Transformation of forms

Polish scenography after 1945

Authored by: Dominika ?arionow , Katarzyna Gucio

The Routledge Companion to Scenography

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138917804
eBook ISBN: 9781315688817
Adobe ISBN:


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If Polish aesthetics of the latter half of the twentieth century has left its mark on the history of theatre, it is mainly owing to two important artists, Jerzy Grotowski (1933–1999) and Tadeusz Kantor (1915–1990). Grotowski founded Teatr 13 rz?dów (Theatre of 13 Rows; renamed Teatr-Laboratorium 13 Rz?dów – Laboratory Theatre of 13 Rows in 1962), lauded for productions such as Apocalypsis cum figuris (1969–1973) and Ksi??? Niez?omny (The Constant Prince, 1965). Kantor started his own experimental theatre, Cricot 2, in 1955, best known for Umar?a klasa (The Dead Class, 1975) and Wielopole, Wielopole (1980). The two artists significantly altered traditional approaches to stage space, particularly the relationship of the spectator and performer, as well as transforming the dramaturgical structure of a performance. They both redefined the function of the actor in a spectacle, although they did so through opposing theories. Grotowski saw the individual (“the total actor”) as the principal agent in his concept of poor theatre. For Kantor, the focal point of art was the personality of the director, whom he regarded as the main creator. In Cricot 2, actors were often placed alongside mannequins and, while they were crucial to the performance, of course, they remained subordinate to the overall concept of the work. The theatres founded by Kantor and Grotowski operated outside the formal mainstream of Polish art, in a niche created by the political system.

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