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Theater of the Eighth Day—The Files

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Performance Central series will present legendary Polish theater group Theater of the Eighth Day in a riveting docudrama, The Files, at the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio at Princeton University on February 25 and 26 at 8:00 p.m. All performances will be in English and a talkback session with members of the company will follow each performance. The performances are free and open to the public.

The Files was created from actual surveillance records the secret police kept on the group between 1975 and 1983. Four original company members read aloud from their own recently unsealed security files, tracing the group's transformation from university players to enemies of the regime as they are subject to surveillance, blacklisting, and arrests. Through these files, a remarkable human drama unfolds—not just of life under a communist regime but of the courageous artistry that thrived in spite of such oppression.

Theater of the Eighth Day was founded in 1964 as one of the most original and most significant groups of the very animated student theater movement from which Polish alternative theater arose. The group’s independence and its willingness to speak with its own voice about the surrounding world and the individual's existence entangled in this world caused the group to be a target of the communist state apparatus, even though it had never been intended as a political theater of opposition. Kept under surveillance by the secret police, plagued by the local police, and accused of committing common crimes, the theater managed to create some of the most important Polish performances of the 1970s, including In One Breath (1971), We have to Confine Ourselves to What has been Called Paradise on Earth...?! (1975), A Sale for Everyone (1977), and Oh, Have We Lived in Dignity (1979).

In 1985 some members of the group left the country employing a number of subterfuges (among them fake marriages with foreign actors). The members remained "émigré" until 1989, when they returned to Poland at the invitation of the first non-communist Minister of Culture. They are now back in Poznan, one of Poland's growing centers of alternative culture.

“I am thrilled that Princeton audiences will have the opportunity to see the work of this remarkable company,” notes Tim Vasen, Director of the Program in Theater. “At a moment when we are wrestling with the role of government surveillance in our lives, The Files offers a powerful perspective. This project is part of an evolving collaboration between the Lewis Center and Poland's Adam Mickiewicz Institute, which we hope will lead to future exchanges between Princeton and one of Europe's most vibrant artistic cultures.”

Presentation of The Files is part of the Poland-U.S. Campus Arts Project, a program organized by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw, Poland. Poland’s Wielkopolska Region has provided airfare for members of the Theatre of the Eighth Day. The performances, co-sponsored by the Program in European Cultural Studies and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton with additional support from Princeton’s 250th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education, are part of a U.S. tour that includes Yale School of Drama.


Link to photo:
Photo caption:  Adam Borowski in The Files by legendary Polish theater company Theater of the Eighth Day being presented by the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Performance Central series at Princeton
Photo credit:  Photo by Przemyslaw Graf 

Related Links

Theater of the Eighth Day: History (from Polish Cultural Institute of NY) 
"When Artists Ripped Holes in the Iron Curtain" from The New York Times 
The Adam Mickiewicz Institute 

Event Information


February 25 and 26, 2014
8:00 p.m.

Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio

Admission is FREE and open to the public.


The travel to U.S. of members of The Theater of the Eighth Day was supported by Wielkopolska Region.

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