The oldest „theatrical academy” in Warsaw which was to eduacte professional actors was opened in 1811 by Wojciech Bogusławski. It was characterized by an extremely modern conception and an extensive curriculum in those days. Although the college lasted only several years but it served next schools as a unique model for over a hundred years. A manuscript of Bogusławski’s lectures Dramaturgia, czyli nauka sztuki scenicznej (Dramaturgy e.i. education of theatrical art) is a material trace of the school’s activity. A direct predecessor of the capital Academy of Drama was Państwowy Instytut Sztuki Teatralnej (PIST; the State Institute of Theatrical Arts) founded in 1932. There was the Acting Department there conducted by Aleksander Zelwerowicz (the first director of PIST) and the Directing Department which was run by Leon Schiller. Stress was laid not only on the development of practical skills but also on the acquistion of extensive liberal knowledge.
The foundation of PIST created a new quality in the history of the evolution of polish drama education. It lay in the fact that for the first time an independent state college was formed whose only aim was to educate stage artists and at the same time one could find among its instructors a lot of eminent personalities form the artistic and scientific circles. That is why the PIST society actually influenced the theatrical life in Poland.
Academy of drama
Soon after World War Two was over the State Institute of Theatrical Arts (PIST) was reactivated in Łódź and was named Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Teatralna (the State Academy of Drama) with Schiller as the rector, whereas in Warsaw Zelwerowicz (first related to PIST) organized a somewhat competitive college which was finally called Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Aktorska (the State Actor’s Academy). In 1950 both academies united into Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Teatralna (PWST: the State Academy of Drama) which funcioned in the capital: Jan Kreczmar became the rector. In 1955 special celebrations marked the the naming of the Academy after Aleksander Zelwerowicz. In 1962 PWST got academic status. In 1996 due to Parliamentary law it recieved a new title: Aleksander Zelwerowicz Theatre Academy. Half a century history of the Academy has been a permanent aspiration for improving the means of education and a constant searching for the most adequate methods of training in a dialogue with reality facing the challenge not only in the field of art but also in the sphere of tramsmission technics of new media. there have been also doubts: between an isolation of the Academy and its relation to theatre, which cannot be avoided irrespective of theoratical postulates and declarations; between a narrow specialization or practical proficiency and a board interdisciplinary knowledge. Since there are not any patterns in such a delicate field as art, one has to work them out using an empirical method. As a result one can gain well-earned victories but also suffer inevitable defeats.
Anyway, numerous graduates of the Academy speak the best for its educational success. Final exam spectcles often announce individual careers in the future and they gain great popularity of an audience as well as approval of the jury at international festivals where they have been awarded. The Academy is also present in scientific life of the country undertakig research work and organizing scientific symposium concerning the history of theatrical education.
The school has also been very active on multi-national level and has several times organized the International Theatre School Festival (2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009) and the International Festival of Puppetry Theatre Schools (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010). Around 15 schools, not only from Europe, but also from all over the world (Israel, Japan, China, Mexico, Australia, the US) participated in each of those. The Academy also takes part in various exchange projects. These include bilateral ones (Polish – Japanese Drama Academy, cooperation with St. Petersburg Academy), multilateral ones (Teatro Figura Europa Cultural 2000), as well as the European research programmes (Inter Artes). The teachers and students of the school participate in all important theatre festivals (among others Istropolitana Project in Bratislavia, Festival Setkani/Encounter in Brno, „Singing Mask” in Saint Petersburg). The Acadaemy is a member of the European League of Institutes of the Arts (ELIA). It also participate in the student exchange program Erasmus.
From 2016 the Rector of Theatre Academy is professor Wojciech Malajkat.
In September 1999 the Theatre Academy opened Collegium Nobilium Theatre. The architectural elements of the theatre refer to the preserved plans and descriptions of a Jesuit school konvict theatre designed and built by the royal designer Jakub Fontana in the years 1743-1750. Presently, student performances (mainly productions) compose constant cultural offer for the citizens of Warsaw and tourists.