Polish puppet theatre founded in 1947 in Bielsko-Biała by the painters Jerzy Zitzman and Zenobiusz Zwolski. Nationalized in 1950, the theatre was given its own theatre building in 1958. Except for a short period in the 1950s and 60s, the Banialuka was lead by Jerzy Zitzman, director and stage designer, who drew such other artists to the theatre as the stage director Irena Wojutycka and stage designer Andrzej Łabiniec.
Arising far from the cultural centres, the Bielsko-Biała productions stressed the traditional character of puppet productions on one hand while on the other it went far beyond the accepted norms of puppet performances by: introducing the actor as partner of the puppet (Buratino by Borisova, 1955); or that featured the object on stage (Koziołek Matołek by Kornel Makuszyński, 1961); or by experimenting with the theatre of hands (Teatr Petruszki The Theatre of [lier]Petrushka[/lier] by Jan Brzechwa, 1962); or playing theatre (Baśniowy las The Fairy Tale Forest by Jan Ośnica, 1966); and the poetic theatre (Młynek do kawy The Coffee Mill by Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński, 1967).
In order to focus attention on Bielsko-Biała’s innovations, Jerzy Zitzman, along with several Czech and Polish companies, organized in 1966 the Bielskie rendez-vous (Bielsko Meetings), which in 1972 had developed into an international festival of puppet theatres playing host to more than 250 companies from over 40 countries, an event which connects Eastern and Western Europe. Contacts established during the festivals enabled Banialuka to enter into international cooperation resulting in productions whose importance and reputations reached beyond Poland and national boundaries, such as Samotność (Loneliness, 1988), by Bruno Schulz, directed by François Lazaro, with sets by Zitzman.
From 1991 to 1996, Aleksander Antończak, a stage director of the new generation, became the head of Banialuka. He extended the repertoire, introducing the concept of “geometric theatre” that made use of abstract forms and the shapes of object-figures, particularly in the visual concept of a sphere-hemisphere, as in Opowieść o chłopcu i wietrze (A Story about the Boy and the Wind, 1992) or on the cylinder, as in Paluszek (Little Finger, 1996). From 1997 to 2000, the Banialuka was headed by Krzysztof Rau, a former director of the Białostocki Teatr Lalek (Bialystok Puppet Theatre) and founder of the Teatr ¾ Zusno in the 1990s. From 2000 to 2003, the Banialuka tried a revival with Piotr Tomaszuk, founder of the Wierszalin theatre company. Lucyna Kozień, dramaturge of the Banialuka since the 1980s, became the theatre’s leader in 2003.
- Bielskie festiwale lalkowe/The Bielsko Puppet Festivals. Ed. L. Kozień. Bielsko-Biała, 1992. (In Polish and English)
- Teatr Lalek Banialuka, 1947-1997 [Banialuka Puppet Theatre 1947-1997]. Bielsko-Biała, 1997.
- Kozień, Lucyna. Andrzej Łabiniec. Dokumentacja działalności [Andrzej Łabiniec. Documentation of His Work]. Vol. IV of “Lalkarze. Materiały do biografii” series. Ed. M. Waszkiel. Łódź, 1994.
- Kozień, Lucyna. Jerzy Zitzman. Dokumentacja działalności [Jerzy Zitzman. Documentation of His Work]. Vol. III of “Lalkarze. Materiały do biografii” series. Ed. M. Waszkiel. Łódź, 1994.