Polish stage director, managing director of puppet theatres. Henryk Ryl, graduate of the Seminarium Nauczycielskie Męskie (Teaching College for Men) in 1930, taught in primary schools in Eastern Poland up to the outbreak of World War II, where he organized theatre games for children. Wounded in the campaign of September 1939, he was interned together with other Polish officers at Oflag VIIA in Murnau, Germany, until the end of the war. In Murnau he was one of the organizers and, from 1942, head of the camp puppet theatre, writing and directing plays. After liberation from the camp in 1945, Henryk Ryl, together with the Polish stage director Leon Schiller, organized the Teatr Ludowy im. Wojciecha Bogusławskiego (Wojciech Bogusławski’s People’s Theatre) in Lingen, Germany, where he headed the puppet section. Upon his return to Poland, from 1946-1948, he took over the Teatr Lalek Groteska II in Cracow, then founded his own theatre, the Arlekin, in Łódź, which he administered until 1974, remaining as its stage director until 1978.
Henryk Ryl was the architect for the successful nationalization of the first Polish puppet theatres and a tireless promoter of the profession of puppeteer. To raise the standard of Polish puppet practice and to expand the popularity of the art, he organized seminars, competitions, courses and discussions. He took part in the creation of a Polish journal of puppetry, Teatr Lalek (Puppet Theatre), and for many years was its editor-in-chief and author.
In 1957, as a member of the Presidium of UNIMA, Henyrk Ryl initiated cooperation between Polish and foreign puppet companies. Until the end of his life he was head of the Polish Centre of UNIMA, POLUNIMA.
Henryk Ryl was an “orthodox” puppeteer who supported the idea of the puppet in the puppet theatre and of the puppet theatre as an attractive art form for children. He attached great importance to the realistic style of the performance, on manipulation skills and acting techniques of animation, as in Sambo i lew (Sambo and Lion, 1952) by Frant. He preferred tales of adventure and emotion in the theatre to reflection and intellectualism. With Kolorowe Piosenki (Motley Songs), which he returned to in 1949 and again in 1953 and 1958, he harked back to childhood through serious research on new manipulation techniques: glove puppets, Muppet-style puppets, flat stained glass figures, and masks. Indeed, his respect for tradition went hand in hand with the desire to surprise audiences. He experimented with various methods of animation, with interactions between puppet and puppeteer, and even attempted object theatre with Młynek do kawy (The Coffee Mill, 1959) by Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński. While concentrating on plays for children, Ryl was also interested in introducing the puppet in a dramatic adult repertoire, as in Molière’s The Doctor in Spite of Himself (1954) and Juliusz Słowacki’s Balladyna (1957) and Lilla Weneda (1966).
Henryk Ryl worked with leading Polish artists (Ali Bunsch, Konstanty Mackiewicz, Wacław Kondek), and trained many of the actor-puppeteers in his theatre who remained active on the stages of Poland up to the mid 1980s.
- Jurkowski, Henryk. “O Henryku Rylu” [About Henryk Ryl]. Scena. No. 12. Warszawa, 1977.
- Jurkowski, Henryk. O Henryku Rylu. Jubileusz XXXV-lecia [About Henryk Ryl. The 35th Jubilee Anniversary]. Łódź: P.T.L. Arlekin, 1976.
- Polakowski, Andrzej. “Szkic do portretu Henryka Ryla” [A sketch for a Portrait of Henryk Ryl]. Łódzkie sceny lalkowe [The Puppet Theatres of Łódź]. Eds. Andrzej Polakowski and Marek Waszkiel. Łódź: POLUNIMA, 1992.
- 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).
- Waszkiel, Marek. “Henryk Ryl”. Polski Słownik Biograficzny [Polish Biographical Dictionary]. Vol. 33. Wrocław/Warszawa/Kraków: Ossolineum, 1991-1992.