Skip to main content

Allen Kuharski

Professor Emeritus

Emeritus Theater

Contact

  1. Email:akuhars1@swarthmore.edu
  2. Phone: (610) 328-7794
  3. Fax: (610) 957-6179
  4. LPAC 015

Allen J. Kuharski (Professor Emeritus/Senior Research Scholar) has worked professionally as a set designer, director, dramaturge, translator, performance curator, editor, and critic. He writes on contemporary American, Polish, and LGBTQ+ theater, directors and directing practice, and ensemble-based/devised/physical performance.  His professional and scholarly work encompasses dance and opera performance in addition to theater. He translates from both Polish and French. Kuharski has taught in the Department of Theater at Swarthmore College from 1990 thru 2021, and for ten years (2010-2020) held the Stephen Lang Chair of Performing Arts. He developed and oversaw the Department’s studio curriculum in directing and its academic core curriculum in theater history, performance theory, comparative drama, and production dramaturgy. He has also taught at the University of California at Berkeley, the graduate program in theatre at Villanova University, and in the MFA Program in Devised Performance at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Kuharski served as Chair of the Department of Theater for twenty years, and in that capacity also oversaw the development of the current curriculum in acting, design, and playwriting/dramaturgy, in particular designing the Department’s innovative work with the Swarthmore’s signature Honors Program. During his years as Chair, the Department’s faculty and staffing significantly expanded. In 2014, the Kuharski Theater Studio was inaugurated as a new dedicated rehearsal/classroom space after a successful fundraising campaign with department alumni.

Prof. Kuharski co-founded Swarthmore College's semester-abroad programs in Theater, Dance, and Environmental Studies in 1999, and co-directed the programs in Theater and Dance there through 2009. The Poland Program was notable for producing a large number of successful future Fulbright Scholars to Poland. Swarthmore Bulletin story on Poland Program.

In order to support the ongoing professional artistic activity of Theater Department alumni, faculty, and staff, Kuharski founded the Swarthmore Project in Theater (SPT) in 1995. SPT provides in-kind grant support in the form of free rehearsal space on campus during the Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring breaks. Between 1995 and 2008, it also provided free on-campus housing to qualifying groups. Artists and groups supported by SPT include Pig Iron Theatre Company, the Wilma Theater, Paula Vogel, Geoff Sobelle, Deborah Stein, Suli Holum, New Paradise Laboratories, Riot Group, Lear deBessonet, Cynthia Hopkins, Jeff Sugg, Flying Carpet Theatre Company, Early Morning Opera, Nicole Canuso Dance Company, CENTRALA, Stolen Chair Theatre Company, Swim Pony Performing Arts, Green Chair Dance Group, and Sabooge Theatre Company.  More here.

Kuharski nominated the distinguished feminist/queer theorist Sue-Ellen Case as the Lang Visiting Professor of Social Change in LGBTQ+ Studies, Theater, and English Literature in 1993-94. He similarly nominated Polish choreographer Jacek Łumiński of the Silesian Dance Theatre (Śląski Teatr Tańca) in Bytom as Lang Visiting Professor of Social Change in Theater and Dance in the Fall semester of 2001. In 2019-20, Kuharski nominated the director Michał Zadara ’99 and the actor/director Barbara Wysocka from Poland as concurrent Cornell Professors in Theater. The Julien and Virginia Cornell Visiting Professorship brings professors or lecturers from other nations and cultures to the college for a semester or a year. 
More Here.  And here.

In 2017-18, Kuharski was a Fulbright research scholar in theater affiliated with the Institute of Literary Studies (Instytut Badań Literackich/IBL) in the Polish Academy of Arts & Sciences (Polska Akademia Nauk/PAN) in Warsaw. He previously was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship as a post-graduate student in Scenography at Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts (Akademia Sztuk Pięknych) in 1981, where he studied under the experimental director/designer Józef Szajna. More here.

Kuharski’s service at Swarthmore has included chairing the William J. Cooper Foundation on campus, the Sager Fund Committee for LBGTQ+ Studies, and the Swarthmore College Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Kuharski was also a founding co- director of the College’s Intercultural Center, working for several years as a faculty advisor with the campus LGBTQ+ student organization. Off-campus, Kuharski has served on the boards of the Pig Iron Theatre Company in Philadelphia, the Riot Group in New York City, and on the grant selection committee of the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund. 

