Erwin Axer


August 19, 2022

Erwin Axer (January 1, 1917, Vienna, Austro-Hungarian Empire - August 5, 2012, Warsaw, Poland) was a Polish theater director, writer and university professor. He was for a long time at the head of the Współczesny Theater in Warsaw, with which he also did everything from theater works abroad, especially in German-speaking countries, in the United States and also in Leningrad (USSR). Although he was born in Vienna, Erwin Axer lived from an early age in Lwów (today Lviv, Ukraine). He was born into a bourgeois family, and although the family profession was law, he opted for the theater. At the end of 1930 he made his debut with Eugene O'Neill's Moon of the Caribbes. In 1938 he also performed Nędza uszężliwiona by Maciej Kamieński and The Tidings Brought to Mary by Paul Claudel. The following year, in 1939, he graduated from the State Institute of Theater Art and directed August Strindberg's Miss Julie. However, the Polish Defensive War and the outbreak of World War II brought his career to an end. He spent the early years of the Soviet occupation in Lwów, earning his living acting and staging dramas at the Communist-controlled Polish Drama Theatre, the only Polish-language theater open in the city . However, after the Germans took the city, arrested his father, he moved to Warsaw. He took part in the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 and was taken prisoner by the Germans, who sent him to a quarry in Germany as a slave-worker. After the war he returned to Poland, and in 1946 he became head of the Chamber Theater of the Soldiers' House in Łódź, an institution which moved to Warsaw the following year and was renamed Współczesny Theatre. Between 1954 and 1957 he also directed the National Theatre, the most prestigious stage in post-war Poland. From 1949 he was also a teacher at the Academy of Theater in Warsaw. From 1962 Axer regularly directed plays abroad. Among the countries he visited are Germany, Switzerland, USSR, USA and the Netherlands. He was invited by Georgy Tovstonógov to conduct three concerts at the Bolshoi Drama Theater in Leningrad. From 1972 he was a collaborator of the Burgtheater in Vienna.

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