No indulgence for Arka Theatre from Wrocław Arka Theatre from Wrocław is 10 years old. I’ve been observing this company since their very beginning. I’ve been observing it with admiration, because Arka, accomplishing its programme of integration of persons with disabilities through art, doesn’t want to show up at art Paralympics. Its ambition is to constitute the mainstream, with its values and criteria – says Magda Piekarska in Gazeta Wyborcza Wrocław. The theatre life of Wrocław is sometimes a maze full of surprises that can mislead a beginning spectator. In Wrocław Puppet Theatre the youngest audience mixes up at the door with the adult one of Komedia Theatre. Polish Theatre’s Świebodzka Stage shows performances of Wrocław Pantomime Theatre. Ad Spectatores Theatre performs not only in its home Browar Mieszczański, but also in Art Hotel, National Museum and in the cars that belong to the members of the company. The prison on Kleczkowska Street hides its own stage behind the walls and bars. One can also come across a play in one of the numerous city clubs. On venturing far behind the gate on Świdnicka Street, where Chamber Stage is, we discover one of the most extraordinary Wrocław’s theatres: Arka. Arka is one of the Wrocław’s two integrating theatres. If in the Euforion Theatre, which was created by Lower Silesian Association of Active Rehabilitation “Art”, these are volunteers (mostly students of artistic schools) who prepare the plays with disabled persons, in Arka they are accompanied by professional actors. Furthermore, it is a repertory theatre, it presents plays on a regular basis, at least once a week, and often there is a full auditorium. Even today [the article was written on 11th February 2013- translator’s note] the tickets for “Oscar and the Lady in Pink” for 22nd February 2013 are sold out. The integration occurs here on several levels: persons with disabilities are actors here, they also work as stage technicians or in the administration department. The theatre lets people face their problems connected with disabilities not only through breaking the barriers or perfecting the mastery. Plays presented in Arka often refer to disability issues, to intolerance towards those who suffer from them, to barriers that separate people with disabilities from the world. In “Midsummer Night’s Dream” Shakespeare’s vision is set in the psychiatric hospital (the script was written by one of the patients of such hospital). In “The Temple Dybuk - Jewish Legends” people with disabilities act Jews. In “Ball at Hawking’s”, which can be considered an informal manifesto of Arka, artists ask whether disability is an obstacle impossible to overcome. They avoid unambiguous replies and simplifications. We won’t find there a sweet vision with happy-end, authors aren’t escaping from taboo subjects. There are stories of sexual initiations that are accompanied by a moving monologue about sexual satisfaction, spoken by one of the young disabled actresses from Arka. In turn “The silence”, with a brilliant role of Agata Obłąkowska-Woubishet, is a scheme-breaking attempt to describe child’s schizophrenia from the perspective of a young patient. However, I must admit that there are plays in Arka’s repertory that I find questionable. Renata Jasińska and Alexandre Marxuezy – Arka’s creators – want to be treated in the same way as other Wrocław’s companies are. They don’t agree to demand less from their theatre because of the presence of young actors with disabilities. Their goal is noble and worth supporting. Nevertheless, I sometimes have a feeling that while they are trying to catch up with the forefront, they forget about the participants of this race.
One of such plays is „March 1968 – Song of Songs”, prepared for the jubilee of the theatre. The story about March Events, presented from the perspective of great politics and casual people, doesn’t create any new theatre value. Performed by actors in a decent way, it is a handful of historical facts as well as the vision of what is behind the power, a gloomy image of then Poland and emotions that accompanied March Events. As far as this emotional message is considered, two leaders-narrators are the most interesting characters in the play. They observe the Events with the ironic aloofness (parts performed by Arka young actresses: Anna Rzempołuch and Teresa Trudzik). The returning monologue of those girls “from the other yard”, in which exclusion and alienation are mentioned, transfers in a simple way the situation of polish Jews during the March Events into exclusion experienced by people with disabilities. Even though it is difficult to compare these two situations with each other, at the emotional level such comparison seems to be unusually accurate and stirring. The play gains a lot thanks to the Rzempołuch and Trudzik parts. Notwithstanding, it is worth asking what do these actresses gain from not only preparing their parts, but also the entire play, that in many parts refers to, not at all shallow, historical and literature knowledge of the spectator. I have an impression that even though they both did a great job, the integrating sense of the play got somewhere lost, and the entire structure broke into two pieces: intellectual discourse elaborated by the “able-bodied” authors and emotional message of young actors with “disabilities”, stressing the first one. I keep my fingers crossed with my whole heart for the ambitions of this theatre. It doesn’t want to become labelled as an “artistic therapy”, because it takes both art and therapy equally seriously, without allowing itself for indulgence in any of these areas. In this case one cannot reach his goal with only one big jump – definitely the better option is to climb laboriously.