May 9, 2015

Coffeehouse #126: Tadeusz Kantor

In honor of centennial celebration of Tadeusz Kantor’s birth.

Curators: Michal Gamily & Tomek Smolarski | Moderator: Nina Kiraly

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Exploring the work of Tadeusz Kantor, Polish-born, internationally known avant-garde theater director, set designer, author, painter and founder of the Cricot 2 experimental theatre company. La MaMa is proud to have presented his work to New York audiences over two decades. The coffeehouse will include a panel, recorded interviews from Cricoteka: Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor, media from the La MaMa archive, FURTHER ON, NOTHING… Conceived and directed by Zishan Ugurlu and featuring: Actors Without  Borders-ITONY and a live reenactment of fragments from ZERO OR MORE DISPOSABLE LESSONS – a performance exploring the mechanics of memory, anatomy of oppression, disposability of bodies, and dancing objects.

Moderator: Nina Kiraly, coordinator of the international projects of the National Theatre in Budapest. Theatre critic, teacher and translator.

Panelists: Nina Kiraly | Krystyna Illakowicz | Kathleen Cioffi | Jun Maeda | Dominica Laster

Recorded Interviews: Natalia Zarzecka (Director of the Cricoteca Center) | Waclawi & Leslaw Janiccy | Krzysztof Miklaszewski | produced by Tomek Smolarski (Kulture+ Productions) | directed by Pawel Ferdek & Tomek Smolarski | filmed by Pawel Ferdek | edited by Jan Lubicz Przyluski


FURTHER ON, NOTHING… | Conceived and directed by Zishan Ugurlu | Featuring: Actors Without  Borders-ITONY, Daniel Benhamu, Marcelo Carrascosa, Yeelen Cohen, Matt D’Amato, Karl Leone, Matthew Prideaux, Derek Spaldo & Yu -Ling Wu

ZERO OR MORE DISPOSABLE LESSONS | Devised by: Marc DeWitt, Peter Gray, Yoni Greenwood, Dominika Laster, Crystal Liu, Leah Osterman, Nathan A. Roberts, Harry Shamansky, Eddy Wang & Donald Woodson | Lighting Design by Harry Shamansky | Directed by Dominika Laster

Screening: Material from the La MaMa Archive

About Tadeusz Kantor

Spend an intimate afternoon celebrating the work of Tadeusz Kantor, Polish-born, avant-garde theater director, set designer, writer, actor, painter, and art theoretician. Kantor, inspired by Constructivism, Dada, and Surrealism, is known for redefining our concepts of theatre construction. During the Nazi occupation in Krakow, while serving professor at the Academy of Fine Arts he founded the Independent Theatre. Among its first productions were, Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus and Stanisław Wyspiański’s The Return of Odysseus, performed in private homes. Following the war, he formed the company Cricot 2 which deconstructed theatrical conventions and developed new forms of staging including, “emballage”, packaging and stripping actors and objects of any recognizable form, turning them into indistinguishable substance; “Informel Theatre,” automated spectacle that relied entirely on coincidence and the movement of matter; “Zero Theatre,” completely devoid of any action or events; and in 1965, he created Poland’s first “happenings.” Afterwards, Kantor developed the “Theatre of Death” which explored the persistence of memory and its interplay with time and the construction of history, creating powerful, comic, absurd, joyous and terrifying images. With The Dead Class, Kantor himself took the role of a master of ceremonies, conducting his actors – seemly dead characters who are confronted by mannequins which represented their younger selves. It was presented all over the world, winning many prizes including an OBIE. In this phase Kantor created his most best known works, including Wielopole, Wielopole, Let the Artists Die (OBIE), I Shall Never Return Here, and the posthumously-produced, Today Is My Birthday.

