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TADEUSZ KANTOR (1915Daniel C. Gerould 27 A Visual Artist Works Magic on the Polish Stage One of the major creators in contemporary Polish and world theatre, Tadeusz Kantor has been a constant and uncompromising artistic innovator for the past forty years. His work embraces and combines painting, graphic arts, stage design and costumes, and directing. Striving for an integral theatre in which all arts will have equal rights, Kantor realizes Gordon Craig's ideal of the total theatre artist. In each endeavor he has been rigorously avant-garde, always seeking a radically new artistic position and refusing to remain enclosed in any currently fasionable formulas, including his own. As a stage designer and as a pioneer in the development of Happenings, Kantor has exerted a profound influence on the new generation of theatre artists in Poland. His work is known throughout the world because of his exhibits, many appearances at theatre festivals, and close contacts with the international artistic community . Yet in the United States only his most recent production, The Dead Class has been seen. The following chronology is an attempt, in survey form, to indicate the extent, variety, and depth of Kantor's work. 1915 Born in Wielopole, a small town near Cracow. Shows an early interest in theatre, but decides to become a painter. Draws and paints under the influence of Stanislaw Wyspia~ski and Jacek Malczewski, symbolists from Cracow. 1934-1939 Attends the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, where he studies stage design with Karol Frycz (1877-1963), painter, designer , director, and theatre manager, a follower of Craig and Wyspian'ski and one of the creators of modern Polish stage design. Since the turn of the century , Cracow is the center of stage design and the avant-garde tradition in the visual arts in Poland, and its artists frequently become directors and theatre managers. 1942 With a group of young painters, organizes the underground, experimental INDEPENDENT THEATRE in Cracow during the German occupation, when the public theatre is either trivial or collab28 orationist. Clandestine performances are held in private homes. 1943 Directs and designs Juliusz Stowacki's romantic tragedy Balladyna (1834) at the INDEPENDENT THEATRE. Presented in a room in an apartment without stage or setting, with the actors playing amidst the spectators. Kantor makes an asset of this limitation to create a total performance out of costumes, properties , and movement. Instead of the character Balladyna, there is an abstract figure with masks in the middle of the room. 1944 Directs and designs Jean Cocteau's Orpheus and Stanistaw Wyspianski's Return of Odysseus (1905) at the INDEPENDENT THEATRE. Wyspianski's dark and sinister drama is interpreted as the contemporary story of a soldierhomecomer back from the war. The setting includes something resembling the barrel of an old rifle on a slightly raised platform with a mast-like object above it. Wearing a German general's uniform, the painter Tadeusz Brozowski plays Odysseus. Kantor on the INDEPENDENT THEATRE: The theatre is not a place for the reproduction of literature. The theatre is an autonomous art. Each element of theatre must become autonomous and acquire its own expressiveness so that it can exist independently in its own right. Theatrical elements such as actor, shape, light, color, sound, and movement, once they are stripped of their real-life logic and naturalistic existence, become liberated and acquire enormous energy and expressiveness. They become forms. The text is not a form, but the text is that "something" that binds all the elements of theatre together into one entity. The duality: stagelauditorium kills theatre. The theatre has to avoid creating the illusion of the reality contained in the drama; the reality of the drama must become reality on the stage. Skepticism with regard to the illusory and make-believe appearance on the external world, abstraction treated as an objective system which carries in itself intellectuaf truth, and desire to create a work of art independent of nature, whose perfection could be seriously doubted. 1945 The Return of Odysseus is repeated as a student production at the Stary Theatre in Cracow. Begins an active career as a scene designer, doing sets and costumes for productions throughout Poland. Designs The Death of...


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