Theater as a shelter |

Olaf Lobazenko, an actor and director who celebrates the 40th anniversary of his artistic career, talks about the many ideas of life, how creative and important Krzysztof Kielovsky was to him, and even in difficult times like today, man needs to break away for a moment, from the dreary, horrifying reality. Interview with Jan Bończa-Szabłowski in Rzeczpospolita.

Photography by C. Piwowarski

Usually the first acting appearance occurs at the time of theatrical school or after its completion, but the Lord happened much earlier …

In 1982, exactly 40 years ago. The film began with “The Life of Kamil Kurant” by Grzegorz Warchoł, and a few years later Rysiek was in the “Sonata Marymoncka”. Then he started playing more regularly. Since the mid-1980s, I’ve actually “lived” on filming sets. Then there was the pause, and since the mid-nineties my adventure has continued to this day, with a small break, so I’ve built up quite a bit over these 40 years.

Did parents, especially Father Eduard Lobaszenko, help find the plan “Kamel Courant’s Life”?

It’s true that I grew up in the acting community. Father Eduard Lobaszenko and mother Asja Shamtogina are actors. But I assure you, none of them “pushed” me into this profession. Furthermore, my dad found out that I was playing Camille Courant when he watched the series on TV. After all, this was going to continue many years later. My daughter Marianna told me that she only wanted to be an actress the day she found her name on the AST admission list in Krakow. I really liked her strength and independence…

But despite the encouraging beginnings, I have the impression that the choice of an acting profession was not very clear, because your life is full of ups and downs and research. This is an elementary school in Białystok, a Hoffmanowa secondary school in Warsaw, sociology at the University of Warsaw, and then a Christian Academy of Theology.

The Lord speaks of phrases, but rather of escape attempts. Up until a certain point, I would treat childhood or youth meetings with movies as a kind of adventure, not a lifelong idea. I had been searching for my place for a long time and was seriously considering sociology, which seemed to be an interesting profession. It is possible that today I take political opinion polls, so I don’t think I have anything to regret…

But acting won…

Sometimes you have to distance yourself to get back to yourself. And go in many ways to get back to the right way.

But how do you find it?

I’m not 100% sure that this path is the right one, but when I look at my “equipments” which included theology and sociology and my attempts to work in completely “non-technical” places – but I feel like I’m finally doing what I want to do. Was it a fully conscious choice? I am not convinced that a person makes all his life decisions consciously. I believe in the decisive role of fate, destiny, providence, or chance.

Since you used the word “coincidence”, referring to the movie with Bogusaw Linda, I will ask you about your collaboration with Krzysztof Kieślowski. The cooperation was very fruitful, because in Geneva you received an award in a short film about love, the nickname “The Star of Tomorrow”.

Each award gives satisfaction, but cooperation with Krzysztof was a gift of fate and the greatest reward. Now, on the occasion of another anniversary of his death, I realize that, especially in these tragic times we are going through, I would like to hear his voice of wisdom. Today we rarely lack people who can be completely trusted. Krzysztof Kieślowski was not only a wonderful artist, but also a man who told the truth and was very honest.

Truth and honesty are especially valuable today. Let’s take a look at what is happening in Ukraine. Putin can safely announce on his state television that he has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and that the Russians will believe him.

Let’s hope not all, but 70, 80 per cent. – Yes, there is a fact that is not a fact, but it does exist. The so-called “agency” of tyranny, lies, aggression and cruelty is to me the most crushing and outrageous phenomenon of recent weeks. To many, he who does evil may be good. And for a long time, with quite a few people, it somehow worked. I want to believe that this time is definitely coming to an end!

We are talking about the day the Russians bombed a theater in Ukraine that turned out to be home to hundreds of defenseless mothers and children during the war

The tragic symbolism of this event will remain with us for a very long time. Theater as a shelter and a place to stay – what can we say more …

Theater in Ukraine has some special power after Maidan. The arts are very created, and a person who until recently was a famous comedian is today one of the bravest leaders in the world.

The leaders of other countries saw someone who could and should not have been. Only that Volodymyr Zelensky raised the bar so high. And by the way: stereotypes, easy labels and coloring – does the heroic position of the President of Ukraine give anyone something to think about in this matter?

In these dramatic times, might an artist feel particularly helpless or needy?

I think the two concepts should not be mutually exclusive. Of course, I feel helpless about the things I can’t understand. It is important to remember where is right and where is wrong. Certainly, when it comes to the war in Ukraine, one cannot give in to the temptation of relativism, because if we succumb to it once, it will be hard for us to believe that we need to continue helping the Ukrainians, maintaining sanctions, and then believing in Clause 5 of the NATO Treaty. This case goes beyond my usual respect for skepticism. But as an artist, I just try to feel the need. It is also not quite simple and straightforward. For years I have been mainly working in the comedy repertoire…

This dilemma arose not only for you, but much earlier, during the pandemic. Then it turned out that when theaters opened, the audience was only choosing comedies to interact with.

When we, with Ania Gornostaj, decided to celebrate the 40th anniversary of my artwork together at the Capitol Theatre, we had no idea the war was going to break out. And now, during our pre-premiere shows, we ran into a dilemma. The audience’s reactions helped us dispel our doubts. People want to get away, even for a moment, from the dreary and horrific reality. Theater tends to be extraterritorial in a certain way. But not everything is working in it now as it did a few weeks ago.

Why did you choose the play “Marriage is Murder”?

Nick Hall created a story about two writers who got married once and wrote hugely popular detective stories. Then their relationship broke up on a private and professional level. However, certain circumstances force them to collaborate again and write another book. It is in the story. However, when I direct a comedy, I usually try to lead it towards synthesis and metaphor. It is similar now. With Ania Gornostaj, we tried to present a universal story about the interrelationships of people who deal more or less serious blows – because the play is preserved in the convention of a crime story, they love and hate each other, but in reality they cannot. They live without each other.

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