EXILE WARSAW is a theatre project involving foreigners living in Warsaw. The project involves theatre and interdisciplinary workshops for immigrants and refugees and finishes with artistic events.

EXILE WARSAW  and the methods used in it become the basis for the creation of the foundation’s multicultural theatre projects, i.a. Migrating Theatre, Open! as well as the foundation’s perfomances.

EXILE WARSAW was inspired by multicultural theatre activity of ITC Teatro/Teatro dell’Argine in Bologna, Italy, which Strefa Wolnoslowa cooperates with on a regular basis.

Teatro dell’Argine has a long-standing experience in working with immigrants and refugees. As a result, a new method of theatre work in a multicultural group has been established and cultural activities for local communities involving national and ethnic minorities have been organised.

Long-standing success of both theatre performances and artistic activities in urban space makes Teatro dell’Argine an example of promoting multicultural dialogue in Italy and abroad (projects in Sweden, Bolivia, Palestine, Morocco, Senegal, Lebanon, Brazil and other countries).

Some examples of Teatro dell’Argine multicultural artistic events:

Viaggio attraverso l’accampamento mondo


Intercultural projects of TdA

Strefa Wolnoslowa uses and develops methods established by Teatro dell’Argine, adapting them to Polish realities. We use them in our work with national minorities living in Poland, paying attention to their uniqueness.

The belief that a true encounter and dialogue are key to understand another person and to get rid of stereotypical thinking about a stranger, about social and cultural minorities lies at the heart of the project. We believe that human knowledge is still not sufficient, and that another human being can become a source of knowledge about the world and history.  We strongly believe that the theatre can become an important and useful tool in creating such an encounter and dialogue between people and cultures.  While working on international workshops, festivals and theatre productions for the last few years we had the opportunity to observe how common interests, passion and common artistic goals join people and enhance mutual understanding, at the same time counteracting discrimination and racism.

We believe it is important to organise venues where national and cultural minorities living in Warsaw and its vicinity can meet and feel like equal members of a local community. National minorities in Poland often form closed groups, unlikely to open to other communities and living on the margins of public life. It often results from insufficient knowledge of Polish, and the lack of opportunity to meet Polish and foreign people (apart from the workplace and language school), get to know them and to act together.  Polish people, on the other hand, tend to show dislike for foreigners, which often results from the fact that we don’t know members of national and ethnic minorities directly.

The project attempts to provide answers to several questions: Who are the refugees and immigrants living in Warsaw and its vicinity? What are their stories? What is really going on in countries and societies they left in order to seek political asylum? How did they manage to get to Europe? How did they get to Poland? What did they leave behind? What have they found in their new homeland? What kind of difficulties do they face every day? And how do they deal with them? Which traditions and stories have they brought along, and which they left behind forever?

The aim of the project is to set up mixed theatre groups (refugees, immigrants from different countries and Poles) and organise artistic events where the results of the mentioned group work will be presented.  We want to focus on running intensive workshops during which participants practice theatre improvisation and creative writing,  as well as do exercises with objects, body and space. In this way, we will create dramaturgy based on true stories of the participants, dramaturgy of an artistic event designed for a wide audience. The workshops are available to everybody, irrespective of age, background, gender, profession, theatre and artistic experience.

During the first few workshops the participants take part in ice-breaking games, drama tasks, theatre games, individual and group improvisations, exercises with space, body and voice. In the second part of our workshops the participants work with text and prepare materials for the dramaturgy.

Literature is present in workshop activities. However, it is only used as inspiration and reference for improvisation and creation of characters, stories and mini-scripts. Refugees and migrants create them with the help of a trainer, a director and a dramatist.  The literary work becomes the framework of a story in which multicultural participants use their own experiences, individual stories and creativity.  All the exercises carried out during the workshops (creative writing, theatre improvisation, working with the body, object and space) as well as group work make the participants tell their stories and create characters.  The presence of the director and dramatist guarantees that the outcome of all exercises will be transformed into drama and literary material.  Thus, the aim of many exercises is to create and tell a story, to build up stage actions and verbal acts, which become the basis for the dramaturgy of the workshops final events.

The dramaturgy of the workshops’  final outcome is therefore constructed by the participants of the project.  They enrich the original literary work with texts and improvisation outcomes.  theatre work revolves around themes directly connected with the participants, encouraging them at the same time to enrich the dramaturgy with their own experiences and to confront the raised issues with their own stories, or with the experiences of other migrants and refugees.  We devote much time to the characters. Thanks to that everybody can create their character by mixing up fiction with individual experiences and knowledge.

Drama exercises, group work, and creating artistic events together with other people give the participants an opportunity to use their skills in a creative way. They help foreigners to learn the language and to gain self-confidence in a new society. Moreover, they show how cultural differences can become an advantage in creative work.

The final outcome of the workshops are interactive artistic events.  The aim of the project is to create conditions for intercultural dialogue both within the workshop group and between creators and public during the final theatrical events. The workshops’ final performances are aimed to create an opportunity for dialogue between the direct participants of the project and the local community. That is why we always try to actively cooperate with civil service, other NGOs and city dwellers.