About the Panel & Performers

Nina Kiraly is a graduate of the Moscow Lomonosov University in Linguistics and Anthropology. She moved to Hungary in 1964 where she got her PhD at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Between 1984-1990 she lectured as a guest professor at the Jagellonian University in Cracow. During this period she collaborated with such famous directors as Tadeusz Kantor, J. Jarocki and A. Wajda. In 1993-1999 she became the director of the Hungarian Theater Institute. From 2006 she was the Head of International Programming at the Csokonai Theater in Debrecen. Presently Nina is responsible for international contacts, festivalsand programs at the National Theater in Budapest. She has published articles in many prestigious national and international theater magazines and served as an editor in chief for numerous professional publications.

Kathleen Cioffi is a book editor at Princeton University Press and a theatre historian and drama critic who writes frequently about Polish theatre. She is the author of the award-winning book “Alternative Theatre in Poland, 1954-1989,” as well as of many articles, reviews, and interviews about Polish theatre published in theatre journals, book anthologies, and online. She recently edited a special issue of the online “Mime Journal” devoted to “Grotowski and His Legacy in Poland,” and she is currently co-editing, with Magda Romanska, a book about Tadeusz Kantor’s theatre, to be published next year by Northwestern University Press.

Krystyna Lipinska Illakowicz teaches Polish language, theatre, and film at Yale University. Her work focuses on Polish theatre and cultural exchanges between Polish and American cultures. She has published articles and book chapters on Gombrowicz, Schulz, Grotowski, and others in New Perspectives on Polish Culture: Private Encounters, Public Affairs, The Polish Review, Didaskalia Theatre Magazine, among others. She frequently contributes to the journalSlavic and Eastern European Performance.

Tomek Smolarski is a theater and music producer, who moved to New York in 1999 where he shortly after started working for the Polish Cultural Institute as a marketing manager, music curator and assistant to the theatrical projects. Later on he moved to California, where he established Kulture+ Productions, a company producing theatrical and musical events throughout America. Last year he split his time between NYC and Warsaw, where he produced among others the Warsovie Festival, and Digital Play Festival.

Dominika Laster is the Director of Undergraduate Studies and Lecturer in the Theater Studies Program at Yale University. She is the Book Review Co-Editor of The Drama Review (TDR) and co-editor of European Stages. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale (IPSY) from 2011 to 2013. Laster has published articles in Performance Research, Slavic and Eastern European Performance, New Theatre Quarterly and TDR. Her books A Bridge Made of Memory: Embodied Memory, Witnessing and Transmission in the Grotowski Work and Loose Screws: Nine New Plays from Poland (Editor) are forthcoming from Seagull Books, distributed globally by the University of Chicago Press.

Zishan Ugurlu is a native of Istanbul and came to New York in 1993 at the invitation of Ellen Stewart, where she is now a resident actress and director. She has worked extensively both in New York and abroad. Her recent directing credits include Measure for Measure by Shakespeare at Istanbul Municipality Theater, In the Storm of Pleasure by Daniel Benhamu (United Solo Festival Best Debut Award), The Surrender by T. Bentley, Oysters, Orgasms, Obituaries by R. von Waldenburg (Nominated for New York Innovative Theater Award for Outstanding Solo Performance). She is the founding artistic director of “Actors without Borders-ITONY” and recipient of prestigious Fox Foundation Fellowship. Ugurlu is Associate Professor of Theater at The New School’s Eugene Lang College.

Jun Maeda is one of New York’s foremost designer and experimental theater artists.  He became La Mama’s Resident Set Designer in 1972.   He was awarded an Obie for Outstanding Work in Theater in 1981.  Mr. Maeda has worked with; La Mama’s Great Jones Repertory Company, Ellen Stewart, Joseph Chaikin, Andrei Serban, John Jesurun, Linda Mussmann, Francoise Kourilsky, Min Tanaka, Tokyo Kid Brothers and Otrabanda Company among many others.

Coffeehouse Chronicles


Coffeehouse Chronicles is an educational performance series exploring the history of Off-Off-Broadway. Part artist-portrait, part history lesson, and part community forum, Coffeehouse Chronicles take an intimate look at the development of downtown theatre, from the 1960s’ “Coffeehouse Theatres” through today.

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