World Theatre Day

World Theatre Day

March 27 marks World Theatre Day, a holiday established in 1961 to celebrate the anniversary of the opening of the Theatre of Nations in Paris. Its establishment was proposed by Arvi Kivimaa, president of the Finnish Center of the International Theater Institute, at the 9th World Congress of the International Theater Institute (ITI) in Helsinki. Since then, Theater Day has been coordinated and celebrated by more than a hundred national ITI centers around the world.

National Theatre in Warsaw

One of the most important cultural institutions in Poland is the National Theater in Warsaw. Founded in 1765 by King Stanislaw August Poniatowski, it is one of the oldest and most prestigious theaters in Europe. Throughout its history, the National Theater has played an important role in shaping Polish identity and culture, especially during times of political tension.

The beginnings of the theater

The National Theater began its operation on November 19, 1765, presenting Józef Bielawski’s comedy Natręci. The theater at that time did not have its own premises. It operated with other companies at the intersection of today’s Marszałkowska and Królewska streets in Warsaw. In 1779, an edifice was opened at Krasinski Square, where today the building of the Supreme Court of Warsaw rises. In that exact spot, the National Theater gained its first permanent home for more than half a century.

Want to read the original comedy by Jozef Bielawski? Click here – Polish digital library.

New headquarters and theater expansion

Due to the need for more and more frequent renovations in the building on Krasinski Square, construction of a new theater building began in 1825, designed by Antonio Corazzi, an Italian architect. It was to be a large, representative edifice, intended for staging musical, dramatic and ballet performances, to be built at what was then Marywilski Square (now Theater Square). The cornerstone was laid on November 19, 1825, the sixtieth anniversary of the National Theater, in the presence of the government, all the actors and a crowd of spectators. In 1829, the second stage of the National Theater was opened in the auditorium of the Benevolent Society building on Krakowskie Przedmieście Street (rebuilt after World War II, it still stands today, with the distinctive inscription “Res sacra miser” on the facade). The stage was called the Variety Theater.

Further history of the theater

During the siege of Warsaw in 1939, the theater was bombed and almost completely destroyed. In 1945-1965, members of the theater staff operated on other stages, and the theater building was rebuilt from the rubble and expanded. The grand opening of the huge and modern Grand Theater was held on November 19, 1965. Today, the Grand Theater building in Warsaw is an edifice that houses three theaters: opera (National Opera), ballet (Polish National Ballet) and drama (National Theater).