With Prof. Barbara Milewski in the Department of Music & Dance, Kuharski in 2015 secured the College’s first grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage (PCAH) for a performance residency and East Coast tour by the Warsaw-based independent company CENTRALA for their production of Chopin Without Piano (co-created by Barbara Wysocka and Michał Zadara). Along with workshops and a first performance on the Swarthmore campus, Chopin Without Piano was subsequently performed in Philadelphia and Boston, in addition to its ongoing touring in Poland and other
countries. The PCAH grant at that time was the largest outside grant ever received by the College in the Arts & Humanities Division.
More information on CHOPIN WITHOUT PIANO:
https://www.swarthmore.edu/cooper-series/chopin-without-piano
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAkoAebJERc 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzFkUs9yycY

Prof. Kuharski’s articles, translations, and reviews have been widely published in the United States, Great Britain, Poland, Canada, France, Austria, Argentina, Norway, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands. He has contributed to over two dozen edited volumes and encyclopedias that include publications in several foreign languages. 

Kuharski has contributed to the following award-winning books and edited volumes:
---Gombrowicz in Transnational Context: Subjectivity, Translation, Context (Anna M. Cienciala Award for best edited book by the Polish Institute of Arts & Sciences in America, 2021)
---Being Poland: A History of Polish Literature and Culture Since 1918 (American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages Prize for Best Edited Volume, 2019)
---the Norwegian edition of Witold Gombrowicz’s Diary (Norwegian Literary Critics Award for Best Translation into Norwegian, 2012)

Plays that he has translated or productions that he has commissioned/curated or for which he has served as dramaturge have been widely performed nationally and in seven foreign countries (see details below).

Kuharski has worked as an editor for Theatre Journal, Slavic and East European Performance, and Periphery: Journal of Polish Affairs. He is a co-editor of the ongoing sixteen-volume Polish critical edition of the complete works of playwright Witold Gombrowicz (published by Wydawnictwo Literackie in Kraków), as well as for the official website on the writer's work (gombrowicz.net) launched in France by his widow Rita Gombrowicz in 2010. Kuharski has also contributed to authoritative editions of Gombrowicz’s Diary published by Yale University Press (2012) and by Flamme Forlag in Oslo, Norway (2013).

Journals which have published Kuharski’s work include Yale/Theater, Theatre Journal, TDR, New Theatre Quarterly, Performing Arts Journal (PAJ), Slavic Review, Modern Painters, TheatreForum, Text & Presentation, Slavic & East European Performance, European Stages, The San Francisco Review of Books, The Polish Review, Periphery: Journal of Polish Affairs, Dialog (Warsaw), Teatr (Warsaw), Pamiętnik Teatralny (Warsaw), Notatnik Teatralny (Wrocław), The Bi-Weekly/Twutygodnik (Warsaw), Ruch Muzyczny (Warsaw), The Theatre In Poland/Le théâtre en Pologne (Warsaw), Tytuł (Gdańsk), Kresy (Lublin), and Philological Forum (Sofia, Bulgaria).

In addition to three faculty lectures at Swarthmore, Kuharski has given invited lectures at Yale University, Harvard University, Columbia University, Stanford University, UCLA, the University of Virginia, Indiana University, UC-Santa Cruz, Colgate University, Muhlenberg College, the University Utah-Salt Lake City, California State University-Long Beach, the University of North Texas, and Texas Women’s University. 

He has also lectured internationally at Oxford University, the University of Toronto, Université Paris IV-Sorbonne, NYU-Abu Dhabi, Université Charles de Gaulle (Lille), Jagiellonian University (Kraków), the Institute for Literary Research/Polish Academy of Arts & Sciences (Warsaw), Boğaziçi University (Istanbul), the Netherlands Theatre Institute (Amsterdam), University of Tampere (Finland), and Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno (Buenos Aires). 

For Kuharski’s work as translator and dramaturge for Teatr Provisorium & Kompania Teatr of Lublin’s English-language stage adaptation of Witold Gombrowicz’s novel Ferdydurke, he won a Fringe First Award in Edinburgh in 2001.

In 2002, he received the Order of Merit in Polish Culture. In 2005, he shared an OBIE Award (Special Citation) for his work on Pig Iron Theatre Company’s Hell Meets Henry Halfway. Also in 2005, he received the Cultural Achievement Award from the American Council for Polish Culture.

In 2006, he was given the Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz Award by the Polish chapter of the International Theatre Institute/UNESCO.

