helps them in everyday battle with their illnesses.

In the years 2000-2008 we conducted cyclic theatrical classes in several institutions in Bielsko-Biała which supported children and youths in difficult situations. The result of that project is over one hundred plays in various conventions often taking on difficult social issues: domestic violence, addiction, and social inequality.

The idea of a theatre open for everyone and connecting people from different backgrounds remains one of the most important values in our everyday work and research. Out of the integration groups that work under the auspices of the association the following are worth mentioning: "Za siódmą górą" (in the years 2001-2010), "Teatralna Grupa Dorosłych" (from 2007 to present), and "Teatr Grodzki Junior" (from 2003 to present).  Their work is an example of real-life positive influence of art on the area of social integration.

The theatrical group has worked in the Workshop since the moment it was created in 2004 as one of the initiatives of Pracownia Artterapii (Arttherapy Studio). The team boasts many artistic achievements, often takes part in theatrical reviews, and wins numerous awards.

This is the slogan under which overviews of art groups that work under the auspices of the association and are included in our cultural programmes have been organized since 2001.


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