Theater: People who work behind the scenes

The air smells like a mixture of dust, old furniture and magic. The audience is full, there are no free seats. Lights are dimming. The curtain is rising. And the magic begins. A child breathes deeply. A man gapes at a beautiful actress. Elderly women discuss the costumes worn by various actresses while others in the audience try to quiet them. And the magic that is Shakespeare’s Hamlet settles over the audience.

The scene backstage is quite different. It’s a busy and noisy place, especially before the premiere. Everyone is nervous, everyone needs something, everyone suffers from the lack of time. Except for the one woman. She’s relaxed, at peace with the world. And why shouldn’t she be.

This is the world of Jadwiga Krzysztofiak. She’s lived in it for 40 years. She is a prompter.

People who work behind the scenes

The prompter’s place is separated space next to the scene. There is a lot of papers, some pencils and highlighters. Jadwiga always drinks hot coffee so there is a big cup with inscription: „I’m a boss here.“ The huge English-Polish dictionary which lies on the floor demands attention.

„I got it from the director,“ she laughs. „He jokes that I should improve my language skills because I never know when it might be useful.“

She drifted into this job by accident. She was an unemployed but she always was crazy about culture so she went to theatre as often as it was possible. The stage manager remembered her and offered her a job. And she’s stayed there. She spent half of her life behind the scene. Although she lives far from spotlights and she isn’t an identifiable person, everyone claims that she is really important member of theatrical team. That the theatre cannot exist without her.

„I know that people don’t think a lots about staff which is working for the performance’s success,“ said art director, Jan Lasoń. „The viewers forget about the stage-manager, the screenwriter, the lady’s maid, costume designer. They remember only the actors who are visible on stage. But the truth is that the performance won’t be a good performance without these all people who work behind the scenes.“

Encounter with the famous

It’s an autumn afternoon in Warsaw and Jadwiga Krzysztofiak is in another world. In this world she is far from invisible. She is the center of attention from her grandchildren. The children are eating cookies she baked earlier in the day. The smallest girl is sitting on Jadwiga’s knees and she’s babbling.

This small flat is full of good energy. There is a lot of pictures taken at theatre, some of them hangs at honorable place. Like the picture which shows Jadwiga and her husband accompanied by Kalina Jędrusik, one of the most famous Polish actress in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

It’s an autumn afternoon in Warsaw and Jadwiga Krzysztofiak is in another world. In this world she is far from invisible. She is the center of attention from her grandchildren. The children are eating cookies she baked earlier in the day. The smallest girl is sitting on Jadwiga’s knees and she’s babbling.

This small flat is full of good energy. There is a lot of pictures taken at theatre, some of them hangs at honorable place. Like the picture which shows Jadwiga and her husband accompanied by Kalina Jędrusik, one of the most famous Polish actress in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“My husband was so excited that he could meet Kalina. She was known as the sexiest actress in Poland. Every man wanted to shake her hand. And my husband, thanks me, could do it. It was an unforgettable event, not only for him but also for me,” Jadwiga smiles.

Small stories

Sometimes, Jadwiga has to become more visible even in the theatre.

„One day I was a true star“, she recounts with a smile. „The most famous actress forgot her text and started to panic. The nervous atmosphere overwhelmed the whole team. To be honest, I also felt the rush of adrenaline. It was very important performance played for guests from USA. In English, of course. I can’t speak English so it was an additional impediment“, she said.

„When I noticed that the situation becomes much worse, I had to react. I started to feed lines to her but it didn’t work. She was totally funky. „It was my time. I grabbed the microphone which is hidden under my desk and I began articulating English words. I saw that the actress was simulating that it’s her voice. She was mouthing.“

“I saved the day. After the performance, the actress thanked me and the director invited me to the party where I met Woody Allen, can you believe?

“I met a lot of famous people earlier because it’s normal when you work at theatre. It’s your job to cooperate with a well-known actors and directors but the meeting with Woody Allen… While he didn’t have any time and I only saw him live, it was a key moment in my life”, she gesticulates.

It’s showtime: Break your leg

The last bell before performance rings. What can you say to a prompter? Just break your leg like for actors?

„Just wish me that I won’t fall asleep during the performance. You know, it might be a bit wearing when you watch the same show every day“, she smiles.

And with that, she leaves to stake out her behind the scene. It’s showtime in Jadwiga’s world.

 

Foto Kredit: Hartwig HKD/Flickr 

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