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Sandra Naum, Maja Anna Kowalska, Julia Bielińska

photo: Tomasz Ostrowski

INSTRUCTIONS directed by Konrada Imiela

Premiere 22 September 2023 Academy of Theatre in Warsaw

Ahead of the premiere of INSTRUCTIONS, directed by Konrad Imiela at the Theatre Academy in Warsaw, I spoke to the actresses performing in it: Julia Bielinska, Maja Anna Kowalska and Sandra Naum

TOMASZ OSTROWSKI: We meet on the 19th of September, which is the student holiday period. What are we doing here?

MAJA ANNA KOWALSKA: Diploma. You have to do a diploma. Well, if I had to choose between a holiday abroad and being here, I choose being here.


MAJA: I don't think so. It's a certain lifestyle. I think it's fantastic to create performances during the holidays.

JULIA BIELIŃSKA: I can confirm that it's fantastic to create performances in the holidays, There's a really wonderful atmosphere here, just in the holidays. Maybe because it's always hot in the auditorium. But really, working with Konrad and this whole show called INSTRUCTIONS is so wonderful, it's a lot of fun. It's light, it's full of joy, but it's also moving to tears. It's full of emotion and deep questions. When working, we really didn't miss the holidays. We came to every rehearsal with joy.

SANDRA NAUM: Konrad and I started rehearsing for the show on the second of August. First we had vocal rehearsals. Then we moved everything onto the stage. Each of us rested a bit and we had to go back to work, but this work, as my colleague already mentioned, was like a dream come true in terms of the quality of work. We had a lot of freedom with it, including our acting, being able to propose our own things. We are all co-creators of this performance. Konrad gave us the basis for it, and then everything formed in the process.

Instructions? What instructions?

MAJA: I, for example, together with my song, twist a wardrobe from IKEA. It lasts 14 minutes.
The whole song is about the godishus wardrobe. That's the name of the wardrobe model. We have instructions for baking a cake, as you might have seen just now in the rehearsal. There are instructions for operating a hydraulic bell. Although the word 'instruction' doesn't fall at all, the whole song is about that.

JULIA: These are instructions for the simplest of everyday objects, but the focus is not really on the objects themselves, but on what these instructions do to us. What relationship do we have with these very instructions, rules, principles that keep us so in check. Often these supposedly simplest things, just like the instructions for folding a wardrobe, for example, can lead to the breakdown of a relationship, because one person wants very much to stick to these instructions and the other wants to do things to spite them. And these seemingly everyday things surround us to the extent that we hardly notice them anymore, but they actually have a great impact on us.

SANDRA: These are instructions of all kinds. Here, it will also be a journey into the past for people who remember the times of devices such as the VCR or the prodigy, which makes the show entertaining but also touching. For example, my character is fascinated by assembling model aeroplanes, but hides her sensitivity under a layer of, confident, crazy girl. With the relationship instructions she gives, she hides her confidence. On her path, she meets a boyfriend who teases her a little. She doesn't give in to this, she chooses the most important love, love for herself.

The show requires good movement preparation.

MAJA: Yes, before we went on stage we started choreographic rehearsals, which were, by all accounts, fantastic, but also very, very tiring. It lasted a week?

JULIA: It took longer. Two and a half weeks.

MAJA: The choreographic rehearsals were planned for three or four days, but it turned out that we were going to extend the choreography because we were at a slightly higher level than our choreographer, who didn't know us before, had anticipated. We expanded the choreography gradually, from rehearsal to rehearsal.

JULIA: In process. Yes we are in a creative process. Here the choreography is quite unusual, because what we had to create with movement preparation was not just dance. Here the choreography is not just based on movement in the sense of dance precisely. For example, there is a choreography illustrating the process of baking a cake, accompanying the song PRODI¯. Here, every movement is really prepared down to the second, so that we can bake the cake in time. And on top of that, we had to choreograph a lot of technical elements so that all the equipment, all the things, all the objects we talk about in the instructions would work at the right moment.

SANDRA: The choreography was prepared by the wonderful Jack Gębura.
During rehearsals, some of us thought that these choreographies would not be suitable for us.
There was just such fear in us whether we would make it or not. But we were looked after in such a wonderful way that everyone got motivated to do things and even those who had doubts believed they could do it 100%.

Singing preparation.

JULIA: We started our first rehearsals with Mrs Anna Serafinska, our professor, and her assistants, by preparing the singing: Jakub Szyperski and Natalia Kujawa.

Jakub Szyperski is a graduate of the school and an accomplished actor and singer.

JULIA: Natalia Kujawa is also a graduate of the school, both of whom are wonderful actors.

MAJA: Rehearsals have been going on since the very beginning and are still going on. Today we have the first dress rehearsal. There are three more such rehearsals ahead of us. There are vocal rehearsals all the time.

You also have to sing before each performance.

