On 23 September 2013 falls the 12th death anniversary of Henryk Tomaszewski, dancer, mime artists, choreographer, director, teacher, founder and director of the Wrocław Mime Theatre. He was born on 20 November 1919 in Poznań. In 1945 he enrolled in Iwo Gall’s Dramatic Studio in Kraków; he also took private lessons. In 1946-7 Tomaszewski collaborated with the Polish Academic Theatre preparing miming scenes and choreographies. In 1946-7 he also trained and danced with Feliks Parnell’s Polish Ballets. In 1949 Tomaszewski was employed by the ballet of the Wrocław Opera, where he danced 11 roles until 1959, winning high acclaim for his Peacock in Paw i dziewczyna [A Peacock and A Girl], Li Shan Fu in Czerwony mak [origin. Krasny mak; English:The Red Poppy] and The Devil in Pan Twardowski [Mr Twardowski]. He was particularly praised for the dramatic quality of his characters and novel technique.
In May 1955 Tomaszewski was awarded the silver medal of the International Festival of the Youth and Students in Warsaw for his miming etude Wirtuoz [Virtuoso]. In the wake of the success he founded first the Studio (1956) and then the Wrocław Mime Theatre (1959). The Studio debuted with Programme 1 on 4 November 1956. From the very beginning Henryk Tomaszewski was consistently building the style of this unique phenomenon that a miming theatre ensemble was in the world’s culture. He left behind the French tradition of pure mime, engaging in frequent formal investigations into the depths of literature, mythology and culture, and making them the subject-matter of his productions. At the same time, he put strong emphasis on the visual and musical aspects of his pieces, collaborating from day one with the best Polish stage designers: J. Przeradzka, Z. de Ines, K. Wiśniak, F. Starowieyski, A. Majewski, W. Wigura. In the centre of his art, which he called “circular theatre”, he placed the human and the creativity of movement.
Tomaszewski performed on stage until 1962, making theatrical history with his interpretation of Akaky in Płaszcz [The Overcoat]; the title Woyzeck; or The Death Figurine in Strzelnica [The Shooting Range]. Henryk Tomaszewski prepared in his theatre 24 programmes, which starting from Programme 10 – Odejścia Fausta [Faust’s Leaving] were full-time performances. He was the first in Poland to provide mime art training culminating in obtaining a professional diploma. Tomaszewski created a range of choreographies for dramatic and opera productions; since 1967 he had worked with dramatic theatres as director, giving his productions a great dose of originality as they explored gesture and movement as sources of the word, and pushed actors to display unexpected capabilities.
His reviewers often used the word “masterpiece”. One of them was his rendition of Ionesco’s Jeux de massacre staged at the Polish Theatre in Wrocław. He also directed abroad, in Sweden, Norway, and West Germany. His productions realised with the Wrocław Mime Theatre travelled to Amsterdam, Oslo, or Copenhagen. As choreographer Tomaszewski also worked in Polish, Danish and German opera theatres. He was particularly fond of Maenadsby Hans Werner Henze, his collaboration with Konrad Swinarski staged at La Scala, as well as Dienstag aus Licht by Carlheinz Stockhausen staged at the Leipzig Opera.
Tomaszewski was also a collector: in November 1994 the Municipal Toy Museum opened in Karpacz, Poland, displaying his collection dating back to 1967, and embracing toys of the 17th-20th centuries.