Polish puppet theatre founded in Lodz (Łódź) in 1948 by Maria and Henryk Ryl, and nationalized in 1950. At the end of the 1940s, the Arlekin (The Harlequin) was, like the Groteska of Crakow (Kraków), one of the most prestigious puppet theatres of Poland, characterized by a tendency towards realism, adventure intrigues, and the use of varied techniques of expression: Kolorowe piosenki (Motley Songs, 1949 and 1953), Sambo i lew (Sambo and the Lion, 1950). Although concentrating on a repertoire for children, the Arlekin created plays for adults: The Doctor in Spite of Himself (1954) by Molière and Balladyna (1957) by Juliusz Słowacki, which explored the potential of the puppet genre.
Because of his high standards, Henryk Ryl quickly brought the company up to the level of artistic maturity he was expecting. Mastery of a great knowledge of puppetry led Arlekin to experiment with metaphors and its techniques – the object theatre in Młynek do kawy (The Coffee Mill, 1959) of Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński, solemn hieratic figures of Nal i Damayanti (Nala and Damayanti) from the Indian epic, the Mahabharata (1962).
The Arlekin founded a school of actors whose classes and workshops influenced the standards of Polish puppetry art, and the headquarters of the company became that of the Polish headquarters of UNIMA – POLUMINA – in 1961.
When Henryk Ryl stepped down, one of his apprentices, Stanisław Ochmański, then head of the Teatr Lalki i Aktora im. H. Ch. Andersena (H. Ch. Andersen Puppet and Actor Theatre) in Lublin, was named director of the Arlekin (1974-1991). He introduced the notion of “chamber theatre” where literary and artistic finesse was illustrated by Ludowa szopka polska (The Polish Folk Szopka, 1975) by Henryk Jurkowski, Car Maksymilian (Tsar Maximilian, 1985), Tryptyk staropolski (The Old Polish Triptych, 1989) by Henryk Jurkowski. In addition to a permanent collaboration with Wojciech Wieczorkiewicz and Leokadia Serafinowicz, Stanisław Ochmański brought to the Arlekin directors and graduates of the Akademia Teatralna w Białymstoku (Theatre Academy of Bialystok). In 1992, Waldemar Wolański, a student of Ochmański, took over the directorship of the Arlekin. He was an actor and puppeteer as well as stage director who added a large list of international guest artists. During the following theatrical seasons, the Arlekin was host to stage directors Massimo Schuster, Eric Bass, Albrecht Roser, and David Syrotiak. Since 1999, the Arlekin has organized an international festival of solo puppeteers every other year.
On 27 December 2014, the theatre was renamed Teatr Lalek Arlekin im. Henryka Ryla (Arlekin Puppet Theatre Henryk Ryl).
- Polakowski, Andrzej, and Marek Waszkiel, eds. Łódzkie sceny lalkowe [Puppet Stages of Lodz]. Łódź: POLUNIMA, 1992.
- Ryl, Henryk. Dziewanna i lalki [Dziewanna and Puppets]. Łódź: Wydawnictwo Łódzkie, 1967.
- Siepietowska, Elżbieta. Henryk Ryl. Dokumentacja działalności [Henryk Ryl. Documentation of His Work]. Vol. 21 of “Lalkarze. Materiały do biografii” series. Ed. M. Waszkiel. Łódź, 1997 (with a bibliography).
- Siepietowska, Elżbieta. Stanisław Ochmański. Dokumentacja działalności [Stanisław Ochmański. Documentation of His Work]. Vol. 1 of “Lalkarze. Materiały do biografii” series. Ed. M. Waszkiel. Łódź, 1993.
- Teatr Lalek Arlekin w Łodzi, 1948-1998. Łódź, 1998.