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The Ballad of Jan Wnek - The Gry i Ludzie (Games and People) Theatre (Poland)


The Ballad of Jan Wnek is a perfomance inspired by the authentic story of one the pioneers of aviation. Between 1866 and 1869 Jan Wnęk, a peasant from Powiśle Dąbrowskie, an illiterate and self-taught person, took the first successful long-distance side-slip flights, using a "hang glider" made with his own hands. In fact he was twenty years ahead of the German engineer Otto Lilienthal, commonly regarded as a constructor of the first glider. The same refers to Czesław Tański, commonly considered the pioneer of aviation in Poland (he also coined the very name "hang glider"), who took his successful flights already after Wnęk’s tragic death.

Jan Wnęk was an extraordinary person – a highly respected carpenter, sculptor, constructor and inventor. In his village he evoked admiration as well as envy. For many people he was a madman. Some of them suspected him of some suspicious dealings with the devil. He made his "hang glider" on the basis of the observation of birds. As an illiterate he couldn't make any use of literature or experience of other constructors. Since 1866 he took regular side-slip flights, taking off from the steeple of the church in Odporyszów, usually during holidays, church fetes and fairs. His last flight during the church fete in June 1869 ended in a fatal accident.

The story about Jan Wnęk is a story about dreams, a need for escape from everyday life, a need for creation and freedom. And that's what this performance is about.
It is a collage of images inspired by Jan Wnęk’s biography, however going beyond a chronological narration. It is a night open-air performance with the use of contemporary dance, stilts and large movable stage elements.

premiere 2005
duration 55 mins.

Trailer of the show


The Gry i Ludzie (Games and People) Theatre was established in 1997 and since the beginning it has been involved in both street theatre and traditional in-door productions. It is a theatre on the road and has performed in many cities in Poland and abroad.
Its repertoire contains outdoor performances as well as stage plays and performances for children. Its main house is located in the former building of a railway station in Katowice, Dąbrówka Mała. The people who form the group come from various backgrounds and have had many different sorts of artistic experience.

The company’s website
The company’s fanpage



The actors of the Gry i Ludzie Theatre presented The Ballad of Jan Wnek, a wonderfully dynamic outdoor performance containing a variety of changing images and moods. It was received with much appreciation and given a lively ovation by the Tunisian audience.

Gazeta Wasilkowska:
The Gry i Ludzie theatre group from Katowice gave a splendid performance. It bewitched the audience with its narrative, stage direction and, most importantly, related an interesting story about a real person, which is not a common and relevant element in most street theatre productions (…)
The music was well-harmonised with the story and it was either silent in the background or powerful in the foreground, just as necessary. The stage set was subtle but supported the plot in a logical way. The machine imitating a flight and carrying the main character in the final scene was a an excellent solution.
The acting was equally good. The mimicry and choreography were consistent with the dramatic koncept and the actors' means of expression were precise and well harmonized with the script. There were also quite a few moments when they were able to bring out some humour and irony hidden in the story (…) Those who have not seen it should regret it.



script and direction: Maciej Nogieć
supporting stage designer: Anna Sąsiadek and Michał Tramer
supporting choreographer: Krzysztof Włosiński
music: Tomasz Podgórski

performers: Anna Kandziora, Magda Tramer, Szymon Pilch, Maciej Nogieć, Michał Tramer, Janusz Niedbał, Jacek Gwóżdż, Grzegorz Lamik


The festival co-financed by the European Union within the framework of the Malopolska Regional Operational Programme for the years 2007-2013




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