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Natalia Stachyra

photo: Tomasz Ostrowski

With a hand on my throat directed by Anna Soroka-Hrin

Premiere 14 January 2023 Teatr Współczesny Warszawa

Before the premiere, I spoke to Natalia Stachyra - actress and assistant director of the play "With my hand on my throat..." Współczesny Theatre in Warsaw. Natalia Stachyra graduated in 2022 from the Musical Theatre Acting Department at the Theatre Academy in Warsaw. She has been an actress at the Współczesny Theatre in Warsaw since May 2022.

Tomasz Ostrowski:  The performance "With a hand on my throat. Songs from the repertoire of Ewa Demarczyk" is another premiere of Anna Sroka-Hryń at the Contemporary Theatre after the excellent performance "And the planets are going crazy. Youth in tribute Korze", which in its original version was a student interim exam as part of the Theatre Academy. You also appear in this play.

Natalia Stachyra: This was our second year exam in the subject 'Musical Dialogue Scenes' under the tutelage of Anna Sroka Hryń. Ania came to us with the repertoire of Maanam and Kora. She said: listen, I would like to get down to work on this poetry. We said: great! and we created an examination, which the director Maciej Englert later included in the repertoire of the Contemporary Theatre (2021). Thus he gave us, still students, the opportunity to play on a professional stage.

This is a wonderful example of Anna Sroka-Hryń's cooperation with theatres in caring for the future of her students. Let's recall: previously, an AT exam performance from the fourth year of the Acting Department "Lunapark. Songs of Grzegorz Ciechowski' entered the repertoire of the National Theatre (2018). In turn, in November 2022, Anna Sroka-Hryń with AT students prepared the performance 'Sellers of Dreams - songs from the repertoire of Artur Rojek and the band Myslovitz'. Now we are before the premiere of another musical performance by Anna Sroka-Hryń with young actors, but already graduates (2020-2022) of the Theatre Academy in Warsaw (Natalia Kujawa, Natalia Stachyra, Michał Juraszek, Tomasz Osica, Jakub Szyperski) and the Academy of Theatre Arts in Krakow (Monika Pawlicka, Przemysław Kowalski). It will be a performance with songs by Ewa Demarczyk. Each of these performances, based on poetic songs, is superbly staged. It has its own drama and choreography. In the show, you are a menacing venomous arachnid - the black widow (Latrodectus Mactans).

The characters in which we incarnate were basically a reference point for us to search for, build relationships in the group, some kind of characteristic feature. How we receive incentives, what we fear, and what we give to others. On this basis, we built a whole. It seems to me that my web, my black widow, is not so much dangerous for the environment as it is dangerous for itself because of the decisions it makes, and sometimes because of some bitter structures that are in it. The whole performance is a return to what is inside us, which we are also ashamed of, which, perhaps, does not quite suit us. Make a conscience bill. When constructing the drama, we started from poetry, from the texts that sound. There are recorded human dramas. Pain, grief, happiness. I think the link to this was that each of these characters has a chance and a desire to experience all these things. So it was a dramatic connection.

You met Anna Sroka-Hryń quite often on your way. In drama school, you were a teacher and staged one of your two graduation performances, "Almost and other times" by Olga Tokarczuk.

I still remember Anya from the Festival of Theatre Miniatures in Krakow (2014). When I came to the stage of the PWST, she was playing there in "Tuwim for Adults", a production of the ROMA Musical Theatre. And that's when I absolutely fell in love. Once in that performance, and two in the way Ania sang 'Bird Radio'. I thought to myself: if only I could one day sing such things and act like that. And there I dreamt that one day I might meet her at work, maybe somewhere on stage, but in my wildest dreams I wouldn't have thought that we would be so close, that it would be such a collaboration, that we would find a common language. We work very well together. We both like the discipline. I think we have a common space, some magical space to explore. Ania has an extraordinary gift for choosing the people she works with. She has an incredible intuition. We instantly became a team.

Musical performances directed by Anna Sroka-Hryń contain elements of choreography, require knowledge of dance, good physical fitness, and good physical fitness. I know that you were involved in many sports, including horse riding, handball, rugby, boxing.

I used to exercise more than I do now. Rugby was a very valuable adventure, but I didn't last long in this discipline. I was lucky to grow up in Krakow, where I had the opportunity to practice this rare discipline. My teacher at school managed such a team, so I played there. But I played more handball.

And boxing?

That's exactly what I went back to doing. I'm training at the battle Academy. For me, the purpose of these trainings is not a sports competition. It's simple to discipline the body to improve coordination. Jazz dance or Modern Dance are things that I came across in college and that are somewhere in my basket of experience and skills, but they are not honed. It's not that I go to dances or that I've been doing ballet for many years. Yes, it is not. I'm sorry, but I've always been an athlete. I was more of a saw game.

You had the opportunity to work with the esteemed choreographer Ewelina Adamska - Porczyk while working on the performance 'With your hand on your throat...'.

An outstanding choreographer. Ewelina is incredibly open-minded. In addition to that, she is sensitive to the person she is working with and so picks up on what the person can do, what direction they want to go in. She simply has a gift. The biggest people in musical theatre in Poland work with Ewelina and want to work with her. It seems to me that the world is waiting for Ewelina Adamska - Porczyk.

The second women's diploma at the Theater Academy (2021) was directed by Anna Wieczur. This collaboration also led to further implementations.

