Close-up: An Interview with Paulina Janczak

PAULINA Janczak is one of the most exciting talents in European theatre. Close-up Culture spoke with the Warsaw-based actor about her impressive rise to prominence.

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Q: Can you tell us about your background and why you decided to pursue acting?

A: I ATTENDED music school where I played the piano and flute. I did not feel, however, that this was something I wanted to pursue in my life, although no one can take these skills away from me.

I continued to look for the right thing for me. At first I tried ballroom dancing and then moved onto singing. It was a perfect timing as I soon heard about the casting for the Polish version of the Phantom of the Opera at the ROMA Musical Theater in Warsaw. So I decided to take my chance.

In fact, I auditioned mainly to get to know this world and see what a real casting looks like, to know what to expect in the future. I did not have any expectations whatsoever. To everyone’s surprise (mainly my own) I got through to the next stage and then in the final cast as Christine Daae. I felt really lucky but also I knew that there was a lot of pressure and responsibility ahead. Above all thought it was an amazing experience.

Q: Your parents both worked on the stage. Did you feel pressure to become an actor when you were younger?

A: ABSOLUTELY not. I would even go as far as to say they were trying to talk me out of it. Yes, my mum sent me to a music school but I never had the pressure to be the best in my class. They supported me when I had the idea of becoming a philologist. I did not feel pressure back then. More so now.

Q: Can you talk about any key moments in your development as a performer?

A: THE first key moment was the premiere of the Phantom of the Opera with me as Christine Daae. I was the youngest performer of this role in the world. I was 17 years old and rubbing shoulders with sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was amazing!

But key moments can also be negative. When you do not have a job for a few months, you start to think about yourself – what to improve, what else to learn. It is never the case that those quiet times are automatically unproductive.

Now, that I have a lot of work, I am thankful for those moments when I did not have so much of it, because without them I would not be such a conscious actress and person that I am today.

Q: You put the following quote on your Instagram: ‘when you’re on stage the real work just drops away for that time.’ Can you elaborate?

A: THAT is what I love about this job. When I am on stage, everything that is not related to what is happening here and now simply does not exist. It is this magical time that makes me happy.

Q: Is there a theatre production or a character that you would love to play in the future?

A: I HAVE three titles actually: Love Never Dies, Woman in White and Light in the Piazza. It would also be an honour to play Christine in the Phantom of the Opera in the original London production.

Image by Anna Pabijańczyk

Q: What is life like as a performer in Warsaw? Is there a friendly environment for creatives?

A: WARSAW is becoming more and more friendly to the musical world. And actually other cities in Poland as well. Polish society falls in love with this genre more and more, which results in ever increasing number of productions, which for us performers is a great tendency.

Q: You have also done television work. Do you want to do more television and film work?

A: I WOULD like to appear more often on the small as well as the big screen. I think I am doing quite well so far and I will continue pursuing it as I simply love to perform. And not just in musicals. I feel great both on stage and in front of a camera.

Q: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects you can share with us?

A: THIS coming April we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Phantom of the Opera in Poland. For this occasion the musical is resumed at the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Białystok. We will play 40 performances.

From September in the same theatre I will play the role of Lara Guichard in Doctor Zhivago by Lucy Simon. I had the great honour to get a message from Lucy herself with appreciation and congratulations on my interpretation of this material.

Next season, I am also starting work in yet another theater in my career – at the Polish Theater in Warsaw.

Title Image by Marta Jarczewska

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