The Fredro Theatre came into being thanks to the theatre group of Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Gniezna (the Friends of Gniezno Society). The building of the former Słońce cinema became the theatre’s headquarters. The theatre opened its doors for the first time on May 1, 1946, with Stary kawaler (The Old Bachelor), a comedy written by Józef Korzeniewski and directed by Henryk Barwiński (the theatre’s first artistic director). By the end of the 1940s the theatre had been nationalized, and in
1955, as the only professional dramatic stage in the country, it was named after Aleksander Fredro. For 45 years it functioned as a touring theatre. In 1991, after the completion of a 5-year-long reconstruction of the building, it became a stationary facility. The theatre’s rebirth on May 17, 1991, was honoured by the presence of Henryk Tomaszewski, a world famous mime, dancer, choreographer, director, founder and managing director of Wrocławski Teatr Pantomimy.
Tomaszewski, together with the then director of Teatr im. Aleksandra Fredry, Tomasz Szymański, opened a new chapter in the history of the Gniezno dramatic scene, marked by a cooperation with Wrocław which lasted for a couple of years. It was the time when such plays as Sen nocy letniej (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1992), Przypowieści (Parables, 1993) and Spór Pierre’a de Marivaux (The Pierre de Marivaux Dispute, 1995) were staged.
The distinctive feature of the theatre’s repertoire was that it staged numerous Polish and foreign classics, from Sophocles to Gombrowicz, with particular emphasis on the works of the theatre’s patron and the father of Polish comedy, A. Fredro (in 2013, the theatre solemnly celebrated Fredro’s 220th birthday) and a wide range of classic children’s plays. The list of collaborating directors includes the aformentioned Tomasz Szymański and others, such as Józef Jasielski, Lech Raczak, Piotr
Kruszczyński, Stanisław Brejdygant, Zdzisław Wardejn and Konrad Szachnowski. Set designers who worked with the theatre include Władyslaw Wigura, Barbara and Lucjan Zachmoc, Elżbieta Iwona Dytrych, Pavel Hubička, Ewa and Piotr Tetlak, Jan Kozikowski and Mirek Kaczmarek.
The theatre presented its work also outside of Gniezno. In 2004 in the Netherlands, it collaborated with Scena Polska during the 200th anniversary of Adam Mickiewicz’s birth. In 2006, the theatre participated in the International Festival in Sarajevo, in 2007 and 2008 it worked with the National Theatre in Tuzla. Kartoteka (File), written by Tadeusz Różewicz and directed by Piotr Kruszczyński, was staged as one of the final plays of the 4th edition of Interpretacje – Festiwal Sztuki Reżyserskiej
(Art of Directing Festival) in Katowice in 2001. Trans-Antlantyk, written by Witold Gombrowicz and directed by Lech Raczak, was staged during the International Gombrowicz Festival in Radom in 2006 and at the Malta International Festival in 2005. In 2012, also at the Malta Festival, Nie-Boska Komedia. Rzecz o krzyżu (The Non-Divine Comedy. A Thing About the Cross) written by Zygmunt Krasiński and directed by Piotr Kruszczyński was staged. In 2014 in Opole, the same play was admitted to the 39th edition of Theatre Confrontations – Polish Classics.
In 2013, Joanna Nowak became the managing director of the theatre, while Łukasz Gajdzis took the position of deputy manager. The artistic profile and repertoire of the theatre began to change significantly. In addition to the educational function addressed to the youngest members of the audience, the Gniezno facility now aspires to become a contemporary theatre which reacts to the surrounding reality and actively develops its social function.