MAJA: Of course. Here the musical material is absolutely wonderful, composed by Grzegorz Rdzak, but at the same time it is very complicated. I'll use a very funny colloquialism that Professor Serafińska uses. At rehearsals, she called these pieces 'brainteasers' and I agree with this statement. They are very complicated, but they are just wonderfully written. Singing them is a lot of fun. But because of the level of this material, even though we have our first dress rehearsal today, we are still polishing the last details of the vocals.

JULIA: Yes, first of all we have to be very careful about diction, so that it all has arms and legs, so that the content comes through to our audience, so that the instructions are well understood.

Now let's talk about yourselves. You are graduating from university soon. Each of you still has your own additional aptitude besides acting and singing. Each of you plays a musical instrument. Do you have any expectations?

MAJA: Well, I played the violin for 10 years, but I came here to the Theatre Academy and stopped playing the violin.

Have you given up the violin?

MAJA: I quit violin in favour of acting. I think it is the choice of my future life. I'm going to try to land a job in some theatre rather than the philharmonic.

JULIA: I've been training my voice since I was a kid and I'm absolutely not an instrumentalist. I tried a bit of classical guitar once, but other than that instruments are hardly my fave.

Sandro, at your piano?

SANDRA: Exactly. Hit the spot. I graduated from music school, first degree
in piano class. In addition to this, I am involved in music, composing my own songs.

To his credit, he has one single.

SANDRA: MORE, I mean the single is called MORE, but it's also going to be a lot of them. It's kind of rock music, alternative music, a combination of those genres. And because of that, through my love of rock music, I started learning to play the bass guitar, the electric guitar. And in the show you can see me plucking a little bit on the ukulele.

With you Julia, I noticed that among the different genres of singing, you also do acted song, jazz, soul?

JULIA: With my vocal training, I've probably been through every genre imaginable, from jazz to soul, acted song. I've also licked a bit of classical. I find myself in rock music. Whatever material I get, I can handle it.

MAJA: Well, I thought in general. that I wouldn't get into the vocal and acting department the first time. It turned out differently and I've been developing my voice ever since. I think those 3-4 years have given me so much in terms of developing the scale and power of my voice that I'm really very grateful to this place and to the people who taught me.

During your time as a student, you performed in two productions related to your education at the Theatre Academy. One was a performance directed by Bartosz Porczyk "Gods". The other, directed by Anna Sroka-Hryń, premiered at the ROMA Musical Theatre.

JULIA: Its title is SELLERS OF DREAMS. It can still be seen at the ROMA Musical Theatre.

This performance was done as part of an earlier teaching activity.

SANDRA: It was the final exam of the second year with Professor Anna Sroka- Hryń and thanks to her kindness, and various magical skills, we are now on the new stage of the ROMA Musical Theatre.

I admire this phenomenon called Anna Sroka-Hryń and her getting AT students onto professional stages: National Theatre, Contemporary Theatre, ROMA Musical Theatre.

MAJA: Oh yes. We were fortunate enough to be under her wing and are now developing further.

JULIA: Ms Anne, this is a truly wonderful professor. SELLERS OF DREAMS is simply a performance like a dream.

SANDRA, MAJA: We love playing it.

JULIA: In fact, thanks to this performance, our whole group entered the professional theatre and we played our first theatre season on the NOVA Stage at the ROMA.

The performance does not only feature AT students.

MAJA: Yes, Malgosia Kozlowska, who is a graduate of AT (2020) also plays with us and
She is such our swing. She goes into doubles, into different roles. She is absolutely versatile here. She has learned practically all the parts. The show itself is wonderful. Being able to play on this stage is amazing.

At this stage for you, frequent contact with the public is very important.

JULIA: Of course we do. We are learning a lot. The preparation process itself
performance taught us a lot. To be able to work in theatre while still at school is a great opportunity for us to grow. We can already officially say that we have an extension for the second season and with the production of SELLERS OF DREAMS we return to the stage in October, on 13, 14 and 15 October to be exact.

SANDRAI would also add that SELLERS OF DREAMS features songs from the repertoire of Artur Rojek and the band Myslovitz. And these are completely different interpretations of these songs, arranged by the wonderful Matusz Dębski. We cordially invite you to the performance, a very emotional journey for everyone. Everyone will find something there for themselves. He or she will return to memories and hopefully leave the performance happy, full of emotion, and the performance will simply allow him or her to experience some kind of inner journey.

It is interesting that a second-year exam performance - not intended for a wide audience - can make such a furore after a few years. It confirms that you are constantly developing and building new quality.

SANDRA: But also by the fact that we evolve as actors our experience changes, so those shows that were played at the very beginning and how we experience them on stage now is also something completely different.

JULIAIt's maturing a bit with us. After all, it's still the same material, it's still the same lyrics, but they mean something completely different to me personally. And workshop-wise, it's all developing all the time.

This is important because there are shows that are played in theatres several hundred times, and they are often the same.

MAJA: SELLERS OF DREAMS is a show that opens hearts. For me, privately, it is a show that is completely different every time. I have completely different emotions each time. I play it taking the emotions of my everyday life that I am experiencing at the moment. This is possible and, for me, very, very valuable.

