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Szymon Szurmiej’s International Competition for Contemporary Jewish Drama organised by The Jewish Theatre, which started in April this year, has just come to an end. The Jury’s verdict was announced and the names of the winners of the first edition were revealed.

The aim of the competition was to inspire playwrights of various nationalities, cultures and traditions to work with probably the most significant subject of the 21st century: remembrance. The idea came from an understanding that carefully cultivated remembrance is one of the factors that decide what sort of societies we live in, how we understand our nationality and what kind of present and future we are able to construct. The organisers wished to gain new valuable scripts inspired by topics related to Jews in a broad sense and promote contemporary theatrical literature that inspires a dialogue and understanding regardless of the differences that divide people in terms of race, gender, religion or social background.

The organisers received almost 100 entries from Poland and other countries. They had been written from various perspectives by authors deriving from numerous cultural backgrounds and several generations. There were stories set in the present day, but also those describing the tragedy of the Holocaust and the events of March ’68. Some were also deeply inspired by the Jewish traditions dating back to a very distant past.

On 6 December 2021, the Jury composed of: Tomasz Miłkowski (Head of the Jury), Gołda Tencer (director of the Jewish Theatre, actress, directress), Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk (playwright), Jacek Cieślak (theatre critic), Remigiusz Grzela (literary director of the Jewish Theatre, playwright), Marzena Dobosz (chapter secretary, theatre critic) decided to announce the winners after a long and turbulent discussion.

It’s probably the first time that a competition like this one has been organised in Poland (maybe even in the world) and it’s a dream come true for Gołda Tencer. The idea hit the mark not only because we received almost 100 plays from Poland and all over the world, but also because the scripts are of superb quality. If we’d had such a possibility, we’d have awarded at least twice as many entries, says Tomasz Miłkowski, Head of the Jury. Reading the scripts was an eye-opening adventure, expanding the horizons of the first-time readers and, hopefully, also the artists who will choose to present the plays on stage. It also turned out that the scripts written in Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew, English or Russian talk to one another and create circles of human unity that always aims for life in peace without a feeling of regret for lost time. One of the important motifs that connects the plays is striving to define own identity and attitude towards the past and the present. One other thing that may be even more important is the language as a vehicle of survival, without which our world would fall into oblivion, adds Tomasz Miłkowski.

• Winner of the 1st PRIZE (30,000 PLN) was Elżbieta Łapczyńska for “Statek Utopia”

• THE PRIZE OF THE MINISTER OF CULTURE AND NATIONAL HERITAGE went to Marta Szamani Yacoub for “Czy ktoś widział Hedwig Klein?”

• THE PRIZE OF THE PRESIDENT OF WARSAW went to Iddo Natanyahu for “Don Samuel Abravanel”

• THE PRIZE FOR A POLISH PLAY AWARDED BY TVP KULTURA went to Ewa Sułek for “Wiosło Jakuba”

• THE PRIZE OF THE WARSAW GHETTO MUSEUM went to Jarosław Wójcik for “Pokój z widokiem”

• THE PRIZE OF THE THEATRE INSTITUTE will be awarded by the Institute after the Jury have analysed the plays chosen to be promoted to the second stage of the Competition.

In Szymon Szurmiej’s International Competition for Contemporary Jewish Drama, three distinctions were also awarded by the Jewish Theatre in Warsaw (5,000 PLN each):


• DISTINCTION for Rich Rubin for “KAFKA’S JOKE”

• DISTINCTION FOR A PLAY WRITTEN IN YIDDISH: for the  anthology of dramas written by Michael Felzenbaum

The play awarded the Grand Prix  may be prepared for a premiere in the course of a full cycle of rehearsals in the Jewish Theatre and the distinguished plays may be presented in the Jewish Theatre in the framework of staged rehearsals called “WE READ IN JEWISH”.

All the prizes will be awarded during a gala organised in the second half of January 2022.

The Patrons of the Competition are The Society of Authors ZAIKS and the Capital City of Warsaw. The Partner of the Competition is the Polish branch of the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC/AICT).

Information about the competition: