Polish puppet theatre established in Cracow (Kraków) in 1945 by Zofia Jaremowa and Władysław Jarema. Despite the success of its first play, Cyrk Tarabumba (The Tarabumba Circus), Groteska had to suspend its activities due to financial difficulties. With the agreement of the Jaremas, Henryk Ryl took on the direction of the theatre and renamed it Groteska II in 1946-1948, sharing the stage with another company, Teatr Lalek Niebieskie Migdały (literally: Blue Almonds Puppet Theatre; figuratively: Castles in the Sky Puppet Theatre), run by Janina Kilian-Stanisławska (see Lalka). From 1948 to 1949, the Jaremas again headed the theatre, after which Zofia was sole director from 1949 to 1975. Teatr Lalki, Maski i Aktora Groteska (Groteska Puppet, Mask and Actor Theatre) became part of the legend of the Polish art of puppetry from the very beginning of its existence.
Nationalized in 1950, Groteska had the reputation from the outset of being a theatre of painters. Kazimierz Mikulski, Lidia Minticz and Jerzy Skarżynski imparted their style on the puppets, later also to the masks, a style that was slightly unreal, surreal. In the 1950s, Groteska launched puppet productions for adults, which included Igraszki z Diabłem (Dallying with the Devil, 1955) by Jan Drda. Having introduced Polish puppetry to artistic experimentation and blazing the trail for other companies to experiment, Groteska avoided the shoals of socialist realism.
Groteska discovered the poetic works of Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński for the puppet theatre and masks: Gdyby Adam był Polakiem (Had Adam Been a Pole) and Babcia i wnuczek (Granny and Her Grandson) in 1955; Orfeusz w piekle (Orpheus in Hell) in 1956. These productions led Polish puppetry in two directions: the theatre of art and the theatre of allusion. Groteska offered its public contemporary plays, some avant-garde: plays by Polish dramatists Sławomir Mrożek, Tadeusz Różewicz, Andrzej Bursa, as well as by international playwrights, such as Alfred Jarry, Federico García Lorca, Michel de Ghelderode, and Bertolt Brecht.
During the period of Freda Leniewicz’s management (1975-1990), Groteska’s direction was as a theatre of masks. Jan Polewka, artist and stage designer, took over as head of the theatre from 1990 to 1998. He instituted a distinctively fine art dominance in the activity of the theatre, emphasizing the visual, notably with Słońce zachodzi (The Sun is Setting, 1991) by Ghelderode, with stage design by Joanna Braun, and by Polewka’s own play, Miromagia (1993).
Since 1998, Groteska has been headed by the stage director, Adolf Weltschek.