With the support of William J. Cooper Foundation and other funding sources, Prof. Kuharski has organized the following guest artist residencies and performances at Swarthmore College:
---Pig Iron Theatre Company (2001; 2014; 2021)
---director/designer Lars Jan ’00 and his company Early Morning Opera (2019)
---Polish director Michał Zadara and director/actor Barbara Wysocka (2015)
---Polish director Michał Zadara and Canadian literary executor Rita Gombrowicz (2009)
---French actor and master voice teacher Jean-René Toussaint (2008)
---playwright Adriano Shaplin and the Riot Group (2007)
---Teatr Sláva of Stockholm, Sweden (2006)
---Ukrainian singer/actor Mariana Sadovska (2005)
---Teatr Provisorium & Kompania Teatr of Lublin, Poland (2000; 2001)
---Silesian Dance Theatre of Bytom, Poland (1999, 2001)
---director/actor/playwright Joseph Chaikin (1991; 2001)
---Sotigui Kouyaté Company of Burkina Faso (1998)
---Qi Shu Fang Peking Opera Company (1992; 1994)
---Peggy Shaw (1994)
---San Francisco Mime Troupe (1993)

He also organized three major symposia on the Swarthmore campus:
---“Liberal Arts and the Embodiment of Performance: Philadelphia, America, and the World” (2022) 
---The Invisible Art: Dramaturgy in American Theater; in honor of the retirement of Prof. Lee Devin (2003)
---Dancing History: Poland and Contemporary Dance Theatre; dedicated to contextualizing the work of choreographer Jacek Łumiński and his company Silesian Dance Theatre (2001) 

Kuharski has curated several exhibits devoted to Polish poster design:
---Swarthmore College/McCabe Library (2015, 2022).
---special exhibit of archival posters and production photos documenting the international performance history of playwright Witold Gombrowicz in Lublin, Poland, as part the Gombrowicz International Centennial Year (2004)
---Three Dimensions Gallery, Berkeley, CA (1983)
---University of California at Berkeley, Zellerbach Theater (1983),
---University of Wisconsin at Madison, Elvehjem Museum of Art (1982)