In each edition of the project there are three stages:

-        a preparatory stage which involves promoting the theater workshop, recruitment of participants, promotion meetings, press conference and getting in touch with organisations which can become partners of the project,

-        the main activity, which is the theater workshop ending with an artistic event (theatre performance), as well as a parallel film documentation of the project and interviews with participants, which will be used in a short documentary about the project,

-        the evaluation of the project, which involves preparing a short documentary about the whole project, a photographic and literary documentation, as well as a summary of the project outcomes and a plan of it’s possible continuation.

Coordination of projects within EXILE WARSAW:

Alicja Borkowska a.borkowska@strefawolnoslowa.pl



The workshop ended with a performance called The Grass is Greener Here which was shown in May and June 2012 in Warsaw.

The multicultural theatre workshop was taking place in “Warsztat” at pl. Konstytucji 4, a venue of The City of Warsaw Centre for Social Communication.  The final performance was shown in Nowy Wspanialy Swiat Cultural Center, in Sen Pszczoly and in Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw.  50 people took part in the first edition of workshops, and more than 300 spectators saw the final performance of the project.

Two months of theatre exercises, improvisation and writing texts with a group of people previously unrelated to the theatre  resulted in the creation of a theatre performance – a kind of reflection on the journey, departure from one’s native land and the dreams and expectations of a new life. Franz Kafka’s America served as the basis for improvisation and exercises.  Kafka’s text, which finally wasn’t included in the performance, had been used  as a source of inspiration for the workshop participants to create their own stories and monologues.  In the created choreographies and texts real migration experiences intertwine with fiction which is often based on authentic events from the participants’ native lands.

An original collection of characters was established – for Kafka’s Karl becomes a kind of everyman, who talks about Armenia in the 1990s, the need to leave Pakistan, soccer in the Ukraine, lack of perspectives in the Macedonian countryside, or about the desire to leave Belarus.  In particular political stories and historical events intertwine with an individual struggle for living standards, creating a single narrative about the search for a better world.

The solution to all problems is to be the title America, which in the play becomes an excuse for a story about dreams and disappointments connected with the place where migrants arrived. The performance shows bureaucracy, ignorance of the language, no job perspectives in countries where it was supposed to be better, confrontation of ideas for a better world with reality, expectations with existing situation. This makes The Grass is Greener Here a very powerful play, as it is made by immigrants themselves.

Within the project we have established active cooperation with:

local NGOs (Fundacja Ocalenie, Fundacja Rozwoju Oprócz Granic, Krytyka Polityczna, Duży Pokój, Instytut Reportażu, Loesje Polska),

international organisations (European Alternatives, Transeuropa Network, Teatro dell’Argine),

international festival TRANSEUROPA 2012, during which the performance was shown for the first time,

local and national media (TVP Kultura, Radio Tok Fm, Dwójka Polskiego Radia, Radio Wnet, Kontynent Warszawa, Teatr Pismo, Poka-Poka, Purpose, Podróże, e-teatr.pl, Radio Kampus, Rzeczpospolita, Gazeta Wyborcza Co jest Grane)

The City of Warsaw Centre for Social Communication,

Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw


Exile Warsaw June-August 2012                             

The multicultural workshop ended with a performance in urban space. I’ll Bring my Backyard Here was shown on 18th August 2012 in Warsaw Brodno, Targowek district.

The second edition of Exile Warsaw moved from the city centre to the outskirts.  The workshop was taking place in Targowek, in Dom Kultury Zacisze.  The idea behind this edition of the workshop was both multicultural dialogue within the workshop group, as well as the active involvement of the district’s residents in the final performance and artistic revival of the district. Additionally,  the aim was to reflect on the city and the stories of its inhabitants which derive from a variety of cultural contexts.

The workshop group, consisting of Poles and foreigners, took part in the performance, as well as senior residents from Brodno in Targowek district and refugees from Centre for Refugees in Targowek.  In total 40 people took part in the performance. It was seen by over 250 spectators.

During the workshops the starting point  for improvisation and dramaturgy were “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino.  Through verbal and physical improvisation we created a script which combines fiction and true stories of workshop participants.  The performance became a reflection on migration and the search for one’s place in the world.  Cities and memory were the key themes.  We showed how individual stories and memories affect the shape of the city and create its image, as well as how each “newcomer” contributes to the creation of common urban space.

The performance took place in Brodno, Targowek district – the audience was moving from place to place together with the actors.  The play was performed in Brodno-Podgrodzie bus terminus, in a yard between blocks of flats at Krasnobrodzka Street, in Podgrodzie Club, in a rented bus and on the roof of the block at 8 Poborzanska Street.

A theatre of migrants became a theatre migrating around Warsaw, and at the same time around other cities – those visible and invisible, real and fictional.  Due to the fact that foreign actors appeared in commonly known spots of Brodno, the residents had an opportunity to see their district as unknown space and rediscover it.

During the workshop and the performance a documentary film was made. It was projected on 6th November in Poludnik Zero cafe.

The project has been realized with the financial support of the European Commission, Youth in Action programme.

The project was realized in cooperation with:

-        NGOs (Fundacja Ocalenie, Fundacja Rozwoju Oprócz Granic)

-        civil service (Targowek Disctrict, Dom Kultury Zacisze)

-        residents of the disctrict (senior residents of Targowek district, occupants of blocks of flats in Brodno-Podgrodzie)

-        the media (i.a. TVP Kultura, Radio Wnet, Refugee.pl, Kontynent Warszawa, Radiowa Dwójka, Rzeczpospolita, Gazeta Wyborcza)

-        Centre for Refugees in Targowek.