The Olza connects
International Theatre Festival “Without Borders”
The History of the Festival
The International Theatre Festival Without Borders (until 2004 known under the name On the Border (Na Granicy) arose from the need to build bridges of understanding in the region where it is particularly needed due to the complicated past and still living stereotypes about the neighbours.
The initiative was born at the threshold of freedom, when Poland and Czechoslovakia returned to the family of democratic countries. When Cieszyn activists of the Polish-Czechoslovak Solidarity and members of the Civic Forum in Český Těšín decided to organise joint cultural activities, Jakub Mátl (Czech philosopher, student of Jan Patočka) and Jerzy Kronhold (a poet of the Nowa Fala movement and a playwright) proposed organizing a joint theatre festival.
The first (in 1990) was dedicated to the presentation of Polish and Czechoslovak stagings of Václav Havel’s plays. Subsequent editions developed into an international festival, which not only presents the most interesting theatrical performances, crossing the boundaries of aesthetics, conventions and genres, but also many additional activities such as conferences, exhibitions, debates, workshops, concerts, reviews of children's and young people’s theatres, play readings, “the theatre train” in cooperation with the Dream Factory festival in Ostrava, etc. At the festival, apart from performances from the Visegrad countries, there are performances and artists from other countries such as Austria, Ukraine, Germany and USA.
The importance of the festival was emphasized years ago by the meeting of culture ministers of the V4 countries during the tenth edition of the event, the honorary patronage of ministers, ambassadors, consuls and national cultural centres from individual countries, as well as the support it receives from domestic and international funds.
The success of the first festivals gave rise to other Polish-Czech cultural activities, such as the SPCz Festival, the Cinema on the Border film review, prestigious exhibitions, a cycle of conferences on Havel’s Dialogues and the recent interdisciplinary project Dux Poloniae Baptizatur. The festival has also become an inspiration for international activities, such as the Three Brothers Festival, the Decade of Organ, Choral and Chamber Music or Strašidla na Zámku (Ghosts of the Castle), without which it is difficult to imagine the cultural calendar of Cieszyn and Český Těšín today.
The first edition of the festival was the work of people known for making cross-border initiatives. On the Czech side, they were: Jakub Mátl, Gertruda Chowanioková, Ladislav Szpyrc and Marie Vízdalová; from the Polish side: Jerzy Kronhold, Jerzy Herma, Marian Dembiniok, Mirosława Pindór and Janusz Legoń. A large group of volunteers cooperated with them. In the following years, the organizers were joined by institutions and associations, sometimes for many years: Dom Narodowy, Městské kulturní středisko (later KaSS Střelnice), Těšínské divadlo, The Adam Mickiewicz Theatre, The Půda Association, AVE, ETC, Člověk na Hranici, Městská knihovna and others. Some of them continue to co-organize the festival to this day.
Among the playwrights and program consultants of the festival have been: Slovakian director Ladislav Slíva (director of the Těšín Theatre), Karel Král (editor-in-chief of Svět a divadlo), Jakub Škorpil (Svět a divadlo), Tomáš Suchánek (director of Dream Factory), Zuzana Uličanská (today Divadelný ústav Bratislava), Lenka Zogatová (České centrum, Bratislava) and Martin Porubjak (director). The Polish part has been prepared by: Jerzy Kronhold, Marek Gaj, Jacek Sieradzki (editor-in-chief of the “Dialog” monthly), Mirosława Pindór, Janusz Legoń; consultations were provided by Roman Pawłowski and Artur Pałyga. Sylvia Huszár has served on the Hungarian side for years.
The festival directors were: Jerzy Kronhold, Marian Dembiniok, Gertruda Chowanioková and Janusz Legoń. When the festival was still organisationally divided into the Czech and Polish parts, they were managed by: Jerzy Herma, Marian Dembiniok, Roman Rozbroj, Gertruda Chowanioková and Andrea Folterová. The long-time coordinators and administrators of the festival from the Polish side have been Regina Bandarewicz (until 2012), Bogusław Słupczyński (2009, 2015) and Kinga Ciba (from 2009 until today); in 2016, Katarzyna Dendys-Kosecka joined this group. In the 1990s, the group included also employees of the Těšín Theatre from the Czech side, especially Roman Rozbroj, Dagmar Pavlíková, and Joanna Wania. From the beginning of the festival, Lucia Bačíková, Petra Slováček-Rypienová and Šárka Klimoszová were involved first as volunteers and later as part of their professional duties.
The author of the largest number of festival posters (18) has been Ladislav Szpyrc, artist, exhibition curator and chairman of the Půda Association. Posters have also been designed by Krzysztof Morcinek.
The administrative and technical staff of Těšínské divadlo, KaSS Střelnice, The Adam Mickiewicz Theatre, Dom Narodowy, Městské knihovna and many other institutions and organizations. Finally, the festival would not be possible without the involvement of volunteers from the Polish and Czech sides.