Mar 292015

Hanna Bondarewska: Ambassador on Stage

By Kasia RaniÅ›

When you first meet Hanna Bondarewska, the Artistic Director of the Ambassador Theater International Cultural Center (ATICC), you see her as a typical artist: spontaneous, energetic, passionate, perhaps slightly disconnected from reality… yet, full of practical ideas that can turn a seemingly impossible dream into reality.

She grew up in Warsaw in a home where attending theater, concerts and cultural events was part of regularly practiced family traditions. As a child, she performed in dance groups and school theater productions where her native talents were quickly recognized and she soon appeared on professional stage. She took her first acting steps in the Ochota Theater in Warsaw, under the watchful eyes of the prominent Polish film and theater director Jan Machulski and his wife Halina, known from multiple film and theater roles. Pursuing her passion, Hanna received her acting diploma from the Polish Ministry of Culture and incarnated various roles on stages throughout Poland, from Warsaw, Białystok, Olsztyn, Katowice to Toruń, among many others.

Hanna Bondarewska as Negma Sadiq in “The Visitor” by Alfred Farag

When eventually life took her to America in early 1990s, she continued to hone her acting, as well as directorial and management, skills in Washington, DC, Florida, and New York. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Mt. Vernon College of the George Washington University and later worked as Executive Director at the Institute for Education. She performed at Washington Shakespeare Theater, Classika/Synetic Theater, Spectrum, The New York Polish Theater, Hippodrome and Acrosstown Theaters in Florida, to name a few.

However, Hanna’s lifelong dream was to open her own theater and in 2008, she turned that dream into reality. While she was teaching acting to young students, one day, a four-year old pupil overheard the conversation his teacher had with his parents, wishfully “dreaming” out loud: “If only each person living in America spared one dollar for my theater…”. Little Thomas came up to her, pulled a dollar bill from his pocket and said “Here is my dollar Miss Hanna, please start the theater”. She dared not to disappoint such hope and inspiration from a child.

The establishment of Ambassador Theater International Cultural Center was truly a leap of faith. In a city like Washington, which teems with theaters big and small, each competing for audiences and financial support, it was indeed an act of courage to pursue such an endeavor. Yet, it was done and after more than five years, Hanna’s theater continues to exist and is recognized as an important cultural institution. ATICC partnered with various embassies as well as organizations such as Institute for Education, Kosciuszko Foundation, American and George Washington Universities, to name a few. What started with that one dollar bill attracted others to join and become regular contributors. Of course, there is a constant need to develop more support in order to thrive and present interesting works from around the world and develop an international cultural dialog.

The Ambassador Theater and its performances target audiences of all ages while the ATICC’s education arm embraces children and youth. Its first highly recognized undertaking was a year-round in-school program put together with collaboration of Hanna Reiter, the wife of former Ambassador, Janusz Reiter at the Polish Embassy, the Washington Performing Arts Society, Embassy Adoption Program, and DC Public Schools. It culminated in the production called “Poland the Beautiful: An Imaginary Flight.” At the initiative of Poland’s First Lady, Maria KaczyÅ„ska, the students were rewarded with a trip to Poland, where they visited Warsaw, Krakow, ToruÅ„, Mazury, climbed the Sudeten Mountains, and performed at the Presidential Palace, as well as at other places across the country. Today, the center offers participation in drama classes, summer camps, in-school outreach programs and educational workshops. Its mission is to help students become well educated through the use of interactive learning method through theater games and art, and to develop essential communications skills. ATICC’s work also comprises discussions, play readings, bare bone productions and Literary Cafés projects, offering evenings of poetry and music.

Hanna Bondarewska as George Sand

Scene from “Summer at Nohant” by Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz

Hanna’s Polish roots are often reflected in ATICC’s activities. The first theater production at the Ambassador was the DC premiere of SÅ‚awomir Mrożek’s Polish masterpiece “Out at Sea” (Na peÅ‚nym morzu). As of today, the theater boasts fifteen premieres, including many Polish plays, such as “The Forefathers” (Dziady) by Adam Mickiewicz, “The Madman and the Nun” (Wariat i Zakonnica) by StanisÅ‚aw Witkiewicz (aka Witkacy), or “The Third Breast” (Trzecia PierÅ›) by Ireneusz IredyÅ„ski. The next production will feature “The Trap” (PuÅ‚apka) by the internationally acclaimed and highly respected Polish poet, Tadeusz Różewicz, who died in April 2014.

As the head of ATICC, Hanna Bondarewska wears many hats: she is a business manager, developer, artistic director, box office manager, house manager, and production manager, marketing director, PR and an actress herself. She says her acting skills, determination and enormous energy derived from her parents and God: “I believe, they were essential to get the Ambassador Theater on its feet and steadily proceed with its mission. I believe in honesty and love; these are the main driving forces behind it all. Passion!!!!!”

Hanna Bondarewska is a member of the Polish American Arts Association. For more information about her, the ATICC and all the wonderful people involved in it, see: If you like what you see and want to invest in this endeavor, there is a “Donate Now” button you can click on and make your tax-deductible contribution.

Tadeusz Różewicz

Tadeusz Różewicz was born in Radomsko, Poland, on October 9, 1921. During World War II, he was a soldier in the Home Army, the underground resistance movement in occupied Poland. For two years, he fought in a guerrilla unit and wrote his first poems. After studying the history of art at university in Krakow, he began to publish both poetry and plays. His first volumes of poetry were Anxiety (1947) and The Red Glove (1948). After 1956, he primarily wrote plays, including The Card Index, The Witnesses or Our Little Stabilization, and The Old Woman Broods. In 1999, he published a collection of poems, family documents, photos and essays entitled Mother Departs, which won the Nike prize, the most eminent Polish literary award. He died on April 24, 2014, at the age of 92. Tadeusz Różewicz is widely considered one of Poland’s most important and influential writers. His works tend to focus on universal themes, but speak particularly to the generation of Polish adults whose memories of youth, like his own, are filled with the horrifying experiences of World War II. Różewicz often scorns the conventional techniques and philosophies of literature and frequently questions the validity of poetry itself. Różewicz explored the life of one of his literary heroes, Franz Kafka, in the loosely biographical play The Trap (1982). The play also depicts the demise of artistic creativity, played out against visions of the impending ‘‘final solution’’—Hitler’s largely executed plan for the systematic murder of all Jews in Europe. Washington audiences will have the opportunity to see The Trap in a production by the Ambassador Theater, scheduled for May-June 2015. It will be presented in the original translation by Adam Czerniawski, Polish poet, essayist, and author of short stories, now living in Wales. 5 The Ambassador Theater presents “The Trap” by Tadeusz Różewicz May 28 – June 21 Thu-Sat at 8 pm, Sun at 2 PM George Washington University, Building XX 814 20th Street NW, 2nd Floor Washington , DC 20052