Grotowski made his directorial debut in 1958 with the production 'Gods of Rain' which introduced Grotowski's bold approach to text, which he continued to develop throughout his career, influencing many subsequent theatre artists. Later in 1958 Grotowski moved to Opole where he was invited by the theatre critic and dramaturg Ludwik Flaszen to serve as Director of the Theatre of 13 Rows. There he began to assemble a company of actors and artistic collaborators which would help him realize his unique vision. It was also there that he began to experiment with approaches to performance training which enabled him to shape the young actors - initially allocated to his provincial theatre - into the transformational artists they eventually became. Among the many productions for which his theatre company became famous were "Orpheus" by Jean Cocteau, "Shakuntala" based on text by Kalidasa, "Dziady (Forefathers' Eve)" by Adam Mickiewicz and "Akropolis" by Stanisław Wyspiański. This last production was the first complete realization of Grotowski's notion of 'poor theatre.' In it the company of actors (representing concentration camp prisoners) build the structure of a crematorium around the audience while acting out stories from the Bible and Greek mythology. This conceptualization had particular resonance for the audiences in Opole, as the Auschwitz concentration camp was only sixty miles away. "Akropolis" received much attention, and could be said to have launched Grotowski's career internationally due to inventive and aggressive promotion by visiting foreign scholars and theatre professionals. A film of the production was made with an introduction by Peter Brook, which constitutes one of the most accessible and concrete records of Grotowski's work.
In 1964 Grotowski followed success with success when his theatre premiered "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus" based on the Elizabethan drama by Christopher Marlowe, featuring Zbigniew Cynkutis in the title role.