Tadeusz Kantor Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Tadeusz Kantor was best known in the West as a theater director because of his avant-garde, highly unusual and individualized productions. His career, however, touched on many other aspects of the arts. He originally studied painting and achieved a reputation as a painter; he then gained extensive recognition as a creator/director of “happenings” in the 1960’s and 1970’s and wrote several free-verse tracts or “manifestos” on his theories of the theater. In addition to the areas of expertise already listed, Kantor’s work in graphics, stage design, and costume design was internationally recognized.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Throughout his long career, Tadeusz Kantor remained an uncompromised force in the postwar avant-garde in the theater and in other creative fields, such as painting. As a disciple of the ideas of Edward Gordon Craig, he achieved an extraordinary integration of all the different art forms that compose the theater’s mise en scène, from innovative notions of acting and the treatment of dramatic literature to the imaginative redefinition and selective reduction of the theater’s auditory and visual elements.

Kantor was twice appointed to the faculty of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, in 1948 and in 1968. On both occasions, the professorship was revoked within one year because of his unwillingness to follow government orthodoxy concerning the arts. He was, however, awarded a Polish State Prize for his work in 1962. Kantor received two Obie Awards for Best Play, the first for The Dead Class in 1979 and the second for Wielopole/Wielopole in 1982.

Significantly, Kantor’s theater company, Cricot 2, never received support from the Polish government, despite its enormous international success. That success is a mark of the high regard in which Kantor’s work was held among both theater artists and the theatergoing public in Poland and elsewhere. Perhaps the most remarkable achievement of his theatrical career is the visceral and intellectual impact of his later, intensely personal productions, such as Wielopole/Wielopole.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Elsom, John. “Polish Madness: Tadeusz Kantor’s Eccentric Genius.” The World and I 16, no. 7 (July, 2001): 76-83. Elsom sees Kantor’s work as capturing the disintegration of twentieth century Poland. Provides analysis of his dramatic works and a concise biography.

Kantor, Tadeusz. A Journey Through Other Spaces: Essays and Manifestos, 1944-1990. Edited and translated by Micha Kobiaka. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Includes a valuable critical study by the translator.

Kobiaka, Micha. “Forget Kantor.” Performing Arts Journal 47 (May, 1994): 1-17. Discusses the relationship between idea and image in Kantor’s work.

Kobiaka, Micha. Review of Of the Memory of a Human Unhoused in Being, by Tadeusz Kantor. Performance Research 5 (December, 2000): 41-55. An extensive review that also analyzes Kantor’s works and philosophy.

Kobiaka, Micha. “Tadeusz Kantor’s Happenings: Reality, Mediality, and History.” Theatre Survey 43, no. 1 (May, 2002): 58-79. Suggests that the equivalency principle has the potential not only to perturb the order and the regime of the object’s use value by liberating it from the bondage of utility and mechanical reproduction, but also has the potential to locate the object in a dynamic space wherein other objects are positioned.

Margolies, Eleanor. “Ventriloquism: Kantor, Templeton, and the Voices of the Dead.” New Theatre Quarterly 16, no. 63 (August, 2000): 203-210. Margolies examines how the spirits of the dead “speak” through the works of Kantor and Fiona Templeton, a performance artist.

Miklaszewski, Krzysztof. Encounters with Tadeusz Kantor. Routledge Harwood Polish and East European Theatre Archive 8. New York: Routledge, 2002. Contains criticism and interpretation of Kantor’s dramatic works. Includes an extensive bibliography and index.