In addition to your school-related classes and performances, you are gaining experience on other stages and film sets. Julia, you performed in a play directed by Antonius Dietzius at the RELAX Theatre.

JULIA: Yes, on the stage of the RELAX Theatre I worked with Antonius Dietzius and I continue to work with the PROSCENIUM Musical Theatre. I played in the show LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, which we premiered two years ago, in 2021. And now I invite you together with the Musical Theatre PROSCENIUM to the musical concert MUSICAL LIVE SHOW also directed by Antonius Dietzius, on 24 October on the stage of the Musical Theatre RELAX.

Since 2016, I have been observing Antony Dietzius' excellent work with secondary school students as part of the Downtown Musical Theatre. I have photographed rehearsals and performances: SKRZYPKA NA DACHU (2016), FOOTLOOSE (2017) and SPAMALOT (2018). Actors of his productions are easily found in art schools, including theatre schools in Warsaw and Krakow.

JULIA: I too have passed through the Downtown Musical Theatre, having played in a production of SPAMALOT (in the ensemble) and in LES MISERABLES. Working with Antek is wonderful.

Maya, you had the opportunity to star in the Television Theatre production of SEN NIGHT OF SUMMER, directed by Wojciech Adamczyk.

MAJA: And it's true. I managed to win a casting. It was my first real casting win. And I played Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is one of my biggest dreams come true. And on top of that, in the Television Theatre, so it was an absolutely amazing experience. We worked in a huge hall, where Wojciech Adamczyk and the wonderful set designers built a huge forest in which we moved. It looked even better live than on the small screen.
I'm still playing in the WILD HEAVEN in ROMA. Przemek Redkowski turned out,
who is the director of the show, a children's fairy tale, once came to the audience of our DREAM SELLERS. Later he came to see me and Mark Zawadzki from our team. He said that we were suitable for his show. And so we are now playing another show, on the same stage but in different conditions.

Sandro, you are more filmic.

SANDRA: A little bit, yes.

I have already counted more than ten titles.

SANDRA: The list is growing all the time. I had the opportunity last year to debut my film HELA by Anna Kasperska at the Gdynia Film Festival. It took part in various competitions, including international ones. In this film I played a rebellious teenager from a reformatory. I also starred in the film MATUSIA. There I played the role of a young nun, Matilda Getter, who saved Jewish children during World War II. These are the things that came out. There were also episodes in THE CORONA OF KINGS, in JAGIELLONS, COMMISSIONER ALEXS. There have also been episodes on Netfix. This year I also have a couple of projects that I can't talk too much about, but I can tell you about one. A film directed by Radosław Piwowarski called PANI OD POLSKIEGO is being made. And there she will play the role of a German woman.

Will it be a role played in German?

SANDRA: Yes. I am a Silesian by blood and bones. Thanks to my late grandmother, who spoke perfect German and brought me up half and half, German was my constant companion. I used to go to international singing competitions in German. It was a lot of fun and it was also my first experience with the stage. I'm very happy that I'm now going to be able to use my German in a film, it's a new challenge for me.

What do you want to do after school?

MAJA: I have wanted to be an actress after school, in fact since I was eleven. It hasn't changed. I want to get on the big stage at the ROMA. That's my goal right now. And then we'll see.

At this moment, I would say that a shortcoming of the musical theatre market, especially musical theatre, is the need to compete for roles through casting calls. Musical theatres are cutting back on hiring for roles.

MAJA: True, but we can do it.

JULIA: I would like to try any kind of acting: film, television, musical theatre, drama theatre, dubbing, anything I can get my hands on.

SANDRA: As I said a moment ago, I'm going to focus on film projects, but musical theatre is my great love. I'm also acting, currently at the Capitol Theatre in Warsaw, in a multimedia performance for young people called KONGO, directed by Hanna Piaseczna. I hope to develop into dubbing as well. I'm already gathering experience there, but I can't hide the fact that I'm dreaming, for example, of dubbing a vocal princess in a Disney film.

Thank you for the interview. We would like to invite the audience to a performance of INSTRUCTIONS at the Collegium Nobilium Theatre. It premieres on Friday 22 September at 7 p.m. Subsequent performances are on 23, 24, 26 and 27 September, 19, 20 and 21 October.

JULIA, MAJA, SANDRA: you are welcome



Script, direction, lyrics, set design:
Konrad Imiela
Grzegorz Rdzak*
Jacek Gębura
Anna Imiela-Szcześniak
stage design cooperation:
Mateusz Karolczuk
working on the word:
Jerzy Łazewski
vocal preparation:
Anna Serafińska
assistants in vocal preparation:
Natalia Kujawa
Jakub Szyperski
assistant director:
Emilia Iwaniuk
Justyna Pałka

Julia Bielińska
Maja Kowalska
Karolina Klich
Sandra Naum
Kamil Owczarek
Julia Piklikiewicz
Marek Zawadzki
*the music for the song Prodij and the refrain of the song Sklejanie modeli are by the Boys' Formation LEGITIMATES: Sambor Dudziński, Konrad Imiela, Cezary Studniak


photo: Tomasz Ostrowski