WE HAVE A POPE

Karol Wojtyla ... priest, playwright, poet, and activist ... was in the final stages of publishing this play from his home in Kraków when he was elected to the papacy and became Pope John Paul II (1978). The play, In Front of the Jeweler's Shop, is a poetic narrative and a meditation on marriage. It was scheduled to debut in Poland, as his other plays had, but this new turn of events in The Vatican prompted a last-minute change of venue, and the play made its worldwide theatrical debut in London in 1979 to popular and critical acclaim.

The people of Poland, about 95% of whom are Roman Catholic, were euphoric with their native son and waited patiently.  The following year the play had its Polish debut in the city of Kraków, Wojtyla's long-time home.

Jan Jaromir Aleksiun, already well-known for his dreamlike Surrealisms, was commissioned to design the posters for other debut performances in Polish cities, including Walbrzych (horizontal format) and Plock (vertical format).

Both images are hauntingly beautiful, the allegory unmistakable. One presents the participants of a marriage as alternate pages of the same book, while the other alludes to the timelessness of the bond; faces are nearly ghosted out, the couple appears simultaneously young and old, postures could be those of 20-year-olds or 70-year-olds.

By the way, a good translation of the book finally became available in English in 1992, under the title, The Jeweler's Shop (Ignatius Press, San Francisco). It is a little gem of a book that can be enjoyed in one sitting.

Additional artist info: Aleksiun was born in Nowa Wilejka, Poland in 1940. He graduated from Wroclaw ASP in 1966. He remains active as an internationally recognized painter and graphic designer.

Additional poster info: Please click on any picture.