FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13TH at 7 PM—Screening of TODAY’S MY BIRTHDAY followed by a discussion with Cricot 2 actor Bogdan Renczyński. Moderated by Krystyna Illakowicz.
Location: Linsly-Chittenden Hall, Room 101
// 63 High Street, New Haven, CT.
All events are free and open to the public.
Andrzej Wełmiński and T. Kantor rehearsing Today’s My Birthday.
TADEUSZ KANTOR —one of the most significant European artists of the 20th Century—was born in the Galician village of Wielopole in 1915 and studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Kraków from 1934-1939. Upon graduation, he founded the Independent Theater—an underground theatre that continued to be active in the cellars of Kraków during the Nazi occupation of Poland. In 1955, Kantor, along with a group of visual artists, formed the Cricot 2 theatre, which toured widely and first became known in the United States through its performances at La MaMa E.T.C. in 1979. Perhaps best known for his notion of the “Theatre of Death” epitomized by the 1975 production of the Dead Class, Kantor’s prolific practice spanned set design, painting, directing, manifestos, and assemblages, and has had a profound influence on the theatre and visual art worlds internationally.
WIELOPOLE, WIELOPOLE is an exemplar of Kantor’s Theater of Death. Personal memories of violence and destruction entwine intimately with broader historical narratives, as Kantor revisits and revivifies his childhood home, located in the small village of Wielopole (in present-day eastern Poland). Kantor endeavors again and again to reconstruct his childhood room, along with its inhabitants, his now dead ancestors. He proceeds according to the rules of what he calls the “Agency for hiring the dear departed”—which alludes to both the method for conjuring memories and the function of his actors, who temporarily stand-in for Kantor’s departed relatives.
TODAY’S MY BIRTHDAY is Kantor’s final production, performed only after the artist’s death. It features his characteristically hallucinatory memory-scape, haunted by the resurrected traumas of European wars. Many of the elements generated in the course of his career combine in this tour-de-force: “emballages” or wrapped actors, tableaux, and “poor objects,” ripped from their context to appear on stage as specters of a lost era.
ANDRZEJ WEŁMIŃSKI is a jazz musician, contemporary artist, curator, and performer—among other things—who was very active in Poland’s post-war avant-garde art scene. He met Tadeusz Kantor in the early ‘70s and collaborated with him on numerous projects throughout his career, playing a key part in the Dead Class, one of Kantor’s most famous works. He also played the role of Kantor’s “self-portrait” in Today’s My Birthday.
MARC ROBINSON is Professor of Theater Studies, English, and American Studies at Yale University and Professor Adjunct of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at the Yale School of Drama. His books include The American Play: 1787-2000 (winner of the 2009 George Jean Nathan Award), The Other American Drama, and (as editor) The Myopia and Other Plays by David Greenspan.
BOGDAN RENCZYŃSKI was an actor in Kantor’s Cricot 2 theater beginning in 1982 and performed in most of Kantor’s major productions, including The Dead Class, Wielopole Wielopole, and Today’s My Birthday. Since 1980, he has been working at the Centre for Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor ‘Cricoteka’ in Kraków, and has curated exhibitions of Kantor’s work internationally.
KRYSTYNA ILLAKOWICZ is a Senior Lecturer in Slavic Languages and Literature at Yale University. She writes about Polish culture, literature, theater and film for numerous academic journals and publications and is co-editor of European Stages.
The Kantor Centennial at Yale University is presented by the Yale Theatre Studies Program and the Yale School of Drama in partnership with the European Studies Council at Yale. The events are part of the Poland-U.S. Campus Arts Project, a program of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw, Poland, and supported by the Polish Cultural Institute New York.