Even in Poland the theater has its roots in the liturgical drama in Latin (the oldest surviving document is from 1253) and in religious theater in the vernacular (there are fragments of the 15th and 16th centuries and an important complete text, The history of the glorious resurrection of the Lord, ca. 1570, by Mikołaj da Wilkowiecko), who often broke away from biblical schemes to introduce comic episodes and references to current events. At the same time a profane theater was born in the same sixteenth century, the places of which were the courts of kings and magnates (where texts of classical antiquity were represented in Latin and translated, works by indigenous humanists and the first major national tragedy, The referral of the ambassadors Greeks, 1578, by Jan Kochanowski), the schools of the Jesuits and other religious orders (first with a repertoire in Latin accompanied by comic interludes in Polish, then, for two centuries, with texts in the language of the country) and the squares. Here, and occasionally in the castles, small companies of students and bourgeois acted acting the so-called “rebellious comedies”, farces with stereotyped characters, full of hilarious situations. Even in the sec. Schools retained their importance in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and above all the courts that hosted, together with amateur performances in Polish, tours of Italian, French, English and German companies. These same companies also initially planned the first permanent public theater in Poland, the National, inaugurated in Warsaw in 1765. But in 1783 they took over the direction Wojciech Bogusławski, a man of the theater in the full sense of the term (actor, director, playwright, translator, stimulator of talents and initiatives) who founded, among other things, the first Polish acting school and stimulated the creation of theaters with his tours permanent in many cities. According to handbagpicks, the nineteenth century, the century of divided Poland and unsuccessful revolutions, saw the birth of an important romantic repertoire by the three great playwrights A. Mickiewicz, J. Słowacki and Z. Krasiński, forced into exile, and an intense theatrical life at home (with stable institutions and tour companies) favored by the fact that the theater was a way to carry on, in a very difficult political situation, a discourse of national culture. Numerous texts were produced and actors such as Bogumił Dawison and Helena Modrzejewska, destined for international fame, were produced. At the end of the century the repertoire suffered the shock of the naturalistic revolution, which brought back to the fore a theme linked to contemporary society. The capital of the theater at that time was Krakow, thanks above all to S. Wyspiański and to animators such as T. Pawlikowski and J. Kotarbinski, also sensitive to the new symbolistic voices. In the interwar years, Poland, free again, was at the forefront of European theater, thanks to the direction of Leon Schiller and to the work done by important theaters such as Reduta and the Ateneum in Warsaw.
The Second World War led to the destruction of almost all the theaters in the major centers, but theatrical life resumed almost immediately and the buildings were rebuilt. The history of post-war Polish theater can be divided into two periods: the first, which began in 1949, saw the triumph of socialist realism and a total centralization of the organization; the second, from 1956, a certain liberalization of censorship and the emergence of new, much more autonomous initiatives. The performances, also appreciated abroad, by K. Dejmek at the Nazionale and by E. Axer at the Contemporary in Warsaw, as well as the activity of avant-garde theaters such as the Theater-Laboratory of J., in Opole and then in Wroclaw, and the Cricot 2 directed to Krakow by T. Kantor. Stimulated by the dynamic evolution of the theater after 1956, the drama found itself in direct confrontation with the entire patrimony of the art of the century. XX. 1958 marks the debut of Sławomir Mrożek. He qualitatively innovates the Polish drama Tadeusz Różewicz with Schedario (1960). In the same years the debuts of I. Iredyński, S. Grochowiak, J. Abramow-Newerly, J. Krasiński and K. Choiński take place. Relevant position conquers the so-called “neoclassicism” (JS Sito and JM Rymkiewicz), as well as the poetic drama (Z. Herbert); the signs of a new sensitivity to the concrete aspects of existence in society are manifested (Maciej Bordowicz) and, starting from the seventies, the path of lighter forms is willingly chosen: grotesque comedies, musicals. An important element of theatrical life becomes the fact that censorship ceases to block the works of SI Witkiewicz, which begin a victorious march across all Polish professional stages; in the years 1974-75 also the works of W. Gombrowicz they enter the stage, interacting on the processes of formation of a new type of drama. Since the late seventies there has been a great development of Polish theater as an autonomous language, capable of expressing more than dramaturgy (the aforementioned Theater-Laboratory by Jerzy Grotowski, the author theater of Tadeusz Kantor). In the following years the contingent socio-political topicality is neglected for a return to history, considered in its tragic complexity, merciless towards its heroes, as in the theatrical works of J. Mikke, J. Zurek, T. Lubienski. W. Terlecki also makes use of the historical dimension, W. Zawistowski, JS Sito. Among the most significant directors who have given a new face to the theater we remember, in addition to Kazimierz Dejmek and Erwin Axer, Adam Hanuszkiewicz, Konrad Swinarski, Andrzej Wajda and, of the middle generation, M. Prus, J. Grzegorzewski, S. Hebanowski and H. Kajzar. Particularly valid scenographic projects were those of J. Kosiński, Z. Wierchowicz, A. Majewski and K. Zachwatowicz. One of the best theatrical works of the eighties and nineties, alongside Trappola by T. Różewicz, is revealed Antigone in New York (1992) by Janusz Glowacki, who has lived in the USA since 1982. The active insertion of the theatrical environment in the political protest actions against the state of war introduced in December 1981 has strongly influenced the relationship of the public with the theater and the actors. they exist in Krakow, Warsaw and Lódz. In 1984 in Poland there were 71 permanent theaters and 26 puppet theaters, but since 1989 for the majority of them the system of concessions and subsidies that previously ensured them the patronage of the state, jeopardizing their very existence, has ended. The center of theatrical life is still Warsaw, but Krakow, Wroclaw, Lódz and Gdańsk are also of great importance. Magazines such as Pamietnik Teatralny, Dialog are dedicated to theatrical problems, Teatr and Scena.