Tuesday 11 June 2019

"Acting is About Being Close to People": Łódź Film School Actor Interviews (ii): Anna Paliga

Anna Paliga (Photo: abewu.pl)

Anna Paliga plays multiple roles in Pomysłowe Mebelki z Gąbki (Fever) and the character of Renata in Śliskie słowa (Slippery Words) at Teatr Studyjny, Łódź. She also plays Susannah Walcott in The Crucible (Czarownice z Salem) at Jaracz Theatre.

Alex Ramon: How does it feel to be at the end of your training and at the point of saying goodbye to your colleagues?

Anna Paliga: When you're in such a group for four years it feels like a family - and it is a family, in a way. Our year is a very young one - we don't have any students over 24 years old - so it feels like we started out as kids and really grew up together. So when I think about the end of school, I mostly think about losing that special bond. Of course it will still be there, but we won't be seeing each other all the time now.

AR: Turning the clock back, when did your interest in acting start?

AP: It started very early for me. I always had this need to be watched, I think. My family told me that when I was little they called me "the gypsy child" because I would always leave them behind, head off on my own, and talk to other people. I'm from Rzeszów and I was part of a theatre group with some other children. We were brought together by a director and we used to travel around Poland performing at festivals. So from an early age my life was made up of these experiences. It was later that I decided I wanted to make it professional. I was searching for a kind of community - maybe a "commune" in a hippy or gypsy sense. A place where people are open and are doing something together, and where they have the same direction.

Anna Paliga (Photo: Tomasz Wysocki)

AR: And why Łódź Film School? 

AP: I had just turned 18 when I graduated from high school and I wasn't sure that anywhere would want me, being so young. I also felt that maybe I wanted to know a bit more about life, and have more experiences. But I decided to go for the exams and I was accepted. So the fact that I came to Łódź is a matter of chance, really.

AR: How has the training at the School changed or challenged your views about acting?

AP: Well, when I was in high school I thought that I wanted to be in the theatre, mainly. But when I started studying here, I realised that it isn't my way, and that what I actually want to focus on is film. I've been in a lot of short films during my time at the School, made by lots of different directors. And I feel that in film there's something that you can't reach in theatre. Also, I like the fact that it's not repetitive. A disadvantage of the training here is that we mostly focus on acting for theatre. So it was challenging and rewarding to be in the short films: although I was helping the directors by participating, they were also teaching me many things and I liked that they could see something in me and what I was trying to do. So these student directors were also my professors in a way.

Anna Paliga in Aquarium (2017)

AR: Going back to theatre, how was making the first Diploma show, Fever, for you?

AP: It was very interesting. But hard because we didn't study the grotesque at all, or even have many comedy classes. Łódź Film School is famous for making students feel things, for being dramatic and depressed, for crying... So I'm perfect at crying and I can feel a lot of things! But other elements we had to learn while making the show. And also how to play with the audience. I think we are still learning that, because it's different every time.

But it's an important show for us because we could say something about Poland with it. I particularly love the Hutsul scenes; I think they're very powerful. "Swollen Problems" was traumatic for me at the start, because it's not my kind of humour. But now, after 30 performances or however many we did, I enjoy it more and found my way into it. It's been interesting with this show, because I feel like I couldn't do a lot of things at the beginning but that I learned things through the whole process. And I realised that that's why I'm here: to push myself into different things, things that might feel uncomfortable. I didn't expect that that would be so important for me.

Anna Paliga and Faustyna Kazimierska in Fever 

AR: How did making the third Diploma show, Śliskie słowa with Artur Urbański, compare?

AP: We had input into Fever, but with Śliskie słowa we improvised a lot and created whole scenes and characters. We were looking for something that was personal to us.

AR: So did you always dream of working in Żabka like your character Renata?

AP: When I was in high school I started talking to some of the homeless people in my town. I had my favourite ones to chat to. And when I moved to Łódź, well, I found that it was full of such people! I had a bad car accident my first year here; I was on crutches afterwards and had to rest a lot as I went around the city. So I'd sit on benches with homeless people and they'd help me with my leg and tell me about their lives. Then those friendships became a part of my life.

I often find that I have strong relationships with shop-workers as well! And I had my favourite Żabka lady in a branch near the theatre. She was amazing, and we were having all these funny conversations every time I went into the shop. I was telling my colleagues about it at the theatre, and Urbański said: "You have to play this!" So that's how Renata was born.

Anna Paliga in Śliskie słowa (Photo: Aleksandra Pawlowska)
AR: What do you find interesting about playing her?

AP: She's looking for love and she can't find it. It's something that everybody goes through. And they end up using the Internet to meet people or going to a psychiatrist just to be listened to. I think it's a disaster for society, a lot of the time. And I wanted to talk about that in the show.

AR: Tell me about being in The Crucible at Jaracz Theatre. 

AP: The work was amazing. We created a female group - the "girly group" - and worked a lot on the possession scenes. We liked each other so much that it was - and is - very special to play. We all feel supported by each other - that we can do anything and someone will catch us. That goes for the whole group. So we're getting more and more possessed from one show to the next! It's like a fast moving train.

"The Girly Group" in The Crucible (Photo: Magda Hueckel) 

AR: So we've ended up talking a lot about theatre and it sounds like it has its rewards for you, after all. What about your upcoming film projects?

AP: I'm working on a Polish/Israeli film. I'll also play the lead in a Polish horror film that I'm very excited about but can't talk about in detail yet. One of my favourite films is Possession, so, like I said, I'm thrilled about this project. Film is definitely what I'm more into for the future. I'm very inspired by Gabriela Muskała. We worked with her last year at the School and we loved her so much. It was inspiring that she wrote the script for Fuga because she was looking for something very challenging to play. I like to write as well; I didn't have time during my studies but I want to do it in the future because I think it's a big advantage for an actor to be able to write your own scripts.

AR: And how do you feel about Łódź as a city? You mentioned that you like hanging out with the street people...

AP: Yes. When I first came here I felt it was too much for me: too big, too many people. But now I feel very connected to Łódź. I think the city's cultural life is so exciting. It has a different feel to other cities. It's not posh, but it's artistic. Yeah, people can be negative about it. But you know, Polish people like to be negative. So this keeps them happy in a way.

AR: Finally, could you say a few words about what acting means to you: as a craft, as a profession?

AP: People like to say a lot of things about acting - OK, I've been doing it now - but what I really think is that it's not something so special. It's about being near to people, not above them. That's why it's interesting, because it's not about being above. I need to be on the ground, close to people. I think that's my job as an actor, and that's why I love it.

Śliskie słowa is performed for a final time at Teatr Studyjny tonight, 11 June. Fever is performed for a final time on 17 June.

ANNA PALIGA SHOWREEL 2017 from Ania Paliga on Vimeo.

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