The second graduation was a play called 'People, Places and Things'. There I played the character of Emma, one of the Emm's. It was a very difficult text, very emotional. On a high diapason. It hit at the most sensitive strings of human beings, their imperfections and their hounding. And the way Ania Wieczur led us through it. I can speak about my experience, I will speak for myself how I felt guided through all these corners. It was so safe, so responsive, so reliable and wonderful that I really wish everyone had meetings like that. Later we had the opportunity to meet on the set of the feature film Taming of the Shrew (2022), which Ania directed. Then I was invited by Ania to the Television Theatre. It was also some kind of cosmic experience for me because it was a live performance, 'Apollo of Bellac' (2022).

The performance drew on the tradition of the Television Theatre run by Adam Hanuszkiewicz, his live theatre and his 1958 production of the same title, which was the first to be recorded. You met Anna Sroka-Hryń on the set of this performance. How do you recall your television debut?

I have really great memories. Ania Wieczur was very understanding, very responsive, very attentive. And I think - I watched the show later, of course - that it really came out great, despite my misgivings. There was no chance to repeat anything there, we were flying live and that's how it would be shown. Not like in the theatre. Sometimes in the theatre there are different situations, something slips out, someone forgets something, but it goes out with the audience, you don't remember it anymore. Our performance was shown live, but it was also simultaneously recorded for posterity (it is available on VOD of Television Theatre).

At the Theatre Academy you also had the opportunity to experience Old Polish theatre. You performed in two plays within the framework of the Old Polish Workshop - Drama Laboratory created by Professor Jarosław Gajewski. These were performances based on scripts developed by Kazimierz Dejmek for the plays "Żywot Józefa" (Joseph's Life) and "Uciechy staropolskie" (Old Polish Delights).

'The Life of Joseph' happened after our first year. Professor Gajewski ran elementary acting assignments with us in the second semester of our first year and invited our whole year to work on this play. It was an amazing experience because we were able to work together very professionally. We did this play for a couple of years. It was a tremendous opportunity for us to come into contact with spoken verse, and old-fashioned verse at that.

The second Old Polish performance as part of this initiative is 'Old Polish Delights', directed by Jarosław Kilian.

I have very fond memories of these two productions because, as I say, it was, on the one hand, a huge challenge for me and, on the other hand, incredible fun when it turned out that this Old Polish language was suddenly born again somewhere in us.

Dejmek put a lot of work into making this language, this Old Polish literature, more accessible to a contemporary audience.

It also made our work a lot easier. Thinking back to those productions, I was reminded of an anecdote from when we were working for a whole year on the play The Life of Joseph. Some words were entering our everyday language. It was born in us spontaneously, it was a very interesting observation, an interesting experience. I remember this work very well.

You came to the Contemporary Theatre with the play "The planets are going mad..." in 2021. Was it this performance that made you join the company of this theatre the following year?

You would have to ask the director about that. It seems to me that, as always, many factors had an impact, certainly also the workshops that director Maciej Englert organised for actors seeking engagement. I think this is already a tradition in this theatre. About 20 people took part in the workshop. We were given several scenes to prepare. First we worked with ourselves on these scenes and then with the director. It was all done in a very family, cool atmosphere, there was no pressure. I guess the director also chooses a couple of people on the basis of that, who he would like to involve or give a role in some performance. He would like to give that chance. I was given that chance. I'm really hugely grateful for it, because I've been wonderfully welcomed by the people who work here. Both by the acting team, the administrative team and the technical team. Really since I've been in this theatre, I feel at peace and I feel happy.

Immediately after coming to the Contemporary Theatre (May 2022), you started rehearsals for the play 'And the mobile phone rings' (premiere September 2022).

Yes, it was. These were difficult rehearsals for me because it was the first time I was involved in a process where I am the youngest person. I was coming to an ensemble theatre. All the people were already involved, they already knew each other, and I was new. This involved a lot of stress for me. As it turned out later, unnecessarily, because I was received very warmly. But I had a big challenge, because I was supposed to play a very self-confident woman, such a businesswoman. There was a lot of searching for this form, this interiority. I think I'm still looking for it, because it's never a finished process.

What are your other plans in and out of the theater?

At the moment, we are still in the new premiere for a few days. In addition to theater, I also work as a voice actor, whether it's dubbing or voice acting. But now I'm focused on contemporary theater.

You graduated in Musical Theatre Acting, which means you have an aptitude for roles in musical theatre. You came to drama theatre.

I agree. It's very interesting because when I passed to drama school, I didn't think about a vocal speciality. In the beginning I passed only for drama and that's how I arranged my career in my mind. And fate has guided me in such a way that most of the plays I play in are musical plays, or plays in which I sing, although they are not strictly musical, such as 'Minetti. Portrait of an artist in old age' at the Polonia Theatre. Because there I am one of the dressers and all the singing from backstage is also me. The musical theatre direction is not dominant for me, but it gives me great satisfaction, great fun. I will take on such challenges if they arise, but it's not the main direction I want to go in.

Roles in three repertory positions at the Contemporary Theatre, an appearance in a Television Theatre production, a role in a feature film - these are your achievements in the first year since graduating from the Theatre Academy. This is an optimistic harbinger of a further career that will be worth watching. Thank you for the interview.

Thank you.

Screenplay and direction: Anna Sroka–Hryń
Arrangements – Yakov Lyubovich
Choreography – Ewelina Adamska-Porczyk
Costumes – Sabina Czupryńska
Directing the light – Piotr Hryń
Vocal training – Monika Malec
Assistant Director – Natalia Stachyra

Natalia Kujawa – Malachit
Monika Pawlicka - The Seagull
Natalia Stachyra – Latrodectus Mactans
Michał Juraszek – Ice
Przemysław Kowalski – Ariel
Tomasz Osica - The Wolf
Jakub Szyperski - A moth

photo: Tomasz Ostrowski