Professional / Production Experience
Dramaturgical Consultant, CENTRALA, Warsaw, Poland, 2013-2020
Dramaturge, for Juliusz Słowacki’s Salomea’s Silver Dream (Sen srebrny Salomei), directed by Michał Zadara, CENTRALA/Teatre Studio, Warsaw, 2018
-----Grand Prize, Kontrapunkt Theatre Festival, Szczecin, Poland, 2019
Program essays commissioned for productions by CENTRALA (Warsaw), Teatr Studio (Warsaw), Teatr Nowy (Warsaw), Teatr Polski (Wrocław), Stary Teatr (Kraków), Teatr Nowy (Łódź), Teatr Powszechny (Warsaw), Słowacki Teatr (Kraków), Theatre Confrontations Festival (Lublin), Collected Works (San Francisco), Woolly Mammoth (Washington, DC), Wiener Festwochen (Vienna), Warsaw Theatre Meetings Festival, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club (New York, NY), American Repertory Theatre (Cambridge, MA). Stalhouderij Theatre Company (Amsterdam) (1991-2018)
Literary Advisor, Teatr Provisorium; Kompania Teatr, Lublin, Poland (2000-2009)
Translator (with Helena M. White) for Tadeusz Rozewicz's Bite the Dust  (Do Piachu) for performance in English by Teatr Provisorium; Kompania Teatr of Lublin, Poland.  English-language version first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2008. Subsequently performed in Lublin (2008) and Trondheim (Norway, 2008). This is the only translation into any language approved by the playwright. Dramaturgical Consultant for Witold Gombrowicz's Operetta, Eugene Lang College/La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club (New York City, 2006)
Dramaturge for Pig Iron Theatre Company's production of Adriano Shaplin's Hell Meets Henry Halfway, freely based on Witold Gombrowicz's novel Possessed.  Performed at Swarthmore College (2004); Philadelphia LiveArts Festival (Plays and Players Theatre, 2004); Princeton University (2004); Kaunas (Lithuania, 2004); Warsaw and Lublin (Poland, 2004); New York City (Ohio Theater, 2004); Harvard University (2005); Philadelphia (Drexel University, 2006); Wesleyan University (2006);  (Ukraine, 2006); University of Virginia (2007); Washington, DC (Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 2009); Mamroneck, NY (Emelin Theatre, 2010).  Hell Meets Henry Halfway received an OBIE Award (Special Citation) in 2005.  Dramaturge for Theatre Exile of Philadelphia's production of the East Coast professional premiere of Witold Gombrowicz's Ivona, Princess of Burgundia in 2002.  Translator/Dramaturge, Ferdydurke, stage adaptation of the novel by Witold Gombrowicz by Teatr Provisorium; Kompania Teatr. English-language version performed at Swarthmore College (2000, 2001); Philadelphia (The Arts Bank; 2000); New York City (Raw Space, 2000; La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, 2001); Los Angeles (City Garage, 2000; Odyssey Theatre, 2004); Pomona College (2000); University of California at Los Angeles (2000); Chicago (Chopin Theater, 2002; Chicago Humanities Festival, 2004); Princeton University (2001); University of Utah (2001); Indiana University (2002); Indianapolis (American Cabaret Theater, 2002); Cairo International Theatre Festival (2001); Theatre Confrontations Festival (Lublin, Poland,
2002, 2004); Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2001); Warsaw (Teatr Mały, 2002); Stockholm and Falun (Sweden, 2003); Yale School of Drama (2004); Trondheim (Norway, 2006); London (Bloomsbury Theatre, 2007); Warsaw (Teatr Montownia, 2007); Lublin (Trybunał Koronny, 2009); Lublin (Art Studio, 2010)
-----The English performance text together with Kuharsk's introduction was published in PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art (2002)
Translator (with Dariusz Bukowski), History, by Witold Gombrowicz. Published in PAJ (1998) with Kuharski's introduction. English play text reprinted in full in program for the 55 th Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music (2012)
Director, Details/Cannot/Body/Wants, by Chin Woon Ping, Urban Stages, New York City. Performed by Chin Woon Ping, and featuring Qi Shu Fang, Ding Mei Kwei, and Cecilia Pang of the Qi Shu Fang Peking Opera Company and Dito van Reigersberg of
Pig Iron Theatre Company. Choreography by Suli Holum (1997)
Dramaturge, Ivona, Princess of Burgundia, by Witold Gombrowicz. Directed by Gail Lerner. Columbia University (1996)
Translator (with George Moskos), Rhinoceros, by Eugène Ionesco. Originally commissioned by the Studio Theatre (Washington, DC, 1995). Also produced in Greenboro, NC (University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1998); Philadelphia (Theatre Exile, 2000); Salt Lake City (University of Utah, 2000); Fresno, CA (American College Theatre Festival-West Coast Regional, 2000); Berkeley, CA (Berkeley Repertory Theatre; 2002); Boston (Boston College, 2002; TheatreWorks, 2004; Boston University, 2006); Colgate University (2017)
Director, The War In Heaven (by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin), Struck Dumb (by Jean-Claude van Itallie and Joseph Chaikin), and What Is The Word (by Samuel Beckett). Performed by Joseph Chaikin. Swarthmore College (1991)
Set Designer, The Glass Menagerie (by Tennessee Williams), University of California at Berkeley/SignRise Theatre for the Deaf. Statewide California tour (1987)
Director, The War In Heaven (by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin), The Victims of Duty (by Eugène Ionesco). Performed by Joseph Chaikin. International Theatre Festival and Conference, Gardzienice Theatre Association, Lublin, Poland (1987)
Set Designer, Benefactors, by Michael Frayn (West Coast premiere). Addison Stage Company, Berkeley, CA (1987)
Set Designer, Hurlyburly, by David Rabe (West Coast premiere). Addison Stage Company, Berkeley, CA (1987)
Set Designer, Talley's Folly, by Lanford Wilson. Addison Stage Company, Berkeley, CA (1986)
Director, Set Designer, White Marriage, by Tadeusz Rozewicz. University of California at Berkeley (1986)
Director for seven productions at the University of California at Berkeley (1982-85)
Set designer for 20 productions at the University of California at Berkeley (1982-87)
Set designer for productions at San Francisco Opera (1983), California Coast Opera
(1984, 1985), Foothill College (Los Altos, CA, 1984), the University of Wisconsin at
Madison (1978, 1980)

Education
Ph.D. in Dramatic Art (Director-Scholar Program), University of California at Berkeley, 1991.
M.A. in Dramatic Art (Director-Scholar Program), University of California at Berkeley, 1986.
Fulbright Scholar in Scenography, Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, 1981.
B.A. in Theatre & Drama (Set Design), University of Wisconsin at Madison, 1981.
Phi Beta Kappa, inducted 1980.